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WWII in HD: Edge of the Abyss (2009)
**** (out of 4)
Ninth and next to last entry in the wonderful series from The History Channel spends most of its time focused on Okinawa as well as the Battle of the Bulge. We learn that the Okinawa battle was considered by many to be the biggest in the war as it featured over 180,000 troops and more than 1,000 ships. We also learn how the Japanese soldiers went full force in their suicide beliefs by crashing their planes into the American ships. Some of the color footage of this happening is quite remarkable and that's especially true for one of the first shots where the plane flies above the camera by what appears to be a couple dozen yards. The scenes of them crashing into the ocean with certainly have your jaw on the floor as will the scenes with the ships on fire from the massive attacks. The stories at Ardens are equally remarkable as one of the soldiers talks about how he fell asleep and when he woke up he was frozen solid to the ground. There are even more interesting stories about the civilians of Okinawa who were tortured and mutilated by the Japanese and how they gladly turned themselves over to American troops. The final segments deal with the passing of F.D.R. as the battles appear to be nearing their end.
Okinawa and the fighting in the thick Ardens (forest) are the two main
areas of focus in this ninth episode of the History Channel's new
series, "WWII In HD."
It was shocking to find out what a huge operation the assault on Okinawa was: over 1,500 ships and , 183,000 troops, making it a bigger force than what participated on D-Day. This invasion, to an island that was about 350 miles south of Japan, and was - I think narrator Gary Sinise said - the last airstrip leading to Japan. Thus, the Japanese (and Okinawans) had a huge force of their own to defend it: 100,000 men!
Yet, I found two sidebar stories of Okinawa to be the most compelling, of the ones told here in this one-hour episode. They both involved the natives of Okinawa, one in which the Japanese brutalized them and another in which an American force mistook them for Japanese and opened fire, killing and wounding hundreds of innocent people. Both stories are tough to hear and see.
The "Battle Of The Bulge" in frozen Germany was memorable, too, for something other than just the battles. It was the frozen temperatures and terrain. Soldiers literally froze to death and we are shown a man whose toes were all black from frostbite. Man, that is an ugly sight! Not only did we prevail in that push toward Berlin but it was done under extreme circumstances with under-clothed men who must have suffered greatly in the cold. I didn't know that it was Eisenhower's decision to turn our troops in another direction and let the Russians take Berlin, which - and the narrator seemed to agree with his inflections - might have been a mistake.
This episodes ends with the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the USA President who was revered by millions. He was the only President who served more than two terms and citizens were shocked beyond belief that suddenly he had died, although he had been very ill.
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