World War II: From the Frontlines (2023) s01e04 Episode Script

Episode 4

[birds singing]
[man] I never will forget it.
The squadron commander
walked up to me and he said,
"Go get some sleep
because you're flying tomorrow."
We get to the briefing
and they pull back the curtains.
We were to dive through the clouds
in broad daylight, at high noon,
to bring Germany to its knees.
He said, "I have to tell you, fellows,
that if we only get
one airplane over that target,
it'll be a successful mission."
And I was petrified because you knew
you were facing the stark possibility
that that would be your last mission.
[Winston Churchill]
We demand unconditional surrender.
As World War II enters its fourth year,
the outcome of the conflict
still hangs in the balance.
Hitler has suffered
his first major defeat, on Russia's soil.
So both sides are scaling up production,
and the leaders are raising the stakes.
[Franklin Roosevelt]
Hitler and Mussolini, they will understand
the enormity of their miscalculation.
[narrator] But to win the war,
the Allies must reconquer Europe
and ultimately invade Germany.
[Churchill] Their willpower to resist
must be completely broken.
[narrator] There's just one problem:
Nazi-occupied Europe has
some of the best defenses in the world.
[soldier] Fire!
[Joseph Goebbels] Do you want a total war?
Do you want it even more total and radical
than we are capable of imagining it today?
[narrator] It's so impregnable,
they call it "Fortress Europe."
But, as the British say,
Fortress Europe has no roof.
So, now the Allies
will rain destruction from the skies
to smash Hitler's war machine.
[Roosevelt] We believe that the Nazis
and the fascists have asked for it,
and they're going to get it.
[narrator] Tennessee airman
John Luckadoo and his crew
are about to fly
into the heart of Nazi Germany.
They're part of a bombing campaign
designed to destroy German military sites
and weapons production.
[John] We knew that it was
heavily defended with anti-aircraft.
It was a pretty dismal prospect
that we would be able to succeed.
[narrator] For the Allied bomber crews,
a host of dangers lie ahead.
Thousands of German anti-aircraft guns.
And hundreds of Luftwaffe fighters.
[John] We started across the channel.
[wind whistling]
It was 50 to 60 degrees below zero.
You could freeze to death in a second.
But I'll tell you what,
it's no worse that's coming right for us.
[loud explosions]
[pilot] Oh! Oh, my God!
[narrator] German guns
fill the sky with flak,
exploding chunks of red-hot metal.
[John] You hear the shrapnel,
as the shells explode,
ricocheting through the airplane.
[flak clattering, pinging]
And suddenly we're in a real deadly game.
Out of the corner of my eye,
you could see the German fighters
flying right for us.
[engines buzzing]
[air crew chatter]
- Two o'clock.
- Watch him, Scotty.
- [Scotty] I've got my sights on him.
- They're coming around.
- [gunner] Come on, you
- Eleven o'clock.
[Robert] The Germans went by us so fast,
they had no time to think.
They went right through us,
350 miles an hour.
[crew] Fighters, ten o'clock.
- Incoming.
- I don't see him.
There's two at two o'clock.
[jet buzzing past]
[crew 1] B-17 in trouble at two o'clock.
- [crew 2] Motor's smoking.
- [crew 3] He's got an engine on fire.
[crew 2] Come on, you guys,
get out of that plane. Bale out.
[John] It's not surprising that some guys
crack under that kind of a strain.
The fear and the trauma
of combat could turn your hair white.
I saw that happen, over and over.
[pilot] Pilot to left waist gunner.
We're over the I.P.
Pilot to bombardier: your ship.
[bombardier] Bombardier to pilot: roger.
[pilot] Bombs away.
[bombardier] Bombs away on primary.
[John] You go out, fight your way
all the way to the target.
Then you began to try
to get back all the way home.
You had to be pretty much immune
to the fact that if you survived,
you were just damn lucky.
But when you get out of that airplane
and you kiss the ground
and say, "Thank God I'm back,
I survived that one,"
and then get up and do it again tomorrow?
That takes a lot of guts.
It takes a lot of soul searching.
But we knew that we had a job
to do for freedom and liberation.
[narrator] By the summer of 1943,
70,000 tons of explosives
have been dropped onto Germany.
But the bomber crews
are failing to destroy key targets
and gain a foothold into Fortress Europe.
The British solution
pick easier targets.
