From 1939-1945 the world saw its most destructive and deadly war between the “Allies” and the “Axis Powers.”


Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi, Connor.

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: So we are just gonna jump right into our topic today, and that is World War II. And as I explained before, you know it, it’s gonna be hard to do all of this in one episode, which is why we’ve done a little of, you know, episodes kinda leading up teasing, giving previews up to this one. In fact, if you haven’t listened to them already, I highly recommend you listened to the episode we did on who was Hitler. We did one, how to become a Tyrant, which was not advice. We were just telling you how people become bad. And then we did one on World War I, which I think is super important because it talks about how World War II came about to understand what happened. You kind of have to understand what happened before. So I might wanna go back and listen to those. And just a reminder, it’s impossible to tackle every detail. We’re gonna do some additional episodes, but we’re just gonna talk about the general premise of the war today. So, for starters, the war had been brewing for years before, as you knew, you know if you listened to the World War I episode, but the fighting itself took place from 1939 to 1945. And one thing that’s funny about this is people looked back at this, I remember when I was in, in school thinking like that’s such a long time to be in a war. And it was very brutal. It was a deadly war. But how long have we been in Afghanistan? Or how long were we in Afghanistan?

Connor: Oh, like two decades.

Brittany: Isn’t that funny? And so you, we look back to this and we think, oh, how terrible. And to be fair, the whole world was involved. But then we look at where we’ve been occupying now, and it’s like, ooh, oops. So, alright. So everyone, you know, sees themselves as the heroes of their own story, even the bad guys. And I, do think it’s important to remember that, you know, the Axis powers as they were called, they really did think that their ideas were, were the right ideas that they were doing what’s right. But the problem is, if your mission or your goal in life ever comes at the expense of someone else’s life, or their liberty or their property, you aren’t anything but a villain, right? So even though the people themselves thought maybe they were fighting for a good cause, their causes couldn’t have been good because it came at the expense of, you know, millions of lives, actually. So let’s talk about the heroes and the villains of World War II. So the war was fought between the allies, which was United States, United Kingdom, think like England, Ireland, all those areas. And the Soviet Union, which we now just call Russia. There were other places, but for our sake, we’ll just call it Russia and China, which is interesting cuz what we’ll talk about in a few episodes is that’s kind of switched. I don’t think we’re super great friends with China anymore, but that’s another conversation. So the word ally means friends. And so the allies were the groups of countries who came together, joined together, and we were fighting against who were called the Axis Powers. And while I list off the ally countries, I want you to be, or sorry, axis powers, I want you to be remembering some of the isms we talked about, cuz you’ll hear a couple of them. So the Axis powers were Nazi Germany, so Nazis is what they were dealing with. Fascist Italy, fascism, we’ve talked about that. And then Japan, and it might seem almost comical or cartoonish to talk about this, but this really was a quest for world domination. Connor, you and I have joked about Pinky in the Brain before, which unfortunately I think is out of date now, but this really was people trying to take over the world. It was just crazy. But it’s true.

