World War II: Impossible Choices and Deeds That Changed History

Podcast-style audio course - 24 Topics
Vanderbilt University
(1 customer review)
Audio Download + Subscription
$0.00
Audio Download + Subscription
$0.00

World War II: Impossible Choices and Deeds That Changed History

Podcast-style audio course - 24 Topics
Vanderbilt University
(1 customer review)
Audio Download + Subscription
$0.00

Audio Sample:

The lives of five generations, including yours, are indelibly marked by the deeds of those who fought in the Second World War. Join award-winning historian Michael Bess in exploring their stories.

In 24 engaging lectures, WWII expert and Vanderbilt professor Michael Bess introduces you to the men and women who faced some of history’s toughest choices. You will meet the man who stopped Hitler’s atomic bomb, the pilots who won the Battle of Midway, the Soviet “Man of Steel,” the pacifist who built the bomb, and many more.

World War II was the quintessential “good war.” But it was not free of moral ambiguity, painful dilemmas, and unavoidable compromises. How could ordinary citizens have brought themselves to perpetrate atrocities? Was the United States justified in dropping the atomic bomb? Why didn’t the Allied Powers do more to help the Jews of Europe escape persecution before the war?

Professor Michae

Audio Sample:

The lives of five generations, including yours, are indelibly marked by the deeds of those who fought in the Second World War. Join award-winning historian Michael Bess in exploring their stories.

In 24 engaging lectures, WWII expert and Vanderbilt professor Michael Bess introduces you to the men and women who faced some of history’s toughest choices. You will meet the man who stopped Hitler’s atomic bomb, the pilots who won the Battle of Midway, the Soviet “Man of Steel,” the pacifist who built the bomb, and many more.

World War II was the quintessential “good war.” But it was not free of moral ambiguity, painful dilemmas, and unavoidable compromises. How could ordinary citizens have brought themselves to perpetrate atrocities? Was the United States justified in dropping the atomic bomb? Why didn’t the Allied Powers do more to help the Jews of Europe escape persecution before the war?

Professor Michael Bess marshals a trove of research and letters to probe big questions like these. While honoring the war’s countless heroic deeds, and expressing deep gratitude to those who sacrificed so much for the freedom of subsequent generations, he also seeks a nuanced reckoning with the complicated and ambiguous moral dimensions of one of the most pivotal conflicts in human history.

We owe it to every generation impacted by the Second World War to understand the momentous choices and deeds that shaped our world.

Learn about downloadable programs.

$19.99

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Michael Bess is the Chancellor’s Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, where he has taught for three decades. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and he has written five books, including Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II, Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in the Bioengineered Society of the Near Future, and The Light-Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960-2000, which won the George Perkins Marsh prize of the American Society for Environmental History. Prof. Bess is an expert on the technological future, World War II, environmental history, and the challenges facing contemporary global society. Bess has been awarded the Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the Ellen Gregg Ingalls Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching, and the Vanderbilt Chair of Teaching Excellence. His research has been supported by fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Human Genome Research Institute, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Fulbright program, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

  • Introduction: The Good War and the Challenge of Moral Complexity
  • The Man Who Stopped Hitler’s Atomic Bomb
  • The Man Who Stopped Hitler’s Atomic Bomb, Part 2
  • What Did the Japanese Want? Causes of the Pacific War
  • Could Hitler Have Been Stopped Without War? Causes of the European War
  • Deep Evil and Deep Good: A Time of Extremes
  • When the “Good Guys” Leveled Whole Cities: Staying True to Moral Complexity
  • The Germans Were Not the Only Racists
  • Alliance With a Tyrant: The Shotgun Wedding with Stalin’s Russia
  • The Battle of Midway: History Hangs by Slender Threads, Part 1
  • The Battle of Midway, Part 2
  • The Battle of Midway, Part 3
  • British Humiliation at Singapore, French Vindication at Bir Hakeim
  • What Are We Fighting For? How the Soldiers Described It in Their Letters Home
  • What Are We to Make of the Kamikaze?
  • Leo Szilard: The Pacifist Who Built the Bomb
  • The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb, Part 1
  • The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb, Part 2
  • Justice for the Unspeakable? The Nuremberg Trials
  • How World War II Changed History
  • The Politics of Memory
  • Peace After Hiroshima: The Problem That World War II Left Us
  • Peace After Hiroshima, Part 2
  • “Earn This”

1 review for World War II: Impossible Choices and Deeds That Changed History

  1. kmmwriter

    A superb combination of listenability and commentary, this was one of my best purchases this year and maybe the finest lecture series of any I’ve heard on WW2. In short, clear talks, Dr. Bess offers a bird’s-eye view of the war that makes you feel you’re “living” it. One, for instance, offers a series of letters from GIs and various airmen to parents, sweethearts, and wives back home. I loved this talk because afterward I felt I knew these people and how they experienced the war — even how they prepared emotionally for their own deaths should they occur. The series isn’t just a bunch of dry facts but a full spectrum of feelings and incisive discourse. But the strongest aspect of the series is how the lecturer goes into the subtle moral ambiguities of the war, showing how each side had their moral low points. Of particular interest are lectures on the U.S.’s choice to drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was dazzled by such lectures. I also thoroughly enjoyed the story of the Battle of Midway, told in gripping detail over three lectures, and too the tale of how the French succeeded at halting Rommel in North Africa for 16 days despite being vastly outnumbered. Discussions really went into the subtleties of the conflict and the pain suffered by real people fighting a war they believed just. I can’t recommend the series enough. Enjoy! ~KM McKay

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