Key Battles of American History

By James Early

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Description

War has played a key role in the history of the United States from the nation’s founding right down to the present. Wars made the U. S. independent, kept it together, increased its size, and established it as a global superpower. Understanding America’s wars is essential for understanding American history. In the Key Battles of American History, host James Early discusses American history through the lens of the most important battles of America’s wars. James is an Adjunct Professor of History at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, TX. He has published one book and two scholarly articles. He is also the cohost (with Scott Rank) of the Presidential Fight Club, Key Battles of the Civil War, Key Battles of the Revolutionary War, and Key Battles of World War I podcasts.

Episode Date
Leyte Gulf (Key Battle 7), Part One
2970
After their overwhelming victories at the Philippine Sea and the Mariana Islands, American military leaders faced several options for their next target. Due in large part to lobbying by General MacArthur, they chose the Philippines. Japan’s leadership knew that losing the Philippines would mean the severing of the supply line from the Dutch East Indies to the home islands, so they were determined to stop the American invasion. Join James and Scott as they discuss the Japanese navy’s attempt to destroy the American invasion fleet in a “decisive battle.”
Sep 15, 2021
Philippine Sea (Key Battle 6)
3539
While the American attack on Saipan was still in progress, the Japanese Pacific fleet launched an attack on the American fleet, hoping to halt the invasion and to destroy the American fleet in a final, decisive battle. The Japanese fleet was powerful, but it was no match for Admiral Raymond Spruance’s Fifth Fleet, which destroyed so many Japanese planes and ships that the battle became known as the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.” In this episode, James and Scott discuss this dramatic and epic battle, along with the subsequent American capture of the islands of Guam and Tinian.
Sep 08, 2021
Saipan (Key Battle 5)
2397
In June 1944, the U. S. launched its Marianas campaign, beginning with an amphibious assault on the key island of Saipan. After more than three bloody weeks of fighting, culminating in a massive banzai charge and the horrific suicides of thousands of civilians, the Americans controlled the island. Join James and Scott as they discuss the bloodiest battle of the Pacific Theater up to that point, a battle which gave the U. S. an air base within bombing range of the Japanese home islands.
Sep 01, 2021
America Moves Closer to Japan
1759
In the fall of 1943, top Japanese leaders decided to pull Japan’s defensive perimeter back closer to Japan, in an effort to stop the American juggernaut. American and other Allied forces continued to press forward, taking Biak in the southwestern Pacific and the Caroline Islands (including the key Japanese air/naval base of Truk) in the central Pacific. After these victories, American planners set their sights on a key target even closer to Japan: The Mariana island chain. In this episode, James and Scott discuss Japan’s “New Operational Policy” and the allied conquests of Truk and the Caroline Islands. They conclude with a comparison of the main American and Japanese fleets that would be facing off in the next campaign.
Aug 25, 2021
The Solomons, the Gilberts, and the Marshalls
3075
In June 1943, American forces kicked off Operation Cartwheel, an attack on additional islands in the Solomons chain and parts of New Britain and New Guinea, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. At the same time, Admiral Ernest King decided to launch a second major offensive under Admiral Nimitz’ command that would work its way across the Central Pacific. This new invasion force would be supported by the Third Fleet, the most powerful naval force ever assembled at the time. Join James and Scott as they discuss Operation Cartwheel, the invasion of the Gilbert Islands (most notably the bloody Battle of Tarawa), and the attack on the Marshall Islands.
Aug 18, 2021
The Tide Turns: July 1942 - August 1943
3173
Between August 1942 and June 1944, no “Key Battles” (at least in James’ reckoning!) occurred...but that of course does not mean that nothing happened! During the time between the Guadalcanal and Saipan campaigns, the U. S. and its allies launched a series of smaller campaigns to gradually push back the Japanese. In this episode, James and Scott discuss several key Allied efforts that occurred between July 1942 and August 1943, including the Kokoda Track Campaign, the Makin Raid, and the attack on the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska. Also discussed are the Battle of the Bismarck Sea and the American attempt to kill Admiral Yamamoto.
Aug 11, 2021
Japanese and American Sailors
2701
The Pacific War was dominated by the navy. Without the hundreds of thousands of sailors who manned the thousands of ships on both sides, there would have been no land battles. In this episode, written mostly by Sean McIver, James and Scott discuss the life of a common sailor on both the Japanese and the American side. Pacific Theater sailors endured cramped quarters, hot temperatures, and extended periods of mind-numbing boredom, punctuated by brief periods of terror. Climb aboard a ship with your James and Scott and enjoy the ride. Anchors aweigh!
Aug 04, 2021
Soldiers, Marines and Aviators
3313
In this and the next episode, James and Scott take a break from the military narrative to zoom in and take a look at the lives and experiences of common soldiers, marines, and pilots on both the Japanese and American sides. What backgrounds did they come from? What was their training like? What did they wear, carry, and eat? James and Scott discuss these and other questions to help you understand what it was like to be on the front lines and in the air over them.
