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Victory in the Pacific (American Experience)
Emmy Nominated! "Take no prisoners. Fight to the bitter end." Those were everyday words to combat troops on both sides at the end of World War II in the Pacific. And they led to an unprecedented orgy of slaughter. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE examines the final months of the war and looks at the escalation of bloodletting from the vantage point of the Japanese and the Americans and decisions made by leaders on both sides that finally ended the war.
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[Begin Digression] There has been a lot of revisionist historical speculation about the necessity of using atomic weapons to end the war and this documentary very effectively reviews the evidence regarding that. After watching this any doubt I ever had that Truman made the right decision both for the US troops and also ironically even for the Japanese people has been erased. Though it was a terrible thing to have to do, if not done many, many more Japanese would have died along with more than a million US troops. If you doubt this, please look at the evidence in this film before flaming me or labeling this review unhelpful. [I'll get off my soapbox now]
The DVD is well done, minimalist in terms of extra features as I recall (it has been a little while since I last watched it), but it gets the job done and no issues there with picture quality / transfer issues, etc. I do highly recommend this film for anyone with an interest in what happened in the Pacific. I suspect many more people will discover this movie with the HBO miniseries The Pacific currently running - this film would likely be a great companion to that.
The battles for the islands of Saipan and Okinawa are presented. The Japanese soldier does not surrender and looks upon surrender as despicable. They believed in Emperor Hirohito as divine and saw it as an honour and duty to die for him and their country. This cult of death or suicide was well brought out in this film as we see hundreds of happy and committed kamikaze pilots readying for their mission.
The bombings of Tokyo are shown with their aftermath as well as discussions on the obliqueness of the Japanese government in refusing to deal with the worsening conditions of their people. This film examines much of the war from the Japanese perspective and presents good evidence that it was only the dropping of the atomic bombs and the Russian invasion that finally prompted the surrender. Prior to this the Emperor and the war politicians were only negotiating to preserve their political power.
There is an excellent supplemental discourse in the DVD by two historians who present solid evidence that as devastating and inhuman as the dropping of the atomic bombs were, the alternatives were much worse. Even after issuing the Potsdam Declaration at the end of July there was no response from Japan. If the bombs had not been dropped, the war would have been prolonged and hundreds of thousands of Japanese would have died - from the Allied blockade and from the invasion which would have come from both the Americans and the Soviet Union.
War is the most immoral and inhuman act of mankind and once it starts the ending can be very unpredictable and the cost enormous. All countries that start wars find this out.