tv Reel America Why We Fight The Battle of Britain - 1943 CSPAN September 21, 2018 9:54pm-10:51pm EDT
>> explain how it defines the american experience. we are awarding $100,000 in total cash prizes. this year's deadline is january 20, 2019. for more information, go to our website. by the summer of 1940, germany had conquered most of western europe and hitler and his generals were planning to invade england. next, a look at the battle of britain. the fourth film of the why we fight series which
♪ >> no, adolf hitler stood, just as napoleon had stood more than 100 years before and looked across the english channel to the one fighting obstacle that stood between himself and world domination. the cliffs of britain rose, chalky white, out of the choppy waters. and beyond, a little island, smaller than the state of wyoming. crush that little island and its stubborn people and the way was open for world conquest. the fall of austria, czechoslovakia, poland, denmark, norway, holland, belgium, and france had given him more than 100 million slaves to work for him or starve.
the preliminaries were over. it was time for the main event. the battle of britain. ♪ hitler and his generals feverishly drafted their plans for the conquest of britain. every detail must be considered. six weeks of final preparation went into those plans. six weeks to determine the history of 1000 years. see for yourselves how simple the whole operation was to be. look. >> plan for invasion of
england. phase 1. knock out the royal air force. get control of the air. wipe out poland, the low countries and france. destroy communication and transport lines. above all, take command of the air. phase 2, pulverize the coastline with dive bombers. take over the airfields. phase 3. the actual invasion. for german panzer divisions cross under an umbrella of protecting fighter planes. then, send spearheads of arm might to divide, surround and destroy all opposition. that's all there was to it.
conquer britain. force the surrender of the british fleet. then, with the combined seapower of germany, britain, england, france and spain, he could control the seas and tell us where to head. on the invasion coast, more than 100 fully equipped german divisions are seen, singing the song, we are sailing against england, as they awaited the word from hitler. here, four weeks, all the supplies and weapons of the [null] war machine had been turned toward britain.
♪ >> the jaws of the [null] whale were set to swallow jonah. and how about jonah, how was he doing? well, britain also had an army. an army in the sea at dunkirk. ♪ >> an army without weapons. these had been left behind on the road to france. tanks, guns, motorized equipment. all abandoned, to save the one priceless item: min.
-- men. in britain there was not enough equipment for one division. only one tank for every thousand square miles. only one machine gun for every 1500 yards of beach. britain had a navy, too, but it was scattered all over the globe, guarding vital food and supply lines. the british knew it would be suicide to use their fleet in the narrow waters of the english channel, with the german air force in control of the air. britain also had an air force. and air force outnumbered 10 to 1 by the enemy, both in men and machines. then there was britain itself. the people of britain. the people who were to be terrorized and forced to surrender. they knew that every man, woman and child, in uniform or out,
must be ready to fight at a moments notice. they knew they had a job to do and not much time to do it in. the young, the not so young and the old. the butcher, the farmer, the member of parliament, they joined the civilian army, britain's home guard. they started from scratch. experience, equipment, supplies. all were scarce. only one shell to fire at each practice. the women of britain refused to be left out. >> we are in this, too.
we'll put up the barrage. man the aircraft guns. run the railroads and get the trains through on time. carry the plane. carry the dispatches. drive the ambulances and run the buses. make sure that our men are fed and don't go hungry. >> honest work. men and women alike. the work, full time. over time. doubletime. 40 hours per week. 60. 70.
ours mean nothing. fatigue meant nothing. until the government forced them to cut down hours, because over fatigue was hurting production. ♪ and when they weren't working, the men patrolled four parachutes, blocked the roads. rehearsed invasion preparations. something had happened here that the germans could never understand. in a democracy it is not the government that makes war, it is the people. ♪
to lead them, the people had chosen winston churchill as their prime minister. and he spoke the words in every british heart, when he said -- >> we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in the field and in the streets and on the hills. we shall never surrender. >> this was britain in its darkest hour. the people knew they were in for the worst, yet they did not panic or run away. they patrolled and waited. they drilled and waited. they worked and waited. waited for the terror they knew was coming. then, it came.
