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October 12, 2022 25 mins

In Part Two of LikeWar, we focus on how technology and war first came to be linked. Before the internet, the printing press, the telegram and the radio all transformed from means of communication to essential weapons for fighting - and winning - wars.  

This episode features the expertise of Dr. Robert Citino, Senior Historian at the World War II Museum in New Orleans. 

This series is adapted from the book LikeWar, written by series narrator Peter Singer and series contributor Emerson Brooking. To learn more about their research and defense work, you can find them on Twitter @peterwsinger and @etbrooking.

 

Get the book at LikeWarBook.com.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:07):
An episode one of Like War. We all saw how
Isis took the world by storm, but Isis' ability to
weaponize the Internet wasn't a one off. Time and time again,
new technologies have been exploited to gain power and change
the tides of war. One of history's greatest examples of

(00:29):
that is Germany and the Radio. I'm Peter Singer. Today
we'll go in depth on the beginning of this new
type of battle where war, technology and politics collide. This
is Like War Part two, a high frequency invasion. Let's

(01:02):
set the scene. We've gone back through history to nineteen
thirty three Germany. Adolf Hitler has just been appointed Chancellor.
The early stages of his plans to unite the German
people and dominate Europe were beginning to take hold. But
before he could do that, he needed to stomp out

(01:23):
any opposition. All dissent within and outside the Nazi Party
was crushed. He banned all other political parties. Strikes among
socialists and trade unions were the next to go, and
then individual thought was buried under a wave of Nazi propaganda.
The matching seething squashed Alas Nazi Congress comes to an

(01:45):
end this year, they say that eight hundred thousand pairs
of boots standing here to here. And perhaps most important,
Hitler's message was spread far and wide so that it
was inescapable to German ears. My co author Emerson Brooking
is here to help explain more. Hitler understood theater. He
spoke with sort of barking harshness which a lot of

(02:09):
Americans still associate with the German language today. And if
you listened to him, you could be carried away by
him waiting for the pier's final speak. And the high
spot comes when, after a detailed review of Nazi achievements,
Hitler cries, my life's fight has not been in vain,
and things that once seemed impossible to believe, much less

(02:33):
act on, soon became your reality show window of at all.
Hitler's Nazi Germany today as its capital city Berlin, Here
the casual visitor may be surprised by the air of prosperity,
the well dressed, proud, and by the abundance of rich
food served in its cafes and terraced Berlins parks and

(02:53):
playgrounds are filled with groups of plain, cheerful people who
show no signs of dissatisfaction with the fascist dictators which
controls their lives, no apparent resentment against the government whose
campaign of suppression and regimentation has shot the world's democracy.
The mastermind behind it was a Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Gobles.

(03:13):
Only those who get behind the scenes know that this
outward cheerfulness is the creation about all Hitler's propaganda. Minister
Paul Joseph Gebels in the most constantrate that propaganda campaign
the world has ever known. Minister Gebbels has, in five
years of Nazi rule, whip sixty five million people into
a nation with one mind, one will, and one objective expansion.

(03:39):
Just like isis. He took a new technology and turned
it into a tool of manipulation and destruction. His weapon
of choice was the radio broadcast, a technology enabled one
to reach millions simultaneously. Pro Nazi sympathizers replaced broadcasters across
the country. Goebels united all of the regional broadcast companies

(04:01):
under his Ministry of Propaganda. But of course, in order
for his messages to reach the people of Germany, Germans
had to have radios in the first place. Of course,
Goobols had a plan for that. Captured under a new
Nazi slogan a radio in every German house. Nazi Germany
helped subsidize the production and invention of cheaper and cheaper

(04:27):
radio technology to ensure that as many people as possible
received a radio receiver in their own homes. Mass production
of the People's receiver began, making radios available to the
majority of German citizens. But there was a catch. They
could only tune into Nazi stations, and when there wasn't

(04:49):
a radio available, they had a plan for that too.
A system of loudspeakers broadcasted Third Reich speeches throughout offices, schools, restaurants,
and public squares. It sicken the radio and this propaganda
effort enabled the widespread indoctrination of the German people. But

(05:11):
Hitler's machine didn't stop and start with his speeches. It
went much further. By this point, his regime had banned
jazz music across all German radio for its association with
black and Jewish communities. The Goebel's recognized that if they
wanted to reach a global audience, they couldn't completely reject

(05:33):
pop culture, so he created a Nazi sponsored swing band
given the unassuming name Charlie, and his orchestra. The band
covered the latest American and British jazz hits, but the
German version had one big difference. The lyrics were placed
with pro Nazi, anti Semitic messages that Churchill batman with

(06:00):
war and thing Wold falk round by his apron ring
one for Churchill am his bloody war. Of course, not

