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World War II: Crash Course World History #38

World War II: Crash Course World History #38


Hi, I’m John Green. This is Crash Course
World History and today we’re going to talk about World War II. Finally, a war with some
color film! So, here at Crash Course we try to make history reasonably entertaining, and fortunately,
World War II was hilarious…said no one ever. Mr. Green, Mr. Green! Is this, like, gonna
be one of the unfunny ones where you build to the big melodramatic conclusion about how
I have to imagine the world more complexly? Me from the Past, as long as you have that
eighth rate soup-strainer, I’m not even going to acknowledge your existence. [theme music] Right, so you’ve probably heard a lot about
World War II from movies and books, The History Channel, before it decided that Swamp People
were History, the incessant droning of your grandparents, etc. We’re not gonna try to
give you a detailed synopsis of the war today. Instead, we’re going to try to give a bit
of perspective on how the most destructive war in human history happened, and why it
still matters globally. So one of the reasons history classes tend
to be really into wars is that they’re easy to put on tests. They start on one day and
they end on another day. And they’re caused by social, political, and economic conditions
that can be examined in a multiple choice kind of manner. Except, not really. Like, when did World War II start? In September
1939, when the Nazis invaded Poland? I’d say no – it actually started when Japan invaded
Manchuria in 1931, or at the very latest when the Japanese invaded China in 1937, because
they didn’t stop fighting until 1945. Then again, you could also argue 1933, when Hitler took power, or
1941, when America started fighting. It’s complicated. But anyway, in China the fighting was very
brutal, as exemplified by the infamous rape of Nanking, which featured the slaughter of
hundreds of thousands of Chinese people and is still so controversial today that:
1. It affects relations between Japan & China and
2. Even though I have not described it in detail, you can rest assured that there will be angry
comments about my use of the word “slaughter.” But the World War II we know the most about
from movies and TV is primarily the war in the European theater, the one that Adolf Hitler
started. Hitler is the rare individual who really did make history – specifically he
made it worse – and if he hadn’t existed, it’s very unlikely that World War II would’ve
ever happened. But he did exist, and after coming to power in 1933, with the standard
revolutionary promises to return the homeland to its former glory, infused with quite a
bit of paranoia and anti-Semitism, Germany saw rapid re-militarization and eventually,
inevitably, war. In the beginning, it was characterized by
a new style of combat made possible by the mechanized technology of tanks, airplanes,
and especially, trucks. This was the Blitzkrieg, a devastating tactic combining quick movement
of troops, tanks, and massive use of air power to support infantry movements. And in the
very early years of the war, it was extremely effective. The Nazis were able to roll over
Poland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and then all of France, all within about 9 months
between the fall of 1939 and the summer of 1940. So after knocking out most of central Europe,
the Nazis set their sights on Great Britain, but they didn’t invade the island, choosing
instead to attack it with massive air strikes. I mean, you look at this poster and think,
“Man, the Queen wants me to finish my term paper, so I can do it,” but when this poster
was first produced in 1939, it was to quell terror in the face of bombardment. The Battle of Britain was a duel between the
Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe, and while the RAF denied the Nazis total control of
British airspace, the Nazis were still able to bomb Great Britain over and over again
in what’s known as the Blitz. STAN, NO. NO JOKES this time. Yes, the Blitz. Meanwhile, Europeans were also fighting each
other in North Africa. The Desert campaigns started in 1940 and lasted through 1942 – this
is where British general “Monty” Montgomery outfoxed German general Irwin “the Desert
Fox” Rommel. It’s also the place where Americans first fought Nazis in large numbers.
But most importantly, it’s where Indiana Jones discovered the Ark of the Covenant.
Okay, let’s go to the Thought Bubble. 1941 was a big year for World War II. First,
the Nazis invaded Russia, breaking a non-aggression pact that the two powers had signed in 1939.
This hugely escalated the war, and also made allies of the most powerful capitalist countries
and the most powerful communist one, an alliance that would stand the test of time and never end… until
like three seconds after the defeat of the Nazis. The Nazi invasion of Russia opened the war
up on the so-called Eastern Front, although if you were Russian, it was the Western Front,
and it led to millions of deaths, mostly Russian. Also, 1941 saw a day that would “live in infamy”
when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, hoping that such an audacious attack would frighten
the United States into staying neutral, which was a pretty stupid gamble because:
1. The U.S. was already giving massive aid to the Allies and was hardly neutral and
2. The United States is not exactly famed for its pacifism or political neutrality. 1941 also saw Japan invading much of Southeast
Asia, which made Australia and New Zealand understandably nervous. As part of the British
commonwealth, they were already involved in the war, but now they could fight the Japanese
closer to home. And shut up about how I never talk about you Australians. I just gave you
1.5 sentences. But by the time the Americans and Australians
started fighting the Japanese, it was already a World War. Sometimes this meant fighting
or starving or being bombed; other times, it meant production for the war – you don’t
think of Argentina as being a World War II powerhouse, for instance, but they were vital
to the Allies, supplying 40% of British meat during World War II. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So, not to sound jingoistic, but the entry
of the U.S. into the war really did change everything, although I doubt the Nazis could’ve
taken Russia regardless. No one conquers Russia in the wintertime, unless you are – wait for
it – the Mongols. Okay, we’re going to skip most of the big
battles of 1942 – like the Battle of Midway, which effectively ended Japan’s chance of
winning the war – and focus on the Battle of Stalingrad. The German attack on Stalingrad,
now known as Volgograd because Stalin sucks, was one of the bloodiest battles in the history
of war, with more than two million dead. The Germans began by dropping more than 1,000
tons of bombs on Stalingrad, and then the Russians responded by “hugging” the Germans,
staying as close to their front lines as possible so that German air support would kill Germans
and Russians alike. This kind of worked, although the Germans
still took most of the city. But then, a Soviet counterattack left the sixth army of the Nazis
completely cut off. And after that, due partly to Hitler’s overreaching megalomania and
partly to lots of people being scared of him, the sixth army slowly froze and starved to
