Unsung Heroes of World War II: Europe
Lynne Olson is a historian and New York Times best-selling author of eight books, most of which focus on World War II. She earned degrees in Political Science and Journalism at the University of Arizona (with Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude honors), followed by a master’s degree in Literature at American University.
After graduation, Professor Olson worked as a journalist for 10 years. She worked with the Associated Press as a national feature writer in New York, a foreign correspondent in the Moscow bureau, and a political reporter in Washington DC. She then joined the Washington bureau of The Baltimore Sun, where she covered national politics and eventually the White House. She later taught for six years at American University.
Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright has called Professor Olson “our era’s foremost chronicler of World War II politics and diplomacy.” Her books include Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network against Hitler; Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War; Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight over World War II, 1939–1941; and Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour.
01: Andrée de Jongh and the Resistance
When the Germans began their lightning-quick invasions across Europe, many ordinary citizens were stunned. Others, however, stood up to fight back. In this first lecture, meet Dedee de Jongh, a 23-year-old nurse who built an escape line through Belgium and France to rescue stranded British airmen. Witness her courage and ingenuity.
02: The Tory Rebels Who Helped Save England
In hindsight, it may appear inevitable that Winston Churchill would take command of the British and lead them into victory. At the time, however, it seemed unthinkable that the powerful Neville Chamberlain would step down. See how a few brave politicians orchestrated one of the most striking political transitions in history.
03: Victor de Laveleye and V for Victory
History is filled with ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things. As an Olympic athlete, Victor de Laveleye was not your ordinary man, yet there was no reason to think he would come up with one of the most popular symbols in the war, helping to buoy spirits and wage psychological warfare against the Germans. Uncover the story of the V for Victory campaign.
04: Wilhelmina and Haakon: Royalty Fight Back
When the Germans invaded the Netherlands and Norway, Adolph Hitler wanted to secure not only the land, but also the leadership of these nations. In this lecture, Professor Olson shows you the wrenching decisions and harrowing escapes of Queen Wilhelmina and King Haakon—and how these royal figures fought the war from Britain.
05: Polish Pilots and the Battle of Britain
The RAF’s air battle to defend Britain from Germany in 1940 is one of the most iconic—and dangerous—periods in the war. Few people know that roughly 20% of the RAF was comprised of non-British pilots. Here, witness the stunning courage and successful maneuvers of Polish fighter pilots who saved the day.
06: Wendell Willkie: “A Godsend to This Country”
It might seem impossible, today, to discover a politician willing to sabotage his own presidential campaign for the good of the country, but that is exactly what Wendell Willkie did in his 1940 run against President Roosevelt. See why he went against his own party and supported FDR’s plans to help Britain.
07: The Earl of Suffolk and Heavy Water
Despite his comically aristocratic name, Charles Henry George Howard, the 20th Earl of Suffolk, was a swashbuckling, unshaven, dark-haired Englishman who seemed unlikely to be responsible for the future of the free world. See how he smuggled French scientists to England and foiled Nazi efforts to obtain a nuclear bomb.
08: Marie-Madeleine Fourcade: Spymaster
For years, the official history books suggested there were no women leaders of the Resistance in France, and even today the role of women is often underplayed. The story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade blows this theory out of the water. Meet this extraordinary woman and see how she led a massive spy ring throughout France.
09: John Winant and the Special Relationship
Winston Churchill allegedly once said that you can always count on the Americans to do the right thing—after they have exhausted every other option. Until John Winant became the Ambassador to Great Britain in March 1941, the British were distraught by the Americans’ lack of support. Trace the beginning of the special relationship between these two countries.
10: Marian Rejewski and Breaking Enigma
The story behind the story is often more interesting than the dominant narrative. You likely have heard of the British codebreakers at Bletchley Park, whose Enigma machine helped win the war. Here, meet several Polish mathematicians who developed a prototype Enigma machine and broke much of the German code years before Bletchley Park.
11: Tommy Hitchcock and the P-51 Mustang
After being turned down to be a fighter in the Army Air Force, Tommy Hitchcock—a famous American polo player—was recruited by Ambassador Winant to support the British RAF. There, he worked on designs for the P-51 Mustang, a fighter plane that went on to become one of the most important weapons of the war effort.
12: The Dutch Sisters Who Saved a General
In September 1944, while France and Belgium were celebrating their liberation, Holland was filled with desolation and death. When Brigadier General John Hackett was trapped behind enemy lines, he found salvation in the home of a trio of middle-aged Dutch sisters who nursed him back to health.