Comic strip explains World Wars in five minutes

I'm an idiot when it comes to geopolitical history, so I learned more about the World Wars from Angus McLeod's two comic strips than I learned from all my years of schooling.

World War I simple version | World War II simple version (Thanks, Safiyya!)


  1. Entertaining, but I wouldn’t call it a learning experience. It’s little more than propaganda to make Americans feel like they saved the world twice in a row.

    They didn’t. They were almost completely ineffectual in WW1, really they only were good for supplies. Canadians were the most effective soldiers in that war, the Germans called them ‘Stormtroopers’ and were genuinely terrified of them.

    WW2 was Russia beating seven shades of crap out of Germany’s strongest armies and troops before America even set one foot in Europe. Stalingrad and the battle at Kursk claimed about 1.5 million German soldiers, their most experienced soldiers, and those both took place in or before 1943.
    The Battle of Britain also claimed most of Germany’s experienced fighter and bomber pilots before the shitty American P51 came anywhere near the place.

    America: Experts at Jackal warfare.

  2. It’s so weird to see something about the Second World War without the mere mention of Nazis, just with the whole set of clichés Americans and Europeans have about each other. Deeply weird.

  3. This may give a quick overview of which countries did what to whom, but it makes a dangerous generalization. In the end people make decisions and take action, not countries. Countries are not living sentient beings. Powerful people use the metaphor of “country” in order to do things they couldn’t get away with as “just” people. The same problem occurs with “corporations” doing things. The empty headquarters building didn’t do anything. The people did.
    Credit and blame really belongs to the people behind the flag or logo.

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  5. I don’t see how anyone can’t doubt that that US involvement in the First World War brought the war to a conclusion. Before the US got involved, it was just a stalemate that could have gone on for decades.

    Now, if you want to see exaggeration of US involvement, look at the Second World War. The Russians really saved the day there and don’t get nearly the credit they deserve in the West.

  6. What the heck is that comment about Mark’s surname supposed to mean?? O_o

    Hilarious strip, though of course it simplifies things, but I think it was meant for fun, not as a substitute for history books. Personally I find even such satirical education aids helpful, if only for the inevitable mnemonics- I’ll remember a humourous drawing that will lead my mind to remember other details I might have otherwise forgotten. Not that this strip has taught me anything I didn’t already know, but in general terms, yay for funny and well-rendered drawings that help teach.

  7. Last time I read up on it (sometime last year), I got the impression that the driving force behind the defeat of the Central Powers in WWI was their lack of materiel. They just didn’t have the resources to continue the war whereas the Allies were well provided with supplies from their empires and America.

    As I understand it the arrival of the American troops was useful and certainly welcomed by the Allies but by that time Germany was fighting a losing battle. They had very little food and very little fuel. Many of their aeroplanes were grounded from lack of fuel and oil.

  8. Ummm… yah, “explain” is a funny word to use there. It’s American propaganda, completely ignoring the rather significant contributions for the rest of the allies. Sorry Yanks, but your contribution wasn’t nearly as big as you think. Especially in WWI.

  9. That said – Finland holding back Russia with one hand is hilarious. Very funny comics.

    Just not really historically accurate.

  10. American propaganda? As someone who routinely has to remind my US acquaintances that it was not Uncle Sam but the Soviets who chased the Germans out of my country, I felt that comic put it pretty fairly. The only suggestion that the US always saves the day comes from the personified country itself.

  11. That panel of China and Japan having a sword fight is pretty funny. And Japan disintegrating like Wile E. Coyote.

  12. America “threw” two bombs, where’s the other one? Not to mention detonating a test somewhere in its crotch area.

    All in all, it was pretty clever. So it’s not accurate, and there’s a ton I could add and critique, but let’s face it- it’s just a great excuse to draw the British Isles going into Super-Sayan-Imperial-Mustache mode.

  13. This is a brilliant political cartoon. The WW1 must be new, because I was already familiar with WW2 from at least a year ago.

    The guy has talent.

    Whats next? Roman Empire? The Crusades? Viet Nam war? Napoleonic wars?