Connor: Or even like the game risk, right? Where it’s all just not like domination and expansion and territory. And yet that’s exactly kind of how it was. I, remember, you know, from our, so we had our World War I episode, that the first World War left Germany like basically destroyed economically. I mean, things were bad. And then they had this treaty of Versai, this agreement or document that ended World War I, and Germany was forced to take the blame for the war and pay back other countries. And so, you know, this punished the German government, but it basically punished people. I mean, it’s like when you know Biden, you know, a few weeks back he’s like, oh, we’re, just gonna tax the rich. And then they’re like, well, wait a minute. These companies you’re taxing, they’re just gonna pass the taxes down to the customers and the people. And so you keep saying you’re not gonna raise taxes on people who make under $400,000, and yet they’re the ones who pay for the taxes. That and the spokesperson, what’s her name, Jen Saki or whatever. She’s like, that would be unfair and awful. It’s like, don’t you know how it works? Right? Like that’s how the, it’s, this stuff trickles down. And so even though the German government after World War I, was being punished, it’s not like the, the government leaders just sat around and they’re like, oh dang, we’re being punished. Right? It’s the people who are being punished, it’s they who have to kind of pay for everything. And that’s kind of how it ended up. And so after the economy tanked, that’s when we had, and we’ve talked about this before, that’s when we had Adolf Hitler rising to power and, you know, trying to say like, Hey, Germany, like, you know, we have national pride and we should be better than this. And it’s unfair what everyone has done to us. Let’s push back. Right? And so he kind of gained power that way. And so just because the axis powers these countries lumped, you know, Germany, Japan, and Italy together, they each had different goals. It’s not like they were like 100% united in all things. And had they won the war, it’s likely that they would’ve started like fighting with each other too, right? Because I think some of these alliances were thin, right? It’s like, well, okay, we have a common enemy, but that doesn’t mean like we’re totally united in things. So, Germany was struggling and Hitler rises to power. He is promising the German people that he can bring, you know, prosperity back to the country. And so then you have this Nazi element, this party that means the national socialists. And so it’s interesting, a lot of people equate socialism and communism. And so here you have Germany and, and then you have the Soviet Union. And so you have these Stalinists, these Marxists basically these communists. And we’ve talked before how a lot of these isms kind of overlap, right? Yep. It’s like Stalinism and Marxism and communism. It’s all basically the same thing. And a lot of people feel like socialism and communism are the same thing, or, or different degrees of the same thing that yet you hear, you had Germany fighting with the Soviet Union and you had, you know, these strong differences of opinion, which I, find really interesting, but not national socialism was kind of, it was socialism, like big government, heavy government control of the economy and so forth, but also nationalism, right? Like one German people. Everything is about, you know, our nation. And that has to be the focus. It’s a form of collectivism where the,  what’s considered important is the group, the many and the collective rather than the individual. And so you have, you know, Nazis, socialism, or the Nazis, which is the party that Hitler led. And so, you know, they were blaming any of their economic problems on people who weren’t of, you know, pure German descent. And so Hitler was ordering anyone who couldn’t prove that they were German, which meant you had to show, you know, that your grandparents and even, you know, sometimes your great-grandparents, I think you’d have to show your lineage. You’d have to prove they were from Germany. You could be sent to, you know, labor camps and your businesses could be punished, right? If you weren’t a pure,  part of the pure Arian race, this kind of German descent. And, you know, 6 million of these people were Jewish people of all ages. We’ll talk more in another episode about the Holocaust, which is this kind of,  episode of punishing the Jewish people by the Nazis. But, you know, they were cruel. I mean, they did terrible things. But it’s important to remember that the same was true of the other Axis powers. These other countries, you know, Japan, for example, they had cruel labor camps, they had death camps as well. They targeted the Chinese. So like, you know, everyone focuses on the Jews doing the, or excuse me, the Germans doing this to the Jews. But then you had the Japanese doing this to the Chinese, and you had the Italian Prime Minister, his name was Benito Mussolini, right? In the fascist government. He was also really cruel, right? But he was seen as kind of the least threatening,  which is why I think a lot of the allied powers, the United States and its allies were so heavily focused on Germany and Japan. Yeah. Mussolini wasn’t perceived to be, you know, as threatening. And so, you know, even it, it’s funny, yeah, I mean, Hitler didn’t even really think much of Mussolini. So, it’s kinda of like that annoying like little brother who tends a lot.

Brittany: He was exactly the little brother. Yeah. Yeah. That’s so funny. So the beginning of the war, unfortunately, the Axis powers were doing great. And a lot of this is that Ger, you know, Germany was trying to create jobs for people. And we know that the government doesn’t create jobs, but he had a lot of people creating what I like to just call war machines, right? There were new big tanks being built. There were weapons being built, and they had the German people doing this. And in many situations too, we talked about how the Jewish people were sent away to concentration camps. They were sometimes building the bombs and building the guns in these camps. So you had a lot of free labor on, that,  end too. So there was just a lot of,  manpower and weapons on their so remember I told you that in the first World War, we weren’t really using airplanes, anybody because they just, it wasn’t, it was too new. And so there was only airplanes being used to gather intelligence, as they call it, kind of spy on the other side. But this is gonna be the first war where airplanes play a huge role and fighter, you know, fighter jets and all these things. Now, the blitz, which to me is one of the scariest parts of World War II,  German forces bombed London, which is in England for 60 days or nearly 60 days. So imagine like, you had to live your life in London and go about your day not knowing when the entire city would erupt and just bombs very, very scary. So the city was destroyed. It took a very long time to rebuild. People were dying, and families were scared. They actually began sending their children to the countryside to be safe. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen with your kids, Connor, the Chronicles of Narnia, a lion witch in the wardrobe, which is one of my favorite.

Connor: It’s been a while. I don’t know that I’ve watched that with my kids, but yeah, we should do that.

