Key Battles of American History

By James Early

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 Apr 4, 2022


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
Empire of the Sun
By the late 1930s, Shanghai had a large international settlement that included a significant British community. During the city’s capture by Japanese forces in 1937, many British civilians became prisoners of war. Steven Speilberg’s Empire of the Sun, based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by J. G. Ballard, tells the story of a young boy who becomes separated from his parents. The boy (Jamie, or “Jim”) befriends an American merchant ship captain who helps him to survive the camp and to reunite with his parents after the war ends. In this episode, James and Sean discuss this inspiring story, one of Sean’s favorites.
Jul 06, 2022
Bonus Episode - VTH York Podcast Segment
Many people learn about history as a collection of names, dates, and places. History is so much more interesting than that. It is the stories of the men and women who made those places and events matter. It is the story of the private soldier as much as it is the story of the great general. It is the story of the farmer in the field as much as it is the story of the man in the Oval office. Join our newest Parthenon Podcast Network member, Chris Lowery, as he leads you on a dive deeper into the forgotten stories of our past, and into the details of the stories we thought we already knew.
Jul 03, 2022
The Bridge on the River Kwai
One of the most critically acclaimed films of all time, The Bridge on the River Kwai tells a fictionalized account of the building of part of the Burma-Siam railroad by Allied prisoners of war. Join Sean and James as they tell the fascinating “story behind the story” as well as discuss the film’s background and the relationship of the story told in the film to the real events.
Jun 29, 2022
Hacksaw Ridge
Born in Virginia, Desmond Doss was a devout Christian and a pacifist who wanted to serve in the war as a combat medic but refused to touch a weapon. After suffering much shame and ill-treatment from his fellow soldiers, Doss proved his heroism in several engagements, most notably in the Battle of Okinawa, in which he saved around 75 wounded American soldiers from being executed by the Japanese. In this episode, James and Sean discuss the 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge, which tells the story of Doss’s life and service in the war.
Jun 22, 2022
Parthenon Round Table - What Event Do You Eliminate from History
Jun 18, 2022
Letters From Iwo Jima
The companion film to Flags of Our Fathers, Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima narrates the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective. In this episode, you will join James and Sean as they walk the beaches of Iwo Jima and go deep into the caves and tunnels of Mt. Suribachi with the Japanese defenders as they await the American onslaught and struggle with the decision of whether to fight to the death or surrender at the risk of being hated (or worse) by their colleagues and their families back home.
Jun 15, 2022
Flags of Our Fathers
One of the most iconic photographs of all time is the famous Joe Rosenthal photo of the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi in the southwest corner of Iwo Jima. In Flags of Our Fathers, director Clint Eastwood weaves together the story of the American invasion of Iwo Jima and the struggle to capture Suribachi with the subsequent tale of three of the flag raisers who were sent back to the States to raise money for the war. The movie, while inspiring, can be a bit hard to follow, but James and Sean will guide you through it and help you sort out fact from fiction.
Jun 08, 2022
Sands of Iwo Jima
The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific Theater for both the Japanese and the Americans. James and Sean will be discussing three movies about Iwo Jima, the first of which is the classic 1949 John Wayne action film Sands of Iwo Jima. Despite its title, Sands of Iwo Jima only devotes 30 minutes to the battle; the rest of the movie shows the Battle of Tarawa, as well as scenes of the Marines training and enjoying liberty. Is Sands of Iwo Jima accurate, or is it just patriotic Hollywood propaganda? James and Sean will let you know!
Jun 01, 2022
Bonus Episode - History Unplugged
May 28, 2022
Grave of the Fireflies
In this episode, James and Sean completely change gears, discussing the 1988 Japanese animated Studio Ghibli film Grave of the Fireflies, which tells the story of a young boy and his little sister who struggle to stay alive during the Allied firebombings of Japan that occurred in the last few months of the war. Grave of the Fireflies is a sad, hard-to-watch movie, but it is a must see for those who want to know what life was like for Japanese civilians in the final stages of World War II.
May 25, 2022
In early 1942, the US Marine Corps began recruiting young Navajo men to serve as “codetalkers” who would transmit orders via radio using a code based on the Navajo language. The code was inscrutable to the Japanese, who were never able to crack it. John Woo’s 2002 film Windtalkers tells a slightly fictionalized version of their story. As usual, James and Sean attempt to sort through the Hollywood embellishments to tell the history behind the movie.
