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.
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.
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.
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.
Today we are continuing with our Witch Theme for October. This time, I will present a documentary about the last woman who was tried as a witch in Britain. When did this happen? Well, it happened during World War II!
Tony Robinson investigates the case of Helen Duncan, the last person in Britain to be jailed as a witch. It was before D-Day and she was predicting the invasion. She was tried as a witch during World War II. Duncan was uncannily accurate in her predictions during World War II. She was a threat to British National Security. MI-5 got involved with her case. Was she talking with the spirits of the dead soldiers? Where they telling her secrets she should not have known? Becky McCall and Tony Robinson find out more about Helen Duncan.
Britain was on a war footing and everyone was on edge. D-Day was coming and the military did not want the Nazis to know what they were planning. This woman was such a threat to national security that the military decided to put her on trial and lock her up. She was the last person in Britain to be put on trial for witchcraft. She was arrested as a spy. Helen Duncan was a psychic medium. She spoke with the dead.
Robinson heads to Portsmouth to investigate Helen and what happened. He goes to a place where Helen held her seances. People flocked to her séances because they wanted to speak to their relatives. They sought comfort from Helen. One particular night, she announced that the HMS Barham had sunk. It shocked the people in the room. The Barham’s sinking was a state secret. MI-5 sent officers to Portsmouth to investigate Helen’s claims. The Barham’s sinking was announced three months after it happened.
Robinson and McCall do a catch-up on what they discovered. They go to the primary sources that surrounded the Barham’s sinking and the sailors who died on that ship. Who did Helen speak for when she made this announcement? She spoke with a sailor named Sid, and the people in the room recognized him immediately. They find the sailor’s name on a memorial in Portsmouth. They discovered that he lived on the street where Duncan held her séance. McCall and Robinson part to do further investigating. Then Robinson goes to a modern-day spiritualist church and observes a service. McCall investigates how mediums work.
McCall discovers that the family who had sailors on board the Barham received a letter from the government telling them about the sinking. They were also instructed to keep the sinking a secret from the public. So perhaps Duncan guessed that one of the witnesses had a sailor in the family that had died and guessed that it was the Barham.
To learn more about the Helen Duncan case continue to watch the documentary.
Tony Robinson is an excellent presenter. He approaches this strange story with skepticism. He does an excellent job balancing his skepticism with the evidence presented. He takes his time as he reflects on the evidence before him. Becky McCall is also excellent at bringing in a scientific eye to this investigation.
This is an interesting look at something that happened in World War II. It was fascinating to find out that the last person in Britain to be tried as a witch happened during World War II. I do not think anyone could have guessed that. This would be a good documentary to share for research purposes for an independent study student. If you need something interesting to show to the students during October.
This is the last of my suggested YouTube Video series. This final section will cover the early 1900s to the Present Day. I hope that I have provided a wide variety of suggestions for your classroom. These videos could be shown when there is a teacher in the room or a substitute teacher in the classroom.
Lost Liners - YouTube
This documentary features Bob Ballard exploring his career as an oceanographer. He discusses the Titanic and Lusitania and learns about the Empress of Ireland. He talks about the Titanic’s discovery and the problems it caused. Then he talks about the mystery of Lusitania’s sinking. Finally, he visits the Empress of Ireland as his last ocean liner. He visits the Empress of Ireland with a descendant of one of the passengers. *Highly recommended for a middle school and high school classroom. This documentary can be broken up into sections.*
Waking the Titanic - YouTube
Fourteen young people from one small town in Ireland made their way to America, on board the Titanic. They traveled together in a group to keep each other safe. Only 3 survived the trip. The deaths of 11 young people deeply scarred the town they grew up in. Narrated by the actor who played Branson on Downton Abbey. This docu-drama offers a different perspective on the Titanic by sharing the story of ordinary people. *Highly recommended for an elementary school, middle school, and high school classroom. Recommended for a substitute teacher to show.*
Women Who Made History - Sophie Scholl - YouTube
Sophie School was a resistance fighter during World War II. Initially, she had joined the Hitler Youth. Her father was not pleased with this. She loved music, boys, dancing, and alcohol. Sophie and her siblings were arrested for listening to music. Sophie was surprised that the government would arrest and imprison children. This is a German-produced documentary with English voiceovers. *Highly recommend for middle school and high school classrooms.*