Jul 28, 2021
Guadalcanal (Key Battle 4), Part 4
2845
After the failed October Japanese attack on Henderson Field and the American fleet’s repeated prevention of Japanese efforts to reinforce and resupply the island, the Japanese army on Guadalcanal became increasingly hungry, disease-ridden, and depleted in numbers. After successful American attacks on the eastern part of the island (the “Long Patrol”) and the key position of Mt. Austen in the center of the island, the Japanese commander faced two alternatives: evacuate, or be wiped out. What would he choose, and how would it work out? In this episode, James and Scott answer this question and many others as they wrap up the epic Guadalcanal campaign.
Jul 21, 2021
Guadalcanal (Key Battle 4), Part 3
2446
In October and November of 1942, the Japanese fleet near Guadalcanal kept trying to bring supplies and reinforcements to the island, while the American navy tried to stop this. As a result, no fewer than three naval engagements occurred in these two months: the Battle of Cape Esperance, the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, and the epic Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Also, in late October, two Japanese forces launched another attack on Henderson Field, the American airfield. Would the attack succeed? Listen and find out!
Jul 14, 2021
Guadalcanal (Key Battle 4), Part 2
2546
In the first week after their landing, the Americans seized the Japanese airstrip and constructed a perimeter around it. But in the next month, the Japanese launched two attacks to try to regain it. The second one nearly succeeded. In this episode, James and Scott narrate these two attacks (known, respectively, as the Battle of the Tenaru and the Battle of Bloody Ridge (or Edson’s Ridge) as well as the continuing naval battle around the island, especially the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.
Jul 07, 2021
Guadalcanal (Key Battle 4), Part 1
2783
After overwhelmingly defeating the Japanese fleet at Midway, American military leaders decided to go on the offensive. The first major target would be a group of islands in the eastern part of the Solomon Islands, the most prominent of which was Guadalcanal. Japanese forces had begun constructing an airfield on Guadalcanal, and the Americans hoped to seize the airfield, convert it into an American one, and expel the Japanese from the island. The Japanese, however, refused to play along. In this episode, James and Scott discuss the planning and buildup toward the Guadalcanal campaign, the initial American landing, and the disastrous (for the Allies) naval Battle of Savo Island.
Jun 30, 2021
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT- Beyond the Big Screen
315
Jun 25, 2021
Midway (Key Battle 3)
2323
Thanks to the American code breakers at “Station Hypo” on Oahu, led by the brilliant and quirky Joe Rochefort, American naval leaders knew of Yamamoto’s plan to attack Midway. This knowledge turned hunter into prey and prey into hunter. When Fleet Commander Chuichi Nagumo and the Japanese attack fleet arrived, they discovered they had sailed into an ambush. The result was the crucial Battle of Midway, in which it could be argued that the direction of the Pacific War changed in just five minutes. Join James and Scott as they narrate the exciting and decisive Battle of Midway.
Jun 23, 2021
Yamamoto Rolls the Dice
2846
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 inflicted great damage on the American Pacific Fleet, but it left one group of American ships untouched: the aircraft carriers. In early 1942, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto decided to finish the job that his fleet had begun the previous December. Yamamoto authored a plan to send his fleet toward Midway Island. There, he hoped to lure the American carriers to their destruction and to capture Midway, establishing a powerful Japanese air and naval base only 1100 miles from Midway. This would force the Americans to the negotiating table...or would it? In this episode, James and Scott discuss the details of Yamamoto’s bold but risky plan to project Japanese power further westward. They also discuss the major types of ships and planes used by both navies in early 1942.
Jun 16, 2021
The Coral Sea (Key Battle 2)
2762
Following up on their stunning military successes of late 1941 and early 1942, Japan’s leaders decided to capture the key Allied port of Port Moresby on the southern coast of New Guinea. They also hoped to cut off the critical American supply line from Hawaii to Australia. Unbeknownst to the Japanese, however, American codebreakers had broken enough of the Japanese naval code to realize the Imperial Navy’s plans. As a result, when the Japanese fleet arrived at the Coral Sea, an American squadron was there to meet them. Listen as James and Scott discuss the key battle that resulted: The Battle of the Coral Sea.
Jun 09, 2021
The Japanese Blitzkrieg
3003
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they were just getting started. Over the next 5 months, Japan rapidly and overwhelmingly conquered several European and colonial possessions in southeast Asia, including Guam, Malaya, Wake Island, Hong Kong, Burma, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines. At the same time, they inflicted several defeats on Allied naval forces. They were then faced with several alternatives for their next move. In this episode, James and Scott narrate this period of rapid Japanese expansion, including the famous “Doolittle Raid” and the infamous “Bataan Death March.”
Jun 02, 2021
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT - The History of the Papacy
334
May 29, 2021
America Gears Up for War
3391
Between 1939 and 1941, the United States began increasing the size of its military forces while it ramped up war production. After Pearl Harbor, these processes went into overdrive, with the result that several million Americans served in uniform in the war years, while America quickly became the world’s greatest industrial and military power. In the US, unemployment nearly disappeared, while African-Americans, Latinos, and women found unprecedented employment opportunities. At the same time, the US government interned thousands of Japanese-Americans for no reason other than their ancestry. In this episode, James and Scott describe how the US went from being a relatively isolationist power to the world’s “Arsenal of Democracy.” They also give an overview of life on the home front during the war.
