House of History: the Podcast

House of History: the Podcast

House of History is the podcast where tales of fascinating historical events, periods and people are shared with the world. History, the real thing, tends to be more amazing than a great film or terrific novel. The House of History Podcast will be published three times per week: Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 12:00 GMT.

Episodes

April 7, 2021 11 min

Barbed wire is something we all know, and perhaps use on a regular basis. the history behind this 'devil's rope' is an interesting one. It certainly changed the world.

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One of the most interesting Prisoners of War taken by the Allied powers was a Korean soldier that served in the German Wehrmacht. He had only recently fought on the side of the Germans, however. Before that, he fought in the Japanese Imperial Army in Mongolia and the Soviet Union's Red Army in Ukraine.

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Some people consider the unexplained Wow! signal as proof of extraterrestrial life. Although this strong multi-band signal from outer space occurred decades ago, there still isn't a commonly accepted conclusion about what caused it, or how it originated.

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When the Wehrmacht rolled into Austria in 1938 during the Anschluss, there was one officer commanding a Panzer regiment that stood out. He wasn't a German, and frankly, wasn't even European. Chiang Wei-kuo was the son of China's generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, received military education in Bavaria, and even commanded a Panzer regiment as Germany annexed their southern neighbour. 

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Wilhelm Voigt was a petty criminal, in-and-out of prison, destined to be forgotten after his death. Yet in 1906 he pulled off a heist that not just made international headlines, but news even reacher Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Kaiser was so amused by the way Voigt conducted his robbery, he decided to pardon him not too soon after his arrest.

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During the Second World War, nearly 50.000 United States soldiers and 100.000 British soldiers deserted. But even though these numbers are quite staggering, and desertion tends to lead to a court-martial and harsh sentence, there was only one United States soldier throughout the entire war that was to be executed for that exact crime. His name was Eddie Slovik, and he was well aware he was the only one.

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In August 1944, after multiple devastating losses by the Wehrmacht, the Long Range Signal Intelligence Company (FAK 103) received a message from one of their Soviet spies. This spy, named Alexandr, stated there was a Wehrmacht unit, around 2500 men strong, trapped behind enemy lines trying to reach the German frontlines again. What followed was one of the longest-lasting, most costly, and most successful deception operations of the...

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In early February 1948, a strange and urgent morse-code SOS, three dots, three dashes and three dots again, came from a Dutch cargo ship, the S.S. Ourang Medan that sailed through the Strait of Malacca.

When deciphered, they spelt: “... All officers, including Captain dead, lying in the chartroom and on Bridge …. Probably whole crew dead…” A series of frenzied gibberish dots and lines followed, before the closing message came in, ...

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When a Berlin Wall Border Guard defected in 1961, little did he know the images taken of his escape would become some of the most iconic pictures of the Cold War. Yet the story behind this man is much lesser-known.

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As war broke out in the Pacific Theatre, on the United States mainland measures were taken against supposedly potentially hostile Japanese as well. In February 1942 President Roosevelt authorised Executive Order 9066, an executive that in practice was used to relocate Japanese Americans to internment camps forcibly. The Nisei, a term to describe Japanese that were born and raised in the United States, were forcibly relocated into i...

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Gregory "Pappy" Boyington was a troubled, but excellent American combat pilot. He was a USMC fighter ace during the Second World War, and according to his own account, he was the top ace of the entire USMC. Crashed and captured by the Japanese during his record-breaking flying mission, he was presumed dead for over a year, until the war ended and he turned up in a POW camp.

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On April 23rd 1918, the French newspaper Le Matin published an article. Its headline read “Manfred von Richthofen has been shot down in the vicinity of Amiens. There is no certainty yet as to what exactly happened, though it is certain this will be a huge blow for the German morale. We see this as righteous vengeance.” This French newspaper wasn’t too wrong: von Richthofen’s death indeed was a massive blow to German morale. Because...

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Although Australia and the United States formally were Allied during the Second World War, there were some fundamental differences between their servicemen stationed on the island.

This led to the infamous Battle of Brisbane between American and Australian service troops. But aside from this battle, an even weirder event led to… well I’d say horrible PR for the Americans. Among their troops stationed in Australia was a serial kill...

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Japanese snipers during the Second World War have, surprisingly enough, not been subject to a lot of research and writing. The Japanese army began deploying snipers much later than any other major participant of the Second World War. Japanese snipers used tactics that generally were dissuaded by other armies because of their high lethality ratio.

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As the end of the Second World War was coming closer, the Allied powers made preparations for the inevitable stream of German prisoners of war that had to be housed. In total, 1026 prisoner of war camps were established in Britain. They accommodated a bit over 400.000 German PoWs that were shipped there. Among these camps was Camp 198, also known as Island Farm. The camp was situated on the outskirts of Bridgend, South Wales. The m...

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The Edelweiß Pirates were youth gangs that opposed the ever-increasing totalitarian grip of the Nazi regime. Their actions ranged from passive resistance to robbing munitions depots and even murder. Curiously enough, after the Second World War came to an end, a group of post-war Nazi resistance cells coopted their name and carried out a series of bombings and attacks against the occupying Allied powers.

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The German Hanna Reitsch was one of the best test-pilots ever. She attended the 1936 Berlin Olympics and participated in the Air Sports discipline; she broke multiple endurance and altitude records and has flown nearly every German aircraft during her career. She flew bombers, fighters, and even the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet-rocket plane. She was one of the first test pilots to fly the Focke-Achgelis Fa 61, world’s first operable ...

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On December 7, 1941, the 'battle' of Ni'ihau commenced. For obvious reasons this incident is usually overshadowed by the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Ni'ihau incident was a deadly incident on an island that was assumed to be deserted, but was inhabited by a few Hawaiians. What followed was part of the population siding with the Japanese pilot, and part of the population siding with the United States once they realise...

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The May 1943 secret operation by Britain's Bomber Command to destroy several German dams located in its industrial heartland, the Ruhr Area, was a groundbreaking mission. Not just because of the risk involved, but because a new weapon would be used for the first time: the so-called 'Bouncing Bomb'.

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During the Second World War there were multiple people from Allied countries that deserted to the Axis powers. Actually, there are too many to name them all. Some of them ended up working propaganda jobs, and the ‘American-Germans that travelled to Germany to defend the Reich’ was of course immortalised by the (fictional) scene in Band of Brothers. But all these people generally deserted before there was a full-fledged war between ...

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