The Americans in the Bulge – DVD Review
The Americans in the Bulge. Produced by WW2 Reflections. Running time: 90 minutes. Price: $23.95 USD.
The Battle of the Bulge was Hitler’s last great gamble to win the war by dividing the British and American armies and driving on to Antwerp to capture the main supply port for the Allied armies in the west. That gamble was to cost the Wehrmacht dearly as irreplaceable men and equipment.
The plan was relatively simple. The crux of the plan was a replay of the Ardennes Offensive used by the Germans in the attack on the west in 1940. Under the cover of bad weather—and aided by relaxed vigilance on the part of the Allies—the Germans managed to amass 300,000+ combat troops, 700+ tanks and over 2,000 artillery pieces in the Ardennes area of Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium. The German forces were divided into three armies. The 6th SS Panzer Armee under Josef “Sepp” Dietrich was to take the Meuse river bridges and then move on Antwerp. The German Heer (Army) 5th Armee under Hasso Von Mantouffel was to guard the flanks, take the important crossroads of Bastogne and St. Vith, and then take Brussels. The German Heer 7th Armee under Erich Bradenberg was to guard the flanks of the 5th Armee. Facing the Germans was the United States 14th Cavalry Regiment and 10th Armored, 99th Infantry and 106th Infantry divisions.
The Americans in the Bulge DVD tells the story of the battle that was to take place in the coldest winter in living memory, at the one place none of the Allies expected an attack. Forces from the north of the bulge, commanded by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, and from the south, commanded by General George S. Patton, raced to cut off and destroy the enemy attack. The battle would be among the biggest battles on the Western Front during World War II.
The Americans in the Bulge is the third installment of The American Road to Victory series of DVDs by WW2 Reflections. (The first two volumes are The Americans on D-Day and The Americans on Hell’s Highway. Click links to read ACG reviews.) It is a 90-minute documentary that uses reenactors, wartime film, maps and some limited CGI footage. As the title suggests, this documentary is from an American point of view, though the narrator/battlefield guide for the film is British-born Ellwood Von Seibold. As a youth in post-war Britain, he developed a fascination with the Second World War. After moving to France, he set up a museum of World War II uniforms and equipment in his adopted hometown of Ste. Mere Eglise, a town famous for the battle fought there between US paratroopers and German infantry during Operation Overlord—more famously known as D-Day. Many of the uniforms and weapons used in this DVD came from his museum. Perhaps the one other star in the DVD is Von Siebold’s magnificently and lovingly restored-to-authentic-condition 1943 vintage WC-57 series 2 Dodge Command Car, which is complete down tothe pioneer kit and hull compass. Von Siebold’s narration is excellent, without the overly dramatic chest-thumping that infects many ethnocentric documentaries.
Bulge is broken up into scenes that use film stock, reenactors, graphics, and Von Siebold’s narration. Balancing the narration are the filmed recollections of the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. The gentlemen who provided their recollections for the film are: John Kline, 106th Infantry Division; Jim "Peewee" Makin, 101st Airborne Division; Doug Dillard, Colonel (ret’d) 551st Parachute Infantry BN (PIB); Joe Cicchhnelli, 551st PIB; Harry Korkewitz, Radio Intercept Operator, US Army; Vinnie Vicari, Staff Officer 101st Airborne Division; Gerard Gregoire, historian and resident of La Gleize; and Ewald Jost, a Belgian volunteer for the German Army.
Most of the film stock is of good quality, but in this particular documentary the use of the captured Wehrmacht film showing the shot-up and burning convoy of the American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion (FAOB) and the SS Panzer Grenadiers (armored infantry) moving in and around the vehicles, as well as looting them, was used too much. The special effects were generally of acceptable quality. Photography had some rough stretches, such as Von Siebold gesturing toward a general area off-camera or scenes not composed enough to ensure clarity of the area being discussed. Also, some of the camera angles to capture the essence of the fighting from the soldier’s point of view or over his shoulder give the appearance that, if this was actual combat, they would be lucky to hit anything—much less the enemy. One extremely positive feature to the filming was that it was done in the winter with snow and ice—the historical conditions in which the battle was fought—instead of summer or spring when it would be easier to film. The flaws are minor compared to the value of seeing where the two sides fought and learning new information skipped over in the history books. Sound, both effects and music, are of high quality. One bit that pleased me was the use of "The Patton March" by Jerry Goldsmith from the movie Patton.
Technically, the DVD is well-mastered and professionally produced. There was only one bad spot on the DVD, and a small bit of cleaning with a clean cloth removed the foreign matter/finger print that caused the skip. In all probability, it was handling by the reviewer that introduced the condition that caused the skip. The packaging is of good quality and has high-quality graphics. The DVD can be purchased directly from the Living Battlefield Website www.livingbattlefield.com for a very reasonable $23.95 USD. If you want to see the actual ground that men fought and died over during the Battle of the Bulge, then I cannot recommend this DVD highly enough.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The publisher informs us that all three programs in this series are being distributed to PBS stations by NETA (National Educational Telecommunications Association) to begin airing on Memorial Day, May 30, and continuing through 2011. Check local PBS listings.
About the Author:
Richard Story is a disabled and retired salesman. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University with a BS (Honors) in Political Science and a Master’s in Public Administration. A life-long student of modern military history and technology; he is the son of a career military man whose first wartime assignment was with the 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division of Patton’s 3rd Army. His father was one of the men who turned 90 degrees north to help relieve the paratroopers encircled in Bastogne.