Instructor: Rob Kirchubel

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History 351 - World War Two – Fall 2015

Instructor: Rob Kirchubel -

Office: REC 419, by appointment
I. Overview: History 351 is a military history course. As in the real world where the military does not exist in a vacuum - separate from politics, economics, culture and other considerations – so it is with military history. While the majority of the course will deal with military operations, personalities and technologies, we will also cover the major combatants’ diplomacy (which does not automatically end once the shooting begins), domestic politics, home fronts, genocide and occupation policies.
History 351 and 349 (WW I, Spring 2016) will treat the period 1914-1945 as a modern Thirty Years War, therefore both will deal with the interwar period. Unlike WWI, fought mainly in Europe, WWII was truly global. Armies fought on the Arctic Circle, deserts and jungle islands. The war at sea was dominated by submarines below the surface and naval aviation above. Military aircraft included jet fighters and strategic bombers riding the jet stream. Ultimately, WWII ushered in the nuclear age.
Although there are no prerequisites for our course, before we begin students should be familiar with the history of the first third of the twentieth century and with world geography. As with any specialized discipline, military history has its own vocabulary: students will learn to distinguish between admirals and colonels, corps and squadrons or battleships and cruisers. Military history also has specialized tools: students will become comfortable with those two-dimensional representations of the earth’s surface known as maps – I will use many maps.
War is a terrible thing and our course is not meant to glorify it. The World Wars were tremendously destructive so students must accept death on a massive, almost abstract scale. Casualties, measured in thousands or tens of thousand per day were the principal currency of both conflicts, completely dwarfing America’s losses on 9/11 and in Afghanistan/Iraq.
II. Objectives: At the conclusion of this course students will understand:

  • Distinctive features of the major combatants.

  • Underlying and immediate causes of WW II.

  • War’s opening moves and reasons for Axis success through 1942.

  • Secondary theaters such as north Africa and mainland Asia.

  • The transitional year of 1942.

  • War’s effect on the home front, “battles” for food and production, role of women.

  • American, British and Soviet strategic conferences.

  • The Allies’ strategic bombing campaigns.

  • The decisive years 1943-44.

  • Allied victory and the beginning of the Cold War.

III. Daily Schedule: See separate spreadsheet.
IV. Text: H.P. Willmott, The Great Crusade, Revised Edition, ISBN-13: 978-1597971911

V. Grading: We will play hard (few things are as fun and rewarding as studying military history!) and work hard (the American education system requires periodic feedback from students to measure learning: grades). Since this is a 300-level course I assume that all of you are here because you want to be, not because you need to “check the box” by taking some humanities course (bad assumption?). The major elements of grading are:
A. “Staff Studies,” 31% of course grade (cumulative, and the only group work allowed): At four times during the semester I will divide the class into national groups (using Blackboard). I will give you a strategic, operational, diplomatic, economic, etc. problem to discuss and solve according to the rubric that I will provide. At four times during the semester each group will turn in a written “staff study” with your findings.
B. Book analysis, 14% each: Every student will READ TWO PAIRS of books listed below, write a comparative analysis of each pair based on a rubric that I will provide and submit it on Blackboard. Specifically the book pairings are:
(i) Students interested in reading about Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan should choose, Richard Evans, The Third Reich at War and Aaron Moore, Constructing East Asia.
(ii) Students interested in micro histories of land combat (in this case the Nazi-Soviet War) should read Jeff Rutherford, Combat & Genocide on the Eastern Front and Norman Davies, Rising ’44.
(iii) Students interested in reading war memoirs should choose Jean Guehenno, Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1944 and Elena Kockina, Blockade Diary.
(iv) Students interested in the United States at war should Kenneth Davis, FDR: The War President and David Roll, The Hopkins Touch: Harry Hopkins and the Forging….
(v) Students who want to learn about WWII in the air should read Randall Hansen, Fire & Fury: Allied Bombing of Germany and Herman Wolk, Cataclysm: General Hap Arnold and the Defeat of Japan.
(vi) Students who want to read about WWII at sea should choose Bernard Ireland, Battle of the Atlantic and Edwin Hoyt, How They Won the War in the Pacific: Nimitz…

C. Exams: Exams will be made up of objective (fill in the blank, etc) and subjective (essay) questions. I will determine exam format, hard copy or online, with your input. You will have three mid-terms (9% each) and one mid-term/final exams (14%, date TBD). By “mid-term/final” I mean that the mid-term portion will cover material since the third mid-term plus have questions to tie together the entire course.

D. Extra credit: Can be book review, research project, etc., approved ahead of time (topic and outline due to me beforehand), must be submitted on Blackboard and is worth a maximum of 10% of the course grade.

VI. Course Policies: Class behavior will be judged by my standards of adult courtesy and mutual respect. Unfortunately, a small number of students make the following caveats necessary: Arrive in class on time, prepared, well rested, with all personal drama on hold for 75 minutes. Do not start “closing shop” 5-10 minutes before the end of class. Do not risk possible humiliation by texting, falling asleep, etc. in class. If you must leave class early, be sure to sit near an aisle and door so you keep disruption to a minimum.
As it is elsewhere at Purdue, we will conduct all substantive communication via email; always follow-up with an email.
Attendance is expected but I will not take roll. Absences from class are your business, I will not ask you about an absence nor do I want you to “explain” it to me. Pay close attention to the course schedule for important dates and plan ahead. Do not miss an exam; make arrangements with me to take it ahead of time instead. Thanks to modern technology you can submit assignments on time regardless of where you happen to be or what you are doing. Late work will be penalized. However, if you will be absent on school business, such as ROTC, sports, band, etc., do tell me in advance.
Learning is a participatory endeavor. Even though our class is technically a lecture, student participation is encouraged. Actively listen to lectures and read course materials. Feel free to initiate discussions and ask questions during class. Each class period I will ask if students have questions and this is not an insincere gesture.
A final word on cheating and plagiarism: don’t. Make sure all work that you submit is yours. You should all know that there are many technologies to detect intellectual dishonesty. Dishonest work will earn a “zero” and may lead to further consequences.
Disclaimer: In the event of a major campus emergency, the above requirements, deadlines and grading policies are subject to changes.

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