In World War II: Up Close and Personal, Dr. Keith Huxen, a historian and project director at The Henry M. Jackson Foundation, takes you into the story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. From the icy front lines of Soviet Russia to the bombing campaigns against Britain to the fall of the Philippines, these 24 engrossing lectures take you into the shoes of soldiers, sailors, pilots, war correspondents, and citizens struggling to survive a war-torn world.
World War II: Up Close and Personal
Experience the startling realities of the Second World War through the eyes of the people who lived them.
Keith Huxen is the Korean War Oral History Project Director at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation in support of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. His work promotes the agency’s mission to locate, identify, and recover the remains of fallen American service members from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Middle Eastern wars. He received an MPhil in American Diplomatic History and a PhD in American History from George Washington University.
Previously, Keith was the Senior Director of Research and History in the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy at The National WWII Museum. He was responsible for creating historical exhibits and galleries, including the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center; the Road to Berlin and Road to Tokyo galleries in the Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters pavilion; and the Arsenal of Democracy exhibit galleries. He also curated the traveling exhibit Manufacturing Victory, devoted to the industrial effort on the American home front. He has led World War II tours or lectured abroad in England, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, and China.
Keith has taught at Arizona State University, Louisiana State University, and the University of New Orleans. His specialties include American economic and diplomatic history, modern European history, and 20th-century international history. He has published in academic journals ranging from the Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table to Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals and appeared in TIME magazine, USA TODAY, and The Washington Post.
01: Hitler and the Nazi Youth
The horrors of Nazi Germany are one hallmark of World War II. How did ordinary German citizens find themselves participating in such heinous events? In this first lesson, go inside the propaganda machine of Hitler’s Germany and see how it targeted the youth with messages of strength and pride.
02: Japanese Soldiers in Nanjing
The origins of World War II lie in Asia in 1931, when the Japanese army sabotaged a railroad line in northeastern China. From here, trace the invasion of 1937 and the brutal Rape of Nanjing. Witness the events through the eyes of a Chinese soldier and a Japanese journalist, young men who bore witness to the flesh and blood of battle.
03: Panzer Leaders Who Changed Warfare
In addition to the story of people, World War II is the story of technology—and the innovations that changed the nature of combat. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than the tanks Germany used to barrel across Poland and France in “lightning warfare.” See how new technology defeated the old ways of war.
04: Jews inside the Warsaw Ghetto
Wartime Warsaw offers a gateway to the darkest events of the war. Bear witness as the city’s Jews were rounded up and put in the ghetto—cramped quarters where the specter of disease and starvation always loomed. Hear the wrenching stories from several of the ghetto’s inhabitants.
05: The “Small Acts” of the French Resistance
The daily reality of war was complicated for everyday citizens living far from the battle lines. In Nazi-occupied France, informants created an environment of paranoia and fear, yet some people offered resistance in ways big and small. Revisit the legacy of the French Resistance to experience life under the Nazi boot.
06: A Child and a Pilot in the London Blitz
Shift your attention across the English Channel, where Britain now faced the Nazi war machine alone. Trace the war in London through the eyes of a Jewish child in the East End, a bureaucrat performing unglamorous duties, and a young Oxford student who flew against Hitler’s Luftwaffe.
07: The Besieged at Leningrad
When the Nazis invaded Soviet Russia and set up a siege of Leningrad in 1941, none of the city’s inhabitants could envision what life would be like for the next three years. Find out what daily life was like inside “the Ring” of besieged Leningrad through the eyes and diaries of three unforgettable women.
08: The Captured and Pursued in the Philippines
Prior to the war, Americans in the Philippines lived in what one infantryman called a “soldier’s paradise.” That all changed when the Japanese invaded shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. From the Bataan Death March to an internment camp in Manila, see what life was like after the fall of the Philippines.
09: The US Home Front as a Secret Weapon
One of the great stories from the Second World War is the American manufacturing dynamo. Although 16 million men and women served in uniform, the nation of 130 million mobilized; garnered an abundance of natural resources; advanced the realm of science; and flooded the world with the production of aircraft, tanks, artillery; and so much more.
10: James Michener in the South Pacific
The unique nature of combat in the South Pacific during World War II took place against a vast, beautiful, sometimes romantic, often forbidding world, largely unknown to most Americans. Travel with a young naval lieutenant (and future historical novelist) named James Michener to explore the cultural clash within the region.