May 18, 2022
Run Silent, Run Deep
Based loosely on the 1955 novel of the same name, Run Silent, Run Deep tells the story of a submarine captain who disobeys orders in an attempt to get revenge against a Japanese destroyer that sank his previous command. In this episode, James and Sean share their thoughts about this exciting action film.
May 11, 2022
Mister Roberts
Not all World War II American naval personnel saw combat. Many spent the entire war in non-combat roles, including serving on the thousands of supply ships that were essential to the war effort. The classic 1955 drama/comedy Mister Roberts tells the story of one such supply ship and its crew, which is led by an eccentric captain but inspired by the executive officer Mister Roberts, who wants more than anything else to fight. Join James and Sean as they discuss this sometimes funny, sometimes gut-wrenching, but always enjoyable film.
May 04, 2022
The Caine Mutiny
Typhoons and other storms were a real danger for naval vessels during the Pacific War, and many ships were lost to them. The Caine Mutiny, based on the novel of the same name by Herman Wouk, tells the story of a tyrannical destroyer captain whose decision to sail right through a typhoon motivates his executive officer to relieve him of command, leading to a court martial. In this episode, James and Sean discuss this exciting film which is part war story and part courtroom drama.
Apr 27, 2022
The Thin Red Line
During a war, combatants often ponder the deep existential questions of life. These questions form the basis of Terence Malick’s 1998 war drama The Thin Red Line. On one level, The Thin Red Line is about a U. S. Army division’s attempt to take a hill on the island of Guadalcanal; however, the film also explores many age-old questions, including “How did evil enter the world?”, “Why are humans at war with nature?”, “Why do humans fight and kill each other?”, and “Given all the evil and suffering in the world, how can there be a loving creator?” Join James and Sean as they discuss this intellectually and emotionally deep film.
Apr 20, 2022
Midway (2019)
On June 4, 1942, a Japanese naval task force launched an attack on the American naval and air base at Midway Island. The task force then encountered an American carrier fleet, leading to an epic naval battle that changed the course of the war in the Pacific. The 2019 action-war film Midway tells the story of the leadup to the battle, the battle itself, and the aftermath. Is it historically accurate? Is it a quality film? In this episode, James and Sean answer these and other questions.
Apr 13, 2022
Special Episode: Eyewitness History Preview
Apr 12, 2022
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
In April 1942, sixteen American B-25B bombers took off from the carrier USS Hornet and conducted a bombing raid over Japan that is known to posterity as the Doolittle Raid. After bombing Japan, the pilots’ intent was to land their planes in China…but things did not go as planned for many. In this episode, James and Sean discuss the 1944 film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, which dramatizes the preparation for the Doolittle Raid, the raid itself, and the aftermath.
Apr 06, 2022
They Were Expendable
Patrol Torpedo (PT) Boats, while not as famous as battleships, aircraft carriers, destroyers, and other large ships, nevertheless played a crucial role in the Pacific War. In 1942, author W. L. White wrote They Were Expendable, a book that tells the story of the work of PT boats in the American defense of the Philippines in 1941 and 1942. Three years later, MGM released the movie version directed by the legendary director John Ford. In this episode, James and Sean discuss this classic John Wayne film.
Mar 30, 2022
Tora! Tora! Tora!
In the late 1960s, a Japanese film production team joined forces with an American team in an effort to produce a balanced and accurate retelling of the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The result is the classic 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, which after more than 50 years still remains the definitive Pearl Harbor film. Join James and Sean as they discuss the film’s story, its historical accuracy, its quality, and its legacy.
Mar 23, 2022
Introduction to Season 3: The Pacific War on Film
In this episode, James kicks off a new season of Key Battles of American History: “The Pacific War on Film.” In this season, James and returning co-host Sean McIver will discuss 17 specially selected films that deal with different aspects of the Pacific Theater of WW2. We will discuss the films themselves, including their background, themes, quality, and historical accuracy, as well as the historical events behind the films. Pull up a virtual chair and join us!
Mar 16, 2022
Bonus Episode - Gung Ho! (with Steve Guerra)
James and Steve Guerra, host of the Beyond the Big Screen Podcast, discuss the 1943 war propaganda movie Gung Ho!, which is loosely based on the formation and first combat action of the elite World War 2 Marine unit called Carlson’s Raiders.