Brittany: It’s a good one. I love it. Well, in the beginning, the reason the children are sent away to the house with the wardrobe is because they’re in the middle of the blitz, they’re being bombed. And so their parents send them away. So fun little fact. So that’s the whole premise of that movie. So in this war, you had a lot of destructive force behind it. That wasn’t possible before. We talked about trench warfare and how horrible this was, but in World War II, you could kill a lot of people very quickly. And fortunately, that is why we lost 75 million people in this war. And if you think about it, that’s just deaths. Think about the people who lost limbs. Think about the people who were struggling because of all the things they saw and all the things they had to do. So the death number is just a very small number when you look at all the other people impacted. And we think about just people who died, think about all the kids they left behind, or the family. So just very terrible, very, very destructive. And one thing I always like to remind people about war is this was total chaos created by, you know, governments, and the people were sent off to die on their behalf. So it’s just very sad.

Connor: Well, this means they had to find a way to convince people to get behind the fight. I mean, it sometimes when you have like a legitimate war, people will, you know, sign up the volunteer, they’ll feel like this is a problem. We’re being attacked, I wanna, you know, defend the country. But when you have wars where maybe there’s some question about, eh, is this really the right idea? And is this really, you know, a fight worth having? Then you get what’s called the draft. I mean, governments around the world have compulsory military service or what’s called the draft. And this basically means that the government says, you know, look, if we need soldiers to fight, then we’re going to force you to fight. And, you know, they’ll lock you up in prison if you don’t. And, so this is a way, it’s horrible in my mind, the government basically sees people as just potential soldiers, like, as, just muscle, right? Like, well, when we need more muscle, we’ll just force you to lend yours to us. And, so you know, that’s the draft. And so the draft did, did happen in the United States, and it still exists. In fact, at the time we’re recording this, I just heard that Congress is considering, and I think a committee voted or maybe the house voted, it’s not fully law yet, but they’re in the process of making it so that women are going to Yeah, we won’t be part of the draft as well. Yeah. Cuz previously it’s just been, men. And now I guess with everything being, you know, gender neutral and politically correct, you know, let’s force all our daughters to go be soldiers too terrible. So that’s the draft. But even with the forced fighting, you know, the government still had to keep the people behind them. Like we’ve talked before about propaganda, right? Where, you know, the government is, it’s interesting when you think about war, the physical war, what always comes before the war, psychological war. But before any physical fighting, you always have psychological warfare. And what does that mean? It means this, if you’re in the government and you need, you know, your soldiers to go, you know, fight other soldiers, you are basically saying that you need to send, you know, men and women to go kill other men and women, other humans. And that’s a very hard thing to do. And so you do, if you’re in the government, you do what’s called dehumanizing the enemy. Right? And if you see your enemy as human, it’s hard to shoot at them because it’s like, well, they have a family, they have a mom who loves them, right? But, if the government is like, oh, these are subhuman people, they’re terrorists, they’re, you know, oh, what’s some of the other words? Like, that they use with indefinite detention? They’re, you know, detainees and they’re.

Brittany: There’s another word I’m trying to think of and I can’t think of it.

Connor: Yeah, it’s on the tip of my tongue. But they, they use different terminology like this to say,  you know, they call them to stateless fighters, right? That, they’re not part of a government. These are just, you know, loosely organized people and, enemy combatants, is that what you.

Brittany: Enemy combatants? Yes, that is the word I was thinking of. Yes.

Connor: They’re not soldiers. They are enemy combatants. And that first word is important, right? They are the enemy, right? And they’re combating. And so it’s these words that the government uses to reframe things in the minds of soldiers and the public to get them to see that these people don’t deserve to live as when we talk about the Holocaust, we’ll talk about how the Nazis used propaganda too. Why? Because they had to get the German people to come to believe that Jews were subhuman. In other words, they were like pests. And so when you see them as pests, you don’t care if those pests are being stomped on, right? Because they’re just pests. And so that’s how the government’s trying to use propaganda or psychological warfare in order to get the soldiers willing to go fight one another.

Brittany: Absolutely true. And one thing to highlight too is the US did not actually enter the war until 1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Some of you might remember this. There’s a lot of rumors that, well, one, we won’t get into the conspiracy of it, that our government may have known more than we thought we did, that it was gonna happen, and that Japan did it. And it was kind of, no, there was no collusion. But they did it because they needed the US and the war, and the US needed an excuse to get into the war. So basically we had people, we had, what are called, oh my goodness, carriers, what’s the full word?