May 26, 2021
Pearl Harbor (Key Battle 1)
2573
On December 7, 1941, Japanese air and naval forces launched a surprise attack on the American naval and air base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, killing 2400 Americans and heavily damaging the US Pacific Fleet. How did this happen? In this episode, James and Scott tell the gripping story of how Japan managed to keep the attack a secret, despite having to traverse several thousand miles of ocean. They also discuss the multiple American intelligence failures and the aftermath of the attack.
May 19, 2021
The Road to Pearl Harbor
2507
Japan’s complicated relationship with the United States stretches back much further than 1940. The relationship, which began nearly a century prior to World War II, was often fraught with tension. Things reached a breaking point in 1941, when the US began to push back against Japanese expansion. In this episode, James and Scott give a brief history of Japanese-American relations from 1853 to 1941, and they chronicle the Japanese decision to launch a surprise attack on the American naval and air base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
May 12, 2021
Japan’s Strategy; Relations with the US
2837
In order to meet the needs of its expanding population and empire, Japan’s leaders began looking hungrily to the south and east. Three years after invading China, Japanese military forces occupied French Indochina. This, combined with American support for China, put Japan on a collision course with the US. Would the two powers be able to avoid war? In this episode, James and Scott tell the story of the dangerous “dance” between imperial Japan and the United States in 1940 and 1941.
May 05, 2021
The Rise of Imperial Japan
3127
As late as the 1860s, Japan was a semi-feudal nation, largely cut off from the rest of the world. But within a few decades, the nation had transformed itself into a major industrial power with one of the world’s most well-trained, well-equipped, and well-led militaries. Between 1905 and 1941, Japan defeated Russia, gained several former German colonies in the Pacific, seized Manchuria, and invaded and conquered much of coastal China. How did Japan accomplish all this? In this episode, James and Scott explain Japan’s meteoric rise to world power status.
Apr 28, 2021
Intro to Key Battles of the Pacific War
670
In this episode, James introduces the second season of Key Battles of American History. The topic will be Key Battles of the Pacific Theater (WW2). Returning as James' co-host is Scott Rank. Enjoy!
Apr 21, 2021
The Lost Battalion
4166
James and Sean discuss the 2001 made-for-television movie The Lost Battalion, in which an American battalion becomes isolated and surrounded by German forces during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918.
Apr 07, 2021
Lawrence of Arabia
5754
James and Sean discuss the epic, multi award-winning 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, based on British Colonel T. E. Lawrence’s autobiographical book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Lawrence assists a group of Arab tribesmen in their effort to break free of Ottoman rule.
Mar 31, 2021
War Horse
3708
James and Sean discuss the 2011 film War Horse, in which a young Englishman struggles to be reunited with his beloved horse, who has been sent to the Western Front and has experienced several trying experiences there.
Mar 24, 2021
James Patreon Announcement
455
Mar 22, 2021
Sergeant York
3341
James and Sean discuss the classic 1941 film Sergeant York, which tells the fascinating story of Alvin York, one of the most decorated American soldiers of the First World War.
Mar 17, 2021
1917
4532
James and Sean discuss the award-winning 2019 film 1917, in which two British soldiers are sent on a dangerous mission to save another unit from disaster.
Mar 10, 2021
Beneath Hill 60
4991
James and Sean discuss the 2010 Australian film Beneath Hill 60, which tells the fascinating story of an Australian tunneling company trying to undermine the German position at the Ypres Salient in the Western Front.
Mar 03, 2021
They Shall Not Grow Old
4371
James and Sean discuss the outstanding 2018 Peter Jackson documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, which combines interviews with British World War I veterans with colorized and slowed-down footage from the war.
Feb 24, 2021
Paths of Glory
3511
James and Sean discuss the classic 1957 anti-war film Paths of Glory, starring Kirk Douglas. In this film, a French colonel tries to save three of his men who are sentenced to be executed for cowardice.
Feb 17, 2021
Gallipoli
3989
James and Sean discuss the 1981 Australian film Gallipoli, which tells the story of a group of Australian young men who are introduced to the horrors of war at the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli.
Feb 17, 2021
All Quiet on the Western Front
5597
In this episode, James and special guest Sean McIver discuss the classic 1930 anti-war film All Quiet on the Western Front. Based on the novel of the same name, All Quiet on the Western Front set the standard for all future war movies, especially those which present war in a negative light.
Feb 17, 2021
Season 1 Introduction
600
In Season 1 of "Key Battles of American History," James is joined with special guest Sean McIver to discuss their favorite WW1 films.
Feb 17, 2021
Intro to Key Battles of American History
889
In this episode, host James Early introduces the series, discussing the format, the topics to be discussed in future episodes, and everything else you need to know.
Feb 08, 2021