Thursday, May 11, 2006
The Perilous Fight: World War II in Color
Even though I was exhausted last night, I stayed up to watch Pacific War: They Filmed the War in Color on PBS. I had a late morning today, but it was worth it. World War II in color somehow makes it all seem more "real" than in black and white.
I had never before seen pictures of the battles of Okinawa or Midway. Watching the kamikaze's diving into aircraft carriers was a sobering sight. But I think the scene that got to me the most was of the stacks and stacks of helmuts sitting on some beach in the Pacific - helmuts that belonged to dead U.S. soldiers.
In my studies, I've tended to focus on the European theater. Nazism and Germany are two of the main topics I handled in graduate school, but I did happen to take a History of Japan class, as well. It was very eye-opening and helped me to understand, if just a little, why the Japanese were so difficult to defeat and felt that there was honor in suicide missions.
But I have a new admiration for the U.S. Marines. They fought not only the Japanese, but malaria, heat, humidity, bugs, rain, and loneliness. Guerilla warfare was a different kind of war - and fighting an enemy that refused to surrender no matter how bad their position was only intensified the marines' experience. I remember listening to a veteran who was a marine in the Pacific recounting his experiences. He wept when he said, "It was not for a marine to question why - it was for us to do or die." That memory has stuck with me for years, and I doubt it will ever lose its power.
Tonight there is a different series on - The Perilous Fight: America's World War II in Color. Check your local PBS stations for the time.