World War II: From the Frontlines (2023) s01e02 Episode Script

Episode 2

[wind whistling]
That morning, the sea was rather rough.
This British convoy
was detected in the mid-Atlantic
like a pin in a haystack.
We followed the convoy all day long.
And then when night came, we dived.
They were so close,
we could hear the swish of the ships'
propellors running right overhead.
This was it.
When the torpedo hits, it gives a bang.
That's what we
have been waiting for, for days.
It was a wonderful sight.
This was a perfect job.
[narrator] It's 1941.
The war is intensifying.
And Hitler is winning.
His air force is attacking Britain.
And London is burning.
[newscaster] German raiders
last night made a two-hour attack.
Thousands of firebombs
were showered down in London.
[Winston Churchill]
Hitler is a monster of wickedness,
insatiable in his lust for blood.
British Prime Minister Churchill
is begging America to intervene,
but so far without success.
[Franklin Roosevelt] Your boys
are not going into any foreign war.
[crowd applauding]
Together, Germany, Italy and Japan,
the Axis powers, seem unstoppable.
And now, Hitler moves
three million troops to the Soviet border,
as he starts the next phase
of his plan to conquer the world.
[Heinz in German] I was a messenger.
We were summoned
and each given a sealed folder.
I took mine to my lieutenant.
He opened it.
"This order
is to be destroyed immediately."
He took a lighter and burned it.
It was an order to attack
the next morning.
[narrator] These are orders
to attack the Soviet Union.
Codenamed "Operation Barbarossa,"
it will be
the biggest invasion in human history.
Hitler tells his generals
he wants a war against the people.
A war of annihilation.
[Wolfgang] The strength of our army,
the power being unleashed,
it was quite something.
Quite a spectacle.
So we were confident.
[soldier in German] Fire!
[newscaster] News has
suddenly burst from Europe
that Germany has declared war on Russia.
[newscaster 2] Adolf Hitler's
Blitzkrieg forces have been unleashed
against the Soviet Union
on a 2,000-mile front.
[Gabbas in Russian] We woke up
thinking it was a thunderstorm.
We went outside.
"Guys, that's not a thunderstorm,
that's war."
[commentator] This German invasion
of Soviet Russia is the ultimate proof
that Hitler has planned the domination
of every country in the world.
[narrator] Such is the hatred
for Stalin's dictatorship,
that in some areas
the Germans are even welcomed.
[Albert in German] Stalin, for them,
was synonymous with atrocities.
Stalin let a lot of people
starve to death or had them shot.
[Bernhard in German] For us they weren't
on the same level to German people.
It was war.
We had orders to destroy them.
[narrator] Hitler's forces are now
rapidly spreading across the globe.
They've reached Norway
and the Arctic Circle.
They're heading towards the Middle East.
And now he's sending
his favorite general, Rommel,
to conquer North Africa.
[wind whistling]
[Winrich in German] It was so exciting.
We were the first
German troops to go to Africa.
We were entering the unknown.
There, right on the quay
gesturing us to hurry up,
was General Rommel himself.
[narrator] Rommel's on a mission
to drive out the British
from Libya and Egypt.
For the North Africans
caught in the middle,
there's not much love
for the British Empire.
[El Latif in Arabic] World War II,
it had nothing to do with us.
The British behaved
as if they owned the country.
We hated them.
We liked the Germans,
although we didn't know much about them.
[in German] Fire!
[narrator] Rommel's Afrika Korps
makes stunning gains.
Forcing the British out of Libya.
[Winrich] Rommel told us
to create huge dust clouds,
which we did by attaching
brooms to our vehicles.
That effectively made it look like
three full armies were approaching.
The German army is so confident,
they act like they're on vacation.
[Winrich] We had such superiority.
We could safely do whatever
we wanted, go wherever we wanted.
It was so easy for us.
[newscaster] New, severe fighting
in Libya was reported
by the German High Command today.
[narrator] Meanwhile, the German army
has been storming through Eastern Europe.
[newscaster] Nazis smashing
towards the Russian capital
have succeeded
in breaking through another point.
[newscaster 2] The news
from Russia continues to be grave.
The position around Kiev is critical.
[Adolf Hitler] We are
1,000 kilometers beyond the border.
We are facing Leningrad.
We are standing on the Black Sea.
[crowd cheering]
[narrator] Hitler's forces are now
just 200 miles from Moscow.
And Hitler is already
planning a victory parade.
The Red Army is retreating.
A million have been captured.
The Nazis feed them like animals.
[Wolfgang] What happened was ruthless.
But they were on a lower level to us.
You see, one divided Europe
into three areas: Europe A, B and C.
So, Russia was Europe C,
the lowest standard.
They are not civilized.
That was our feeling.
[narrator] The Germans
are not just here to fight a war.
Hitler wants them to attack civilians too
and raze villages to the ground.
[Wolfgang] We had to burn people's houses,
one house after the other.
So, I gave the order: "Pour out gas
and spread some straw and set them afire."
[cattle lowing]
[narrator] As the war in Europe
descends into barbarism,
Churchill crosses the Atlantic
with a desperate plea
to America to intervene.
He and President Roosevelt
hold a secret meeting.
They talk for four days,
but Roosevelt explains his hands are tied.
Let Europe fight her own battle.
They mean nothing to us.
I haven't the slightest idea
of European affairs.
War? Not for me.
This time, America
should keep out, and I know I will.
[narrator] The American public
is divided over the war.
But the president can give military aid.
He sends food and equipment
across the ocean to Europe.
The job of protecting the convoys
falls to the British Royal Navy,
who are patrolling the Atlantic
and the Mediterranean Sea.
[David] My ship, HMS Barham,
was like a floating city.