May 1943.
There's momentous news from Africa.
Yesterday afternoon, at about 4:30,
the war in North Africa came to an end.
[narrator] The Americans and British
have won a final crushing victory
over Rommel's Afrika Korps.
[newscaster] Bombers went in,
in three deadly waves,
to deliver the last aerial bombardment,
and one of the heaviest,
of the whole campaign.
And soon, hundreds of white flags
were appearing all over the place.
[troops cheering]
[narrator] The Allies now control
the entire North African coast,
raising the tantalizing new possibility:
break into Europe from the south.
Mussolini's fascist Italy
is just across the Mediterranean.
[man in German] The Führer and the Duce
expressed at the meeting
their and their people's determination
to wage war until the final victory.
[narrator] The plan:
get boots on the ground in Sicily,
then fight all the way up to Rome.
Among the invasion force is Maurice White,
a young man heading into the unknown.
[Maurice] There were ships
in all directions,
as far as you could see.
We were sitting there,
out in the Mediterranean.
It was nice, beautiful weather.
The calm before the storm.
Yeah, you're naturally afraid because
you don't know what to expect, really.
The door goes down and away you go.
And you jump in the water
and start wading or swimming.
We weren't fired on when we landed.
Most of our trouble was entering the town.
[guns firing]
[soldier] Fire!
You couldn't stick your head out
in the open because they had you covered.
[gunfire continues]
I remember a German machine gunner
was setting up on this rubble.
- [soldier 1] Give up!
- [soldier 2] Put down your weapon!
We hollered for him to give up.
But he says, "Come and get me."
[heavy gunfire]
[soldiers shouting]
He got hit in the face, and his eyeballs
were hanging on his cheeks.
But even though he was blind,
he's still pouring the lead at you.
But we never stopped or hesitated.
We just kept on going.
[narrator] Maurice and his comrades
are pushing deeper into Italy,
taking village after village.
[Maurice] We could hear
some noise in this big house.
We hollered in German
to come out, and everything went quiet.
We busted in and there was
about 20 people in there.
Old people and women and children.
And they hadn't eaten for days.
[indistinct chatter]
They were starving to death.
Really, they were.
If you gave them a can of bully beef,
that was like giving them life.
[narrator] After three years of war,
the locals just want the fighting to end.
[Anna in Italian] We were at the mercy
of the British and the Americans.
They took over our bakeries
to make bread for their troops.
I had to steal bread.
We were powerless. What else could I do?
We had no home, no possessions, nothing.
We had everything taken away from us.
[newscaster] Allied invasion forces
have captured over 12 new towns
and are advancing
all along the Sicilian Front.
[newscaster 2] We're driving ahead to run
the Italians right out of the war,
as quickly as possible.
[Maurice] I was amazed
at the number of Italians who gave up.
They didn't want to fight at all.
They were fed up
with Mussolini and the Germans.
There were quite a few white flags
sticking on the end of their rifles,
and they just gave their rifles up
and had their hands up too, so
[narrator] The Allies have
successfully landed in Fortress Europe.
But the fight is far from over.
The Germans and Soviets
are fighting a huge tank battle
near the city of Kursk.
[newscaster] The Red Army
has taken over 12 miles of territory
with 12,000 more German dead.
And in Asia, the war hangs in the balance.
[man in Japanese]
The United States and Britain
will keep resisting Greater East Asia.
We must come together and liberate
ourselves from their shackles!
[narrator] Japan's aim is to dominate
the whole of East Asia,
and to pull that off, they have
created a fortress of their own.
Theirs is in the ocean,
a defense shield of strategic
island bases across the Pacific.
[Roosevelt] We are pushing forward
to attack the Japanese islands themselves.
We shall not settle
for less than total victory.
[narrator] To win the war,
the Americans will need
to conquer these islands one by one.
The tiny atoll
of Tarawa is their next target.
The U.S. Marines are heading for Tarawa.
Among them is 17-year-old
Joe Varucene from California.
[Joe] I was just as scared as anybody.
But I don't know, I felt I was doing
something and I felt good about it.
[ship horn blowing]
I was gung-ho.
[engines buzzing]
All of a sudden, there was planes
coming over and they bombed.
It was just magnificent.
I was thrilled.
So, I told one of the guys, I says,
"That's the island I want to go to."
I says, "There's going
to be nothing living there."