Mar 09, 2022
Bonus Episode - Truman and the Atomic Bomb (with Richard Lim)
Was President Harry Truman’s decision to use atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary and justified? In this episode, James is joined by Richard Lim, host of the This American President podcast. James and Richard break down the various factors that figured into Truman’s decision in an attempt to answer this important question.
Mar 02, 2022
Bonus Episode - CVE Carriers
In this episode (written by Sean McIver), James tells the story of the small but important CVE (or “Jeep”) aircraft carriers, which played an outside role in the Pacific Theater of World War II. This episode was commissioned by Major Bob McCullough of Early’s Raiders. For more information on supporting the podcast by becoming an officer in Early’s Raiders, visit
Feb 23, 2022
Bonus Episode - Who Would You Save?
In this episode, James, Scott Rank (host of History Unplugged), Steve Guerra (host of Beyond the Big Screen and History of the Papacy) and Richard Lim (host of "This American President") discuss the following question: "If you could go back in time and save one person who died prematurely, who would you save?
Feb 19, 2022
Bonus Episode - Nathan Gorenstein-John Moses Browning
In this episode James interviews Nathan Gorenstein, author of The Guns of John Moses Browning: The Remarkable Story of the Inventor Whose Firearms Changed the World. Nathan explains how Browning, son of a gun repairman in small-town Utah in the mid-nineteenth century, went on to design many of the most popular and widely used firearms in world history, including the Browning Automatic Rifle and the M1911 Colt pistol.
Feb 16, 2022
Bonus Episode - Col. Cleland Early on Tarawa
In this episode (James’ favorite), James and fellow podcaster Steve Guerra recreate an interview given in 1989 by James’ father Col. Cleland Early about his experiences as a young Marine who fought in the Battle of Tarawa. Listen all the way to the end for a special treat!
Feb 09, 2022
Bonus Episode - Beyond the Big Screen
Feb 08, 2022
Bonus Episode - Geography and the Battle of Okinawa
In this episode, James again interviews Air Force historian Evan Muxen. This time, we discuss how the geography of Okinawa influenced the battle that occurred there. While on active duty with the US Army, Evan lived on Okinawa and spent much time investigating sites critical to the battle. Evan’s personal knowledge of the terrain on which the bloodiest battle of the Pacific Theater was fought provides invaluable perspective on the battle.
Feb 02, 2022
Bonus Episode - Geography and the Battle of Iwo Jima
In this episode, James interviews Air Force historian Evan Muxen about how the geography of Iwo Jima influenced the battle that occurred there. Evan has visited Iwo Jima multiple times and even led tours there, and his expert knowledge of the terrain, as well as of the battle itself, provides invaluable perspective on the battle.
Jan 26, 2022
Bonus Episode - Interview with Greg Jackson
In this episode, James interviews Gregory Jackson, Professor of Integrated Studies at Utah Valley University, host of the outstanding History That Doesn’t Suck Podcast, and the voice who introduces this podcast! James and Greg discuss Greg’s podcast, the disconnect between academia and history podcasting, and the state of history podcasting.
Jan 19, 2022
Bonus Episode - US Presidents in WW2 (Part 2)
In this episode, James concludes his two-part series about United States presidents who served in World War 2. In Part Two, James discusses the wartime service of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, as well as the near service of Jimmy Carter.
Jan 12, 2022
Bonus Episode - US Presidents in WW2 (Part 1)
In this episode, James begins a two-part series about United States presidents who served in World War 2. In Part One, James tells the amazing story of John F. Kennedy’s service in the Pacific. James also discusses the wartime service of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.
Jan 05, 2022
Bonus Episode - Parthenon Round Table Who Do You Kill
Jan 01, 2022
Bonus Episode - Marine Raiders
In this episode, James tells the fascinating history of America’s first Special Forces unit: the Marine Raiders. Formed in 1942, the Raiders played a key role in several Pacific Theater battles, including Guadalcanal, New Georgia, and Bougainville. In 1944, the Raider battalions were disbanded, and their members were reassigned to regular Marine units. Why, you ask? Listen and find out!
