WWII

Autumn Events in History

On this week’s podcast, I take a look at some events that happened in autumn during WWII and the Civil War, as well as WWI and the American Revolution. I discuss the 1918 Meuse-Argonne offensive by the America Expeditionary Forces and the French army. Launched against the Germans on the Western Front, this final campaign led to the Armistice. I also look at the momentous events that took place at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. Again, with the aid of the French, this battle proved to be the final military blow for the British in the American war for independence.

Photo: By John Singleton Copley – First Foot Guards, Public Domain

General George S. Patton Part II: Post WWII

Mark revisits his episode from last October with historian Kevin Hymel, who returns for the second of a two-part discussion of General George S. Patton. They cover his post-war governance in Germany and the actual story of his fatal accident and death. This is Part II of a two-part episode.

Listen to General Georges S. Patton Part I: Early Years and WWII>>

USS Indianapolis

Mark speaks with best-selling author, Lynn Vincent, and National Geographic Historian, Sara Vladic, about their new book, Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man.

Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, days after delivering the components of the atomic bomb from California to the Pacific Islands in the most highly classified naval mission of the war, USS Indianapolis was sailing alone in the center of the Philippine Sea when she was struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship instantly transformed into a fiery cauldron and sunk within minutes. Some 300 men went down with the ship. Nearly 900 made it into the water alive. For the next five nights and four days, almost three hundred miles from the nearest land, the men battled injuries, sharks, dehydration, insanity, and eventually each other. Only 316 survived.

For the better part of a century, the story of USS Indianapolis has been understood as a sinking tale. The reality, however, is far more complicated—and compelling. Now, for the first time, thanks to a decade of original research and interviews with 107 survivors and eyewit­nesses, Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic tell the complete story of the ship, her crew, and their final mission to save one of their own.

Published by Simon & Schuster, Indianapolis relates individual stories of the sailors, their ordeal in shark-infested Pacific waters awaiting rescue, the aftermath and media coverage, as well as the families of the lost and efforts to exonerate the captain after his court martial.

Listen to veterans of the USS Indianapolis talk about their experiences in this trailer for Indianapolis.

Pick up your copy of Indianapolis from Simon & Schuster>>

 

Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France

Mark’s guest is Steve Bourque, whose new book: Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France takes on a subject often ignored in historical accounts.

Allied War Against France

Cover: Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France, Naval Institute Press (click image to buy this book).

Bourque explores the effects of Allied air attacks on French towns and infrastructure in 1944 as part of the D-Day Invasion and war with Nazi Germany. In discussing the book, they examine the different operations, the destruction of military and civilian targets and casualties as well as the results and aftermath of the bombings.

About Steve Bourque

Stephen A. Bourque is Professor Emeritus of military history at the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He left the US Army in 1992 after twenty years enlisted and commissioned service, with duty stations in the U.S., Germany, and the Middle East. Dr. Bourque has taught at several colleges and universities including Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, California State University-Northridge, the University of Kansas, and the Command and General Staff College.

Steve Bourque

Steve Bourque

His publications including Jayhawk! The VII Corps in the 1991 Persian Gulf War (2002), The Road to Safwan (2007), and Soldiers’ Lives: The Post-Cold War Era (2008) and, most recently book Beyond the Beach, the Allied War Against France (2018). Currently, he is writing a history of the Northwest Europe Campaign as experienced by a senior officer who began the war as a corps chief of staff and ended it as an infantry regimental commander.

August History Happenings and Fall Preview

This week Mark takes a look at some events that happening during the month of August in WWII and the Civil War, including the Siege of Leningrad, the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, the infamous Quantrill’s Raiders and Nathan Bedford Forrest’s raid on Memphis. He also previews upcoming fall episodes that cover Antietam, the Allied Bombing of France in 1944, and a new WWI book by one of Britain’s foremost WWI experts.

History with Mark Bielski Tentative Fall Schedule

This fall, Mark will be interviewing some fascinating guests for his History with Mark Bielski Podcast. From legendary football coach Vince Dooley to an onsite visit with the curator of the Dr. Samuel Mudd House and Museum, you won’t want to miss these episodes.

