Holiday Shopping Guide 2011: Military History DVDs
Armchair General presents a half-dozen recommended DVDs sure to please the military history buff on your gift list. Click on the titles to read our reviews.
American Experience: Robert E. Lee
PBS’ outstanding American Experience series turns its spotlight on the Civil War with a superb biography of the iconic Confederate commander, General Robert E. Lee. Narrated by Michael Murphy.
The Americans in the Bulge
A 90-minute documentary produced by WW2 Reflections that uses reenactors, wartime film, maps, some limited CGI footage, and filmed recollections of the veterans who fought in the brutal battles in the Ardennes in 1944, during the coldest winter in living memory.
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An Airman’s Story: Duty, Honor, Country The Legacy Lives On
This hour-long, independently made documentary by Leon J. DeLisle is a little rough in places but well worth viewing, nonetheless. It focuses on the American pilots who flew F105s and F4 Phantoms against the Communist MiGs during the Vietnam War and features extensive interviews with many of the pilots of the 56th Fighter Group, the 555 Triple Nickel and 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Lieutenant Colonel Bob Pardo tells the story of "Pardo’s Push," when he pushed one of his squadron’s planes with his own F4 to get the pilot home! Another fascinating interview is with Col. John Stone who talks about Operation Bolo and the ferocious dogfights that occurred against a wing of skilled MiG pilots. Gun camera footage adds to the drama of the recollections.
Ken Burns’ The Civil War Commemorative Edition DVD Set
Forty million viewers were glued to their TV sets when the acclaimed, 9-episode series was first broadcast on consecutive nights, September 23–27, 1990. This new DVD set is even better than the original broadcast—the series was digitally remastered and the sound remixed in 2002, and this commemorative set includes 52 additional minutes of never-before-seen interviews with Ken Burns and Shelby Foote, interview outtakes and a 16-page booklet with photographs and battle details.
The War of 1812
A production of WNED-TV, Buffalo/Toronto, and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, in association with WETA Washington, D.C., this two-hour HD documentary is informative, at times fascinating, and a welcome insight into a long-neglected topic. It is also balanced, presenting multiple viewpoints including Euro-American, Native American, Canadian, and to some degree African American. Narrated by Joe Mantegna.
The Unknown War: WWII and the Epic Battles of the Russian Front
A five-DVD, 20-episode boxed set with over 16 hours of footage depicting World War II as it was fought between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Much of the footage has rarely been seen in America. Originally, this was a rare Soviet–American cooperative effort that aired on PBS in 1978 and is newly re-mastered for this set. To have access to USSR film archives, it was necessary to present only the Soviet point of view in the original series, but this version offsets the propaganda with more objective commentary by historians.
The Battle for Marjah
Ben Anderson, a multi-award winning journalist from the United Kingdom, was embedded with the attack force of U.S. Marines of Bravo Company, 1st Marine Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, when they airlifted into Marjah, a city in Helmand Province in the south of Afghanistan, on February 13, 2010. Some 270 men—Marines, accompanied by some Afghan Army troopers—dropped into the heart of a town where as many as 1,000 Taliban fighters waited for them, precipitating the largest battle fought thus far in the Afghan war. This documentary from HBO is sold as a Blu-ray/DVD combo