Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Whoa! The History Channel is actually airing a history program this week. "The World Wars" is a three episode story that connects World War I and World War II through the lives of several key players, including Churchill, FDR, Hitler, MacArthur, Mussolini, Patton, and Stalin. There are, of course many key players like Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall, Harry Truman, and any other German, Briton, or Soviet not mentioned above, who were overlooked, but I guess that the show would have lost its focus if it included too many characters. Overall the first episode of the series, which aired last night on Memorial Day, is entertaining. There were some amateurish mistakes (maybe because the History Channel is out of practice making history shows?), such as using World War II tanks in World War I and indiscriminate use of firearms (all sides used the the British Lee-Enfield .303). There is some cheesy overacting and strange cinematography. Patton rode the outside of his tank into combat without even a helmet on. In another strange scene Benito Mussolini snipes at three German soldiers. Wearing what appears to be a dress uniform (and, again, no helmet) loads the rounds individually like a big game hunter, as he fires at his quarry. One wonders why the Germans didn't drop into the tall grass and return fire. In another scene, I wondered if FDR was really alone with Woodrow Wilson when the president received a copy of the Zimmermann Telegram. And there was some misleading overemphasis to move the story along. For example, one might get the impression that George Patton was the only one who recognized the importance of the tank in warfare. In fact, he was a fairly minor player in developing the tactics to suit the new technology. British thinkers like Fuller and Hart had a greater impact on armored warfare, and, of course, we cannot ignore the German commanders who implemented the Blitzkrieg. In the United States Adna Chaffee had more influence on developing the armored branch.