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World War II: Battlefield Europe
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World War II: Battlefield Europe
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Created by: Kalob Taulien
In more ways that you can imagine, today's geopolitical climate is a product of World War II.

The United States, France, Germany, Russia, and Britain-all of these world powers and their sense of place in the 21st century were profoundly shaped by the most savage, sweeping war in human history.

The topic of World War II's European Theater is so vast that it requires an expert historian to make sense of it all. How was the war in Europe fought over the course of seven long, arduous years? What led to Germany's early sustained gains, and what eventually stymied its advances? Why did the war in Europe unfold the way it did, and what socio-economic factors led to Germany's unconditional surrender after millions of lives were lost?

For award-winning Professor David R. Stone of the U.S. Naval War College, it all boils down to a matter of strategy. Strat choices-political ones, economic ones, military ones-are the organizing principles that can help any of us make sense of the war in Europe. "Political and military leaders had to make hard decisions," Professor Stone says. "We can learn a lot by looking at those choices."

World War II: Battlefield Europe is Professor Stone's expansive 24-lecture exploration of the 20th century's defining conflict. Designed in partnership with HISTORY and using a distinctly European perspective (in which the United States is a supporting player instead of a main character), this course provides a fresh lens through which to study the European Theater's major battles, larger-than-life personalities, twists of fate, and tales of intrigue. You'll uncover the strat decisions behind U-boat assaults, urban bombing campaigns, Operation Barbarossa, D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, the invasion of Italy, the French resistance, the fall of Berlin, V-2 rockets, and so much more. By the end of the last lecture, you'll better understand why the war in Europe unfolded the way it did-and why its legacy resonates for all players down to this very day.

While World War II had two theaters of combat, the European Theater of 1939 to 1945 was the violent core of this global conflict between the forces of totalitarianism and those of freedom. It was on the European continent where Nazi Germany began its project of expansion and murder. It was on the European continent where Allied and Axis forces clashed at Stalingrad, el-Alamein, Anzio, and Normandy. And it was on the European continent where Nazi Germany was ultimately defeated and the stage was set for the Cold War that would consume the post-war world.

Strat Looks at Epic Battles

In developing World War II: Battlefield Europe, Professor Stone came up with the conservative estimate that there are over 300,000 books and 30,000 scholarly articles dealing with World War II. It's a conflict that's so enormous, no one can master it all at once.

That's why these lectures dig deep into the European Theater of war, and specifically the real-life military and political strats behind some of the war's most definitive battles.

The Battle of Britain: From the second half of 1940 through most of 1941, the British Royal Air Force and its German equivalent, the Luftwaffe, waged a desperate struggle for control of the skies over England. Dubbed the Battle of Britain by Winston Churchill, the fight raises a number of important strat questions, including whether Germany's shift from attacking the RAF to bombing British cities (which appealed to Hitler's desire to make Britain suffer) might have cost the Nazis their chance at victory.

The Battle of Stalingrad: While Stalingrad (known today as the city of Volgograd) was one of World War II's most decisive battles, the regional industrial center in the southeastern section of European Russia wasn't important in itself. But the city sits where the Volga River takes a big swing westward as it flows south into the Caspian Sea, which meant the Germans couldn't let the city remain in Soviet hands as it was too big a threat to the flank of their push to grab the oil fields around the Azerbaijani city of Baku.

The D-Day Invasion: Training for war is, naturally, serious business. It was even more so for the Allied invasion of Europe. Two months before the landing at Utah Beach, 750 American soldiers died at Slapton Sands in southwest England during a training exercise, which was attacked by the Germans. Because a number of the dead Americans had been briefed on the D-Day invasion plans, their bodies had to be recovered to ensure they hadn't been captured and the plan wasn't compromised.

The Battle of the Atlantic: What finally turned the tide in favor of Allied submarines and sea forces? Much of the eventual victory was due to technological developments, including better sonar and radar with which to find enemy subs; a forward-firing battery of depth charges known as "the hedgehog"; and a torpedo known as "Fido" (deliberately called a mine to be misleading to the enemy), which could track submerged submarines and, more important, could be dropped from Allied aircraft.
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