Today we are going to look at the Battle of Passchendaele to continue with our World War I and World War II theme for November. Trench warfare has been established during World War I. Passchendaele seemed to elude recapture by the British. It was the site of the worst battle of World War I. This documentary combines photography, archival footage, and a well-told story. It is a good look at what happened that lead up to the Battle of Passchendaele.
When the war started, the Germans took a short cross across Belgium to capture Paris as well as ports in France for the U-Boats. In 1914 the first battle of Ypres began and it was here where the British had their first casualties. The front was known as the Salient because the front had a bulge. The Germans continued to capture cities at an alarming speed.
It was in November when the fighting slowed down. The weather and exhaustion started setting in among the soldiers. The armies dug in and these trenches would last until the war. The British Army stood strong against the Germans. The Kaiser called this little army the contemptible. The British army wore this nickname as a badge of pride. However, the German generals respected this little army. Christmas came, and both armies met in no man's land and celebrated Christmas together. The generals were not happy and made plans for this to never happen again.
In 1915 the first gas attack was launched. 1,000 men would die from the effects of the gas. There was no protection against chlorine gas. Any protection methods were useless. French troops retreated and the British troops had to rush in to plug the line. The battle was never still and wore on the people and the soldiers. Cities were reduced to ruin.
The soldiers could not stand the sounds of battle. So the soldiers were rotated in and out as fast and as soon as possible. Mud was a huge problem for the men and the drainage systems that were developed were destroyed by shelling. Thousands more would die.
Then the Battle of the Somme began. U-boats were starting to be a threat too. The only way the war could be won was on the western front. The French Army morale was low with loss after loss. Adolf Hitler also fought in the trenches. He gained a reputation for being lucky. He would eventually become a runner, running messages between the front of the German army headquarters. He was transferred to the Somme front where he was wounded.
There was a crazy scheme to tunnel under the German lines and plant explosives to blow them up before an attack. It was done in complete secrecy. Civilian miners were drafted into the army to help speed up the mining process. The Germans were also doing their mining, and when the British discovered those mines they were flooded. Unfortunately, French morale was at complete collapse and so their help would be limited when the British wanted to attack. The British launched the attack and blew up the mines. The Germans were in a panic and the British took advantage of them. 10,000 Germans were killed and caused craters. To continue to learn more about the Battle of Passchendaele continue to watch this documentary.
This would be a good documentary to show about World War I in a world history classroom. It goes into details regarding trench warfare and what the men endured. Yes, it is the narration is a slow story, however, the use of primary sources, photographs, and what the sites presently look like more than makeup for it. If you have an independent study student, then you can recommend this documentary for them.
Our journey through World War I and World War II continues with Secrets of Hitler’s Island Fortress. The Islands of Guernsey were the only part of the British Isles that was invaded by Hitler. In this documentary, historian Dan Snow talks with the residents of the Channel Islands to discover their unique wartime experience. Snow also visits sites that the Nazis build to protect their prize. This documentary is a fascinating tale about World War II.
The Guernsey Islands may be small, but they played a big part in history as well as in World War II. They may be subjects to the British Crown, but they are run by independent governments. Hitler built a fortress on the islands to keep an eye on potential invasions. Dan Snow visits a castle that was a key to controlling Guernsey. The castle changed hands plenty of times during history. The German occupation of Guernsey left a lasting mark on the island.
The Germans quickly realized that it was a strategic point and set to fortifying the island. It was the only piece of British territory that the Nazis occupied. Hitler was proud of that fact. When the Nazis arrived, they quickly realized that the fortification was built to last for the ages. So, the Nazis reinforced what was available. Dan Snow puts it that it is one of the few places where you can spot something built by King Henry VIII alongside World War II fortifications.
Now, a group of local enthusiasts is working to preserve what remains of the Island Fortress. They plan on making them available to the public. Shaun Marsh is head of the Festung Guernsey group and takes Dan Snow on a tour of the remaining fortifications. As a child, he played in the tunnels, now as an adult, he is working to preserve those same structures. Snow asks Marsh if the group will find additional archeology from World War II, and Marsh believes they will continue to make finds. Marsh says that the group will not stop digging.
Snow then interviews Molly Bihet, who survived the German occupation. She was almost 9 when the Germans came through. Bihet remembers feeling panicky and crushed by the German occupation. The people cried when the Germans came on the Island. Her mother was afraid for the future. The family stayed to look after Molly’s grandfather, so they stayed together. Roy Domaille was only six years old when the Germans came. He thought it was a big adventure for him, but a terrible time for their parents. The youngster did not care. Diana Chesney was on holiday at the time and she picked up apprehension from her mother. The Germans were nice to the children. The interviews with residents were fascinating.