Anne Frank & Eva Schloss: Tale of Two Sisters - YouTube
Holocaust documentary, this documentary is about Anne Frank and her step-sister Eva Schloss. Their stories ran parallel to each other, their families both fled Germany when Hitler came to power, both settled in the Netherlands, they met each other young, both ended up in concentration camps. Anne died, Eva survived. Eva shares the story of the diary and her memories of the Holocaust. *Recommended for a high school classroom. Recommended for an independent study student.*
World's Deadliest Sea Disaster - YouTube
The Wilhelm Gustloff was a ship that was sunk in the Baltic towards the end of World War II, taking with her 10,000+ souls. It was the deadliest shipwreck in history. The survivors come together to tell their survival story. This can also be used in a computer science class as they determined the number of people who died in the wreck by using computer simulations. *Recommended for a history classroom as well as for research purposes.*
*Wartime Farm: YouTube
Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, and Alex Langladas as well as new team member Henry live as farmers facing the conditions of World War II. Goodman, Ginn, and Langladas startup with setting up the farm for war conditions, planting the fields, and trying their hand at recycling. They deal with rationing. They also take in war refugees, participate in home defense and welcome the Americans. *Highly recommended for both middle school and high school history and agricultural classrooms. Highly recommend it for independent study students and clips.*
Chernobyl: 35 Years After - YouTube
The disaster at Chernobyl happened on April 26, 1986. It was the worse nuclear disaster in world history. It still haunts the Ukrainian people to this day. This documentary is about a group of survivors who returned to Prypiat. They discuss their experiences and their feelings about the disaster. Some have broken their silence for the first time. This documentary is German-produced with English translations. *Highly recommend for both high school and middle school classrooms and independent study students.*
Today will be a little different. I will share several documentaries from World War II on one of deadliest shipwrecks in history: Wilhelm Gustloff. I heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff from my pre-calculus teacher, Mr. Shiffer and was shocked to see that it was the biggest wreck. I like learning about shipwrecks and not just the Titanic.
This ship was built by the Nazis and it was used to reward good workers with a cruise. During World War II the Navy commandeered the ship for barracks for U-boat crews. It sat at Anchor in Poland for the duration of the war. Eventually it was the ship where thousands of refugees placed their hope in escape in before finally becoming their tomb.
The Wilhelm Gustloff story served as inspiration for Ruta Sepetys: Salt to the Sea. You can purchase it on Amazon. If you use that book in an English class, then I would recommend that you show your class a documentary about the shipwreck to enhance the reading experience.
World's Deadliest Shipwreck
The World's Deadliest Shipwreck was the Wilhelm Gustloff, it was sunk towards the end of World War II by a Soviet Submarine. The survivors of this shipwreck were pushed aside as more pressing manners came to the forefront as well as the need to forget how Germany behaved during the war. With the end of the war, since it was German ship, nobody didn't care they were German victims of a shipwreck since the atrocities of the Holocaust came out. Now the remaining survivors are telling their tale as computer science answers the question how can so many people die in one night?
You can check out the video link here.
I would recommend that a teacher show this documentary in a classroom.
Sea of Death
Divers explore the shipwrecks of three refuge ships that were sunk at the end of World War II. These ships were sunk by Soviet torpedoes and killed over 20,000 people over the course of several nights. They were the Stueben, Goya and the Wilhelm Gustloff. The divers check the condition of the wrecks. Now the survivors of these wrecks are finally able to tell their stories after decades of silence.
If you need a filler for a class or to have available for the sub then show this documentary.
Available on YouTube
Last Voyage of the Wilhelm Gustloff
This is a National Geographic documentary on the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. The refugees were fleeing from vengeful Soviets. Some refugees captured and sent to Siberia. They go to the people who survived the Gustloff sinking. The Gustloff was torpedoed by a Soviet submarines. For those who manage to climb onto a raft it soon became a life and death struggle.
The story of the refugees was heartbreaking as well as a the story of the children who died with their feet sticking up above the water due to the life vests.
Available on YouTube
The Sea Hunters - Wilhelm Gustloff
The Sea Hunters, lead by Author Clive Cussler explore the wreck of the Wilhelm Gustloff and tell this forgotten story of World War II. There were suggestions as to why this tragedy was forgotten. The intention of this mission was to find, document and publish their findings about the wreck.
If you wanted a second option for a documentary to show to a class, this would be on my list as a recommendation.
Available on YouTube
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