(06:22):
everyone was on board with a Nazi cause, but by
that point those voices had long been silenced descent. Even
an act as small as listening to a BBC broadcast
was punishable by death. Indeed, as Goebels would later say,
our way of taking power and using it would have
been inconceivable without the radio. Were holding on stubbly, and

(06:49):
even were lay a heavy barrel and on them, fearing
the way by going to go forward. As World War

(07:09):
Two officially began in ninety nine, state run radio had
become an integral part of Germany's war machine. At home,
pro Nazi broadcasters trumpeted messages of unity and military might
and no Nem attack. The grown bombers put five enemy
and aircractic sounds out of commission with machine gun and
tenant fires. Berlin broadcast in the news across the pond.

(07:36):
The Germans took advantage of listeners seeking information about the
war and their soldiers abroad. They even aired daily foreign
language broadcasts disguised as news. Mildred Giller's was one of
those broadcasters. This is and I just like to say
that the lion born in America. She had studied the arts,

(08:01):
taken drama lessons, and even appeared in a few vaudeville shows,
but she was unable to establish herself within the theater community.
That change when she moved to Germany. Still seeking an audience,
she got a job as an announcer for a German
state radio station. She took on the pseudonym access Sally.
From there, her propaganda's career took off. She targeted the

(08:24):
hearts and minds of Americans, both abroad and in the US.
She sought to disheartened soldiers with lurid stories of infidelity
among their wives and sweethearts. In turn, she exploited women's
fears that their husbands, sons, or brothers would never come
home good. Even women of America. I don't know. As

(08:44):
I goes then I think of you more and more,
you women in America waiting for the running love waiting
and weeping in the of your only thinking of the son,
all the brother's being sacrificed. Salsuncan persho on the fringing.

(09:09):
The Nazis propaganda campaign wasn't always successful. A radio may
have been somewhat effective and demoralizing their enemies, these broadcasts
didn't actually result in the surrender of any nations. The
way Germany harnessed the power of radio and the physical battlefield,
though that's a different story. After the Allies handed them

(09:30):
a resounding defeat in World War One, the Germans realized
they couldn't win the next war if they fought the
same way. According to Rob Setino, the senior historian at
the National World War Two Museum, that preparation is what
made them nearly unstoppable in the first few years of
the Second World War. So in the interwar period, the

(09:50):
Germans carried out a fundamental reassessment of virtually everything they
did on the battlefield in World War One, their entire approach.
They realized there were numerous times when if they had
only had a mobile arm that is, a weapon that
could get forward rapidly under the firepower intensive conditions of
the front, that they could have won battles and and

(10:12):
so I think this is something people often this. We
we speak of the Germans and blitz create lightning war.
We think about that, and we think of tanks, and
we think of aircraft, think of dive bombs, and we
think of fighter planes. But what we almost never think

(10:32):
about is the real breakthrough the period, and that was radio.
I think the Germans realized that if they were going
to fight mobile warfare, that is tanks zipping around the
countryside at thirty or forty miles often hundreds of miles
from their base, aircraft shooting through the skies from every direction,

(10:54):
that if they were going to do that, they needed
better forms of command and controlled, better methods of gad
the ring in disseminating information. And so the Germans really
were the only ones in the inter war period, I
think to take that notion seriously enough. In the early
nineteen thirties, for example, this is before Hitler came to power,
the German army carried out a so called fulk Ubum,

(11:15):
a radio exercise with three hundred officers, two thousand men,
almost five hundred vehicles of all sorts, hundreds of radio
sets and and the like, and and then you know,
they looked at how it had worked, and they saw
what worked, and they saw what didn't. And I think
that expertise with the radio goes a long way towards

(11:37):
explaining German success in the first full year of World
War Two. And now the Nazi Horde set out to
avenge there, having been quoted in World War One that
they've done this time. No hastily recruited taxicab army barred
their way. This time, no inspired Marshal Jacques but turned
them back. Nineteen eighteen has forgotten except by these German

(11:57):
offices who see the cemetery that conceals the dead of
their earlier defeat. All this was part of Hitler's bigger
plan to take down the mighty Allied armies that had
defeated them in World War One. Simultaneously, when nat Feet
smashed across Holland, Belgium and looked on May tenth, ninety
the Germans hit those countries with a bombardment of air raids,

(12:19):
parachute drops and ground troops. The Germans were preparing for
a difficult fight. They had relative parody in the air
with the opposing Allied troops, but they were outnumbered on
the ground, having both fewer tanks and soldiers, but they
were able to leverage a couple of advantages. One was
their mobility, the fact that their their force relied much

(12:39):
more on tanks and and motorized and mechanized vehicles. The
fact that those mechanized vehicles were receiving orders and sending
back situation reports by a radio. Think about on a rando.
The Germans simply bewildered their adversary. They launched as strong
forces in the north against Holland and Belgium. It was
kind of a spectacular force. It had some paratroopers in it.