Sept. 6 – General Jack Mountcastle – Touring Civil War Battlefields in the East

General Jack Mountcastle joins Mark to discuss the Battle of Second Manassas, a major Confederate victory in 1862 that gave General Lee the momentum to invade Maryland in September. They will also talk about the Civil War: Hallowed Ground Tour that Jack leads for Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours. The tour covers Manassas as well as the other key events in the Eastern theatre. They will explore the strategies, leaders on both sides of the war, and specific actions taken during the battle and leading up to the fight. It’s the closest thing to going to the battlefield itself.

Sept. 13 – Professor Steve Bourque – Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France

Mark and Professor Steve Bourque will discuss his new book, Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France, a subject rarely studied. The book is a survey of events, destruction and civilian casualties caused by Allied bombing.

Sept. 20 – General Jack Mountcastle – 150th Anniversary of Antietam

In September, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, Mark and General Jack Mountcastle will cover the battle, the bloodiest day of combat on U.S. soil. More than 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were reported killed, wounded or missing during 12 hours of fighting with no clear winner.

Sept. 27 – History Happenings for September

Mark will talk about some of the interesting historical events that occurred during WWII and the Civil War in the month of September.

Oct. 4 – Dorothea Barstow – Curator of the Dr. Samuel Mudd House and Museum

Mark visits the Dr. Samuel Mudd House and Museum, where he interviews the curator, Dorothea Barstow, at the Mudd home where the Doctor who set John Wilkes Booth’s leg lived. They discuss the doctor’s life, career, trial and possibly unfair imprisonment and release.

Oct. TBD – Vince Dooley – The Legion’s Fighting Bulldogs

Mark is excited to chat with legendary football coach Vince Dooley. They will be discussing Dooley’s book, The Legion’s Fighting Bulldogs and football history. During the 25 years he was the University of Georgia football coach, his teams won six SEC titles and the 1980 national championship. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the American Battlefield Trust/Civil War Trust.

Oct. TBD – Gary Sheffield – World War I

Mark and Professor Gary Sheffield, a noted British military historian, discuss Sheffield’s comprehensive new book, Forgotten Victory: The First World War: Myths and Realities. Prof. Sheffield is a frequent contributor to the BBC.

Oct. TBD – History Happenings for October

Mark will talk about some of the interesting historical events that occurred during WWII and the Civil War in the month of October.

 

 

General George S. Patton: Early Years and WWII

This week on History with Mark Bielski, historian Kevin Hymel, the author of Patton’s Photographs: War As He Saw It, joins me to discuss one of America’s greatest generals. We delve into George S. Patton’s early years as well as his leadership during WWII.  This is podcast is a repeat of an episode from October 11, 2017.

General Patton in Brolo, Italy

Mort Sheffloe Redux Part 2

In this redux of a prior episode, combat veteran Mort Sheffloe continues discussing his WWII experiences in Normandy and Brittany in 1944. Mort talks about Operation Cobra and being shot by a German sniper near Brest.

Mort Sheffloe Redux

Mark revisits his interviews with WWII veteran, Mort Sheffloe, done on location in France. Mort discusses his WWII experiences in Normandy and Brittany in 1944. Some of the interviews took place while walking the sands and in cafés at Utah and Omaha Beaches.

Seven at Santa Cruz

Mark’s guest is Ted Edwards, whose new book, Seven at Santa Cruz, is a riveting biography of WWII pilot, Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa. It is an up-close look at the battles of Santa Cruz and Coral Sea and how Vejtasa became a naval hero fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. He flew from aircraft carriers Yorktown and Enterprise and became the only dive-bomber pilot to be awarded Navy crosses for both bombing and aerial combat.

For more information or to buy this book click here.

 

July History: WWII and Civil War

Some cursory but analytical looks at a few key July historical events. We discuss WWII, including the Einsatzgruppen SS mission in the Soviet Union, as well as the Civil War battle of First Manassas (Bull Run). We also take a look on the lighter side—how Louisiana took an innovation from the 1930’s and raised it to a higher level.