Richard Heamue shows Dan Snow the museum of the German Occupation. He shares with Snow a sketchbook that very few have seen. A German officer was having an affair with a local girl. They eventually got married and settled in Guernsey after the war. This was a surprising look at how some of the Germans interacted with the locals. It gives a different look at how the Germans behaved during World War II. The Germans felt like they were on holiday when they occupied Guernsey. After the war, they came back to Guernsey and married local girls.
This would be an excellent documentary for a substitute teacher to show when the class is studying World War II. Even if there is not a substitute teacher in the classroom, you can show this in a world history class. You can also share this with an independent study student as well. You could also show clips from this documentary in an English class to learn about the interview process. Teachers, you are only limited by your imagination as to how to use these documentaries in the classroom.
We will continue our World War I and World War II theme for November with Battle 360. This episode is about the Battle of Leyte Gulf. My great-granduncle took part in this battle.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the last great naval battle. The USS Enterprise took part in this battle. It also took place in the air and under the sea. There was nowhere to run nor nowhere to hide. The aircraft carrier’s mission was to scout the Philippine Sea for the Japanese Navy. Both the Musashi and Yamato battleships were going to take part in this battle.
To get ahead of the ships, the pilots went to search for these super battleships. They were also looking for the last aircraft carrier to partake in Pearl Harbor. The pilots search carefully for enemy vessels. The American ships also search for the navy. The American Ships find a Japanese task force. The super battleships were not among them.
The Enterprise pilots start their formation to target the Japanese ships. Additional pilots join them to strafe the ships. The Japanese ships are firing with different flak charges. The sky is colored with a rainbow from the flak. This is to help determine what ships are what in the Japanese Navy. The American pilots pull up quickly after dropping their loads. Three bombs make direct hits. This will slow down the Japanese fleets.
However, there is a larger Japanese force making their way to Leyte. They are making their way to kill more American troops and to get rid of the American carriers. The Japanese Navy plans a bit of trickery to gain victory over the Americans. For three years the American and Japanese Navies have been slugging it out in the Pacific. The battle for the Pacific continues. At the battle of the Leyte Gulf, the Japanese Navy has lost over 400 planes. There were only 100 plans left. However, they still have several heavy gun warships including the Musashi and Yamato.
Musashi and Yamato were the biggest battleships built. They were 863 feet long, 172 feet wide, and weighed 72,000 tons. They had nine 18-inch guns. They were heavily armored, but they were fast. The level of punishment these battleships could take was unbelievable. Now the Admirals had to rely on these two battleships to defeat the Americans. They wanted to go after the landing crews and landing areas in the Pacific. They wanted to stop the invasions. To secure the victory, they will use their carriers to distract the American aircraft carriers to pull them out of action in the Leyte Gulf.
The Americans are still holding their own against the Japanese. There are plenty of battleships and cruisers at the American’s disposal. They are ready to target the Philippines and Musashi and Yamato. Cutting off the Philippines would cut off the supplies the Japanese war machine needed to fuel the war. Leyte needs to be captured first. Two fleets will be used to accomplish this.
To learn more about what happened at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, then continue to watch this documentary.
This is a good series to show in both a World and American history class or for an independent study student who wants to learn about specific battles. If you have a substitute teacher in the classroom, and you are studying World War II, then you can have a substitute teacher show them an episode from Battle 360. Over the years I have known a few students who enjoyed military history, whether or not they were allowed to do an independent study on war history, I do not know. However, if you have a student that has a strong interest in military history then you can share these documentaries with them.
1918 - Final Months - World War I
Good morning, we will continue to explore World War I and World War II documentaries for November. Today, we will look at the final months of World War I. This is part of a documentary series on World War I and is episode 10 in that series.
In 1918, the Allied Armies came together to assemble a strike force to finally break the backs of the Germans. The last few months of the war were brutal for the men in the trenches. The biggest problem was to keep the operation a secret. The Germans knew nothing of a coming attack nor did they fear an attack coming. When it did come, it would shatter the German military.
