This is an excellent, if slightly dated, documentary produced by Time-Life in 1951 for theatrical release and later shown on t.v. This series captures the war in the Pacific far better than any other documentary series I've seen to date. In large part, this is probably due to the length of the series, 24 episodes of 24" apiece, but much of it is simply that the producers were careful to give the viewer the political and socioeconomic background of the war, to explain the geography of the terrain in which the war was fought, using maps frequently, and the strategy and tactics used to win it.
Unlike so many recent series, Ken Burns's excellent, The War, for instance, Crusade in the Pacific always keeps the viewer firmly oriented as to where action was taking place, and almost always provides clear maps of each area in which a battle took place. It charts the movements of the opposing sides, often showing the progress of the battle as terrain was taken. Exceptionally, it usually shows for each battle, the casualties, and the losses of planes and vessels on both sides. As a result, it is much easier to understand the challenges which the Allies faced in fighting the war and how they were overcome. This is not to discredit series such as The War, which were good at giving a striking impression of the sometimes seeming hopelessness of campaigns for single isles in which tens of thousands died, but The War rarely gave any sense on how these campaigns were won.
This series also excels in explaining the tactics and strategy of the opposing sides in the war. The war in the Pacific was somewhat contra-intuitively, one decided in large measure by airpower and by boots on the ground, and very little by naval power. It was the far flung islets of the Pacific which were used, first by the Japanese, then by the Allies, to project airpower, in addition to the use of airplane carriers. Thus, it was often important to take remote coral islets or volcanic rocks which were either being used by the Japanese to forward their conquest of the Pacific, or which could be used by the Allies to sink Japanese warships and bomb Japanese positions. I often wondered why we didn't just seal off many of these islands and let the defenders starve, but the answer is that we needed the land for landing strips to project our airpower further and further into the reaches of Japan's empire.
As noted above, one of the outstanding contributions of this series is to document for the major battles, the casualties on each side, and the losses of aircraft and ships. It is sobering to see how badly mauled we were at Midway, for instance.
As also noted above, the historical context of the war in the Pacific is given short shrift in many more recent documentaries. It seems not to be much appreciated now, for instance, how much Japan in the early 20th century had organized and transformed its society and economy into a machine of war and conquest. In this, it bore an uncanny resemblance to the way in which the Nazis were to command every level of Germany and bend the country toward war.
There are certainly shortcomings to this series. One is that they were produced shortly after the war. The tone of the documentary is thus of a somewhat flag-waving character, though hardly propaganda, and the narration is in the style of documentaries and newsreels of the day, which is to say, somewhat melodramatic and a bit pompous for current taste. The films themselves are also not HD in quality, naturally, and are prefaced by a rather corny anthem about the fight for freedom.
The foregoing shortcomings are trivial and soon forgotten when you are watching this series. Its comprehensive, detailed narrative, amplified as it is by maps, counts of planes and ships downed in each of the major battles and command of the history leading up to the war all make it very impressive. I would highly recommend this series to anyone interested in the history of the war in the Pacific.
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