PBS’ NOVA: D–Day’s Sunken Secrets is another invaluable program for anyone that has any interest in the history of World War II or in military history in general. As informative as the program is, one can’t help but note that it perhaps could have benefitted from a different title. That’s because most of the program focuses more on the operations of Operation Overlord than on the sunken remnants of the Normandy invasion. That isn’t to say that that moment in time is completely avoided. But it doesn’t focus on that aspect near as much as one might be led to believe by the program’s title. That aside, it is still an interesting piece of World War II history that adds yet another chapter to one of the biggest operations in military history that might otherwise not have been known by some. And that’s just the beginning. Audiences will be interested, too to discover that the program’s narrator is himself a WWII veteran who was also there on D-Day. And last to note is the use of vintage footage against modern video of Normandy today to help illustrate the story of what happened on D-Day and the days that followed. Each factor plays its own important role in the overall success of this presentation. Together, they make a program that while perhaps improperly titled, still is an important story that needed to be told.
The first aspect of NOVA: D–Day’s Sunken Secrets the fact that it reveals another chapter of sorts to the story of the D-Day invasion. It reveals a part of that history that might not have otherwise been known. Everybody knows about the initial invasion by Allied forces. And sometimes discussed by historians is the immense planning that led up to the invasion. However, many might not know that then general Ike Eisenhower actually wrote a letter taking full blame for the operation should it fail. Interestingly enough, whether or not the initial operation actually failed comes up between a military veteran and a military historian. The true irony is that the veteran, when posed with the question actually says that in his own view, the operation did in fact fail. He notes that it failed in that the men that took the beachhead went without the air coverage or the planned naval coverage, either. Add in changing tides, much like at Dieppe, and the argument is made that while Allied forces eventually took the beaches of Normandy, the operation was still a failure at least in its planning. That argument actually makes sense. Had those men had the planned coverage, it is possible that casualties would have been far fewer among Allied forces. Just as interesting to note is that German U-boats were still patrolling the waters off of France’s coast even after the initial invasion, which led to its own share of sinkings. There was also the failure of the “floating tanks” and much more discussed throughout the course of the program’s near two-hour runtime. All of that and more will definitely keep audiences watching and wanting to learn more about what really happened on D-Day and the days that would follow. It is but one part of what makes NOVA: D–Day’s Sunken Secrets another important addition to the vast history of World War II.
Another important factor to consider in the overall success and enjoyment of this episode is the use of an actual WWII veteran as the program’s narrator. For that matter, the use of a veteran that fought at Normandy makes it especially interesting. Peter Thomas narrates the program. And while he does quite the job in his role, it is obvious that he does at times become somewhat choked up as he carries out his duty. It could very well be this critic’s own interpretation. But it certainly sounds like he does in fact choke up at times. If that is the case, it’s a welcome change from every documentary out there. It actually adds a certain realism to the program that is sadly lacking in those other programs out there. It adds a more human element for lack of better wording. That human element will pull in viewers even more and lead them to feel at least a modicum of the emotion felt by those that served on that fateful day. It’s one more impressive touch to this program that makes it another invaluable addition to the library of any lover of military history or history in general.
The use of an actual WWII vet that fought on Normandy and the inclusion of even more information on the history of that groundbreaking operation both are key to the overall enjoyment of NOVA: D–Day’s Sunken Secrets. The final aspect of the program that audiences will appreciate is the inclusion once again of actual footage filmed as Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. Just as much, audiences will appreciate the use of video illustrations outlining the movements of both Allied and German forces before and after the initial landing and battle to reclaim the beachhead. Viewers will be amazed at the CG recreation of the Allied forces’ man-made harbor and how it worked with the waters off the French coast. The bridges that were created were an engineering feat far ahead of their time. So, even those with an interest in engineering and construction will find something to like about this episode of NOVA. It’s the final touch to another overall impressive albeit slightly mis-titled piece of World War II history.
NOVA: D–Day’s Sunken Secrets is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34895296&cp=&sr=1&kw=d+day&origkw=D+Day&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online at http://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline, http://twitter.com/novapbs, and http://www.pbs.org/nova. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.