History Channel // 2005 // 765 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 19th, 2006
America, $%& yeah!
Hey all you red-blooded Americans, are you ready for some #%$& to get blown up good?!? I know I am. The History Channel has deployed this impressive box set detailing the roles of the various branches of the military in the United States conflicts since the country's inception. These documentaries feature accumulated footage (when available) from the two World Wars through the War on Terror, and interviews with historians, soldiers, and officers. The five branches of military spotlighted: the Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Army.
Let's start of with these poor guys first. I think the Coast Guard usually gets the raw end of the deal, perhaps stuck with a stigma that is stocked with folks unwilling to serve in military units abroad. This documentary sets the record straight, showing the different roles the Coast Guard has played in times of armed conflict.
I was surprised to learn how active a role the Coast Guard played in recent conflicts like World War II (the Normandy landing) and Vietnam (Swift Boat operations), and even the Gulf War, where Coast Guard members were assigned to patrol and protect Gulf vessels.
Of course you've got all the usual stuff that the Coast Guard is known for, the search and rescue operations in particular. Did you know that this element isn't even in the Coast Guard's original charter? There you go, you left this review a little smarter!
One of the more robust contributions to the box set, this 184-minute documentary about the exploits of the vaunted United States Army tracks the entity's evolution from its ragtag days during the Revolutionary War, under the guidance of George Washington, straight through to the War on Terror.
The disc is divided into four separate, 45-minute programs. The Citizen Soldier, which tracks the Army from Washington to the Civil War, Sword of Freedom, wrapping up the Civil War and running through World War I to the cusp of World War II, Soldiers across the Sea devotes much to the second World War and the War in the Pacific, and finishes at The Korean War, and, finally In Wars Undeclared we pick up with the aftermath of the Korean War, leap into the Vietnam conflict, and cap the program with the Gulf War and a brief mention on the reorganization of forces to cope with the War on Terror.
There's a lot of great stuff on these discs, with a decent amount of time given to each major conflict the Army was involved in. Though the earlier times -- of course -- rely mainly on interviews and still picture, even a few spots of reenactment footage, from World War I on up, archival footage is heavily used.
The leathernecks get their share of the spotlight with this 140-minute collection of programs, reflected in three documentaries: "Born in Blood," "Pacific Inferno" and "Tragedy in Triumph." Starting in the War of 1812 and running through all the major amphibious conflicts the Marines have had to negotiate, the programs document the rough and tough exploits of this elite combat unit.
In particular, the stuff about the Marines and their island-hopping campaign against the Japanese during World War II and the heroic, if confusing, efforts in Vietnam, is very, very good. A bonus film, "Pageantry of the Corps" accompanies.
While these guys don't get started until later (World War I), the documentaries dealing with the Air Force are just as compelling as their brethren: the United States' experimentation with fighting craft in the early 20th century leads to its headstrong rush into dominance over the Atlantic theater in World War II and finally to the fateful trip by the Enola Gay, and it's nothing short of compelling. Add to that the awe and terror of the firebomb campaign over Tokyo, and it is obvious the pivotal roles these guys played in the nation's conflicts. More stealth bombers would have been cool, but whatever.
And, finally, the Navy sets sail in four documentaries -- "Born into War," "Fire and Water," "Steel Wars of Freedom," and "Second to One" -- totaling a hefty 184 minutes. There's obviously a lot of ground to cover with the Navy and these features do it admirably. Combat footage and interviews lend much weight to the proceedings as we see the metamorphosis from wooden ships to sub chasers trying to corral Hitler's forces off the coast of Manhattan to our own deadly nuclear subs.
For military historians or amateur buffs, this is a great set. Flush with authentic footage and more informational content than you can shake a bayonet at, these five discs will rupture your cerebral cortex with its mammoth discharge of information. Each disc sports text info about the various departments' heraldry, as well as downloadable text content.
If you hold even the remotest interest in this stuff, be a good solider and scope out this excellent set, which further shows that the History Channel has the skillz to pay the billz.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 765 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Downloadable Content