[narrator] What Joe doesn't know
is that 5,000 Japanese soldiers
have survived the bombardment.
[Joe] In my mind,
I was thinking like in the movies.
The ramp was gonna come down.
We were gonna run up on a beach.
[bullets pinging]
But all the water
was just skipping with bullets.
The first guy out of our boat
got hit with a blast in the neck.
- [explosions]
- [screaming]
The sergeant went over to help him
and he caught one in the head.
He went down immediately.
But I wanted to show my own courage.
Come hell or high water, I was going in.
I would go underwater
and hold my breath as long as I could.
But when I got to the beach, there was
a whole bunch of Japs waiting for us.
All hell broke loose.
[heavy gunfire]
It was crazy.
[indistinct shouting]
They told us,
"Anything beyond this line, you shoot."
"We don't care what it is: shoot."
[soldier] Fire!
But then our lieutenant got killed.
They stuck a rifle right in his neck.
He was completely decapitated.
Things were desperate.
[soldier] Forward!
I kept shooting until the rifle was empty.
[gunfire fades]
Two guys jumped up and grabbed me
and pulled me up over the wall.
That was the end of that for me.
[narrator] More than a thousand
of Joe's comrades lose their lives.
The Japanese fight to the death.
Almost 5,000 are killed.
Only 17 Japanese soldiers
survive and surrender.
[Joe] They were people.
They had mothers and fathers,
like we have mothers and fathers.
We fight for our country, right or wrong.
They fought
for their country, right or wrong.
As far as I'm concerned, they were brave.
[narrator] The Americans
have taken an important step
towards rolling back the Japanese in Asia.
But ahead of them is an entire ocean
and dozens of islands
that need to be conquered
before they can even
come close to the goal of Japan itself.
Meanwhile, in Europe
the bombing campaign
against German military targets continues.
But the Nazi war machine
keeps churning out tanks and guns.
Millions of hands must get to work
and supply the front
with all the weapons it needs.
[narrator] So, Churchill
has made a ruthless decision
to wage a bombing campaign
against German civilians
[crowd chanting]
crush their morale
and undermine support for Hitler's war.
[Churchill] When we read every week
of the frightful cruelties
with which the German armies torment us,
we may feel sure
that we bear the sword of justice.
Seven hundred and 87 heavy bombers
are heading to Germany.
The mission: obliterate Hamburg.
Fourteen-year-old Günter Lucks
is home alone with his brother.
[Günter in German] I found a flyer.
"Leave the city of Hamburg
to avoid unnecessary losses."
It was signed RAF, the Royal Air Force.
I was scared and I told my brother.
He said, "That's just propaganda."
So, I threw it in the trash.
[narrator] Reassured, Günter goes to bed.
But under the cover of darkness,
the bombers are coming.
One thousand tons of incendiaries,
designed to spread fires,
are dropped onto the sleeping city.
Günter is woken by his brother.
[Günter] I looked out the window
and saw a sea of flames.
Wherever you looked, just flames.
The house next door collapsed.
My brother said, "I have to go
and see what's happened to Aunt Olga."
I didn't want to stay there alone.
But he went out and did not come back.
I thought, "I have to get out."
I opened the door
and I saw people burning alive.
[narrator] Forty-five thousand
German civilians are killed.
Günter's brother is one of them.
Hamburg lies in ruins.
Back in England, bomber pilot Don Wickens
receives fresh orders.
[Don] We were briefed to go to Hamburg.
We said to the intelligence officer,
"What on earth
are we going to Hamburg for?"
It had been bombed.
The whole city was just a ball of fire.
He said, "Well, the only building
left standing is the main post office."
"And they've built emergency shelters,
and there are 60,000 civilians."
"That's your target."
Now, what do you think?
You're thinking just what we thought.
We just closed our eyes and said, "Oh."
And they're the bad guys.
And here we were the good guys
and we've got to do this?
We had no choice.
We went and did it.
You never saw a sicker bunch
of young fellas
when that chore was given to us.
[bombs whistling]
And it's not a heroic thing,
and it's a terrible thing.
And we're part of it,
whether we like it or not.
[narrator] The Allies hoped
that bombing cities
would cause the Germans
to turn against the war.
But for some it has the opposite effect.
[Günter] Now, I just thought,
"Germany is in danger."
"I want to do my job
to prevent its downfall."
And then I signed up.