The Allied Armies assembled 100,000 men, 400 tanks, 1900 plans, 2,000 guns, and 300 cavalry divisions. Their goal was to keep this assembly a secret before they were ready to launch the offensive. They then attacked the German army and it was a shock to the Germans. 18,000 Germans were captured. It was the beginning of the end for the Germans. The German soldiers were hungry and exhausted. The Generals did not give them clear goals or supplies. They blamed the population for spreading defeatism.
Germany’s problems started piling up. They kept losing a string of battles. The factories could not keep up with wartime production. They built 20 tanks, while the Allies built 4,000. She lost the battle with manpower when the Americans joined the war effort. The Allies also worked together well, where the German Generals could not work together and the generals who were in charge lacked imagination. Others feared for the mental health of the generals.
The Americans, French, and British started to attack the German lines. The Germans were pushed back. The Allies came together and the Central Powers were tearing apart. Soldiers were deserting from the Austrian-Hungarian Army. The people were starving. Nations were demanding independence. The Ottoman Empire was also collapsing at the same time. The Austrian-Hungarian Emperor wanted to negotiate with the Allies to end the war. The German Kaiser was shocked.
Emperor Karl, however, had sent a proposal, but it was thrown back in his face. The Bulgarians were under attack as well. Crown Prince Boris was nearly attacked by his soldiers. The Serbian Army was prepared to take revenge. If Bulgaria fell then the Allies had a clear path to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The Allies smashed through the Bulgarian lines and Bulgarians negotiated for peace. When the Germans found out they were shocked.
Then the Hindenburg Line was breached. The German Military condition was serious. At any time, the German lines could be breached. The Bulgarians surrendered and the Austrian-Hungarian Army was in shambles. Now the Germans faced the possibility of surrender. In October 1918, the German people would have been grateful for peace. The German Politicians were unaware that the German Military wanted to surrender. When the talks of peace, the politicians were surprised.
Woodrow Wilson was placed in charge of the peace negotiations. He already had proposed peace plans. The French President was unimpressed with the 14 Points Wilson came up with remarking “The Good Lord only had 10.” The politicians argued behind the scenes, and the Allies continued to fight. They pressed further into German conquered lands. To continue to learn more about the wind-down of the war, continue to watch the documentary.
This would be a good episode to show in a history classroom that is studying World War I. If you have an independent study student working through World War I, then they can watch the whole series. When there is a sub in the classroom, then they can show an episode of this series to the class.
To continue with our World War I and World War II theme for November, I will feature a documentary about the Japanese battleship Musashi. Unsinkable! Japan’s Lost Battleship is about the biggest battleship that was built in the world. She was over 800 feet long and was over 70,000 tons. She had 18-inch guns. Her builders boasted that, much like the Titanic, she was unsinkable. Unfortunately, she did sink in her first battle. Her wreck was missing ever since. This documentary is about the search for her wreck.
David Mearns, who found the Hood, leads an expedition to search for the wreck. He spent years gleaning clues from the US and Japanese military records to determine the location of the wreck. Mearns’ team has three weeks to look for the wreck. The late Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, inspired the search for the Musashi.
The Musashi was the pride of Japan. The Japanese government did not inform the people that the Musashi went down.
At the start of the expedition, the team has no luck in locating the Musashi. They used the coordinates used by the Japanese Navy. Mearns concludes that they have to expand their search. So they use the records from the American Pilots that sunk the Musashi. Mearns has a series of photographs that he uses for clues.
In the 1930s, Japan is attempting to expand its influence in the Pacific. However, the Washington Naval Treaty attempted to put a stop to them. Japan could only have 60 battleships in comparison to the 100 the United States was allowed. As a result, they decided to with quality over quantity. The idea behind that was if they could produce high-quality battleships, they could counteract the high numbers of the enemy navy. The Yamamato class was born from this idea.
The Japanese started building these “super battleships.” The large cranes that were used to build these battleships are still used today. They hid the building progress behind curtains that way nobody could see what they were building. Locals were advised to not even look at the shipyards. In 1941, the Musashi started undergoing secret sea trials. The men who served aboard the Musashi believed that the ship was unsinkable. They believed that she was the King Kong of the Seas.
The expedition thinks they may have found something. They do further scans and then conclude that it was a natural formation. At the end of the three weeks, they find nothing. However, the team had mapped 1,400 square feet of the ocean floor. This mapping will be valuable for others in the future.
Pearl Harbor was a lesson to both Japan and the United States. While the Japanese focused on building battleships the United States embraced ariel warfare. The Japanese believed in a decisive battle at sea with battleships. The United States developed new weapons and planes for this type of warfare. As the United States battled in the Pacific they started gathering intelligence on Japan’s big battleships. Naval intelligence badly underestimated what Japan had produced.
