PBS’ New WWII Doc Another Important Addition To Iwo Jima’s Story

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Distribution

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

February 19th, 2016 marks seventy-one years since the beginning of the battle for Iwo Jima. What remains today one of World War II’s most infamous battles, it lasted for roughly forty days and claims hundreds of lives on both the American and Japanese side. It also marked the beginning of the end of the way in the Pacific. Last December PBS and PBS Distribution released a new retrospective on the battle in the form of Iwo Jima: From Combat To Comrades. While the DVD may have been released late last year, the upcoming anniversary of the nearly two month-long battle is a fitting presentation as the world remembers the sacrifices made not just by the Americans that served and fell but those that were forced to serve on the Japanese side. That’s right. Believe it or not not every Japanese soldier wanted to fight as has already been noted in the movie Letters From Iwo Jima. That is echoed here, too in this program’s presentation. Speaking of the presentation, it is the central element that makes Iwo Jima: From Combat To Comrades worth the watch. The interviews and footage that are used to tell the program’s story are collectively just as important as the story itself. The program’s editing rounds out its most important elements. Between the interviews and vintage footage of the battle for Iwo Jima, Rob Goubeaux, ACE, is to be commended for his work. Thanks to his work, the interviews, footage and more seamlessly interweave and tell a story that like so many others helps maintain the memory of those who served and the importance of the conflict. Together with the program’s main story and the elements used to tell the story, all three pieces combine to make Iwo Jima: From Combat to Comrades a piece that every military history buff should see at least once and that every member of the military past and present will appreciate.

Iwo Jima: From Combat To Comrades is not the first profile of the battle for Iwo Jima that has ever been released on the subject in question. This aside, it is still a presentation that history buffs and military history buffs will appreciate just as much as America’s military personnel past and present. This is especially the case as the seventy-first anniversary of the nearly two month-long conflict nears. That is made clear through the program’s central presentation. The roughly hour-long presentation recollects the events that unfolded from February 19th to March 26th, 1945. It explains in no uncertain terms that despite the popular belief, the raising of the flag atop Mount Suribachi was not the end of the conflict. In fact, it clearly states that fighting went on well after the flag was raised. That is just one part of the program that makes its story such an interesting watch. There are first-hand stories told by those that were there about the events that unfolded throughout the conflict. From one American soldier grabbing a flamethrower and clearing out seven pill boxes to one Japanese soldier’s story of gratitude for being saved by an American Marine rather than killed and much more there are plenty of stories that audiences will enjoy and appreciate throughout. For all of the interest raised by the program’s numerous stories they are just part of what makes the program’s central story so interesting. The message of peace and humanity that lies at the very heart of everything is what is most powerful here. Throughout the program the survivors on both sides continually echo the message that they were all human and the feelings about the lives that were lost on both sides. The desire of the previously noted Japanese soldier to thank the Marine who saved him is just one way in which the message is exhibited. One of the men on the American side notes in his story that we are all human and that because of this, there was really no reason for the fight. The varied stories of men who gave their lives and the emotions felt by those that survived and had to return home drives that message home even more so. Whether for those moments or for the many others noted throughout, the overlying message of peace and humanity that is presented here makes the program’s central story one that will stick with audiences just as much as any other story of Iwo Jima and/or any other of World War II’s conflicts. Together with the stories themselves the whole of the program’s central story shows clearly why it is such an important part of the program’s whole.

The story that lies at the heart of Iwo Jima: From Combat To Comrades is unquestionably an important element in its overall presentation. The elements that are used to tell the story are just as important to the program as its story. The elements in question are interviews from those that fought at Iwo Jima, vintage footage of the conflict, and footage of the most recent reunion of those men. The interviews, as already noted, include interviews not only with American forces but at least one Japanese soldier who showed that not every Japanese soldier wanted to be involved in the ongoing fight against America. He echoes the story presented in Letters From Iwo Jima that in fact many Japanese soldiers were in fact forced to serve because of the Emperor. He clearly states that he did not care about the view that the Japanese had about being taken by American forces. He didn’t even consider it being taken. Rather he called it being saved and was wholly grateful for being saved. One of the most interesting of the interviews from the American side involved a Marine explaining the difficulty in returning to everyday life after being discharged. He notes he couldn’t return to normalcy because of what he went through while other men didn’t come back. It is such a painful and telling statement; a statement that the military should have been paying better attention to its men even that long ago and that PTSD is obviously nothing new. The footage of the men fighting and dying on Iwo Jima drives that message home even harder. The footage of the survivors’ latest annual reunion is just as powerful. It shows just how few of those survivors remain today and thus the importance of maintaining the memory of both the men who served and the conflicts in which they served. Altogether the combined interviews and footage effectively tells even more stories from the battle for Iwo Jima. They also serve to help drive home even more the program’s overlying message about the need for peace. It’s just one more way in which the program shows itself to be another important watch both for military and history buffs and for military personnel past and present.