My mother said, "It doesn't make
any sense, leave it alone and stay."
But I hated the Americans and the British.
[narrator] The fight for Europe is on.
The Allies have secured Sicily.
Their next goal is Rome.
[newscaster] It was certainly one
of the heaviest daylight raids of the war.
A terrible demonstration
of power and determination.
Mussolini had promised his people
enemy bombs would never fall on Rome.
[newscaster] The bombing
of great cities is a terrible thing.
We don't know what it will do
to the Italian people.
But it would certainly
weaken their will to continue the war.
[narrator] The Italians have had enough.
[Roosevelt] The criminal,
corrupt, fascist regime in Italy
is going to pieces.
[narrator] Mussolini is overthrown.
Hitler orders a rescue operation
to bring him to safety.
[newscaster] The Italian dictator
made his final escape in a cable car
across the Apennine Valley.
From there, a waiting airplane
transported him back to a worried Hitler.
[narrator] Now, the Italians switch sides
and join forces with the Allies.
[newscaster] Two hours ago,
Italy declared war on Germany.
The proclamation says
there can be no peace
while a single German
remains on Italian soil.
But the battle for Italy is far from over.
The Nazi's defensive line
runs south of the capital,
through the key town of Cassino.
Capturing Cassino
could unlock the road to Rome.
The Germans take up
positions on the high ground.
[Heinz in German]
We got the order to go to Cassino.
I was with my group of snipers.
But we thought it was no longer a battle.
[incoming bomb whistling]
- [indistinct chatter]
- [bombs exploding]
[Heinz] Every few meters,
the Allies dropped a bomb.
We had many losses.
The dead were piled up on the hillside.
But we carried out our duty and our work.
[gun fires]
[Jim] The more bombing and shelling,
the stronger they made their defense.
They were actually
using rubble as a fortress.
[machine guns firing]
Every morning a German gun
used to sweep the whole of the area.
They were only 50 meters away.
When it was very, very quiet,
we could speak to them, shout to them.
And we'd shout obscenities
across to each other.
But after that,
the shelling would start again.
[soldier] Fire!
[narrator] For weeks, the Allies
are pinned down on the hillside.
[bomb explodes]
[Bentley] We couldn't move at all.
But we knew that the Germans occupied
the abbey on top of Monte Cassino.
There were German artillerists up there
who were controlling our movement.
[narrator] The Allies
are desperate to bomb the site,
but even in war there are rules
against destroying cultural monuments.
[Bentley] We had instructions
from President Roosevelt
that we could not bomb Monte Cassino
because it was so important
a religious structure.
However, because of the fact
it was so critical to our position,
we finally got word
from the president to bomb.
I was assigned
the task to plan this attack.
The day of the bombing,
I remember it so distinctly.
Beautiful blue sky
and the weather was warm.
We were going to take out
these German positions
with our heavy bombers.
And I felt so great
that I had helped plan this attack.
[planes buzzing overhead]
[bombs whistling]
[narrator] The abbey is turned to dust.
But the Allies have been misled
by their intelligence reports.
They thought that Germans were there.
But there weren't any Germans up there.
We had been forbidden
from going into the abbey.
There were so many civilians inside
hiding in the basement.
They achieved nothing.
[Antonio in Italian]
You could hear screams: "Mum! Dad!"
They were all looking
for their loved ones.
[shouting, wailing]
Those screams
they can't be forgotten.
[narrator] It will take another
four months of brutal fighting
before the Allies reach
the Italian capital.
[newscaster] from the Italian front
that the light armor
and motorized infantry
roared into Rome,
into the heart of the city.
Fortress Europe has been prised open.
Meanwhile, in England,
the Allies are planning a secret operation
that will change the course of the war.
[newscaster] A tremendous mass
of the greatest
military equipment ever devised
has been pooled
by the Allied attacking forces.
This is the largest-scale
military invasion operation in history.
[narrator] The attack will
forever be known as "D-Day."
[gulls screeching]
We knew it was going to be a big deal.
And we knew the purpose of it.
We were going to liberate Europe.
[Dwight Eisenhower]
The eyes of the world are upon you.
The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving
people everywhere march with you.
We will accept
nothing less than full victory.
Good luck.
[Harold] Everybody was anxious
to hit that beach and fight.
We didn't think we were going to make it.
I wasn't planning to live through this.
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