death before finally surrendering. And of the 91,000 Axis POWs from Stalingrad, only
about 6,000 ever returned home. Stalingrad turned the war in Europe and by
1944, the American strategy of “island hopping” in the Pacific was taking GIs closer and closer
to Japan. Rome was liberated in June by Americans and Canadians; and the successful British,
Canadian, and American D-Day invasion of Normandy was the beginning of the end for the Nazis.
Oh, it’s time for the Open Letter? An Open Letter to Canada. But first, let’s
see what’s in the secret compartment today. Oh, it’s Canadian mittens. I wanna thank
the Canadian Crash Course fans, who sent us these mittens. Canadians are just so nice,
Stan. Like, all we ever do on this show is make fun of them, and they’re just like, “It’s so
kind of you to mention us. Here’s some mittens!” Dear Canada, We’re not always nice to you here on
Crash Course, but you are awesome. I’m pointing, but you can’t tell because I’m wearing
mittens. 45,000 Canadians died fighting for the Allies in World War II, which means that, per capita,
Canada lost more people than the United States. You fought with the Royal Air Force to defend
Great Britain from the beginning of the war and you were there on D-Day, successfully
invading Juno Beach. And, as many of you have pointed out in comments, you defeated the
United States in the War of 1812, meaning that, arguably, Canada, you are the greater
military power. Plus, you have lumberjacks, and excellent
beer, and hockey, and universal healthcare, and Justin Bieber. I’m jealous! That’s what
it is – I’m jealous! Best Wishes, John Green. So, by the end of 1944, the Allies were advancing
from the West and the Russian Red Army was advancing from the East and then, the last-ditch
German offensive at the battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-1945 failed. Mussolini
was executed in April of 1945. Hitler committed suicide at the end of that month. And, on
May 8, 1945 the Allies declared victory in Europe after Germany surrendered unconditionally. Three months later, the United States dropped
the only two nuclear weapons ever deployed in war, Japan surrendered, and World War II
was over. The war had a definite cause: unbridled military
expansion by Germany, Japan, and, to a small extent, Italy. Now, it’s easy to claim that
Hitler was crazy or evil, and, in fact, he was certainly both, but that doesn’t explain
the Nazis decision to invade Russia, and it sure doesn’t explain Japan’s decision
to bomb Pearl Harbor. And there are many possible explanations beyond
mere evil; but the most interesting one, to me, involves food. Hitler had a number of
reasons for wanting to expand Germany’s territory, but he often talked about Lebensraum
or living space for the German people. German agriculture was really inefficiently organized
into lots of small farms, and that meant that Germany needed a lot of land in order to be
self-sufficient in food production. The plan was to take Poland, the Ukraine,
and Eastern Russia, and then resettle that land with lots of Germans, so that it could
feed German people. This was called the Hunger Plan because the plan called for 20 million
people to starve to death. Many would be the Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians who’d previously
lived on the land. The rest would be Europe’s Jews, who would be worked to death. Six million Jews were killed by the Nazis,
many by starvation, but many through a chillingly planned effort of extermination in death camps.
These death camps can be distinguished from concentration camps or labor camps in that
their primary purpose was extermination of Jews, Roma people, communists, homosexuals,
disabled people, and others that the Nazis deemed unfit. Some historians believe that
the Nazis opened the death camps because the Jews weren’t dying as fast as The Hunger
Plan had intended. This was a sickening plan, but it made a kind
of demented sense. Rather than becoming more involved in global trade, as the British had,
the Germans would feed themselves by taking land and killing the people who’d previously
lived there. Similarly, Japan, at the beginning of the
war, was suffering from an acute fear of food shortage because its agricultural sector was
having trouble keeping up with population growth. And the Japanese too, sought to expand
their agricultural holdings by, for instance, resettling farmers in Korea. So while it’s tempting to say that World
War II was about the Allies fighting for democratic ideals against the totalitarian militaristic
imperialism of the fascist Axis powers, it just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. For instance,
a hugely important Allied power, Stalin’s Soviet Union, was, like, the least democratic
place, ever. Stan just said that was hyperbole, but it’s not. Stalin’s Soviet Union is
tied with all of the other completely undemocratic countries for last place on the democracy
scale. It’s a big community there, at last place, but they’re definitely in there somewhere. And, by far, the biggest imperialists of the
war were the British. They couldn’t have fed or clothed themselves – or resisted the
Nazis – without their colonies and commonwealth. So, why is World War II so important? Well
first, it proved the old Roman adage homo homini lupus: Man is a wolf to man. This is seen most clearly
in the Holocaust, but all the statistics are staggering. More than a million Indian British subjects
died, mainly due to famine that could have been avoided if the British had redistributed
food. And their failure to do so helped convince Indians that the so-called superior civilization
of the British was a sham. More than a million Vietnamese died, mainly due to famine. 418,000
Americans. More than a million noncombatants in both Germany and Japan. And 20 million
people in the Soviet Union, most of them civilians. These civilians were targeted because they
helped sustain the war, mostly through industrial and agricultural production. In a total war,
when a nation is at war, not just its army, there is no such thing as a non-military target.
From the firebombing of Dresden to Tokyo to Hiroshima, the line between soldier and civilian
blurred. And then, of course, there is the Holocaust,
which horrifies us because the elements of Western progress – record-keeping, industrial
production, technology – were used to slaughter millions. World War II saw modern industrial
nations, which represented the best of the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution,
descend into once unimaginable cruelty. And what makes World War II such a historical
watershed is that in its wake, all of us – in the West or otherwise – were forced to question
whether Western dominance of this planet could, or should, be considered progress. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan
Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. Our associate producer is Danica Johnson.
The show is written by my high school history teacher, Raoul Meyer, and myself. And our
graphics team is Thought Bubble. Last week’s phrase of the week was “an
end to history.” If you want to guess at this week’s phrase of the week or suggest
future ones, you can do so in comments, where you can also ask questions about today’s
video that will be answered by our team of historians. If you enjoy Crash Course, make sure you’re
subscribed. Thanks for watching, and as we say in my hometown, Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.

