World War II in Numbers continues for our month of World War II and World War I documentaries. This has been a fascinating series to check out.
Allied ships are heading towards the French coast. They had quietly been building up their strength and will be landing on French beaches. The Royal Air Force is keeping the Luftwaffe at bay. Unfortunately, this invasion is a disaster. Sixty percent of the soldiers die in this invasion. It is not June 1944, it is August 1942. What happened was a test to see how hard it was going to be to land in France. However, the Soviets are suffering heavy losses and Stalin needs that second front.
In Autumn 1943, Stalin is complaining that the Americans and the English are dragging their feet. The Soviet Army has been dealing with the Nazis and suffering heavy losses. He made the argument that the war would end sooner if a second front would opened up. Churchill and Roosevelt did not talk about invading Europe. Hitler wanted to totally destroy the Soviet Union and defeat Stalin. The two armies would meet up in a small village known as Kursk.
The Nazis wanted to circulate Kursk and isolate the remaining Soviet troops from the rest of the Soviet Union. However, they did not count on the Soviet tanks the T-34. The T-34 ran on diesel and this gas freezes at a lower temperature. The Nazi tanks ran on regular gas and so they had to light fires under the tanks at night to keep them warm. The T-34 also had armor that caused shells to bounce off of them. The Nazis copied the design into the Panther and the Tiger tanks.
After the original invasion, the citizens of Kursk worked alongside the Soviet soldiers to prepare the city for invasion. When the Germans retreated the first time, thousands of Kursk citizens were executed. Kursk did not want to see that happen again. The civilians dug a lot of anti-tank ditches, planted mines around the city, and fortified the defenses. The Soviets had the bigger army and seemingly had the upper hand in the battle. This battle would be decisive in history. Hitler’s tanks performed badly in the first days of the battle. However, this battle was the biggest tank battle in history.
The battle of Kursk grinds on for months. The tanks smashed into each other. Who could turn their gun to the enemy quicker? 800,000 Soviet soldiers died in the battle, but those losses could be replaced. The 200,000 German soldiers could not be replaced. The Soviet Union showed its industrial might. The Germans could not produce the amount of equipment needed to continue the fight. The Germans started their two-year retreat from the Soviet Union.
The tide was turning in the Mediterranean. The Allies invaded Italy. Unfortunately, the Allies made an error, they left the straits between Sicily and the Italian toe free. The Italian Army and Germans escaped into the toe so they were able to defend the mainland. Mussolini as a result of this invasion was overthrown and the Italian Army was surrendering. Hitler did not want this and send the German troops into Italy to hold the peninsula. Italy will take more time than the Allies expected. It was a land full of mountains and the Germans could easily defend the terrain. How would the Allies take Italy?
To continue to learn more about the final years of World War II and the numbers continue to watch this documentary.
This would be another good episode to show in a history classroom for both high school and middle school.
WWII in numbers is a documentary series that talks about the numbers before World War II. The German defense minister demanded a meeting with Hitler. He said that war was going to cost billions of dollars. After failing to knock the Soviet Union out of the war in April 1941, war funding is in short supply. So when he declared war on the United States, Hitler had no money to fight it. Hitler wanted to fight the great powers and the Jewish bankers. Hitler’s war was about both conquest and extermination. His new target was the Soviet Union.
The Siege of Leningrad occurred in September 1941. The German Army was going to target Leningrad. It was the place where the Russian Revolution so it would have been a symbolic victory for the Germans. However, they had no money nor the strength to take the city. Instead, he would starve the city to death. The citizens could not leave the city and the German Army had no interest in saving the civilians. The Siege of Leningrad was the longest siege in history.
The German air force bombed a food depot: 3000 tons of bread-making flour were destroyed. About three and a half million people were trapped inside the city. They held out for two and half years against constant German bombardment. Over 1000 tons of supplies were needed to supply the city and keep the people alive. The Soviets tried to keep the city supply during winter over the ice of Lake Ladoga. Unfortunately, the ice was not reliable. Lorries sunk down into the ice.
