Historian Christopher Browning labelled members of Reserve Police Battalion 101 ‘ordinary men’. Neither of the SS or the Wehrmacht, they were mostly middle-aged, unskilled workers. So what drove them to murder 38,000 civilians in Poland at the height of the war? In our special this time, we drill down to the level of the individual perpetrator, to ask to what degree ordinary people were responsible.
George Washington earned a place in the pantheon of leaders who led both militarily and politically through the storms of revolution. Combining a determination to destroy the status quo with exceptional tactical skill, the General transformed an insurgency into the first triumph of a new country. Our special this time surveys Washington’s military triumph at Yorktown.
Coming just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway – in which the outcome of World War II was supposedly decided in the space of a ‘fatal five minutes’ – is the subject of a new film released earlier this month. The clash between the American and Japanese fleets will never be forgotten, but does Midway really deserve the hype? Was it truly the greatest battle of the war?
The very word ‘Viking’ conjures up images of fearsome longships, merciless invasions, and slaughtered victims. But were the Vikings unique in their savagery, or were they instead products of an era in which all those who wished to conquer did so without taking any prisoners?
More than 4,000 square miles of hills and ridges, thickly forested, dissected by streams and rivers, its few roads punctuated by chokepoints. One of Western Europe’s ancient wildernesses. How was the Ardennes Offensive executed, and how did it accelerate the bitter end of one of history’s most brutal regimes?
The American Civil War might easily have ended in 1862. In the event, it dragged on for three more years, claiming the lives of 600,000 men, more than all of America’s other wars combined. A strong case can be made that this outcome was the work of two very different men – George B McClellan and Robert E Lee. To what extent do individuals change the course of history?
The world’s largest ever airborne operation was launched during September 1944, with less than a week of planning. This was one of many ingredients in what, for the Allies, would become a major strategic setback. What went wrong?
The story of Julius Caesar’s military career is that of a special relationship between a brilliant commander and an elite fighting force. Caesar was a skilled politician and a master of military engineering. Highly drilled, heavily armoured, and tightly disciplined, the legions of the Late Republic were superb instruments of war. We analyse how Caesar used them to devastating effect.
The wounds are still raw. It was a bitter conflict, it left many grieving, and it remains well within living memory. But that does not mean that military historians should not study it and attempt to understand it. Patrick Mercer analyses the strategy, tactics, and history of Northern Ireland’s protracted war.
When we think of great naval commanders, Nelson immediately comes to mind. He fought 13 battles, winning 8. Admiral Yi Sun-sin fought 23 battles against Japan between 1592 and 1598, and won every one of them without losing a single ship. In 14 of these battles, moreover, not a single Japanese ship survived. How did he accomplish so much, and why was Japan unable to defeat him?