Friday, November 19, 2010

WW2 in HD: The Air War


I taped this History Channel show a couple of weeks ago but just this week had the time to sit down and watch it.

Before I comment on the show, I need to point out that I'm really critical when it comes to the History Channel when they do WW2 subjects.

I have a tendency to nit-pick and find errors in the show's narrative. Sometimes I wonder if the writers for History Channel get all their information on historical personalities, battles and equipment from Wikipedia. This is especially true when the subject is World War 2 air combat. My start in miniature wargaming began with a 80-person dogfight over the Pacific at Origins '86.

Since then I've read hundreds of aviation books and seen virtually every aviation war movie. I was also a researcher on a series of volumes devoted to the Eastern Front air war.

...and you know what, I liked WW2 in HD: the Air War. I thought it was really well done. The images and pictures and sound is spectacular!

The program centers on a 100th Bomb Group bombardier, a 4th Fighter Group pilot, a B-17 pilot and journalist Andy Rooney. Andy Rooney was one of the first Stars & Stripes journalist allowed to fly with the fledgeling 8th Air Force. Actors provide voice overs when their letters are read. All 4 men also give interviews and speak about their experiences.

Few people know that the 8th Air Force suffered more war dead than than U.S. Marine Corps. When a bomber was shot down, it knocked 10 airmen out of the war. Escaping from a stricken bomber at 25,000ft didn't give much chance of survival. Fighter pilot also suffered when they went "to the deck" and conducted strafing.

The air battles covered were: Blitz Week in Jul-1943, the Regensburg/Schweinfurt raid in Aug-43, and the 1st raid on Berlin on Mar 6, 1944.

What I liked:

Color film - I've seen most of the footage, but in HD it has new life.
Sound - Instead of using the old film sound, new digitized sounds of Merlin engines, B-17 engines, .50 cal firing and a slipstream all add life to the images.
The Vets - I liked hearing about their feelings. How the grizzled veterans knew it all boiled down to luck, while the rookie pilot was gung-ho and had no idea what was waiting for him at 25,000ft.
The Show - Emphasized the men and their sacrifices. No tales of glory. These men served their country and did a job.

What I didn't like:

Clip Repeating - in the first hour the same bomber was shown going down many, many times. I know where the clip is from - the Bremen raid documented for the Memphis Bell wartime film (no, not the cheese ball movie from the 90's).
Wrong Clips - Footage from a B-29 raid over Japan. I know the clip.
The Ger-Mans - Showed 109's from the early Battle of France and not the more common 109G's.

None of these subtract from the show at all.

After watching this show, I feel the need for a game of CY6! or Mustangs and Messerschmitts.

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