July 20, 2018
Yesterday I put the finishing (?) touches on a military history project that I started three or so years ago. (Today, I found a few things that needed correcting, and I'm sure there'll be more.) It's an interactive graphical/textual chronology of World War II, including both the European and Pacific theaters of war. It features maps of each theater for each successive year of the war, beginning in 1937 for Asia/Pacific, and 1939 for Europe. As your roll your mouse over the annual links for the two theates, a paragraph explaining the main events depicted in the map appears. Below the map(s) is a more detailed monthly chronology in tabular format, arranged in four columns: Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Mediterranean (incl. Africa and Middle East), and Pacific (and Southeast Asia).
I'm well versed in the subject, thanks in no small part to my late father, and consider some knowledge of that war to be absolutely essential for understanding contemporary world politics. And yet I have often been frustrated by the lack of basic awareness of key 20th Century events exhibited by many students these days. So, this is my way of smoothing the path for students (and other interested folks) who may be curious about World War II but have a hard time putting all the scattered instances of violence into the overall context.
Getting this done was also a useful exercise for me to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, such as what went on in Burma, New Guinea, or East Africa at various points in the war. One lesson for me is how difficult it was for the British (and their allied dominions, especially Australia and India) to manage threats on multiple fronts simultaneously. Having to transfer forces to various emergencies had a major effect on the war in North Africa, where Rommel came close to conquering Egypt in August 1942. I appreciate the feedback from many of my friends on Facebook. Someone asked me where the complete study can be found, apparently assuming that there was some kind of analysis behind all the information that I assembled. I haven't written anything like that yet, but I am contemplating a comparative study of the behavior of the smaller and medium-size powers in Europe and Asia during the war -- how they responded to pressure from the great powers, i.e, "balancing" or "bandwagoning."
(The above text is an edited and expanded version of what I posted on Facebook yesterday.)