Connor: Oh, like the battleships?

Brittany: Yes. But there’s a word for ’em. I, oh my goodness, I can’t believe I just forgot this. So the big ships that carry the airplanes, all those were bombed, or most of those were bombed in, Pearl Harbor, which is in Hawaii, by Japanese Air Forces. Funny thing is nobody even really knew then that Hawaii, was our territory. So there’s some interesting historical facts on this where there was a baseball game and somebody announced Pearl Harbor had just been attacked, and nobody realized that that was us because we just, people didn’t think about it. Remember, Hawaii’s not a state at this point. Oh. So yeah. So anyway, so that is how we entered the war. And then it kind of escalated from there. In fact, Japan even said they feared they awakened a sleeping giant. And we’ll talk about in just a couple of seconds that it kind of did this made you at the US rise as a global power.

Connor: Yeah. We did become a global power superpower, which has its own discipline.

Brittany: Yeah, I was gonna say, not for the best. Yeah.

Connor: Go America. Now you can pick on everyone else. And, so obviously guys we’re simplifying this, the war is so significant. There have been so many long books and documentaries and everything, excuse me. But it’s important to point out that, you know, as this war fights, it’s a question of right and wrong. And different sides see things differently, right? And so it’s easy as the victors to see the other side is evil and unjust, and we won and we’re good and we’re righteous. Right? But it’s like, eh, you know, like there’s all kinds of interesting insights into when the United States dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. Yeah. Right? Was it actually necessary, right? Yeah. And you know, it killed a lot of people, but was it actually necessary? And were they, weren’t they already surrendering? There’s a lot of kind of interesting discussion that can happen there. But, you know, the war finally ends this war that’s being fought on two fronts. There’s the Pacific Theater, which is kind of against Japan, the Pearl Harbor issue that you just mentioned. And then on the Atlantic front over in Europe, where you’re fighting, you know, Germany and kind of the ground invasions of all the different countries. So they finally get to the point of invading Germany, defeating the Nazi forces. And rather than be captured, Hitler preferred to die, and he commits suicide because he was, I guess so cowardly that he didn’t wanna Yeah. You know, be held accountable. He could not envision, you know, living in a world in which there was no Nazism you know, in which they were defeated. And so he commits suicide. I think it was a, very, sad, but expected ending to the war. Yeah. That someone like him wouldn’t even wanna face the truth.

Brittany: Absolutely. And I, think that one of the important takeaways from this, cuz I know we’re going way over our usual time, is that this really did set the stage for the US to become a major global power, like we talked about along with Russia. And this is gonna be important because of the next bout of what we call the Cold War. And Emma and I had a whole episode on that. So go back and listen to that one if you missed it. Where it was like this power struggle between us and Russia and If you were paying attention to the news or your parents were, there’s still some bad blood there, obviously. So that’s something that affects our world today. It also led to the formation of the United Nations, which is another thing we’ll talk about. And there’s a, I’m pretty sure Connor and I see eye to eye on this. United Nations was not the best thing to come outta this at all. Not all, but no. But it also led to another thing we’ll talk about in another episode, the Nuremberg Trials, which created these quote-unquote rules of war. And yes, wars have rules, but people don’t always abide by them. But again, a very brief explanation of the war. You know what I really hope from this, that you guys will go out as a family and maybe explore more of the topics we talked about. A great place to start is Richard Mayberry’s book World War II. really good for people of all ages from, you know, 10 years old to as old as I am. But I don’t wanna say so.

Connor: Well, that is a good book. Mayberry does a good job of breaking it down. And obviously, a short podcast episode like this isn’t gonna do justice. And it’s important to know this stuff, not just because it happened, therefore we should know it. Why? But, you know, we should understand these things because we want to avoid them in the future. We want to understand how could people go along with this. What were the circumstances in which these horrible people kind of roast power? What were, what was the culture like? What are the warning signs that we can see, right? It’s, that learning that we can take into our own lives, and that’s why it’s important to study this stuff. And so check out the show notes page, will link to Mayberry’s book and one or two other resources for you guys to check out. Obviously, there’s a lot of documentaries and stuff, so many you watch. It’s an important period of our history to try and better understand. And we’ll leave it at that for now. Brittany’s always great talking to you, and we’ll talk to you next time.

Brittany: Talk to you later.