11: Masters of Death in Nazi Concentration Camps
To survey the Nazi death camps is to enter a world of slave labor and genocide. Here, you will focus on two high-level German commandants in the system who abetted the atrocities. First, you will see how a businessman profited from the concentration camp system, and then meet a policeman who became the commandant at Treblinka.
12: A “Red Tolstoy’s” Vision at Stalingrad
The Russian writer Vasily Grossman had ambitions of cataloging the war on the level of Tolstoy. Follow him through the streets of Stalingrad, where fighting raged from house to house. Then, study his astonishing accounts of the Red Army as it pushed the Germans back to Berlin.
13: “The Bomber Will Always Get Through”
What was it like to live through the bombing attacks and campaigns in the war? In this lesson, look at the US bombing war against Japanese aircraft carriers in the Pacific and against the Nazi’s oil refineries in Romania. Then, reflect on civilian life under the bombs at Dresden, Germany.
14: The Tuskegee Airmen and “the Experiment”
Race was a fault line in many aspects of the war, especially in the United States as our nation fought for democratic ideals abroad while discriminating at home. Examine the segregated military before the war and review how World War II began to crack the military’s wall of discrimination. Learn about the Tuskegee Airmen.
15: US Submariners: “A Breed Apart”
Not only was the war fought around the globe—it was also fought from high in the skies to the depths of the ocean. Venture beneath the unforgiving waters of the Atlantic and Pacific where American submariners conducted a secret, dangerous war. See what life was like in the cramped quarters of these powerful vessels.
16: An American Diplomat in the Vatican
War may be viewed as a failure of diplomacy, yet diplomats played a critical role that affected the lives of millions. Travel to the Vatican and find out how two popes named Pius negotiated the tricky diplomacy of a war that had Catholics on both sides of it. View life in the Vatican through the eyes of President Roosevelt’s “personal envoy.”
17: Americans in Britain: Countdown to D-Day
The Allied invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, was perhaps the pivotal event of World War II. The story of Americans in Britain leading up to this event is fascinating. Learn about the encounter between two different yet historically related cultures, and the permanent mark the war left on both sides.
18: Commanders at the Battle of the Bulge
Hitler’s last, desperate gamble for victory was to launch a surprise winter attack through Belgium’s Ardennes Forest. Victory for the Allies came at an incredible price at the Battle of the Bulge, but it sealed the fate of the Third Reich. Step into the shoes of an Army infantry company commander during this bloody encounter.
19: General Slim and the Forgotten Fight
Sometimes political circumstances mean a great commander goes overlooked, or a victory left unremembered. Meet British General William Slim, who, in the face of inferior resources, a hostile environment, and long odds, achieved a complete victory in the China-Burma-India Theater—for decades known as the “Forgotten Theater” by many post-war historians.
20: The Kamikazes and the Duty to Die
Japanese suicide pilots struck fear in the hearts of their opponents, but the willingness of kamikazes to take the lives of others through their own deaths raises philosophical questions for all involved. Review the historical debate over the kamikazes and reflect on their legacy that haunts the Pacific War.
21: The Eyes and Ears of War Correspondents
War correspondents ranged from radio broadcasters to newspaper writers to photographers and cartoonists. Determined to serve a public hungry for information during a world of censorship and control, journalists covered all aspects of the war and its social impact. Meet some of these correspondents and consider the issues they wrote about.
22: Casualty Stories of the Atomic Age
The Pacific War came to a violent and sudden end with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While scholars continue to debate what finally induced Japanese Emperor Hirohito to surrender, there is no doubt the atomic age opened a new era in history. See these events through the eyes of Japanese citizens.
23: A Nuremberg Interpreter, a Tokyo Judge
How does one account for the crimes of war? What does justice mean when the war is over? Here, review the trials of Nuremberg through the vantage point of an interpreter and observer. Then, shift your attention to a tribunal in Tokyo. Reflect on the legal foundation for international law, going forward.
24: Survivor Memories: Reliving the Holocaust
The sheer toll of death alone cannot account for the atrocities of the Holocaust. The writings of survivors such as writer Elie Wiesel and historian Saul Friedländer bore witness to the events. Through their written works and that of other survivors and witnesses, collected memories have been captured and continue to endure.