World War Two: Darkness Falls
The History Channel recently showed a unique series of World War 2 Lost Films. I was taken aback by the quality all colour footage that the programme had to offer which I had not seen in so many other WW2 documentaries and series.
It touched on the beginnings of the second world war, from the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, their invasion of Poland and the appalling effects on Jewish people from Austria, Germany and other European countries. The programme shows the swiftly changing face of a scarred Europe through the eyes of indiviual service men and women and how in just ten months, Great Britian was the last democracy in Europe fighting Hitler.
On Septmener 16th 1940 President Frankin D Roosevelt signed the selective training and service act, all abled bodied men between 21 and 30 must register. These were the very first draughtees from America readied for military service and subsequently America's involvement in World War 2, much to the annoyance and disagreement of many Americans who saw WW2 as "Europe's problem".
By 1939, the United States had only the 17th largest army in the world and only one third of its recruits had ever fired a rifle. By spring 1941 Hitler's forces had brought 11 countries and over 70 million people to its knees. By November, Germany, Itlay and Japan renew their military alliance, the Axis powers are ready to carve up the world.
On December 7th 1941, the American president announces the cowardly Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, stating that 21 US ships are sunk or damaged, 188 aircraft are destroyed, 2403 people are killed, San Francisco is declared a state of emergency.
America knows that it is now at war.
Four days after the attack on Pearl Harbour, Germany and Italy declares war on the United States, the first and only time Hitler declares war on another nation, it is now a World War.
In February 1942, 76,000 American and Filipino soldiers are taken prisoner by the Japanese as the Navy orders Commanding Officer Douglas MacArthur to evacuate by night and leave his troops behind, he vows that he will return.
The Pacific - Guadalcanal
On August 17th 1942, the United States invade the remote jungle island of Guadalcanal with just four aircraft carriers and a fleet of old cruise liners converted into troop transporters to carry more than 10,000 marines. On the island the Japanese are building an airfield that will allow their bombers to threaten the vital sea lanes between Australia and America, the fate of the entire Pacific war hangs in the balance.
As the Americans move closer to the shore, all is eerily quiet, at 09:00 the landing force set off, as they reach the shore there is still absolute silence, no Japanese in sight. The men move cautiously thorugh the jungle to the airfield just one mile inland. Suddenly, Japanese snipers open fire from everywhere through the dense vegetation. As they close in on the airfield the next day, they are again met with silence. Panicked by the arial bombing the Japanese have fled inland abandoning the airfield. By 16:00 hours the Americans declare the airfield secured, but the enemy is far from ready to surrender.
From their naval base that night the Japanese launch a massive counter-attack, an immense battle erupts off-shore, the marines on the island can do nothing but await the outcome. Four American heavy cruisers are destroyed and the aircraft carriers are gone. The American naval commander has left a day earlier than planned to protect his carriers, the transports with supplies and 2000 additional men have also withdrawn. The marines on shore are left alone, isolated and abandoned, without adequate food, medicine, ammunition and without naval or air cover they are at the mercy of enemy attacks.
A dvd boxset of World War 2 Lost Films is available through the History Channel at http://shop.history.com
I haven't yet seen the Pacific, but I'm an avid fan of The Band of Brothers series and I'm sure it won't disappoint. I recently produced a Band of Brothers inspired piece of artwork shown below.
Dave Harris Art
- Highly detailed World War 2 pencil drawings
Highly detailed World War 2 pictures are available online as limited edition Fine Art Giclee prints. A special gift for anyone interested in the second world war. Prints available include: El Alamein, Dambusters and Band of Brothers.