20th Century Battlefields is eight-part documentary series produced by the BBC, we see television and radio personality Peter Snow, and his son Dan Snow examine some of the greatest battles of the 20th century. Battles that have shaped the world we live in today. Even now at the beginning of the 21st century, for all of our advances, we still haven’t managed to eliminate the scourge of war. In fact, over the course of the last hundred years, humanity has seen war waged on a greater scale than at any other time in history. These are some of those battlefields:
1) 1918 Western Front: The series begins in northern France at the start of the 20th century with the most destructive war the world had yet seen. A war that involved tens of millions of troops from all around the world and led to a greater death toll than any previous war in history. The First Wolrd War, established the way that battles are fought to this very day. New weapons like tanks and aircraft were used for the first time with devastating effect.
2) 1942 Midway: In the summer of 1942, two tiny islands located in the middle of the pacific ocean, west of Hawaii were at the heart of an epic battle fought between the navies of Japan and the United States. It was a battle that decisively altered the course of the Second World War. Japan was intent on using its Navy to expand its power in the Pacific, the plan was to destroy the Navy of the United States of America. It was the coming of age of a new type of warfare at sea. This was the War in the Pacific from the Attack on Pearl Harbor to the Battle of Midway.
3) 1942 Stalingrad: Over 70 years ago a battle was fought in this great Russian city that would be the turning point in the Second World War. It was one of the longest and hardest fought battles of all time. For five months German and Soviet troops fought each other street by street, building by building, and room by room.
4) 1951 Korea: Along the banks of the Imjin River in Korea in 1951, America, Britain, and their United Nations allies were locked in a battle with tens of thousands of communist troops. What was it that moved the allies to cross the world and fight in Korea only five years after the bloodshed of the Second World War was their drive to stop communism spreading further.
5) 1968 Vietnam: On January 31st, 1968, the people of Siagon in South Vietnam were celebrating their New Year festival called Tet. Suddenly savage fighting broke out, it was the beginning of a nationwide communist assault which changed the course of a long-running Vietnam War. It was of course the Tet Offensive.
6) 1973 Middle East: The Middle East was a battlefield for most of the 20th century but one of the hardest fought wars of all was in 1973, when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
7) 1982 Falklands: In April 1982, an invasion by Argentina provoked one of the ambitious military undertakings in British history. Britain sent a naval task force and 15,000 men to fight for a small group of islands on the edge of the Antarctic. Britain was now at war with Argentina, but the odds were spectacularly uneven.
8) 1991 Gulf: In 1991 a small Arab state of Kuwait was at the centre of the last major war of the 20th century. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had invaded Kuwait putting nearly half the world’s oil within his reach. Virtually everyone agreed that he needed to be stopped. Over one million troops faced each other across the battlefield and revolutionary new technology like the stealth bomber, cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs would make this a battle, unlike anything seen before.
Directed by: Dan Kendall