100 comments on “World War II: Crash Course World History #38

  1. Finally someone else understands WW2 started in 1931. I got yelled at quite a bit by people who don't know shiz.

  2. I watched this channel every week in history and I just now realized he is my favorite author!!!!!🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😦😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😧😮😮😮😧😮😮😮😮😮😮😧😮😧😧😧😧😧😧😧😧😧😧😮😮😮😮😮😮

  3. 2:05 "If hitler hadn't existed, it's unlikely that ww2 would have ever happened"
    BS! How can you say this?? You know that's not how it works. The man was shaped by the German people of the time. If it wasn't hitler, they would have found someone else for the job. And the pressures on him would have got this person to do the exact same things.

  4. Canada didn't burn Washington. The British did. An equivalent statement would be "The Philippines dropped nuclear weapons on Japan," because they were part of the US at the time and the US did.

  5. If Hitler had not existed, then there would still have been either a far-left or far-right leader who would have taken over Germany during the period of instability.

  6. Argentina was vital to the Allies during the war, and EXTREMELY vital to war criminal fugitive nazis, after the war…
    I am going to go play some COD, now, because I really love killing nazis. Gives me a nice little warm feeling, deep inside. 😉

  7. Without hitler, there would not be the weakening of the soviet union which might overcome the western world with communism

  8. Not even a mention of the Treaty of Versailles? A suggestion the war started in 1941 when America entered? You cannot be serious, this is verging on absurdity. What is this? Modern revisionist history as seen through the eyes of a (poorly) educated biased liberal?

  9. Western civilization and its preeminence, to be read global prosperity thanks to the Bretton Wood agreement, is 99.99 percent progress. What alternative is there?

