Fall Semester 2016


1:00 – 1:50 MWF





Dr. John Moser

Andrews 119




Office Hours: I will make a habit of being in my office between 10:00 am and noon every day, unless I have a meeting or other commitment. The safest strategy is to call or email me for an appointment.



Required Texts:


Evan Mawdsley, World War II: A New History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)


Frans Coetzee and Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee, The World in Flames: A World War II Sourcebook (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)


Course Packet (available at the AU Bookstore)



Course Description:


This course will examine World War II, the most widespread, costly, and destructive war in the history of the planet.  It will cover the origins of the war, the strategies pursued by the participants, and the major events in both the Pacific and European theaters from the 1930s until 1945.  Further, it will consider the significance of the war for the history of Europe, Asia, and the United States.



Course Objectives:


At the end of this course, students will be able to:


1.      Explain the basic facts about the history of World War II, including its causes and its consequences, both in Europe and the Pacific.

2.      Use those facts as “raw material” to make coherent arguments and judgments about World War II.

3.      Appraise difficult texts used as primary and secondary sources in the study of World War II.

4.      Discuss, in both oral and written form, the progress and significance of World War II.

5.      Assemble scholarly research in the form of a term paper.



Course Policies:


Unless you have some valid reason for using a laptop, such as a documented physical condition that prevents you from taking notes the traditional way, please do not use one in my class. And please keep your phone silenced and out of sight.


The following factors will make up your final grade—


Two Hourly Examinations (30%)


These exams are scheduled for Monday, 3 October, and Friday, 4 November, and will consist of essay questions, identifications, and map identifications.  The essays will require you to marshal facts to answer questions on broader historical themes.  An example might be, “Why did Hitler choose to invade the Soviet Union?” or “Why did Truman decide to use the atomic bomb against Japan?”  You will be asked to make an argument; you will not be graded so much on what stand you take, but rather on your ability back up your position with the pertinent historical evidence.  The identifications will ask you to identify and explain the significance of certain important people, events, concepts, and weapons associated with the war.  Finally, in the map identifications you will need to locate a series of important sites on blank maps of the European and Pacific theaters.


Final Examination (30%)


The university has scheduled the final for this course for Wednesday, 14 December, from 1:30 to 3:30 pm, although this is subject to change.  An alternate exam date will be set in case of medical emergency (with documentation required).  As with the midterm, the final will be a combination of essay and identification, and bluebooks will be required.


Writing Assignment (20%)


For this course each student will write a paper of between 3500 and 4500 (that is between 12 and 15 pages).  This paper will involve one of three options, detailed below. Whichever option you choose, I will be grading your paper(s) not only for content, but also for things like organization, clarity, spelling, word choice, and grammar.  Style—particularly for notes and bibliography—should conform to the department’s “Guidelines for Writing Scholarly Papers,” available at   Your papers must be typed in a reasonably sized font (11 or 12), double-spaced and stapled.  I will not accept late papers; however, I will happily read a rough draft if it is submitted to me at least one week before the due date.


Option #1: Write a paper expanding on one of the subjects that we will be discussing in class.  This will involve choosing a particular day of class and reading not only the required material, but also the book listed as optional for that day.  Note that there is a very good chance that Ashland University’s library will not have these books, so be prepared to use OhioLink—which means, of course, that you should order it at least a month in advance, so that you receive it in plenty of time to read it carefully.  This paper will be due the day that the subject in question is being discussed in class.  Because I do not want more than one student to write on any given topic, please let me know in advance which subject you want.


For example, say that you would like to write your paper on the Battle of Britain.  That paper would be due on Wednesday, 5 October (the day we will cover that subject in class), and the sources you will be required to use will be Stephen Bungay’s The Most Dangerous Enemy; pages 127-133 from Mawdsley’s World War II; pages 49-51, 56-60, and 281-283 in Coetzee’s The World in Flames; and pages 105-110 in the course packet.


Option #2: Write a paper exploring the effects that individual decisions had on the overall outcome of World War II.  You will do this by playing a PC strategy game—Hearts of Iron III—available through Paradox Interactive or on Steam.


After you have acquired the game and familiarized yourself with its interface, select the grand scenario which begins in 1936 and runs through the end of the war, playing as one of the major powers (Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Soviet Union, the United States, Japan, or China).  For a more intense (and fun) experience, you might join with several of your fellow students in playing on networked computers.  Note that a full game will take considerable time to play, likely requiring multiple sittings.


As you play, keep a written record of the “history” of the game, which will serve as the basis for the paper you will write about your game experience.


When you have finished your game (either because you have won, have been completely eliminated, or the scenario ended naturally), you will write a paper (due Friday, 9 December) that does two things: first, it should trace the alternative history of World War II, as reflected in the game, from the perspective of the country that you played.  This alternative history should include all of the important events, particular the critical decisions you made, with some attempt to explain why you chose the options that you did. 