that is the sound that became part of the life of every man, woman and child in britain. >> august, 1940 and the battle for britain is on. >> the enemy flying due west. >> here comes the louvre waffle. dozens of flights. hundreds of planes. bombers, fighters. the dive bombers. across 21 miles of channel. their first tactics were to bomb convoys in the channel. convoys loaded with food and munitions. convoys to the port
more planes. then the luftwaffe tried for a knockout, before the flow of surprise -- flow of supplies from overseas became more than a trickle. the spitfires and hurricanes in the air weren't panning out. so the germans changed their attack to the airfields. maybe he could destroy the planes on the ground. he found the airfields and the fields were hit, but the planes were saved. britain, unlike poland and the low country, didn't make the mistake of punching their planes on the runway. they were scattered. only a few on one field. the spitfires still went up to meet the enemy.
the base was too hot. something was going haywire. on a 2000 mile front, from norway to france, the whole nazi program was being stalled, because the raf was still in the air. the troops were getting hoarse from singing we are sailing against britain. the long-range german guns were getting hot. from blowing shells across the channel. in public, hitler assured the germans, i tell you, victory will belong to germany. but in private, he sent for the
boss of the luftwaffe and put him on the hot seat. he was told to do something and do it quick. on august 20, he ordered all out attacks on industrial centers. maybe he could knock out the raf from the assembly line. more fighters and fewer bombers. or maybe he just had fewer bombers to send. anyway, those he did send were well protected. fighters above, at high altitude. fighters at both sides. fighters at the front-end in the rear. fighters weaving in and out of the bomber formation. >> britain, winner of the first round was ready, with higher morale. sharper defense. improved listening posts were set up along the coast and warned of the enemy's approach, before he left the country.
pilots were on their way to meet the enemy, while he was still over the channel. day after day, out of sight and almost out of sound from the watchers on the cliffs. the four, five, six miles above, the battles raged. the dover area became known as hell's corner. by sheer weight of numbers, the enemy broke through the defenses. and reached inland. aircraft factories. munition factories and machine shops.
behind them, their machine guns were shooting down more than the luftwaffe. they were smashing the whole nazi plan of world conquest. >> 109. >> how did you get on? >> well, i had a run. >> are you all right? did you hit any fighters? >> between august 24 and september 5, 35 major attacks were launched. the cost the germans 562 planes, while the germans lost only 219 planes and saved 132
pilots. invasion plans were going completely haywire. the germans were blind with rage. the german mind never understood why free people fight on against superior odds. hitler was superior in every weapon, except the weapon of spirit. so he told goering, crushed that spirit. invasion would now have to wait. the nazis would avoid the raf and smash the city of london. >> could london take it? evening -- even the people themselves didn't know the answer. antiaircraft guns and a balloon
barrage at high altitudes. the royal air force, now down to their last reserves. they sent more children out of the city. tightened air raid precautions. stationed more airplane spotters. rehearsed firefighters. they blacked out their city and carried on. >> the first blow aimed to crush the british spirit came on september 7.
>> control room speaking. >> take cover in the basement. please do not run, but keep moving. >> third floor, clear. >> second floor, clear. >> third floor, clear. >> that day, when 375 german planes came rolling up the thames river, the battle of britain became the battle of london. the germans broke through the hurricanes and spitfires that went out to meet them. gone was any pretense of
for 28 days, the nazis dropped everything in the book on the city of london. tons upon tons of high explosive. delayed action bombs that exploded days later. torpedoes that sheared away whole buildings. underneath the war in the air, the war on the street went on. he learned to exist with very little food. he forgot what it meant to have a nights sleep, spending most of his time underground in the damp and dark and cold. >> are you early tonight? >> i am right on time. >> i will be back in a few minutes. >> how are we going to get across there? >> have him lift you up.
>> the air raid wardens stayed at their posts. doctors and nurses worked on steadily, as the bombs crashed all around. rescue squads labored night and day. >> is she dead? >> firemen battled to put out fires. this was like an eclipse. against all of the rules of nazi warfare, britain was refusing. >> across the channel, the enraged goering took personal command of the operation.