  10. 1 million Indians died? No , more than 4 million did, while Churchill diverted the food grains to British soldiers, Middle East and other countries like Greece. Talking about the Bengal famine in 1943, Churchill said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”

    One of the methods the British devised for starving Indians who wanted to get relief was the ‘distance test’. They would be made to walk over ten miles to and from the relief works. Less food was given at these slave labour camps than at the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald.

    Mass starvation was a regular feature of life in India under the British rule even before Churchill and the world wars. Britain’s imperial project in India, its aims and methods, was not to prevent ‘famines’ but to engineer them. The British ran what they termed ‘relief works’ during some of the famines. Indians were worked to death.

    During the Bihar famine it was declared that the relief given to the starving was too generous, and thus decided that future relief was to be ‘thrift’. Lord Salisbury was convinced by senior civil servants that it was “a mistake to spend so much money to save a lot of black fellows”.

    Altogether, more than 30 million Indians died out of starvation

  11. Japan attacked pearl harbor because they wanted to destroy the Navy because they knew they couldn't stand up to their might, not to scare us.

  12. When people wonder how the Nazis could commit such atrocities or the German people could turn a blind eye to it, I'm reminded of a fantastic quote from a horror movie. "See? Everyone reaches a point where they'll do the unthinkable".

  13. Battle for food? The invasion of Russia and Battle of Stalingrad in particular was about controlling oil in the Caucasus. It is conspicuous that you never mention oil when it has been the most important resource for the past 150 years and is the root of most wars since then.

  14. Boy, when the US falls, Japan is going to have a major league problem with China looking for some payback military. Wouldn't want to be them.

  15. Guys he was right. Top comment has a flame war in replies.

    We should have listened.

    We should have avoided the comments.

  16. Taking the land and killing the people that live there sounds familiar. You sure you weren't talking about Israel? Free Palestine

  17. 60000 sudozais fought for Britain in world war 2 and now India is attacking them in kashmir and Britain is silent. Free kashmir

  18. The irony is that the holocaust, a product of pure unfiltered discrimination, would be the primary source to the end of most discrimination.

  19. Actually pretty much all of the leaders of Germany but especially the industrial leaders wanted a new war because they were unhappy with the outcome of WW1.

  20. france statrted ww2 100% fact it was them who gave the Nazis their publich support to up and to then were thrown in jail

  21. Hola, so it seems a little misleading to say that the Japanese empire was trying to use pearl harbor to scare the Americans for not going into World War II, being that the Americans northward expansion through the Philippine Islands was eventually going to lead to an invasion of the Southern Japanese islands and probably Okinawa regardless of World War II or Pearl Harbor happening

  22. Justin briber is not a point of pride. But apparently Shawn Mendes is.

    His face is suddenly every in Canada. Lots of adds and commercials. He’s even on the Tim’s cups right now.

  23. "There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.

    There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone."

    John Swinton, Former Chief of staff at New York Times

  24. "If Hilter didn't existed the wwii will never happen" what the @%^$#$&
    It was a solo a one man mission…it wasn't a group that could easy get someone to be the face/front.
    what a @$^%$&^(

  25. I told my class that you wrote the fault in our stars and papertowns and no one believed me.. one quick trip to google and I felt so great I was right 😊 also love your work

  26. You seem more concerned with the underbelly of global politics without any regard for the nobility of defeating totalitarianism of Nazi Germany or Japan. As if the post-war history of the Soviet imposition on Eastern Europe wasn't demonstration enough.

  27. what was the effect of Nazi and Fascist in world War 2?what was their contribution in world war 2??????
    what is the main difference in ideologies of Fascism and Nazism?????????

  28. So. Do yourself a favor and read Mien Kampf and learn where Hitler came from and why he was the way he was. Educate yourself.

    Also, that's not why Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. They did it to try to destroy the US Navy since their own couldn't stand up to the US' might.

  29. Not Russians, but Soviets! Equating the two very unequal notions denies the existence, fight for freedom and massive WW2 sacrifice to millions of non-Russians. Millions of Ukrainians and Belorussians, as well as 280,000 Georgians who perished in the War were NOT Russians! Likewise, the country was the Soviet Union, not Russia! It's like calling the entire UK 'England'.

  30. Crash course: Omissions, wrong conclusions, data based on official accounts, etc. Where did you learn history? The pisstory channel?

  31. //The victors write the history. If anyone cares to get the loser's side of the story see “Europa The Last Battle” at a.r.c.h.i.v.e.o.r.g/While you still can (whole documentary not permitted/censored onYT)//

  32. “Pearl Harbor… would frighten the United States into submission.”

    Lol. That turned out great. Nice try Japan.

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