    This guy could do amazing work with any of these.

  14. Chemist: Yah, it’s definitely all about the mustaches!

    Still, some basic history errors. Russian didn’t have “a truce” with Germany. They were partners in the Rape of Poland, amongst other enterprises, up until the moment they were double-crossed. They made WWII possible and a case can be made that they’re as responsible for it as Germany. Especially if you consider the latest biography of Mao showing that the Chinese Communists deliberately started the war with the Japanese in order to mop up the remains later. (The Japanese weren’t really interested as they were getting everything they wanted through an extortion racket they were pulling on the Nationalist Government.)

    Saying that “we saved the world” is as creditable as the status of the guy marching at the head of the Orphans’ Parade because he shot his parents.

  15. It’s not “propaganda”. It’s “humour”. It’s history in the same sense that Hark! A Vagrant! is history – broad strokes with jokes in between.

  16. Just to pile on the Americans (I’m an American): The only big war we’ve ever really, thoroughly, decisively won was against Japan, and we kind of cheated.

    I am actually okay with my country not being good at war. I like to think that it’s not in our Christian (I’m an atheist) character–the good parts. But since we’ve all been sold this line that we have won 2 world wars, the US thinks it’s good at wars and then keeps trying to get involved in them–and we keep having our ass handed to us.

    We’re bad at war. We should stay the hell out of it, unless we are attacked ourselves. And then, we should cheat.

  17. The Soviets ‘saved the day’ in WW2?

    Certainly not in the Pacific theater where they invaded on the last freaking day of the war in a quasi-successful attempt to cut Japan in half.

  18. FDR refused to enter the war since he advocated reforms by law and not by force. However, that did not stop the US from helping the Soviets with food aid and some ammo.

    This US clandestine operation of aiding the Soviets created a rift with Japan, who were at war with the Russians for disputed border territory.

    Japanese used clandestine operations to attack Pearl Harbor as a statement of concern, forcing the US to take sides. The rest is history.

  19. I would say that the States also thoroughly and decisively won (and lost!) the American Civil War of 1861-65. I’m just saying. We really kicked our own asses all over the place.

  20. I think these strips are gently mocking the “Americans ride in and save the day,” just as they’re mocking all the other countries. To wit: in the WWI strip the newspaper that announces US involvement has a headline reading “it’s about time, you lazy yanks” or something to that effect.

    In the WWII strip, the US claims victory and hands France a flag, and France says something like “uh, thanks, I think?” The strip’s version of the Pacific war culminates in a portrayal of the US volunteering its help by bombing Japan, when China looked like it already had it covered.

  21. This reminds me of a musician I saw who performed a song summarizing world war 2 in song, with a slide show to accompany it. It was great fun.

  22. @Anonymous | October 21, 2009 11:24 AM

    You’re right. America has never done anything. In fact, I’m not even sure it exists…

  23. It also continues the glossing over of the fact that the two world wars are really one with a break. The fight was largely over wealth and who would get to exploit/colonize the most.

  24. Oh come on.

    Its a cartoon that uses countries to show a very generalized (and sure, not accuarate or truthful) view of both wars. Why are so many people taking it so seriuously and criticizing it?

    Its not like this is being used as textbook or anything.

  25. This must be a European website. I don’t mind America bashing when deserved but the idea that America’s role in WWII was as a jackal is absurd. What did we do? Well, we gave (supposed to be paid for but never was) Russia all that materiel they used to kick the Nazi’s ass. If you want to understand what was thought about our contribution at the time, read Winston Churchill’s history of the war.

    You know, we aren’t perfect (as the Bush administration proves) but I think Europe would be speaking German now if we hadn’t have helped. It wasn’t like you guys were doing all that well when we declared war on Germany and Japan. (Oh yeah, since the provocation to fight was Pearl Harbor, we should have ignored Europe and gone straight for the Japanese. That’s the way a jackal would have done it.)

  26. I think it’s sad that whenever I come to the comment section here, I already expect a bunch of hipster backlash. It’s so cool to hate everything. The whole America bashing is getting a bit cliche, don’t you think? Meh.

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