World War II Presentation Topics
“Creating the Hitler Myth: The Origins of Modern Propaganda and Its Lessons for Today”
Propaganda was one of the chief means employed by Adolf Hitler to create and sustain one of history’s most monstrous criminal regimes. His propaganda tools not only included films, radio, and newspapers but also carefully orchestrated events such as the Nuremberg Rallies, the 1936 Olympic Games, and gigantic military parades. While television and the internet dominate today’s media, learn how some of the same techniques developed by the Nazi regime are still being used to spread misinformation.
“The Continuing Saga of Nazi Art Theft”
During World War II throughout Europe the Nazi government systematically looted millions of works of art from museums and churches and from Jews and others who were deemed enemies of the Third Reich. This is the story of how the Nazis literally raped Europe of its art masterpieces and other valuables and secreted these treasures in mines, warehouses, barns, and castles across Europe. As the war was winding down, art specialists who were called “Monuments Men” were recruited by the Allies to rescue these treasures and restore them to thier rightful owners. Now 70 year later this story is far from over as artworks that were though lost are discovered and endless litigation between individuals, museums, and nations continues over them.
“Killing Hitler: The Assassination Plots That Failed to Stop a Madman”
Between 1921 and 1945, there were about 50 alleged assassination attempts on Adolph Hitler, all of which failed. This program will review 10 of the better documented incidents, the people behind them, and why they failed including: the 1934 “Night of the Long Knives,” the 1939 Munich beer-hall bomb, and the 1944 Wolf’s Lair bomb. Hitler’s assassination fears led to the growth of the SS Lifeguard detachment from a few men to a division. In April 1945, a remnant of this force was still on duty at the Fuhrer’s Berlin bunker when Hitler finally ended his own life by shooting himself.
“The Shadow Army: European Resistance during World War II”
As the tyrannical regime of Nazi Germany spread across Europe, its savage acts of repression, hostage taking, and the persecution of Jews, labor leaders, Communists, Catholics and anyone who dared to oppose the Nazi occupation provided more than enough motivation for hundreds of thousands of people to join secret armies. Resistance forces all over Europe gathered intelligence for the Allies, established hiding places and escape routes for captured Allies and those fleeing Nazi persecution, and fomented acts of sabotage, raids, and uprisings. This program will trace how and why resistance forces grew as the war continued and how underground movements differed from country to country. It will celebrate the heroic deeds of many notable individuals who refused to surrender their countries to Adolf Hitler’s twisted regime.
“The Invasion that Shook the World: France 1940”
In all the annals of history, Nazi Germany’s six-week blitzkrieg resulting in the lightning defeat of France in 1940 stands as a classic military campaign. How did Germany develop such a powerful strategic war plan and the tactical skills to accomplish in a first weeks what four bloody years had failed to achieve in the First World War — the complete rout of the Western allies? This program provides the intriguing political, economic, and military answers that added up to Germany’s greatest victory in the Second World War.
“U-Boat War: Tragedy & Redemption in the North Atlantic”
During World War II Nazi Germany’s U-boat fleet so effectively blocked fuel and supplies to Britain that the survival of this island nation was threatened. The success of the Allied war effort also heavily depended upon the capacity to ship troops and material across the Atlantic. This is the story of the people, strategy, tactics, and technology that were employed on both sides of the U-boat war. More than 2,700 ships were sunk by U-boats which costs the lives of over 35,000 British and American seamen. But by 1943 the Allies began to turn the tide against the U-boat menace through a combination of advances in convoy tactics, radar, active sonar, codebreaking, and intelligence gathering. By the end of the war, over 700 U-boat were sunk at sea and 28,000 sailors perished, resulting in the highest proportion of combat losses for any branch of the German armed forces.
“When the Desert Fox Met General Patton: The North African Campaign”
During the Second World War both Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Germany’s Desert Fox, and Lt. General George S. Patton, Jr., “Old Blood and Guts,” established their military careers on the sands of North Africa. Set on the vast wind-swept stretches of the Sahara Desert, this is also the story of Italian dreams of empire, the British determination to turn the tide of war against Nazi Germany, and the beginning of American participation in the European theater of operations (Operation Torch).
“Clash of the Titans: The Russo-German Campaign of World War II”
On June 22, 1941, Adolf Hitler unleashed an army of 3 million for a blitzkrieg conquest of the Soviet Union. Over 10 million Germans and Russians would fight for four years over a 1,500 mile front stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea. Both side deployed countless thousands of planes, tanks, and field guns in a seemingly endless conflagration on a truly epic scale. The outcome of this campaign shaped the map of Europe for the next 50 years.