(Above photo: P.G.T. Beauregard, formerly at City Park, New Orleans)

Beauregard, a Louisianan whose first language was French, graduated second in his West Point class of 1838 and served with distinction in the Mexican War.  He briefly was commandant at West Point when the war began, but left the post for his home state.  Beauregard was in charge at Fort Sumter when the first shots were fired. As said above, he commanded the forces at First Manassas where the smoke and haze of the battlefield made it difficult to distinguish the Confederate National Flag from the Stars and Stripes.  Afterwards, when home in New Orleans, he designed the battle flag, using the St. Andrew’s Cross on a field of red with thirteen stars.  This became what is generally thought of as the “Confederate Flag,” and first flew over troops at Shiloh in April 1862.  Here Beauregard served and took the reins as senior field officer after Albert Sidney Johnston died shortly after a mortal wound.  After the war, Beauregard returned home and worked for civil rights and reconciliation.  After the war he wrote, “With regard to the suffrage of the freedmen, no matter how objectionable it may be at present, it is an element of strength for the future.”

1941

17 July – USSR. SS Gruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich gave the orders for four SS Einsatzgruppen to follow the Wehrmacht into the Soviet Union with the invasion. Their purpose was not tactical nor military, but part of Nazi party ideology.  They were to exterminate Jewish and Roma/Sinti or Gypsy communities as well as any political opposition. This especially meant any communist party members.

One of the effective players in this operation was Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski.  He would fly from town to town and have his aides gather up records from city halls.  There they would find a listing of officials as well as classification by ethnicity of local citizens.  The good record keeping made the job much easier for the SS.

1942

31 July – Moscow. As the German armies pushed toward Stalingrad and into the Caucasus, Stalin gave the orders that no Red Army units were to retreat.  “Not one step backwards,” the orders read. “Commanders, commissars and political workers who abandon a position without an order from higher headquarters are traitors to the Motherland and will be treated accordingly.”  The communist party news organ, Red Star, emphasized that any soldier who fails and does not do his duty “on the battlefield instead of standing to the death will be condemned as a traitor selling his country into Germany slavery.”

“Accordingly” apparently translates a “shot” in the original Russian.  This brings to mind the quote from Joseph Stalin, “It takes a brave man to be a coward in the Red Army.”

Leningrad was already in the eleventh month of its 900-day siege.  It began on 8 September 1941 and lasted 2 years, 4 months, 2 weeks and 5 days, until 27 January 1944.

1943

17 July – Solomons Islands. In the Pacific, the Allies staged a heavy 12-hour air raid on Japanese naval and air positions.  Wave after wave of Liberators and Flying Fortresses bomved the Kahili airfield and paralyzed or destroyed the enemy planes on the ground.  Torpedo bombers, the Avengers, attacked ships at Bougainville while their support fighters tangled with the Japanese Zeros. The Allies sunk seven ships in the harbor, including a light cruiser and two destroyers.  After shooting down nearly fifty Japanese aircraft, all but six Allied planes returned safely home.

1944

20 July – Wilczy Szaniec or Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair in NE Poland, what was East Prussian, was the scene of the famous von Stauffenberg plot to kill the Fuhrer.  At 12:42 pm in the Conference center of the compound, Hitler was poring over maps with his General staff when a huge explosion blew the room apart.  Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg had been in the meeting and left his explosive-laden briefcase strategically placed under the conference table.  By all logic, this should have done the trick.

Hitler and Mussolini

Hitler shows Mussolini the bomb damage from the assassination attempt. July 1944.

Von Stauffenberg had excused himself from the meeting and had plans to proceed to Berlin to carry out the plot.  In the meantime, one of the officers moved the valise, having accidently hit it with his foot.  Although four officers died from the explosion, Hitler was relatively unscathed considering the impact.  He was left with temporary deafness and physically shaken, but was able to receive his ally, Benito Mussolini, later that day.  The famous photo shows the two inspecting the aftermath of the blast together.