The only people to see the war like this were the ones who lived it. Until now…
Seventy years in the making. Three thousand hours of colour footage no one knew existed. The first documentary to show World War II from the perspective of both sides in full, immersive HD colour, the HISTORY™ series WWII in HD
uses the diaries of soldiers who fought in the war’s biggest battles to create a personal, introspective and detailed look at life on and off the front lines. Though it was illegal for U.S. soldiers to carry diaries, many hid them away in their packs and recorded their experiences in detail.
Now, through the use of these diaries and other source documents, as well as HD colour and on-location shooting around the world, WWII in HD
transforms their journey into a tangible piece of history. Culled from rare colour archival footage from an exhaustive worldwide search and converted to HD with meticulous technique, WWII in HD
provides a picture of World War II as it has never been seen before.Episode 1: Darkness Falls
By 1940 Europe has erupted into war, while America does its best to stay out of it. But after Pearl Harbour, America finds itself thrust into a two-front war it is ill-prepared to fight. Darkness Falls Austrian immigrant Jack Werner flees the Nazis and comes to America, where he enlists in the Army so he can join the fight against Hitler. Other young men, like farmhand Archie Sweeney, are pulled in by the draft. Gung-ho combat reporter Richard Tregaskis lands with the Marines on the jungle island of Guadalcanal. College senior Charles Scheffel hastily gets married before deploying to North Africa. Episode 2: Hard Way Back
America has joined England in the fight against the Axis, but is undecided as to how to proceed. Rookie platoon leader Charles Scheffel suffers his first losses as he battles Rommel’s Afrika Korps in Tunisia. Also in Tunisia, wise-cracking nurse June Wandrey gets her first taste of the war’s horrors. Farmhand Archie Sweeney is shot dead while on patrol. Meanwhile Sergeant Jack Werner experiences his first taste of active combat against the Japanese in a bitter battle to retake the Aleutian Islands. Episode 3: Bloody Resolve
By late 1943 America’s industrial might is starting to gear up. But when combat journalist Robert Sherrod lands on Tarawa, the machines the Marines were counting on fail them, turning Tarawa into one of the bloodiest Pacific battles yet waged. Marine Nolen Marbrey joins MacArthur’s island-hopping campaign in the South Pacific, but his patrol is lost behind enemy lines on New Britain. Meanwhile reporter Richard Tregaskis leaves the Pacific for the front lines of Italy’s bitter slugfest, where he is hit by enemy mortar. Episode 4 - Battle Stations
As 1944 opens, the Allies are feverishly planning for the invasion of France. Starry-eyed pilot Bert Stiles joins the decimated 8th Air Force as they try to clear the skies over Normandy. In the Pacific, battle-hungry Jack Werner is frustrated during the Americans’ attempts to seize the valuable airfields of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. Charles Scheffel is in England, preparing for the D-Day invasion. Finally, D-Day arrives.Episode 5: Day of Days
America is on the offensive, but hopes for a speedy victory are premature. Lt. Charles Scheffel is hit on his way into the Normandy beaches and must recover in an English hospital. In the Pacific, reporter Robert Sherrod accompanies the massive invasion of the heavily defended island of Saipan, where Japanese civilians become part of the war’s tragic equation. Naïve Navy enlistee J
At first glance, the very concept of WWII in HD
seems like an oxymoron. After all, isn't the footage from back then nothing more than grainy black-and-white newsreel? And really, how much definition can be added to film that was shot more than 60 years ago? The answers: no, and quite a lot, actually. The quality of much of what is seen in the course of these 10 episodes (each around 45 minutes long) is surprisingly good. Add to that the fact that most of it is in colour (not colourised, but originally recorded in that medium, some at the behest of the United States government), and the result is nothing short of astonishing. It's not easy viewing; there are sequences that are shockingly graphic (vivid examples include the carnage on view after major battles and the shots of Japanese civilians on the Pacific island of Saipan hurling themselves off cliffs to avoid capture by American troops). But all of it has been put to good use in what is undoubtedly one of the most compelling accounts of World War II ever produced.
Other documentaries have chronicled the same events seen here, from the earliest days of the war (when Hitler was overrunning Europe and the ill-prepared Americans were still years away from becoming involved), through Pearl Harbour, the major confrontations with the Japanese in the Pacific theatre (like Guadalcanal, Tarawa, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the incomparably bloody Iwo Jima) and with the Germans in Europe and North Africa (the invasion of Tunisia, D-day, the Battle of the Bulge), and straight on to victory in Europe and finally the Japanese surrender after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But what separates WWII in HD
is the filmmakers' decision to view these events through the experiences of a dozen individuals who were actually there, including a couple of war correspondents (one of whom, Richard Tregaskis, was the author of the seminal Guadalcanal Diary); an Austrian immigrant who escaped the Nazis and almost immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army; a nurse with General George Patton's Third Army; an African-American pilot who was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen; a Japanese-American medic who fought heroically while his family was held in an internment camp; and others from the rank and file. All of them are voiced by such actors as Rob Lowe, Amy Smart, Steve Zahn, Josh Lucas, and LL Cool J; and with Gary Sinise providing voice-over narration, the whole piece comes off as a dramatic film as much as a straight documentary (an effect also enhanced by some brilliantly creative juxtapositions of words, images, and music). Not all of these men and women made it through the war (those still alive also appear in on-camera interviews), but none could ever forget the horrors they witnessed, and while those of us who did not serve will never really comprehend the sacrifices they made, this remarkable programme may be as close as we can get. --Sam Graham