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World War II: Technology, Tactics, Atrocities
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World War II: Technology, Tactics, Atrocities

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A survey of the changing nature of war in WWII, with an emphasis on the scientific and technological innovations that made WWII uniquely destructive.

A survey of the changing nature of war in WWII, with an emphasis on the scientific and technological innovations that made WWII uniquely destructive.

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World War II: Technology, Tactics, Atrocities World War II: Technology, Tactics, Atrocities Presentation Transcript

  • World War Two: Total War Technology Tactics Atrocities
  • When does WWII Begin? • September 18, 1931: Mukden Incident • July 7, 1937: Marco Polo Bridge Incident • September 1, 1939: Invasion of Poland – March 15, 1939: Seizure of Czechoslovakia – 1935-36: Italian Invasion of Ethiopia • September 1940: Tripartite Pact – October 1936: Anti-Comintern Pact • December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor
  • Even More Total War • The total committment of human, economic and social resources to the pursuit of military success. • The targetting and destruction of economic and human resources beyond the battlefield, including civilian populations. • Approx. 2/3rds of WWII deaths: Civilians
  • Air War • Jet engine aircraft • Aircraft carriers • RADAR • air defense networks, anti-aircraft artillery • Missiles: German V-1 and V-2 rockets • Tactical and Strategic Bombing • Incendiary weapons • Atomic weapons
  • Sea War • Aircraft Carriers • Submarines and U-Boats • Torpedoes • SONAR (and RADAR) • Japanese Gyokusai (Shattered Jewel) attacks, a.k.a. Kamikaze (Divine Wind)
  • Land War • Tanks, automobiles and mobile artillery – Bewegungskrieg (War of Movement, aka Blitzkrieg) - motorized armored divisions with close air support – Maginot Line - French Fortifications • Combined Land/Sea/Air operations • Compact Radio Communications • Automatic weapons
  • Science and Technology • Physics – RADAR, SONAR, Atomic Weapons, Missiles • Bombing Optics • Computers – Scheduling – Census and Conscription Data – Code making/Code breaking • Chemical Replacements (ersatz) – nylon/polyesters, margarine, bakelite plastics, synthetic rubber
  • War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity • “War is its rules. It is the rules of warfare that give the practice meaning, that distinguish war from murder and soldiers from criminals.” - Martha Finnemore • As in past wars, post-war treaties redefine many tactics accepted in wartime as unacceptable in future conflicts • Unlike past wars, post-war War Crimes trials target activities not previously defined as illegal: genocide, aggression
  • War Crimes Trials • Nuremberg – Crimes Against Humanity – "Just following orders," a.k.a. the Nuremberg Defense, explicitly rejected, creating individual culpability for execution of policy. • Tokyo International Military Tribunal for the Far East – Violation of 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact as underlying criminal act • "Victor's Justice"?
  • Genocide “By “genocide” we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group. ... genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.” - Raphael Lemkin (1943)
  • Atrocities: Japan • aerial bombardment of Chinese cities • "Rape of Nanjing" and other violence against occupied civilian populations • "Comfort women" - forced prostitution • biological and chemical warfare • treatment of POWs - biological and chemical experimentation, camps and executions; illegal labor; "Bataan Death March" • Battle of Okinawa: civilian sacrifices, either in attack, forced suicide or execution
  • Atrocities: Germany • aerial bombardment of British cities • abuse of occupied populations • biological/medical experimentation • Cultural Theft from individuals and public collections • Mass murder: Holocaust, genocide, ethnic cleansing
  • Atrocities: Allied • US – internment of Japanese-Americans – bombardment of Japanese cities: Tokyo firestorm and ATOMIC WEAPONS – unwillingness to take prisoners in Pacific theater – Poor treatment of German POWs in immediate post-war. • British: terroristic bombardment of German cities, esp. Dresden (firestorm) and Berlin • USSR: mass execution of Nazi POWs; widespread rape and murder of German civilians; cultural theft; abuse of Japanese POWs
  • Mitigating Factors? • "they did it first" • Differences of scale and intent – Utility: Ending the war more quickly kinder than waging it fairly? – Avoiding cultural treasures, at least in Japan – Reconstruction and Democratization; Heavy investment in rebuilding • Apology, discipline, rectification.
  • Sources • Background Image: Grumman TBF-1C Avenger torpedo bomber (1942) model at Smithsonian Air&Space Museum. Picture by Jonathan Dresner – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jondresner/ • http://secondworldwar.co.uk/index.php/fatalities • Martha Finnemore, "Rules of War and Wars of Rules: The International Red Cross and the Restraint of State Violence," in Constructing world culture: international nongovernmental organizations since 1875, ed. John Boli, George M. Thomas, Stanford UP, 1999, p. 163. • Raphael Lemkin’s Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation – Analysis of Government – Proposals for Redress, (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944), p. 79 – 95.