Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Legacy of WWII

I just finished watching an excellent documentary on World War II from the History Channel called WWII in HD. This documentary follows the lives of twelve Americans throughout the war and explores the different battles and campaigns from their perspective as well as the impact of the war on their lives. What makes this documentary stand out is that most of the footage it shows had never been seen before. Despite some qualms about it, this is one of my favorite documentaries about WWII.

I know I'm a few years late in seeing it, but I thought it did a good job highlighting some of the most famous battles from the war including Guadalcanal, D-Day, Iwo Jima, the Battle of the Bulge, and Okinawa. However, I felt that the documentary skipped over too much of the early days of the war when America wasn't doing so hot. It also focused solely on the United States' involvement excluding events in Russia and China. But having just taken a class at Boise State about WWII, I understood the war from a different perspective than watching the episodes alone.

One of my favorite episodes in the series is called "Bloody Resolve," in which the main story is about the Marines fighting for Tarawa. I liked how the episode demonstrated the terrible price the U.S. would have to pay to fight the Axis, especially Japan. It did not gloss over the casualties to show heroic deeds but showed a lot of dead Americans on the beaches. This reminded me of a discussion in class about how cruel and merciless WWII became. To fight the Germans and Japanese, Americans had to be just as cruel and merciless, bombing German cities and knocking Japanese troops out of caves with flamethrowers. Then, of course, America dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, killing thousands instantly.

The more I learn about World War II, the more I find that many documentaries only highlight how America won, painting WWII as "the good war." In reality, WWII was the most destructive war in history with over 60 million casualties, over half of them civilians. Let's not forget the Holocaust either. For my WWII class last semester, the instructor wrote on the syllabus, "I am sorry if you dislike human beings after the end of this course." Now I know why. Instead of being the good war, the legacy of World War II is more aptly described as the unspeakable things human beings to do each other.

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