Blog of the Weik: World War II Today

Where do you go online for your daily news? Sites connected to print publications like the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune are popular among readers, and NPR is helpful for people on-the-go —  but what about blogs? Martin Cherrett is one blogger who uploads world news every single day –– the only thing is, he’s about 70 years late. His blog, “World War II Today,” posts one article a day, compiled of all the historical information he can unearth on what happened that day during World War II. You can literally, as his tagline reads, “follow the war as it happened.”

Launched in 2008,   Britain-based Cherrett originally planned on researching World War II to write his own history book, searching archives on websites like Wikipedia and BBC and spending time in The National Archives in West London. He began posting some of his findings online to determine which aspect of the war to focus on, and, as he wrote on his blog, “since then the blog has developed its own life.”

Every day, Cherrett follows a strict research routine. To form the basis of the story, he first searches for an official account or a photograph. Then, he hunts down memoirs and personal accounts from key players and eyewitnesses during that event in order to provide perspective.

In a way, this historian’s job is similar to a reporter’s job, only instead of racing to the scene and interviewing bystanders, he’s heading over to the library and looking up journals.

Take a look at the entry for Oct. 31. While we were out trick-or-treating and party-hopping this year, 70 years ago, the German troops fighting in Russia used flamethrowers to destroy the Soviet infantry. Photos of German soldiers spewing fire on the Eastern Front in 1943 provide the visual narrative, along with a detailed journal entry from Günter K. Koschorrek, a German soldier who went on to publish entries in his memoir, “Blood Red Snow: The Memoirs of a German Solider on the Eastern Front:”

“Even before the flame-thrower has disappeared into the hollow, we can see the long jet of flame as it spews out of the barrel and burns everything in its path to a crisp. Panic erupts in the hollow — we can hear all the yelling. And with the thick black smoke comes an unbelievable stench of burnt flesh and clothing.”

Travel further back to Jan. 20, 2012, a Friday. While UC Irvine students sat in their last classes before the weekend, a group of Nazis met in a villa in Wannsee to draw up their official plans for the mass murder of all Jews in Europe in what came to be known as the “Final Solution.”

Cherrett manages to paste a photo of the list of all the cities and number of Jews the Nazis planned to evacuate, along with personal comments from Adolf Eichmann, who played a lead role in organizing the deportations. This meeting, just two hours long, would mark the beginning of the Holocaust. And though the entire posted list is printed in German, there lies one number at the bottom that can be understood in any language: 11 million.

But the post we’re waiting for the most has to be June 6, 2014. It will be another Friday that UCI students will spend preparing for finals, but it was also the day when, 70 years ago, the U.S. and its allies invaded Normandy, France in one of the most infamous World War II events: D-Day. And because the war officially ends in 1945, Cherrett has just two more years to spend with his project before he runs out of material. Maybe after that, he’ll move on to the Vietnam War –– a more recent war that can provide him with actual TV footage –– or perhaps he’ll challenge himself and step back to WWI or the Civil War.

Whether it’s an event as well-known as the bombing of Britain (June 20, 1940) or more seemingly-mundane photos of Adolf Hitler on an early-morning tour of Paris (June 23, 1940), you can’t deny the surreal feeling that comes with the knowledge that on this day –– the day you’ve just taken a midterm or eaten a bagel –– almost 100 years ago, history was being made.