July 19th, 2015
As Winston Churchill watched the French army march past on Bastille Day, 1939, amid the tensions of Europe, he exclaimed "Thank God for the French army ..." and with good reason. France had the best equipped and largest army on the continent. Further bolstered by the virtually impregnable Maginot Line on its eastern border with Germany, a fleet second only to Britain's and a mighty air force, conventional thinking was that the Franco-British forces could and would defeat Germany's Wehrmacht if need be, or starve Germany to death by blockade. In this episode, we learn how a German general came up with the one plan that might succeed in winning the war and how the Battle of France was lost by the Allies, dooming the continent to five years of slaughter and destruction.
May 10th, 2015
The Great Northern War pitted the Swedish Empire at the peak of its power against its southern and eastern neighbors, Denmark, Poland-Lithuania, Saxony and seemingly weak and backward Russia in a war that raged from 1700-1721. The Swedish army was the terror of Europe and was led by Sweden's young king, Charles XII, who had ascended the throne at the age of 18 when his father suddenly died. In the opening years of the war, Sweden systematically crushed each enemy in turn, beginning with Denmark who surrendered after only four months of contending with Charles' military killing machine. One by one every kingdom withdrew from the war until there was only one. The weakness and backwardness of Russia's armies were also exposed early in the war at Narva when Sweden's army routed a Russian force three times its size, but withdrawing into its vast hinterland, Tsar Peter the Great completely reorganized his army. By 1709, Peter was ready for a showdown with the "invincible" army of Sweden at Poltava. The complete triumph of Russia over Sweden in this unusual battle marked the entry of Russia into Great Power status in Europe, a status that continues to this day. Listen to how the world was forever changed in this titanic contest over two decades and the story of two young monarchs thrust by history into greatness and tragedy.
April 26th, 2015
The greatest military battle ever fought on the North American continent, Gettysburg has often been considered the turning point of the American Civil War. Flushed with success from its smashing rout of the Union forces at Chancellorsville in May 1863, the Confederate government agreed to the audacious plan of their commander, Robert E. Lee, to invade the north and force a final showdown with the dispirited Union army in Pennsylvania. Only four days before the battle, President Lincoln replaced the Joseph Hooker, disgraced commander of the Army of the Potomac, with the taciturn Gordon Meade who immediately faced the prospect of another humiliating defeat that might break the Union will to fight on. In this podcast, we will learn how the unknown Meade managed to save the Union and defeat a seemingly invincible army that began a cascade of Union victories culminating at Appomattox less than two years later.
April 26th, 2015
The most famous battle of all time, Waterloo reached iconic status within days as news of the defeat of the greatest military leader in Europe spread throughout Europe, just as the return of Napoleon from exile in Elba had done 100 days earlier. In a desperate bid to quickly defeat the Duke of Wellington and his Prussian ally, Field Marshal Gebhard Blutcher, Napoleon marched north from Paris to the border of modern day Belgium and quickly defeated the Prussians at Ligny, dispatching them back to Germany and leaving him alone with Wellington's Anglo-Dutch-German force ... or so he thought. A series of mistakes and blunders uncharacteristic of the man Wellington once said was equivalent to another 40,000 men, let victory slip away on that fateful day in June when the Napoleonic era came to an end once and for all. Here it all on this podcast ...
April 26th, 2015
The Battle of Moscow is in some respects the most colossal and deadly campaign in all human history. Millions of soldiers and civilians fought a desperate and savage battle under the most dire climatic conditions and bleak terrain. At stake was the extinction of the Soviet state and the fulfillment of the Nazi dictator's fantasy of conquest. In October 1941, the German Wehrmacht had yet to be defeated and had mauled the Red Army in the opening months of the war in Operation Barbarossa. Suffering sometimes catastrophic losses in that campaign, Operation Typhoon, as the final push to Moscow was styled by the Germans, began with yet more devastating mistakes by the Soviet high command until Josef Stalin appointed his favorite, Georgy Zhukov, to command the defense of the capital. This is the story of Russia's reversal of fortune that halted the seemingly invincible Wehrmacht in the suburbs of Moscow itself, only a few miles from the Kremlin walls.
April 26th, 2015
This is the introductory episode to the series and describes the Battle of Tannenberg that occurred in the opening months of the First World War. With most of its army concentrated in France and Belgium, the German master plan for fighting a two front war called for only a small field army to delay and contain an anticipated Russian invasion of Prussia while the western allies were quickly defeated. The stakes could not have been higher as the German high command watched with growing dread the appearance of two massive Russian armies on their eastern frontier only two weeks after Germany's declaration of war; much sooner and in much greater numbers than had been expected. This is the story of one of the most improbable and impressive military victories of all time that, had it gone the other way, would have resulted in the occupation of Berlin and defeat of imperial Germany at the beginning of a war that would devastate the continent.