Dec 29, 2021
The Legacy of World War II
The Second World War deeply and permanently changed the world. In this final episode of the series, James and Scott discuss just a few of the many changes wrought by the war. After discussing casualties of the Pacific War, we discuss the rise and fall of empires, the ushering in of the Cold War and the Nuclear Age, and changes specific to the United States. James and Scott thank you for listening to the series, and we hope you enjoyed it.
Dec 22, 2021
Epilogue, Part Two
In this second installment of the “story after the story” miniseries, James and Scott discuss the postwar careers of key US Army Air Force and Marine leaders, as well as Japanese political leaders. Persons mentioned in the episode include Generals Curtis LeMay and Holland Smith, Col. Chesty Puller, and Major Cleland E. Early, plus Japanese Emperor Hirohito, Prime Ministers Fumimaro Konoe, Hideki Tojo, Kuniaki Koiso, and Kantaro Suzuki; Admirals Soemu Toyoda, Jisaburo Ozawa and Takeo Kurita; General Yoshijiro Umezu; Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura; and Commander Minoru Genda.
Dec 15, 2021
Bonus Episode - Interview with Jared Frederick
"In this episode, James chats with author, history professor, and host of the Reel History YouTube Channel Jared Frederick. James and Jared discuss Jared's background, how he got into doing a YouTube channel, and the current state of history YouTubing and podcasting."
Dec 11, 2021
Epilogue, Part One
This is the first part of a two-episode series in which James and Scott discuss the “story after the story” of the top Japanese and American political and military leaders. In this episode, we discuss the postwar careers of President Truman, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and Secretary of War Henry Stimson. We also talk about US Admirals Husband Kimmel, William Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz, William Halsey, and (Scott’s favorite admiral) Raymond Spruance, as well as US Army Generals Walter Short, George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, and Jonathan Wainwright.
Dec 08, 2021
Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the End of the War
Between December 1942 and July 1945, a team of scientists, working in secret facilities in various parts of the U. S., researched, built, and tested the world’s first atomic bomb. Japan’s failure to surrender, together with the possibility of hundreds of thousands of casualties, motivated President Truman to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Despite the bomb’s destruction of the city, including the immediate deaths of up to 80,000 people, Japan’s leaders still refused to surrender. Three days later, an American bomber dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki, leveling that city and killing nearly as many people as had perished at Hiroshima. Soon after, the Emperor led Japan to surrender. In this episode, James and Scott discuss the Manhattan Project, the dropping of the two atomic bombs, the Japanese surrender, and the end of the Second World War.
Dec 01, 2021
Plug for This American President
This is an excerpt from an episode of This American President, a great history podcast that is the newest member of the Parthenon Podcast Network. You can find it at or wherever you listen to podcasts.

George Washington: The First American Action Hero
He might look like an old man on the one-dollar bill, but George Washington was once a bona fide action hero. This episode explores our first president’s legendary exploits during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.
Nov 28, 2021
The Beginning of the End
By the summer of 1945, it was clear that Japan was defeated. Historian Craig Symonds writes that Japan was “stripped of her conquests, bombed incessantly from the air by American B-29s, her imports cut to a trickle by American submarines, her navy destroyed, and her industries idle for lack of raw materials and oil. Her allies were gone, too…Japan was alone, starving, all but defenseless, a passive target, absorbing punishment and unable to strike back.” In addition, Allied leaders issued the Potsdam Declaration, which warned Japan of “prompt and utter destruction” if they did not surrender. Despite all this, Japan’s leaders vowed to fight to the death. In this episode, James and Scott discuss Allied efforts to persuade Japan to surrender, along with Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands.
Nov 24, 2021
Prisoners of War
During the Pacific War, the Japanese took over 130,000 Allied prisoners of war and held them in camps spread all over the Japanese Empire. Nearly all Allied prisoners were deprived of food and medical care, were regularly beaten, and were worked past the point of exhaustion. Nearly 40,000 died, representing about 27% (compared to only 4% in German camps). In this episode, James and Scott tell the tragic story of Allied prisoners of war in Japanese internment camps. They also briefly discuss the much happier story of Navajo Code Talkers, who helped win the war for the United States.
Nov 17, 2021
Once again, James and Scott are taking a break from the narrative of key battles to discuss two more important topics. In this episode, we will tell the story of kamikazes, including the origin of the tactic, its expansion into a full-fledged program, and its increasingly devastating effect, most notably at the Battle of Okinawa.