In battles, we feared nobody.
[plane engine humming]
We were the greatest navy in the world.
Britannia ruled the waves.
[narrator] David Holmes
is part of a task force
hunting down an enemy fleet,
but what the British don't know
is that they are also being hunted.
[David] The first torpedo struck
and I thought,
"Don't need to worry about it."
The second one hit.
- [explosion]
- [shouting]
And then the third and the fourth.
Then I really knew we were in trouble.
The ship went over at such a speed.
I had to stand on the hull of the ship.
[hull creaking]
I went up, how high, I don't know.
I was checking all my limbs,
to see if I've got all my limbs.
You think to yourself, "If they
can sink that ship as easy as that,
what chance have we got?"
[narrator] October 1941.
On the Eastern Front,
winter is closing in.
The advance of Hitler's army
finally begins to slow.
Their supply trucks can't get through.
Wolfgang Horn witnesses
what his commander does next.
[Wolfgang] He ordered
the shooting of Russian prisoners.
I heard the lieutenant calling,
"This one too."
And then a shot.
[gun firing]
I heard shots again and again and again.
It was hard.
[soldier shouting in German]
[Heinz] Some soldiers came to us
with a Russian prisoner.
My lieutenant gave me
the order to shoot him.
We walked along a forest path.
I let him walk ahead of me.
Then I said, "Turn around."
At that time he probably assumed
that his time had come.
I lowered my rifle and said
"Don't be afraid.
I'm not a killer, I am a human being."
He took a step towards me
and held out his hand
and said, "Thank you."
"Peace be with you!"
And we parted ways.
Heinz Drossel is a rare exception.
As well as prisoners, the German army
is now engaged
in the mass execution of civilians.
Over a million Jewish people
and other groups are murdered.
[newscaster] Despite the heavy snow
up and down
virtually the entire Eastern Front,
reports here persist that
German advances are still being made.
[narrator] November 1941.
[missiles whistling]
[newscaster] Reports from the East
reveal that the Luftwaffe
are pounding the Moscow area,
hour after hour.
[narrator] The Germans are 50 miles
from the gates of Moscow.
[newscaster] The raids
are the heaviest yet carried out
against the Soviet capital.
Stalin has not been seen in months
and the whole war
seems to hang in the balance.
A meeting is called
in the underground tunnels
of the Moscow subway system.
[crowd applauding]
[in Russian] Comrades!
We have a determined enemy against us.
These people have the impudence
to call for the destruction
of our great Russian nation.
So, from now on, our task
will be to exterminate
all the Germans, to the last one.
If these Germans really want
a war of annihilation, they can have it.
Now, the Red Army fightback begins.
And the war is intensified further.
[missiles whistling]
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world,
Japan's forces are on the attack.
They've annexed Korea.
They're in China.
And they want Hong Kong,
Malaya and the Philippines
as they seek
to dominate the whole of Asia.
They know there's one thing
that could stop them.
The U.S. Navy.
But they have a plan for that too.
[Takeshi in Japanese]
Training started on September 18.
We had to fly low,
just ten meters above the water.
We used buoys as targets.
We were training to drop torpedoes.
I knew the war had finally come,
though I didn't know against who yet.
[narrator] Japan has watched for months
as America has debated
whether to join the war.
Now their leaders decide
they're not going to wait to find out.
Instead, they'll launch a surprise attack
to destroy
the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.
[Zenji in Japanese]
I remember that morning vividly.
The lights from the back of the planes
were like a swarm of fireflies.
It was a beautiful sight.
They had no idea what we were planning,
but if it was Japan's destiny
to fight America,
we could never
meet them on a level playing field.
A surprise attack was our only option.
[Jack] It was Sunday morning,
and I was on third deck
of the battleship Tennessee
and my job was to look out.
[plane engines humming]
All of a sudden,
a torpedo plane flew right over our bow.
[sailors shouting]
I turned to see sailors
being blown into the water.
Then we were just engulfed in smoke.
[narrator] Witnessing the attacks
at Pearl Harbor is Harold Ward.
He calls in the news of what's happening.
[Harold] So, I put on the 'phones.
A voice from out of damage control.
He says, "What's going on up there?"
So, I told him that we were being
attacked by Japanese air force.
"Don't you get wise with me, Ward.
I asked you a question."
So, I began to describe
what I was looking at.
And there was a dead silence
when I finished speaking.
"Very well. Thank you."
[newscaster] We interrupt this program
to bring you a special news bulletin.
The Japanese have attacked
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air.
[telegraph beeping]
[newscaster 2] All Army and Navy bases
on the island of Oahu and Hawaii
[newscaster 3] President Roosevelt
said in a statement today
that the Japanese have attacked
the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from the air.
I'll repeat that.
President Roosevelt says that the Japanese
have attacked Pearl Harbor
in Hawaii from the air.
I saw smoke rising into the clouds.
It must have been 1,000 meters high.
Then we got a Morse code message:
"Tiger, tiger, tiger!"
The mission was a success.
We were so happy!
[narrator] The Japanese have tried
to take out the entire Pacific Fleet.
They have sunk
five battleships and three destroyers.
And killed over 2,000 people.
But they haven't destroyed it all.
I saw the destruction the next day.
I really couldn't believe it was true.
It was a shame and a humiliation.
I realized, this is only the beginning.
Now, this has to be war.
[Roosevelt] Yesterday, December 7th, 1941,
a date which will live in infamy,
the United States of America
was suddenly and deliberately attacked
by forces of the Empire of Japan.
I ask that the Congress declare
a State of War.
[narrator] Now, finally,
America fires up its war machine.
And it will take its revenge
on the Japanese.
[subdued theme song playing]
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