The second purpose of your paper is to assess the importance of certain “real world” results by comparing them to the events as they develop in the game.  One thing will become clear as you play: the game will not follow the same course of events as those which actually occurred between 1936 and 1945.  At some point—probably quite early on—you or some other country will choose to do something radically different.  Perhaps Britain and France will go to war over Czechoslovakia; France will put up a more stalwart defense; Britain might fall to a German invasion; Japan might opt not to attack Pearl Harbor; or any one of millions of possibilities.  You are to make note of these critical differences, at least those that directly involve the country you are playing, and demonstrate how these affected the alternative course of history in the game.  For example, say you are playing Germany, and you decide not to invade the Soviet Union.  Your paper, in addition to presenting a straight history of the rise and fall of “your” Third Reich, should assess the importance of Hitler’s decision to attack the USSR by describing what resulted from your choice to do otherwise.


Attendance and Participation (20%)


This will be a seminar-style course, based on in-class discussion of the required readings.  It is the responsibility of every student to participate in those discussions.  Each of you will be asked to offer your thoughts about what you have read, as well as any larger implications.  If you find something confusing, these discussions will present an opportunity for you to seek a clearer understanding.  If you find something particularly interesting, that is the time to try to expand upon it, or to ask questions about it.


Your attendance in class is expected, and consistent participation in discussion will be rewarded.  I expect at least occasional input from every member of the class, and I reserve the right to assign a failing grade to those who are habitually absent or unprepared to participate in discussion.



Academic Integrity


I strongly advise you to examine the university’s academic integrity policy, which may be found here.  All students are responsible for maintaining the highest standards of honesty and integrity in every phase of their academic careers.  The penalties for academic dishonesty are severe, and ignorance is not an acceptable defense.



Course Schedule, with Reading Assignments:




Course Introduction



The Belligerents

Mawdsley, pp. 1-9, 12-26

Optional: Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won (1995)



The International Order, 1919-1933

Mawdsley, pp. 26-30

Coursepack, pp. 1-17

Optional: Sally Marks, The Illusion of Peace: International Relations in Europe, 1918-1933 (2003)






The Ideologies, part I

Mawdsley, pp. 30-41

Coetzee, pp. 270-272

Coursepack, pp. 18-24

Optional: Richard Bessel, Nazism and War (2006)



The Ideologies, part II

Mawdsley, pp. 41-44

Coetzee, pp. 275-276

Coursepack, pp. 25-32

Optional: Walter Skya, Japan's Holy War: The Ideology of Radical Shinto Ultranationalism (2009)



Planning for the Next War

Mawdsley, pp. 44-51

Coetzee, pp. 38-40

Coursepack, pp. 33-52

Optional: Azar Gat, Fascist and Liberal Visions of War: Fuller, Liddell Hart, Douhet, and Other Modernists (1998)



Origins of the Greater East Asia War, 1919-1936

Mawdsley, pp. 54-60

Coursepack, pp. 53-63

Optional: Michael A. Barnhart, Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security, 1919-1941 (1988)






The Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1940

Mawdsley, pp. 60-73

Coetzee, pp. 16-21

Optional: Rana Mitter, Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945 (2013)



Hitler’s Challenge to the International System, 1933-1938

Mawdsley, pp. 76-85

Coetzee, pp. 22-25

Coursepack, pp. 64-70

Optional: Christian Leitz, Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933-1941: The Road to Global War (2004)



The Czech Crisis, 1938

Mawdsley, pp. 84-93

Coursepack, pp. 71-84

Optional: David Faber, Munich, 1938: Appeasement and World War II (2009)



The Outbreak of War in Europe, 1939

Mawdsley, pp. 93-103

Coetzee, pp. 30-31

Coursepack, pp. 85-95

Optional:  Richard Overy, 1939: Countdown to War (2010)



Blitzkrieg and Sitzkrieg, 1939-1940

Mawdsley, pp. 106-117

Coetzee, pp. 36-38

Coursepack, pp. 96-99

Optional: Geirr H. Haarr, The German Invasion of Norway, April 1940 (2009)



The Campaign in the West, 1940

Mawdsley, pp. 118-126

Coetzee, pp. 42-48

Coursepack, pp. 100-104

Optional: Julian Jackson, The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940 (2003)



First Examination



The Battle of Britain, 1940-1941

Mawdsley, pp. 127-133

Coetzee, pp. 49-51, 56-60, 281-283

Coursepack, pp. 105-110

Optional: Stephen Bungay, The Most Dangerous Enemy: The Definitive History of the Battle of Britain (2015)




The United States on the Sidelines, 1939-1941

Coursepack, pp. 111-136

Optional: Lynn Olson, Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 (2013)