(13:02):
Dive bothered they've gotten There was a glider assault on
the big Belgian fortress of haven A all but not.
The machine broke the back of Dutch resistance in four
day and it looked like the main event, but it wasn't.
This real purpose was to be a diversion to get

(13:24):
the Allies looking to the north. Immediate going en route
is the city of Metz, and again the pattern of
conquest is to be followed. As French and English forces responded,
pushing north into Belgium. German troops launched a surprise attack.
The main event was taking place far to the south
where an immense German armored force. Germany at ten panzer

(13:48):
divisions and seven of them were in this force, over
forty thousand vehicles, over twelve hundred tanks. They're passing that
huge armored force through the Ardenne forest, tangled undergrowth, winding trails,
steep banked rivers and streams. It's it's not at all
tank country. If you want to think tank country, think

(14:10):
Kansas or the Ukraine. You know, flat as a pancake
or gently rolling hills. This is the last place you
would you would expect to see a tank attack launch.
And of course that was the point. The Allies were
completely unready for it. By May twelve, you know, that's
day three of the operation, the German tanks had gotten
through the Ardennes and had emerged from the forest. Motorized

(14:34):
divisions follow a big gun garage. Metza's forts are blasted
and infantry advances on remaining defendants. With Imagino line in
German hands, the Blitzkrieg again gets underway. They launch a
gigantic assault on the French position at Sedan in northern France.
Artillery blasts French positions, infantry and Russia is to mop up.

(14:56):
At this point in World War two, Germans had broken
through a De Namur Sadon momade, and in the course
of fighting over the next day or so, this huge
German tank force tears a gigantic hole in the French
line along the Mus River, some fifty miles wide, and
then breaks out in the open races top speed across
the French countryside. It's countryside that has been untouched by wars,

(15:19):
like a joy ride. I mean, there's some There's a
French attempt at a counter stroke, a small British attempt,
but neither one did did much damage. And by May
twenty they were on the English Channel. They had cut
off that gigantic Allied force to the north. Here in
cross Boom, just across the Rhyme, fresh military forces are

(15:39):
headed to all the heart of France. The Germans surrounded
French troops from all sides. The British fled, evacuating hundreds
of thousands at Dunkirk. By mid June they were in Paris,
and by the end of the month the French had
signed their humiliating surrender. As the French announced their loss good,

(16:01):
the Germans once again took to the radio to broadcast
their remarkable victory to play they need the little need.
Imagine the homage paid Hitler on his every public appearance
as each new victory justifies his plans and promises. Remember,
it was coordination via radio that enabled the Germans to

(16:23):
move so quickly and decisively. Military commanders could simultaneously coordinate
on the ground and in the air. They could completely
change their plan of attack with the turn of a dial.
This is an object lesson in the command advantages of
the radio. Look if if those German troops attacked had
to telegraph the plight they were in back to headquarters,

(16:44):
that message would have to be encoded, sent by a telegraph,
a rive at headquarters, be decoded, be carried over to
the you know, to to the commander, who would then
have to go through the same process again to give
his response. It could take hours, by which point, you know,
the circumstance as could have changed dramatically. But but here
we have a big German armored force diverted from its

(17:07):
objective within twenty four hours, heading in the diametrically opposed direction.
And all of that has to do with the superiority
of the radio. So no tanks no mechanized force, and
above all, no radio to control them. No great German victory.
It was a stark departure from the original intention of

(17:28):
the radio. Some forty years earlier. Its inventor had claimed
that it would be a herald of peace and civilization
between nations. But just like the Internet, the humble Radio
had strayed far from that path. Instead of empowering peace,
technology has been weaponized again and again and again. Technology

(17:48):
and war, the interplay between the two is a fascinating subject.
I think war generates technological improvements, technological innovation, technological advancement,
precisely because you're in a situation of life and death.
Ideas you might have had earlier on they would say,
well that's a pipe dream, or that would be too

(18:08):
expensive to produce, or that would be too complicated to design.
Well maybe now you're gonna get someone to fund it,
and that somebody will be you know, the governments, the
various governments involved. But I think war and the imperative
of war gives you an urge and impulse to change
and advance the technology, and so all those technologies that
may have been intended for peaceful use soon find themselves weaponized,

(18:31):
they soon find themselves being employed in war. The history
of the printing press is tied inextricably to the Thirty
Years War, too, the sort of mass produced pamphlets and
propaganda that helped make the most destructive conflict per capita

(18:55):
in Europe's history possible. Those pamphlets were mass produced by
none other than Artin Luther, who used them to launch
the Protestant Reformation. The subsequent religious wars resulted in the
deaths of more than five million people. When Samuel Morris
invented the telegraph, he saw himself as a profit of peace,

(19:17):
but the fact is some of the telegraph's most practical
uses in funding came from militaries. Morris's invention was almost
immediately put to use broadcasting military orders, wartime updates, and
even fake war news. A herald of peace. It was not.

