11 April 2010

World War II Lost Films - New series on the History Channel

World War II Lost Films is a new series, starting tomorrow on the History Channel. Mixing restored colour footage with narrated stories, the series tells the stories of 12 individuals who served with the US forces during the war. Some of these involve readings from diaries and letters, but the real interest for me is the personal accounts from the veterans.

The individuals covered in the series include army nurse June Wandrey, who served from the beginning of the war in North Africa to the liberation of the camps in Germany; Shelby Westbrook, a young African American who became a member of the Tuskegee Airmen; Jimmie Kanaya, the son of Japanese immigrants, who served in the U.S. Army and was imprisoned in Europe; and Jack Werner, a Jewish émigré who escaped from Austria before the war and ended up fighting in the Pacific Theater.

From the preview of the first episode, which includes an interview with Jack Werner, the series looks like it will certainly be worth watching. Werner describes his escape from Austria as the hold of the Nazis increased, and his arrival in the US. He goes on to explain his desire to strike back at the regime, but fate sent him to the Pacific. The episode also features an interesting narrative from Richard Tregaskis, describing his experiences on Guadalcanal. Werner's interview is a mixture of his own words, spoken in person and also by a 'younger' actor (Tregaskis' words are spoken by an actor as he passed away in 1973). The actors providing voices in the series include LL Cool J, Steve Zahn, Ron Livingston, James Kyson Lee, Amy Smart and Rob Lowe.

I look forward to viewing the later episodes, as the mixture of some previously unseen film footage and first hand accounts describing little known (in the UK) perspectives of the war will make a refreshing change from the oft-repeated documentaries on television. But don't expect much coverage of non-US participation in the war - enjoy it for what it is, that is a US series similar to Ken Burns' The War, made for a US audience, which still has plenty to offer to anyone interested in WWII.

See previews from the series on the Sky website and a video on the making of WWII Lost Films.

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