The following year Mearns and his team go back to the search area with a more sophisticated radar. They get a hit and send down an ROV, a robot that will be able to take photographs of the site.
To learn more about the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the search for the Musashi continue to watch this YouTube Video.
If I had an independent study student with an interest in World War II or battleships I would share this documentary with them. It would also be a great filler when your students study World War II.
You can access the YouTube Video here.
Sinking the Hood - World War II
November will feature documentaries from World War I and World War II. On November 11, at the 11th Hour World War I ended with an Allied Victory. It is the month when the veterans bring out the poppies and sell them. You also noticed that the British Royal family brings out their poppy brooches for the month as well. I will follow that trend and write about World War I and World War II.
Today’s documentary will feature the sinking of the Hood. Why did it sink so fast? Why did only three men survive? Who was to blame for the Hood’s sinking? Two boards of inquiry could not solve what happened to the Hood. An expedition in 2012 went out to the wreck to try to solve the mystery. This expedition will use the latest technology to try to solve the mystery. Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft allowed the expedition to use his yacht to survey the Hood’s wreck site. It is a yacht equipped for a deep-sea expedition.
Paul Mearns, who found the Hood wreck site, was shocked when he found the site in 2002. The Hood was lying obliterated on the seafloor. He has returned to the site with the latest in technology to map the wreck site and discover why the Hood sunk so quickly. When the Hood was sunk in 1941 it was a devastating blow to the British public. A nephew of one of the sailors on the Hood also joined the expedition.
The Hood was the latest and greatest battleship of the British Navy. The Hood was launched in 1918. She had a sleek hull. She was over 860 feet long. She was a symbol of Britain’s might. There was no warship like the Hood until the 1930s. She was a symbol of what was great about Great Britain. She went on a world tour and had over 7,000 visitors. She was an iconic symbol of the British Navy. Nothing could compare to her.
Germany had something to say about that. In the run-up to war, the Germans started building the Bismarck. At the start of the war, she was nearly complete. Bismarck was more modern and built with the latest in technology. She was a rival for the Hood.
71 years ago, the Hood and Bismarck met in the Denmark Straits. It would be one of the greatest naval battles in history. 71 years later, the expedition arrived at the site to determine what happened during that battle. In 1941 the British were determined to finish off the Bismarck because if they did not they could be starved out of the war. It was in the Denmark Strait where the Hood would meet her fate. The Hood shot first and the Bismarck returned fire. Bismarck’s escort ship recorded the battle. Salvo after salvo rained down on the Hood. Then the Bismarck scored a direct hit. The Hood exploded. Ted Briggs, a Hood survivor, was on the bridge when the explosion happened. In three minutes the Hood was gone.
The Mearns Expedition will have their work cut out for them when they map out the wreck site. The explosion that sunk the Hood was something that never occurred before on a ship of that size. What made the explosion so deadly? The currents in the Denmark Strait are proving to be a challenge for the expedition. Solving the mystery of what happened to the Hood won’t be easy.
Please, continue watching to see if the Mearns expedition solves the mystery of why the Hood sunk so fast.
The documentary was narrated by Jim Carter from Downton Abbey. This would be a second good documentary to show in class.
You can access the YouTube Video here.
Sinking the Tirpitz - World War II
November will feature documentaries from World War I and World War II. On November 11, at the 11th Hour World War I ended. It is the month when the veterans bring out the poppies and sell them. You also noticed that the British Royal family brings out their poppy brooches for the month as well.
Today’s documentary will feature the sinking of the Battleship Tirpitz. It was sunk by the dam-busting pilots who destroyed Nazi Dams to stop Hitler from gaining a nuclear weapon. This is the story of the 617 bombing force. The ones who sunk the Tirpitz. This documentary brings together the men who were part of that squadron that bombed Tirpitz. These men were inspired by the glamor of flying and when the war started they signed up to be pilots. It also brings together the crew of the Tirpitz who survived the sinking.
The Tirpitz was the fastest battleship on the horizon. It could sink you before you could see it. It was so heavily armored that bombs bounced off it. It was the greatest nightmare of the Allies while it inspired the Nazis.
In 1943, the Dam Buster squadron came together to blow up Nazi Dams. The bomb that was created was innovative by the standards of the day and could bounce like a skipping rock across the water. By the time of the Tirpitz, many veterans of the initial bombing raids were gone. Now it was time for a new generation to take control and destroy the world’s most dangerous battleship.