Nov 10, 2021
Okinawa (KB 9), Part Two
As was the case with previous island battles, the American conquest of Okinawa was slow and bloody. In addition to their network of caves and tunnels, the Japanese possessed a strong fortress called Shuri Castle. But if the Americans could overcome the seemingly impregnable Japanese defenses, they could establish a powerful naval and air base from which to stage the seemingly inevitable invasion of the Japanese home islands. Would they succeed? Tune in and find out!
Nov 03, 2021
Okinawa (KB 9), Part One
After the successful capture of Iwo Jima, the Americans’ next objective was Okinawa, which was only 330 miles from the Japanese home islands. Possessing Okinawa would cut Japan’s supply line from southeast Asia and would provide an excellent staging point for an eventual invasion. As in many previous battles, the Japanese were dug into an extensive network of caves and tunnels. To complicate things further, there were about 400,000 Okinawan civilians on the island. Capturing Okinawa would be the Americans’ greatest challenge to date. Join James and Scott as they discuss the lead up to the invasion and narrate its initial stage.
Oct 27, 2021
Iwo Jima (KB 8), Part Two
On February 19, 1945, 40,000 Marines landed on Iwo Jima, and many more would follow. Within four days, they had taken the summit of Mt. Suribachi, a key position that commanded the entire island, and had raised an enormous flag (an event made famous in the iconic photo by Joe Rosenthal). But the battle was far from over. The Japanese defenders were determined to exact as heavy a toll as possible, while kamikazes wreaked havoc on the US Navy off the shore. Join James and Scott as they conclude their discussion of the key battle of Iwo Jima.
Oct 20, 2021
Iwo Jima (KB 8), Part One
In order to make the strategic bombing runs over Japan more effective, General Curtis LeMay and other USAAF leaders wanted the B-29s to be escorted by fighters. In order for this to happen, the US needed a base much closer to Japan, because no fighter at the time could make it from Saipan or Guam to Japan and back. To meet this need, American military planners decided to launch an invasion of Iwo Jima, which is only 750 miles from Japan. Iwo Jima was only 8 square miles in size and was covered with black volcanic ash rather than sand. More significantly for the American invaders, the Japanese defenders had dug deep into a network of underground caves and tunnels that were impervious to American bombs and shells. The fight would be slow and bloody. Would the Americans be able to root out the Japanese and take the island? Join us and see!
Oct 13, 2021
American Bombers in the Pacific Theater
In May 1944, the US unveiled a new weapon, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber. It was bigger and faster than the B-17, it had a greater range, and it could carry a heavier bomb load (8-10 tons). Despite many early problems, by early 1945, B-29s were causing heavy damage on Japanese cities in the firebombing campaign led by General Curtis LeMay. In this episode, James and Scott discuss the controversial policy of firebombing, including its background, its execution, and its results.
Oct 06, 2021
American Submarines in the Pacific
In this episode, James and Scott take a break from the narrative of battles to take a deep dive (pun intended!) into the topic of American submarines in the Pacific War. Due to technical problems, early submarine torpedoes seldom destroyed their targets. By mid-1944, however, these problems had largely been solved, with devastating results for Japanese merchant vessels. From then on, US submarines destroyed 200,000 tons of Japanese shipping per month and were threatening Japan’s war industries. According to historian Max Hastings, “No other combatant force as small as the U. S. Navy’s submarine flotillas and their 16,000 men achieved a comparable impact upon the war anywhere in the world.” Join James and Scott as they discuss the fascinating world of submarines.
Sep 29, 2021
Leyte Gulf (Key Battle 7), Part Two
In the last episode, we saw that the Japanese fleet, despite suffering some initial setbacks at the hands of the Americans, were still pressing hard toward the American invasion fleet in Leyte Gulf. Due to a major communication breakdown, the US Navy had left the San Bernardino Strait unguarded, so the way to the American invasion fleet was wide open. Would the Japanese fleet be able to capitalize on the American mistake? In this episode, James and Scott discuss the final stages of the battle of Leyte Gulf, as well as the American effort to recapture Leyte, Luzon, and the other Philippine Islands.
Sep 22, 2021
Leyte Gulf (Key Battle 7), Part One
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)
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Jun 25, 2021
Midway (Key Battle 3)
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
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)
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
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
May 29, 2021
America Gears Up for War
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Mar 22, 2021
Sergeant York
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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