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When the World Held Its Breath: The “What Ifs” of Operation Barbarossa

“The world will hold its breath!” is the reaction Adolf Hitler promised when planning the most ambitious conquest of the war he had inflicted upon the world: Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. When it came to pass, the German dictator had been largely justified in making his claim. Barbarossa was the largest invasion of all time and would lead to an existential struggle that, even in the context of the global conflict surrounding it, was incomparably brutal. The fact that the Eastern Front of the Second World War would have been the world’s deadliest conflict on its own is a testament to this fact, and ultimately it would prove to be Hitler’s undoing.

Barbarossa’s aims, strategic, racial, ideological, were designed to be the final culmination of Hitler’s plans for a vast Nazi empire in which there would be ample living space for an expanded German population and sufficient resources to fuel a superpower that would be able to conquer the United Kingdom and eventually go toe-to-toe with the United States. The peoples of the Soviet Union, decreed to be subhuman by Nazi propaganda, were to be deported, enslaved and exterminated to make way for the new master race, with their innate racial inferiority making their lands forfeit to their new Aryan colonists.

The failure of Barbarossa spelled the end of these plans, and made a mockery of the absurdity of Nazi racial doctrine, but also more importantly the supposed invincibility of the German Wehrmacht. The Soviet Red Army was badly mauled but it survived, and from Moscow to Stalingrad to Kursk grew stronger and more resilient until they outmatched their German foe and began to march west in the face of increasingly desperate German resistance, until the red flag was raised above Berlin.

Given the importance of the outcome of Operation Barbarossa in ensuring the demise of the Third Reich, it is only natural that it has been the subject of a great deal of speculation both in questions posed by historical works but also those of alternate history. Given that those of us involved with Sea Lion Press are lovers of both, I thought I would cover five of the most popular “what ifs” that are often discussed about Barbarossa to see whether or not we can draw some conclusions. Or at least generate more discussion about a part of the Second World War that is still poorly represented in popular retellings of the conflict.

So without further ado, let’s jump into the thick of the German invasion and consider a scenario that haunted many in the German High Command as the Red Army was bearing down on Berlin: What if the Germans had pushed onto to Moscow in the summer of 1941?

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Mrs America

Mrs America

Mrs America is neither the takedown of a conservative activist feared by the right nor the glorification feared by the left.

The Hulu drama series fairly portrays both sides of the debate over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA): the feminist movement, led by the likes of Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) and Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), and the anti-feminist reaction, led by Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett).

The series sticks close to the truth (Cornelia Channing has tracked the historical accuracy of all eight episodes for Slate), which is why this review will reveal a little more about the plot than we usually do. If you don’t want any spoilers, watch the series first (I recommend you do anyway!) and then come back.

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What If World War II Never Happened?

After two series in which World War II ended worse than it did — one in which the war never ended and another in which the Axis won — let’s try a more optimistic scenario: a world in which World War II never happened.

Here we’ll take our cues from the Indiana Jones movies, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) and the art of Marcos Ceia and Stefan Prohaczka.

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The Vintage Egyptologist

Colleen Darnell and her husband John have devoted themselves to Egyptology and educating people on the subject — in the vintage styles of, mostly, the 1920s. All the more reason to follow them! Not only do you get a look at exquisite Roaring Twenties fashions; you learn a lot about Egyptian history.

I recommend their Instagram and YouTube channel. (Did you know the Egyptians had cat memes?) They have a dedicated Instagram account where you can learn to read hieroglyphs.

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The Times of Scrooge McDuck: The Master of the Mississippi

The Master of the Mississippi

The Master of the Mississippi (1992) is the beginning of Scrooge’s American adventure.

Having worked as a cabin boy for passage across the Atlantic, the 13 year-old lad from Scotland finds his Uncle Angus “Pothole” McDuck — who also sought his fortune in the New World — down on his luck in Louisville, Kentucky. But Pothole wins a steamboat, the Dilly Dollar, in a poker match and hires his nephew as deckhand, introducing him to both a lifelong ally — Ratchet Gearloose, the grandfather of Duckburg’s eccentric inventor Gyro — and lifelong enemies: the criminal Beagle Boys.

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Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

It’s 2045. War is the main industry and cryptocurrencies are invalid, leading to even more conflict and civil unrest.

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 doesn’t start with a bang. It takes several episodes before the plot gains momentum and you’ve seen enough of the world, and the people in it, to really get into it. But it’s worth sticking with it.

Unlike such dystopias as Mad Max, the post-apocalyptic world of SAC_2045 is familiar to ours. It’s about real people. The series shows the impact of a large economical crisis and currency devaluation on average people.

The impact of the United States as a global power on other countries is another nice touch. It’s a bit of a cautionary tale, and this aspect of the anime is very well done.

What is less well done is the animation. I am not a fan of this style of cheap and basic-looking CGI at all, and I feel the anime deserves better.

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