The story that lies at the center of Iwo Jima: From Combat To Comrades and the material used to tell the story are both key to its presentation. As important as both elements are to the program in whole, the work of editor Rob Goubeaux, ACE is just as important to the program. Goubeaux took director/producer Carol L. Fleischer’s calls and assembled that footage and interviews seamlessly. The interviews are lined up expertly with footage old and new alike for the clearest story possible. They also combine to have quite the long-lasting emotional impact on audiences. The expertise exhibited in Goubeaux’s work also serves in turn to exhibit Fleischer’s focus and attention to detail and that of her fellow producers Lori Mason Frye, Arnold Shapiro, Tetsu Uemura, and Seigo Samura. Thanks to their combined efforts the end result is a presentation that while not the first program ever presented about Iwo Jima, is still one that every history buff and military history buff will appreciate just as much as military personnel past and present.

Iwo Jima: From Combat To Comrades is not the first program to ever focus on the battle for Iwo Jima. Any number of programs centered on Iwo Jima have been released since its end. Even with this in mind it is still no less interesting for history and military history buffs and for military personnel past and present. That is thanks in large part to the two-part presentation that lies at its center. That presentation not only tells another angle of the conflict’s story but also the importance of peace and humanity. The elements that were used to present both portions of that presentation are just as important to the program. They include interviews with both Americans and Japanese men who fought in that fateful conflict. The program’s editing rounds out the program’s presentation. It connects the story and all of its core elements for an hour-long experience that audiences of all types will want to see at least once. It also serves to show the work put in by the program’s producers and director. The end result of those efforts is a presentation that while not the only presentation on Iwo Jima to ever be released, is still one that is worth at least one watch. It is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=78873156&cp=&kw=iwo+jima+from+combat+to+comrades&origkw=Iwo+Jima+From+Combat+to+Comrades&sr=1. More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

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WWII in HD is a powerful, fitting tribute to the Greatest Generation

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Home Video

Never forget.  Those two simple, tiny words have echoed throughout America’s people since the tragedy of September 11th, 2001.  That dark day was this generation’s Pearl Harbor.  It changed our country forever, just as Pearl Harbor did for the Greatest Generation.  Sadly, today roughly only ten percent of that generation still remains today to tell the story of what happened when the United States entered the war, which had already ravaged much of Europe for two years.  Now, thanks to History Channel and A&E Home Video, a new piece of the history from World War II has been brought to light in order to make sure that no generation will ever forget.  That piece of history is the recently released WWII in HD Collector’s Edition on blu-ray. The WWII in HD Collector’s Edition on blu-ray was released May 15th of this year.  The new collector’s edition is one of the more comprehensive sets released in recent memory.  The two primary discs that make up the set take audiences from the dark days when the Nazi occupation began spreading through Europe straight to the closing days of the war when the allied forces finally closed in and tightened the noose around the Nazi forces in the German capital of Berlin.  It also includes two bonus discs.  The first of the two bonus discs is a roughly forty-minute program that focuses on the battle to take the island of Iwo Jima.  It goes into full depth explaining how rather than taking ten days (as was predicted by one official), the battle to claim the island took more than a month.  The raising of the two flags atop Mount Suribachi was only one part of that horrific battle.  The second bonus disc focuses on the air war over the European Theater and its attempts to disable the production of Messerschmitts in Nazi occupied Germany.  The run time on this program is just under an hour and a half.  But it is truly worth that near ninety-minutes for anyone from military historians to students to the most casual of viewers.

The story presented in WWII in HD starts off in Germany, 1939.  Audiences are first introduced to Austrian Jew Jack Werner.  He is one of a dozen figures from whom audiences will learn what life in the war was like.  Werner came to America to escape the Nazis.  He also came with stars in his eyes, hoping to become a movie star.  When that didn’t happen, he ended up working in a flower shop before joining the American war effort.  The other eleven figures are:  Bert Stiles, Shelby Westbrook, Nolan Marbrey, Jack Yusan, Rockie Blunt, Archie Sweeney, Richard Tregaskis, Charles Scheffel, Jimmie Kanaya, June Wandry, and Robert Sherrod.  Each figure brings their own perspective to the men and women who served during one of the country’s most difficult times.  North Carolinians will appreciate the mention of Archie Sweeney, who was voiced by Mark Hefti throughout the program, was originally assigned to Fort Bragg before entering the war.

Among the more interesting pieces of history included in WWII in HD are that when America’s military first entered the war, it was hardly the largest or most well trained.  That lone puts the entire war into a wholly different perspective.  Audiences also learn of the reaction of Nurse June Wandry to providing candy to the captives in the concentration camps, and of the prisoners themselves to receiving said candy.  It’s one of those moments that will bring even the most emotionally strong individual to tears.  There is also note of how President Truman actually gave the Japanese the opportunity to surrender.  He offered them two chances, as a matter of fact.  It was because they refused both of those chances, according to the documentary, that both bombs were dropped.  Audiences will also learn other interesting facts such as the landing force used at Okinawa was larger than that used at Normandy on D-Day. 

WWII in HD shares so many stories that there is no way to tell each one of them.  And while there is no way to possibly tell each individual’s story shared in this mini-series, one thing is certain, though, of this presentation.  The complete story shared in the WWII in HD Collector’s Edition reminds viewers of the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform past and present.  It helps us to appreciate everything that they have gone through and go through today.  It serves not only as an educational tool or entertainment.  Rather, it serves as a tool to ensure our world will hopefully learn from its past, and never forget.  Audiences can purchase this box set in stores or online at http://shop.history.com.

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