Appellate Judge Dave Ryan once staged an amphibious assault on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. He was met with bikini-clad resistance.
"I shall return."
"D-Day" is a generic term used in military planning; it's a label for the day on which the attack takes place. Significant events are timelined based on that day, i.e. something will occur on D-1 or D+4. This makes the planning easier—when events aren't referenced to specific calendar dates like "August 5, 1944," you don't have to change every single date on the schedule if you decide to move the attack forward or back a week.
The most famous D-Day of them all is the massive Allied landing in Normandy in June of 1944. With good reason, too: involving over 3,000,000 soldiers, the Normandy landing is still the largest amphibious landing in history. But there were many, many other amphibious assaults over the course of World War II, most of which took place in the Pacific theater. This collection of documentaries from the History Channel, part of their ongoing "The History Channel Presents" DVD series, tells the stories of the major invasions of the theater. It's a thorough and well-made collection that fans of military history will surely enjoy.
There are six distinct hour-long documentaries included on the two discs of the set, all of which were made by veteran A&E/History Channel documentarian Lou Reda. The first disc is the "D-Days in the Pacific" feature proper, split into three episodes:
• "Death at the Tideline"
• "Closing the Jaws"
• "The Final Graveyard"
Disc Two of the set is really a disc of extras, although it's not treated as such by the packaging. Two episodes of A&E's Biography are included, covering the two titans of the Pacific Theater, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Adm. Chester Nimitz. Both men were honorable, brave, and highly intelligent. Beyond that, they couldn't have been more different. Whereas MacArthur was brash, arrogant, and an inveterate self-promoter, Nimitz was humble, thoughtful, and more than willing to let his subordinates (like his Annapolis classmates William "Bull" Halsey and Ray Spruance) take credit for their victories. Each was, in his own way, an absolutely vital part of the US victory in the Pacific. Finally, an additional documentary on the Army/Marine landing at Peleliu (in the Palau islands), "The Bloody Hills of Peleliu," goes into detail on that one lesser-known invasion. It predates the main feature by nearly a decade; some of the interviews contained in it were reused in the "Final Graveyard" episode. But it does contain plenty of additional information and tells the Peleliu story in much greater detail than the feature.
The quality of these six documentaries is uniformly excellent. They are informative, interesting, and thorough. While some footage is reused (and overused), the reuse never reaches the point of being an annoyance. Picture and sound quality are fine, given the archival nature of most of the footage. I do have a nitpick, though: much of the footage in the main "D-Days in the Pacific" feature has been colorized. I'm not a fan of the colorization of black and white film; I think the results always look unnatural and strange. Given that, however, this is one of the least intrusive and annoying examples of colorization I've seen. Still, I'd prefer that the original B&W be left alone.
I also would have enjoyed a more expanded discussion of Operations Olympic and Coronet, the planned invasions of Kyushu and Honshu (respectively) in late 1945-early 1946. These assaults, which of course never took place, would have been the largest amphibious actions in history. Olympic would have required the largest fleet ever assembled, and Coronet would have been the largest landing in history, three times the size of the Normandy invasion (15 divisions vs. 5). Casualties on both sides would have been enormous. Let me put it this way—the US military is still using, and isn't really close to running out of, the stock of Purple Hearts prepared in 1945 in anticipation of the invasion of Japan. I remember seeing a documentary on the subject, but I think it was a Discovery Channel production—which would explain why it isn't here, of course.
Overall, though, this is a great set for World War II buffs or anyone interested in military history. It's got a lot of detail about the Pacific campaign, and two good biographies to boot. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles on this disc, just good information and lots of historical footage. Really, that's all you need to make a good documentary. If this subject matter interests you, by all means take a look at D-Days in the Pacific.
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