“From Sicily to Victory: The Italian Campaign”
Winston Churchill once referred to the Mediterranean region as the “soft underbelly of Europe” and influenced the Allies to launch the Italian Peninsular Campaign. The Allies would find to their regret that there was nothing soft about this underbelly. This program explores some of the key figures and prominent battles of this long, costly, grinding front.
“Divided on D-Day: New Perspectives on the Normandy Invasion”
By focusing on the points of conflicts among the principal Allied commanders, Ed Gordon offers new insights on the Normandy Invasion and the three-month campaign that followed. Drawing on research from his new book, Divided on D-Day, he explores how national and personal rivalries led to poor command decisions and missed opportunities that needlessly prolonged the Allied campaign to defeat Nazi Germany. (Click here to see the major controversies discussed in this presentation.)
“Judgment at Nuremberg: Defending Humanity”
At the end of World War II, the international tribunal convened in Nuremberg was an important step forward in the development of international law as it established precedents and procedures for dealing with wartime genocide and other atrocities. This program will cover how the Third Reich’s principal leaders were brought to trial, charged, defended, and sentenced.
“Day of Infamy: Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941”
The Second World War was thrust on the United States when Imperial Japan launched a surprise attack that decimated much of the U.S. Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor. This program will examine the complex components of Japan’s daring military operation and whether America’s lack of preparedness can be blamed on intelligence lapses, poor planning, or bad strategy.
“Japan Strikes at Dawn! Defeat at Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and Singapore: Conspiracy or Foul-up?”
In the first three months after its December 7. 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Imperial Japan was spectacularly victorious. After decimating the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces destroyed U.S. air and naval installations in the Philippines and defeated the British and Empire forces defending Singapore. This program will examine the factors behind the string of defeats in the Pacific and the lessons learned before the Allies began to turn the tide in the Pacific.
“Empire of the Sun: Japan Triumphant”
From Korea to the shores of Australia, and westward to the central Pacific, Japan’s Rising Sun grew ever larger from the 1930s to mid-1942. This is the story of how a small nation organized for war and swept most of Asia into its “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” Ed Gordon explores how Japan’s civilian government was thwarted by the military’s quest for the domination of Asia and describes how allied neglect of Asia resulted in early crushing defeats.
“The Rising Sun Sets: The Defeat of the Japanese Empire”
In the summer of 1942, Allied forces under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur began campaigns that led to the slow implosion of the Japanese Empire in the vast expanse of the Padific ending with the epic battles on Iwo Jima and Okinawa and the A-Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Meanwhile under the leadership of British Lord Louis Mountbatten, Allied forces liberated Southeast Asia from Japanese occupation. This programs draws upon the heroic stories of individual soldiers, sailors, and airmen about how these battles led to victory.
“Bloody Iwo: Iconic Battle of the Second World War’s Pacific Theater”
The famous photo of the Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi has made Iwo Jima one of World War II’s most iconic battle sites. More than 30,000 Marines and 350 American ships participated in this bloody five-week battle against over 22,000 Japanese soldiers encased in a well-fortified network of caves and tunnels. Learn how the conquest of this tiny island played a vital role in the U.S. bombing campaign against the Japanese homeland in the final months of World War II.
“Okinawa: Crucible of the Pacific”
On March 14, 1944, American forces launched its largest amphibious assault in the Pacific on Okinawa. It was countered by a Japanese defense force of 130,000 troops and 3,000 kamikaze sorties on the American fleet. The Americans not only faced a new Japanese defense strategy, and numerous kamikaze air attacks, but also a major typhoon that caused significant damage to the American fleet. Losses were high on all sides with 50,000 American casualties, an estimated 110,000 Japanese troops killed, and the deaths of about 100,000 inhabitants of Okinawa. The ferocity and costs of this over three-month battle weighed heavily on the minds of those planning the invasion of Japan.
“The Other Nuremberg: The Tokyo War Crimes Trial”
Based on the procedures established at the Nuremburg Trials in Germany, 28 Japanese military and political leaders were tried by representatives of 11 Allied nations at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. The charges against them included wanton destruction in captured territories and barbaric attacks on their civilian population, inhumane treatment of prisoners of war, and enslavement of women for prostitution. Most of those indicted were sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Yet the Emperor of Japan was not brought to trial. At the same time separate trials were held in about fifty other locations in Asia and the Pacific at which 5,700 lower-ranking personnel were charged with war crimes.