Hitler Moves East, 1940-1941

Mawdsley, pp. 136-147

Coursepack, pp. 137-145

Optional: Gabriel Gorodetsky, The Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia (1999)




Operation Barbarossa, 1941

Mawdsley, pp. 147-156

Coetzee, pp. 91-93, 96-101

Coursepack, pp. 146-150

Optional: David Stahel, Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the East (2009)







Hitler’s War of Annihilation, 1941-1945

Mawdsley, pp. 156-163

Coetzee, pp. 94-95, 319-329, 337-338, 344-345

Optional: Geoffrey Megargee, War of Annihilation: Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, 1941 (2007)




From Moscow to Stalingrad, 1941-1943

Mawdsley, pp. 166-177

Coetzee, pp. 149-150, 192-195

Optional: Michael Jones, Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed (2007)



Turning the Tide in the East, 1943-1944

Mawdsley, pp. 178-187

Coetzee, pp. 112-113, 196-197, 285-286

Coursepack, pp. 153-162

Optional: Geoffrey Jukes, Stalingrad to Kursk: Triumph of the Red Army (2011)



Japan’s Decision for War, 1940-1941

Mawdsley, pp. 190-203

Coetzee, pp. 68-71

Optional: Eri Hotta, Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy (2013)



Japan Strikes, 1941-1942

Mawdsley, pp. 204-213

Coetzee, pp. 72-77, 207-208

Coursepack, pp. 163-164

Optional: Ian W. Toll, Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (2011)




Turning the Tide in the Pacific, 1942-1943

Mawdsley, pp. 216-229

Coetzee, pp. 78-79, 151-158

Optional: H.P. Willmott, The War with Japan: The Period of Balance, May 1942 – October 1943 (2002)



The CBI Theater, 1942-1945

Mawdsley, pp. 229-237

Coetzee, pp. 209-223

Optional: Donovan Webster, The Burma Road: The Epic Story of the China-Burma-India Theater in World War II (2003)



The Allied Advance in the Pacific, 1943-1944

Mawdsley, pp. 237-247

Coetzee, pp. 224-225, 272-275, 277-278

Coursepack, pp. 168-172

Optional: Ian W. Toll, The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 (2015)




Second Examination



The War at Sea, 1939-1944

Mawdsley, pp. 250-283

Coetzee, pp. 174-178

Optional: Jonathan Dimbleby, The Battle of the Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War (2016)




The War in the Desert, 1940-1942

Mawdsley, pp. 286-297

Coetzee, pp. 87-90, 141-145

Coursepack, pp. 173-179

Optional: Martin Kitchen, Rommel's Desert War: Waging World War II in North Africa, 1941-1943 (2009)




Operation TORCH, 1942-1943

Mawdsley, pp. 298-306

Coetzee, pp. 80-86, 139-140, 146-147

Optional: Norman Gelb, Desperate Venture: The Story of Operation Torch, the Allied Invasion of North Africa (1992)




The Invasion of Italy, 1943-1944

Mawdsley, pp. 306-319

Coetzee, pp. 179-181

Optional: Rick Atkinson, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (2007)




The American Home Front, 1941-1945

Mawdsley, pp. 323-332

Coetzee, pp. 237-263

Coursepack, p. 183

Optional: Emily Yellin, Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II (2004)




The Strategic Bombing of Germany, 1940-45

Mawdsley, pp. 332-345

Coetzee, pp. 164-173

Coursepack, pp. 180-182

Optional: Randall Hansen, Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942-1945 (2009)




Occupation and Resistance

Mawdsley, pp. 346-363

Coetzee, pp. 52-55, 182-189, 330-336, 340-343

Coursepack, pp. 184-188

Optional: Mark Mazower, Hitler's Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe (2008)










The Liberation of France, 1944

Mawdsley, pp. 366-381

Coetzee, pp. 198-203

Coursepack, pp. 189-200

Optional: John Keegan, Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris (1994)




Closing the Ring around Germany, 1944-1945

Mawdsley, pp. 381-391

Coursepack, pp. 201-212

Optional: Max Hastings, Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945 (2004)



The End in Europe, 1945

Mawdsley, pp. 392-405

Coetzee, pp. 349-353

Coursepack, pp. 213-218

Optional: Ian Kershaw, The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945 (2011)




The Final Battles in the Pacific, 1944-1945

Mawdsley, pp. 408-424

Coursepack, pp. 219-222

Optional: George Feifer, Battle of Okinawa: The Blood And The Bomb (2011)



The Atomic Bomb and the Surrender of Japan, 1945

Mawdsley, pp. 424-431

Coetzee, pp. 228-236

Coursepack, pp. 223-230

Optional: Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (2005)



Unfinished Business in Asia

Mawdsley, pp. 431-437

Coetzee, pp. 364-377

Optional: Ronald Spector, In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia (2007)



Final Examination, 1:30 – 3:30 pm