Supplies fall short of the needed rations to keep the people alive. Things get so bad that people resort to desperate measures to stay a life. They ate their pets to stay alive. Even if the animal was poisonous, they ate what they could. It took a lot of effort to get water. People collapsed in the streets. You never went to bed because you could die in your sleep from hunger. Some people turned to cannibalism to stay alive. Over 2,000 people were arrested for cannibalism. Over 1,000 people died per day. Leningrad refused to surrender. It would have made more sense for Hitler to take Leningrad.
A group of Nazi officers gathered in January 1942 to meet to try to plan for mass murder. Mass shootings were not accomplishing the Nazi’s aims. Hitler wanted to kill as many Jews as he could. This meant the construction of dedicated killing facilities. By the end of the war, 800,000 people would become implicated in the Holocaust. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor led to the United States entered the war. Even if Hitler was defeated he would murder as many Jews as he could in going down in defeat.
Experiments were performed on Jews and Soviet Prisoners of war to find the most efficient way of killing Jews. The gas trucks were created. Another more efficient way of killing was created: the gas chambers. This was a more efficient way to kill the Jews. Those who survived the selections were forced to work on starvation rations. This was death on an industrial scale.
However, to keep this industrial killing up, the Nazis needed resources. They turned to one Soviet city: Stalingrad. It was an important industrial hub for the Soviet Union. Stalin believed that the Nazis would attack Moscow, so Stalingrad was a complete surprise to the Soviets. What happened during this battle, tune into the rest of this documentary to find out more.
This is an excellent documentary to show during the World War II section in a history class.
As I did the previous year, I hope for November to feature World War I and World War II documentaries. This documentary will feature the story of the USS Indianapolis. The ship was torpedoed by the Japanese and only 317 survived after their five-day ordeal. The survivors of that sinking are now finally telling their story. Additionally, families of the dead participate in the documentary. This is a longer documentary and should be broken up into parts for easy viewing in the classroom.
The story documentary kicks off with the USS Indianapolis survivors talking about their enlistments and being assigned to the USS Indianapolis. They were amazed at the size of the ship. These men were teenagers and young adults. Their ship had an admiral on board and it gave them a bit of prestige. Franklin Roosevelt sailed onboard the ship. These sailors traveled from Australia to the Bering scene. They recall breaking ice off the lines because of the cold. They went from the cold to the South Pacific and the heat.
They took part in the battle of Iwu Jima and they tell their stories about facing the battle. After the island was secure, they continued to battle. They then took part in the battle of Okinawa and shot down kamikaze. On kamikaze managed to bomb the Indianapolis and killed nine men, thirty were wounded. After that battle, they went back to the States to get repaired and the ship had a seventeen-degree list the whole way back.
After repairs were done on the USS Indianapolis they went back to war. The survivors recall going back out for one last mission and they were to deliver the parts to the atomic bomb. At the time they did not know what they were taking back and the stories ranged from toilet paper for Douglas MacArthur to whiskey to celebrate the war. The survivors recall their feelings about going back. They were optimistic that the war was going to end and soon. This section featured more of the families of the USS Indianapolis.
After their special delivery, the USS Indianapolis was sent on another mission. They were going to an area where they were told they did not need an escort. Unfortunately, a Japanese sub found the Indianapolis and fired six torpedoes into the ship at midnight. Each survivor recalls where they were when the USS Indianapolis was hit. They recall the explosions and the screams of the men. Many of the men were badly burned, but the damage was done to the ship. No word was announced to abandon ship because the electricity was out. Nobody knew what to do and the ship was sinking from underneath them. It was chaos onboard. The navy men were working to abandon the ship while the Marines on board told everyone to wait until the orders came to abandon the ship.
The USS Indianapolis started rolling and the captain gave orders to abandon ship and these had to be shouted among the men. These were kids that had no idea how to survive in the water. Each survivor recalls how they got off the ship. Many of the survivors recall getting caught in oil once they were in the water. They each recall the last thing they saw from the ship.
However, they did not know what would encounter after they got off the ship. Over 800 men got off the ship and the survivors were spread out because they were coming from different directions. These men were floating in the Pacific. A lot of the men did not know how to swim and many learned that day…
To learn more about what happened to the survivors continue to watch this documentary. The survivors’ tale is harrowing and this would be a documentary to show in a class on World War II.
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