>> error minister communiqui. the biggest yet. 185 enemy aircraft shot down. end of message. >> of the 500 planes that came over that day, more than one third were shut down. -- were shot down. >> the nazis dropped 60,000 pounds of bombs. killed 10,000 civilians and wounded thousands more. bombs fell on buckingham palace. westminster abbey. the house of parliament.
fleet street, the center. st. paul's cathedral. bombs blasting the historic past of the lives of englishmen. but, in these 28 days, the nazis lost 900 planes and their crews. the more they sent over, the more we shot down. the british spitfire proved to be one of the deadliest weapons ever put in the hands of man. if this kept up, pretty soon, no more luftwaffe. >> the frantic nazis had to pull a new one. they did. on october 6, they changed tonight attacks. maybe that way they could avoid those deadly spitfires and hurricanes. maybe that way they could to
♪ >> the raf wasn't much help at night. this was just german bombs against british guns. >> hi harvey. >> hello, jay. >> the great docs of london were left roaring infernos. homes were destroyed by incendiaries. business blocks were aflame. >> and still the people of london took it. night after night, they burrowed underground. and morning after morning, they
>> don't you think you better go away for a little bit? >> of course not, you won't send me out of my home. now go on, you have to get to work. >> the battle of london was the battle of the people. in spite of bombs, they got to their desks and workbenches to spend another 10 to 12 hours, working, working, working. the british spirit was stronger than ever and the raf was lying higher. not only higher, but further. >> operations for the night. gt 59 two. 10 aircraft. >> it was a very good one the other night.
>> that's it. there is the graveyard, right there. >> this is your target for tonight. the shipbuilding yards. it is an important target and it has to be hit, hard. >> in the midst of this struggle, the british found strength not only to defend, but to attack with the bombers they could get together. >> charlie airborne, sir. >> hello rear gunner, can you hear me?
♪ >> hitler could kill them, but he could not lick them. they went back to their lathes and machines, for they knew the machine bench was as deadly a weapon as the rifle and in their heart was a determination that this enemy must be destroyed. that the day was coming that the must strike back. and how they would strike back. >> christmas, 1940. >> ♪ o come let us rejoice ♪ o come let us -- ♪
>> millions of firebombs rained down on the great city of london. in a matter of minutes, more than 1500 different sections of the city burst into roaring flames. flames that quickly merged into the greatest fire in recorded history. ♪ in the midst of all the fire and destruction, vital water mains were ruptured.
water pressure was almost entirely cut off. heroes of the night were members of the london fire brigade, who stretched fire hoses to the thames river's. the germans had carefully picked tonight when the thames river had one of the lowest tides on record. while london burned, the people of the city held on. chin up and thumbs up. they knew this was the people's war, and they were the people. and the people who could not be panicked, could not be beaten.
hitler had lost the battle. he lost 2375 german planes and their crew. for the first time, it was the germans who ate the better dirt of defeat. for a solid year, the nazis struck britain with all their might. they leveled thousands upon thousands of homes. they killed more than 40,000 men, women and children, and seriously wounded 50,000 more. but not one single nazi soldier set foot on the british isles. but, hitler would not stop. why did the nazis -- why did the nazis lose the battle of britain? first, because a free people
made them quit cold. >> we have been bombed, high level bombs. machine guns. we have been through two invasions here. we are still sticking it and we are going to stick it. >> second, because this was a new kind of war and the raf were men who could fight. these were men who belonged to what hitler called those weak democracies. the british did more than save their country. the one for the world a year of precious time. it was not only for the people of britain, but for the people of the world that winston churchill spoke when he said, -- >> never in the field of human conflict was so much owed to so
>> we are privileged to witness tonight, the significant achievement, and achievement none thought possible a year ago. or even a month ago. and achievement that reflects the courage and wisdom of these two leaders. >> the 1978 film, prime work -- film, framework for peace. and sunday, a look back on the 1998 bombings at the u.s. embassies in kenya and tanzania. >> we were meeting with the minister of commerce. we heard an explosion. most of us went to the window. 10 seconds later, a great train sound and impact of high-energy hit all of us.
213 people were instantly killed. 48 of whom were employees of the united states. >> watch on american history tv, this weekend on c-span3. sunday night, on q&a. cbs news chief white house correspondent major garrett talks about his book, mister trump's wild ride. >> it's not just about partisanship. i describe donald trump as proto-partisan. he is bigger than partisanship. there is this emotional dynamo that he spends within people. he does it intentionally. sometimes he doesn't even know he is doing it. but it happens. he is influencing every aspect
of american life. culture, politics, and, in ways you detected, the ways journalists interact with this ongoing story. next, on american history tv, another film from the why we fight serious. in war comes to america, filmmakers take a look at isolationists and americans reluctance to join the war effort before the attack on pearl harbor in 1941.