The second generation of the Dam Buster Squadron had their reason for joining. They liked the glamour of flying. Navy or Army life did not suit them. By the time they were trained, they were ready to be sent to the Norwegian fjords. The Tirpitz was sent to hid in the fjords to prevent the allies from sending supplies through the Arctic to Russia. It was a lifeline for the Russian war effort. One of the biggest convoys in the war was sent this way. They were escorted by 43 warships. It scared the British. The convoy was to scatter and the merchant ships were left on their own. Only 11 ships made their way to Russia. The rest were sunk by submarines.
It made Churchill furious. He demanded that the Tirpitz be sunk. They threw everything they could at the Tirpitz. There were 31 attempts to sink the ship. These ranged from manned torpedoes to sabotage. Finally, the Dam Busters was ordered to sink the ship before winter set in. The men trained in the Soviet Union to prepare for the bombing. They were trained to use their rubber rafts in case they had to land in the water. No matter what the Dam Busters needed to sink the Tirpitz.
Each of the bombers was armed with a tallboy. The bomb had such propaganda value that the Dam Busters were allowed to take a camera with them on their raids. Unfortunately, this attempt failed. The Tirpitz on alert made a fatal mistake.
In the meantime in Norway, the crew lived on the ship. It was a large ship. New crew members got lost on it. It was good eating for the crew as well. Red wine flowed freely at lunchtime. They enjoyed themselves on board. Eventually, discipline broke down on board the ship.
To continue to learn more about the sinking of the Tirpitz watch the documentary. It is one of the last times that the crews could get together and tell their stories. I would recommend showing this documentary to break up the discussion on World War II. It is a good documentary to have in your teaching arsenal.
You can access the YouTube Video here.
November we will feature blogs about World War I and World War II. We are kicking off November with the docu-drama Sinking of the Lusitania: Terror at Sea. This docu-drama was produced in 2007. It kicks off with the narration of Professor Ian Holbourn, one of the survivors of the Lusitania sinking. He was a second-class passenger and made friends with a young lady Avis Dolphin.
Germany unleashed the U-boat onto the world during World War I and it proved to be a deadly weapon. They were an underwater weapon. The British attempted to starve Germany into surrender, an illegal action at the time. The rules were being re-written. The British Admiralty did not take these weapons too seriously. However, they too report on U-Boat activity around the British Isles.
The First Lord of the Admiralty was Winston Churchill, he did not take it too seriously. He wanted to encourage neutral shipping into British waters. If one of these ships were sunk, especially if an American ship or American casualties were involved it could draw the United States into the War. Holbourn speculates that passenger liners could be targeted. He had been on a lecture tour of America and was coming home.
Lusitania was about to set sail in May 1915 when a notice appeared in the newspaper: “Notice! Travelers intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travelers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk. Imperial German Embassy Washington, D.C., 22 April 1915.”
The Lusitania was the British Flagship liner. The Germans would not sink a ship full of innocent people. Alfred Vanderbilt is being interviewed by journalists. He dismisses the warning as scaremongering by the Germans. A family is also about to board the ship. The mother is worried about boarding the ship. However, they would not get money their money back if they did not board it.
Captain Turner signs off on a shipment of munitions and assures the passengers that the Admiralty will look after them. They cite the size and speed of the ship. The Admiralty also receives the warning Lusitania got. The Admiralty dismisses the warning. The Lusitania sets sail with 2,000 souls on board.
At the same time, U-20 was making its way to the Irish Sea. Their travels are interrupted when they get a destroyer in their sights. They dive to avoid the destroyer. There is one young sailor who seems reluctant to be a part of the war effort. After avoiding the destroyer, they make their way to the Irish Sea.
The British Admiralty is listening in on the messages between U-20 and Germany. They know that the U-20 is heading to the Irish Sea. The Admiralty advises not to tell the Lusitania about U-20 since the ship is 100’s of miles away.
During the voyage, the passengers get used to life onboard the ship. It is here Professor Holbourn meets up with Avis Dolphin. They would become lifelong friends.
Continue to watch to see what happens. The Sinking of the Lusitania: Terror at Sea is a fascinating docu-drama. It is nice to finally see something involving the Lusitania. Titanic has been overdone. Both Germany and England produced this documentary. Show clips of this documentary or show the whole thing in a class. It is a good docu-drama to show in class.
You can access the YouTube video here.
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