Over 60,000 years ago, the first modern humans—people physically identical to us today—left their African homeland and entered Europe, then a bleak and inhospitable continent in the grip of the Ice Age. But when they arrived, they were not alone: the stocky, powerfully built Neanderthals had already been living there for hundred of thousands of years. So what happened when the first modern humans encountered the Neanderthals? Did we make love or war?
A look at the Battle of Britain, examining the limited resources the British military were left with following the retreat from Dunkirk, and the pressure on German forces to conquer England quickly, so attention could be switched to Russia. The second half of the programmes examines the US entry into the war, in defiance of the promise made by President Roosevelt during his re-election campaign.
When Hitler expounded his intention to invade Russia his generals looked at him in horrified silence. The Soviet Union was vast and had matchless resources. Hitler's whole plan depended upon striking a swift and decisive knock-out blow. Get sucked into a long, drawn-out war and Germany would surely lose. Hitler was certain his forces could do it. No one had so far defeated them. But there had never been a military gamble like it... This film takes in Stalingrad and the battle of Kursk, the biggest tank battle in all history.
Since December 1941, a vicious war against Japan was being waged in the Pacific. The Japanese were driven back across the ocean, island by island, in savage hand to hand fighting. American dominance at sea was finally established in "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot", when radar gave the US Navy advance warning of a huge Japanese attack and the last vestiges of Japanese naval air power were destroyed. But this film also looks at the war in the jungles, in places like Burma, where new specialist fighting units - like Orde Wingate's Chindits - slowly pushed back the Japanese despite horrific conditions.
German commanders discover the efficiency of gassing prisoners, and Auschwitz transforms from a small backwater camp for those resisting the Nazi occupation of Poland to a large scale extermination camp for Jews.