(19:41):
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the relationship between technology
and wars, that technology is often proves to be a
double edged sword. Look in the nineteenth century, it was
the telegraph, and you know, wires that had to be
strong on poles, and that was a way of actually
giving your troops in the front almost instantaneou commands it
took a while to encode and decode, but you know,

(20:03):
you formally had to employ a writer or a runner
with a piece of paper in his hand. So that
was an advance, but you know what, it was also
a limitation. Troops found that they could not operate very
far away from the from the telegraph net, or they'd
sort of be out of communication with their headquarters. The railroad.
In the ninetey century, same deal. You could send troops

(20:24):
around the countryside at twenty or thirty miles an hour
in a way that you never could have previously. But
armies couldn't operate very far from the rail line, so
it's pretty obvious where they were going to be attacking.
Let me say the same thing about radio. It gives
all sorts of advantages. It's real time. I can be
the commander. I can pick up a radio, I can
talk into the headset and and my subordinate commander here's

(20:46):
my voice, almost instantaneously. But the radio two is a
double edged sword. Because I'm the I'm the commander, or
I'm I'm the President of the United States, I'm the furre.
I can radio my general's all day long and tell
them what I think they ought to be doing, and suddenly,
you know, that notion of giving some sort of initiative
to the man of the front becomes more and more illusory.

(21:10):
You start feeling like you're no longer really in control
of your troops. And that's how a lot of German
generals were feeling by the midpoint and the endpoint of
World War Two with regards to taking orders to model Hitler.
So technology gives and technology takes away. The same could
be said of the biggest technological inventions since World War Two.

(21:32):
I think of the iPhone. I mean, the iPhone has
been the greatest communications revolution in human history. You know, really,
the iPhone has brought the world together in a way
that it has never been before. But you know, terrorists
use the iPhone as well to put together almost uncrackable
networks of evil that that carry out a nefarious accent

(21:52):
and and bombings and have made human life miserable in
the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries. I love
social media. I love getting together virtually with all my friends.
But you know that too, can be used by any
number of charlatans and liars to to spread misinformation into
really poisoned people's minds. You know, we've seen a lot

(22:14):
of that in America in the last eighteen months. Let
us say so technology is only as a good or
as evil as the people wielding it. In fact, I
would say that technology is neutral and can go either way.
The answer to bad technology, of course, is better technology.
But we're always going to be stuck with human nature.
Technology is an integral part of warfare because you are

(22:38):
constantly trying to understand your adversary in order to defeat them,
constantly searching for new tools to exploit their weaknesses, new
tools that they won't anticipate, which could overpower them. And
because of that rival militaries are always on the hunt

(22:58):
for new technology as they can turn the tables. The
people and governments who harness them the best control the
modern world, and they hold onto that power until the
rest of the world catches up, or until something bigger
and better, like the next new technology, comes along. If

(23:20):
these stories have taught us anything, it's that war and
the latest technology will only become more and more intertwined.
Germany weaponized just one invention, the radio, and multiple devastating
ways that one tool spread Nazi messages to millions via
speeches and music, and it was also used to coordinate battles.

(23:42):
But the Internet has unlocked a whole slew of new tools.
Iis was able to use many of them simultaneously, spreading
its propaganda on social media, messaging apps, twitter bots in
private chat rooms. But these devastating uses of technology aren't
exclusive to war in far away countries, though it happens
here too, in the streets of the United States. That's

(24:06):
next on Like War, How cell phones and social media
posts lead to tragedy in Chicago. This is a production
of I Heart Podcasts, Graphic Audio and Goat Rodeo. Karas

(24:30):
Shillen That's Me is the series lead producer. This episode
is just one of a seven part series. Find other
episodes wherever you get your podcasts. If you'd like to
dive deeper into the work of P. W. Singer and
Emerson Brooking, you can access the full audio book Like War,
on which this series is based wherever you get your

(24:51):
audio books. Writing and editing from Karash Shillen, Production assistance
from Isabelle be McGowan. Senior producers are Ian en Wright
and Megan Nadowski. Please share this series with the hashtag
like War to find other conversations about the series. Thank

(25:13):
you for listening. M
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