Published on April 19th, 2010 | by Chris3
Reader’s Digest WWII in the Pacific
Tomorrow brings the release of the Reader’s Digest WWII in the Pacific 6-DVD box set from Questar. I was fortunate enough to have an early glimpse at this, and I’m glad I did… but….
The set comes in a fairly attractive package, the black/white with gold accents is a nice addition to the shelf. Each disc is in a slim-line case, so overall the package isn’t overwhelmingly huge…. The set breaks down like this (and my review of each follows)
Disc 1: America Taken by Surprise- 1941.
This a roughly one-hour-plus long documentary on the events leading up to and including the attack on Pearl Harbor. Actually this is a pretty good portrait of events in the Pacific before Pearl. I’m glad to see material like this included in a “Pacific War” set. A lot of times we’re basically told that WWII in the Pacific started at Pearl, and that’s simply not the case. Everything from the rise of the Empire, their conquest of Asia, and the politics behind everything…. Excellent material. Although it cuts between lots of photographs, actual stock footage… and plenty of scenes from the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!” which are unmistakable….
Disc 2: Attack and Counterattack – 1941-1943, and Disc 3: Victory in the Pacific – 1944-1945
Discs 2 & 3, though, are the real gems of this set. They’re roughly 2-hrs each completely made up of US military films of the period, chronicling various battles, from Pearl all the way to Okinawa. Context is everything here, folks, and if you don’t have it you won’t enjoy these. Made for military personnel, by military personnel, presumably during the war, there’s a lot of propagandistic comments. Not that its a bad thing, its a reflection of history we need to have.
I believe at least some of these were directed by John Ford, and some of the latter ones are narrated by Ronald Reagan, others narrated by the same voice you’ll hear in the Looney Tunes “travelogue” style cartoons. I can’t remember (or find!) the credit at the moment, but the voice is unmistakable.
Some of the footage on these two discs is brutal, so fair warning. It is entirely “in the trenches” footage, and is just what you’d expect. The sound effects that were added to these films back then can get a little tedious, with the same explosions, machine guns, and screaming aircraft… but what’re you going to do? I didn’t intend to sit and watch the entire thing, rather just skip through, but I couldn’t help myself. I found them that interesting.
But… These films stop at Okinawa. Wha? Read on.
Disc 4: Crucial Turning Points
At this point, the set begins to confuse me. Disc 4 is “Crucial Turning Points” of the war. Unfortunately, only a few of these have anything to do with the war in the Pacific at all. There’s (IIRC) a spot on Pearl, and I believe one on Iwo Jima, and finally at the end of these is a piece on the A-bomb and the Japanese surrender. It’s too bad that most of the pieces are about the war in Europe! I didn’t watch any of those, so I can’t comment on them. I’m sure that they’re good pieces, just I was in for the Pacific, and, well.
I will say this: The piece on the A-bomb and the surrender *is* quite good. Not just a “we dropped 2 bombs and they surrendered!” bit, it goes into details surrounding the development of the bomb, the Potsdam declaration, and more. Very educational.
Disc 5: Headline Stories of the 20th Century: World War II
I was really psyched when I saw the description of this! I had envisioned an entire disc full of newsreels from the period from the beginning of the war through the end. Unfortunately, here again there’s a great deal of material dealing with Europe. Doubly unfortunate is that while technically it is newsreel footage, its cut and edited with plenty of contemporary voiceovers into historical-based segments. I admit to running out of time to really dig into these, I’ll do so later.
Disc 6: Going for Broke
Here we’re promised the story of the 442nd, the unit of Japanese-American soldiers who went to… Europe(!) to fight. I’ll also admit to not getting to this disc. But. Here again, this is dealing with the European theater, and has little to do with the Pacific campaign, other than the fact that these guys happened to be of Japanese ancestry. Not to belittle what they did and what they went through, but as a part of a “War in the Pacific” set, I’m not sure its entirely relevant.
Conclusion? Truthfully, I think this set it worth it alone just for the first three discs. If you’re an armchair historian / military history/film buff, definitely. The government footage of discs 2/3 alone is worth the price of admission. I didn’t have a chance to dig into the extras on most of the discs either, except for Disc 1. There you’ll find some stories from each of the ships attacked at Pearl, which while short, are interesting.
WWII in the Pacific drops tomorrow 4/20/10, and you can likely find it anywhere you’d find sets such as these, including Amazon (aff. link below.)
Here’s a taste of the type of material you’ll find on discs 2/3. I think this particular piece is on there, at least in part, if not completely.
Reader's Digest WWII in the Pacific Box Set
A GRIPPING WORLD WAR II DOCUMENTARY OF THE PACIFIC WAR. U.S. Military Combat Footage that includes Oscar-winning documentaries by legendary director John Ford. A story more compelling than any Hollywood fiction…
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Original Release Date:
Summary: Truthfully, I think this set it worth it alone just for the first three discs. If you're an armchair historian / military history/film buff, definitely. The government footage of discs 2/3 alone is worth the price of admission