The World at War
War Documentary hosted by Laurence Olivier, published by ITV in 1973 – English narration
The World at War (1973-74) is a 26-episode British television documentary series chronicling the events of the Second World War. At the time of its completion in 1973, it was, at a cost of £900,000, the most expensive factual series ever made. It was produced by Jeremy Isaacs, narrated by Laurence Olivier and included music composed by Carl Davis. The book The World at War written by Mark Arnold-Forster to accompany the TV series was released in 1973.
The World at War attracted widespread acclaim and is now regarded as a landmark in British television history. The producer Jeremy Isaacs was considered ahead of his time in resurrecting studies of military history. Among many other aspects, the series focused on a portrayal of the experience of the conflict: of how life and death throughout the war years affected soldiers, sailors and airmen, civilians, concentration camp inmates and other victims of tyranny.
1) A New Germany (1933-1939)
Program chronicles the draconian measures taken by Adolf Hitler to become absolute dictator of Germany and begin his domination of Europe.
2) Distant War (September 1939 – May 1940)
France and England enter World War 2 following Germany’s invasion of Poland. But with the exception of its navy England is rather uncertain how to prepare. After a failed operation in Norway lead by Churchill, Chamberlain is, ironically, replaced as Prime Minister by Churchill.
3) France Falls (May – June 1940)
As their forces invade Northern Europe German strategists capitalize time and again on French preconceptions confounding French defenses.
4) Alone (May 1940 – May 1941)
Following the defeat and retreat at Dunkirk, Britain desperately works to rearm and prepare their defenses. But Germany was not well prepared to press their offensive and invade. After losing the Battle of Britain Germany begins bombing British cities. The British launch an offensive in North Africa hoping to distract the Germans attention from the British Isles.
5) Barbarossa (June – December 1941)
Following the conquest of France Hitler, almost casually by blitzkrieg standards, turn his eyes toward Russia. But Stalin is equally lackadaisical in preparing defenses against Germany. The German invasion rapidly reaches the gates of Moscow where it is stopped cold by the onset of winter then crushed by the Russian counterattack.
6) Banzai!: Japan (1931-1942)
Following Japan’s conquest of eastern Asia the Allies finally respond with sanctions. They prove so threatening to Japan that it prepares to conquer Southeast Asia to secure the resources it needs. But first the threat from the British and American Pacific fleets must be eliminated.
7) On Our Way: U.S.A. (1939-1942)
Although those in the know figured it was just a matter of time, the United States only reluctantly participated in World War 2. But it was not a foregone conclusion that the United States would side against both Germany and Japan. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor precipitated a quick decision. But in Germany’s case a long series of mutual provocations, some intended, some not, gradually turned the United States against Germany.
8) The Desert: North Africa (1940-1943)
In 1940 Mussolini deploys a massive army to invade British held Egypt, to capture the Suez Canal and most of all to establish an Italian empire to rival Germany’s. So begins a multi-year campaign over a meaningless stretch of desert involving forces from a dozen nations and characterized by persistent attackers, stubborn defenders and ultimately controlled by supply line challenges.
9) Stalingrad (June 1942 – February 1943)
Germany is dealt a crushing defeat when the Russians’ stubborn defense of Stalingrad delays the German offensive giving the Russians time to mass their forces for a counter attack that surrounds then destroys the German Sixth Army and its supporting forces.
10) Wolf Pack: U-Boats in the Atlantic (1939-1944)
For three years German u-boats ravage transatlantic convoys. Despite the critical need for the supplies and materiel British leadership give scant attention to the matter for two years. Finally in 1943 the allies begin introducing new tactics and weapons while Germany continues to focus on the numbers game.
11) Red Star: The Soviet Union (1941-1943)
Bent on fulfilling Hilter’s policy of colonizing Russia, German forces invade subjecting inhabitants of occupied lands to servitude or death. Russians respond with a mass evacuation and scorched earth policy, reestablishing their industrial capacity far to the east. After German forces fail to break Lenigrade or to capture Kursk and the surrounding Russian forces Russia goes on the offensive with its military production at full capacity.
12) Whirlwind: Bombing Germany (September 1939 – April 1944)
While the British continue to rely on night bombing the American forces attempt to use more dangerous but more precise daylight bombing to interdict German military production and crush the national will.
13) Tough Old Gut: Italy (November 1942 – June 1944)
After driving the Germans from North Africa the Allies turn their sites on Italy. But the Italian campaign turned out to be tougher the anyone expected. American reluctance to divert resources from the planned Normandy invasion, geographic challenges and German reinforcements hinders the Allied campaign which continued until the eve of the Normandy invasion.
14) It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow: Burma (1942-1944)
Allied forces were totally unprepared for the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942. The Japanese quickly overran the country. Allied counter attacked using troops unfamiliar with jungle warfare which were unsuccessful against the Japanese guerrilla forces. But the Allies persisted and gradually adapted to the jungle environment. As additional forces arrived the Allies succeeded in destroying the Japanese forces.
15) Home Fires: Britain (1940-1944)
The war effort required total commitment from British citizens stretching their bodies and spirits to the breaking point and occasionally beyond it. As a result of grim news early in the war, German bombing of British cities and disagreements on critical policies Churchill faced a no confidence vote. But extraordinary measures gradually put the kingdom on an effective war footing.
16) Inside the Reich: Germany (1940-1944)
Germany is jubilant after the surrender of France. Then the unsuccessful expansion of the war to include Russia and England gradually turns German morale from joy to fatalism. Even der Führer falls victim to the insidious fatalism caused first by the crushing defeat at Stalingrad then the bunker bombing that nearly killed him. All the while the tightening Nazi grip and Allied assaults adds to the gloom of fear.
17) Morning (June – August 1944)
Four years after France fell the Allies invade Normandy. Caught by surprise the German defenses are quickly overcome. Heading inland the Allies win major victories against fierce resistance.
18) Occupation: Holland (1940-1944)
The Dutch are shocked when the Germans bomb Rotterdam and invade their neutral country. But Germany follows with insidious conciliatory gestures that ease tensions. Germany gradually exploits the populace with conscriptions, forced labor and deportation of Jewish citizens. Finally anticipating liberation as the Allies move westward, Dutch suffering intensifies. As the German propagandists had claimed, liberation brought devastation, not from warfare but from a brutal German embargo and intensified deportations.
19) Pincers (August 1944 – March 1945)
As the Allies debate how to prosecute the the invasion of Germany, Hitler settles the question with a massive counter attack in the Ardenne. Failure of the attack leaves German defenses of the Western Front in shambles. Meanwhile, Russian forces are also closing in but Stalin orders a pause so the SS can crush the Polish resistance.
20) Genocide (1941-1945)
Begins with the founding of the S.S. and follows the development of Nazi racial theory. It ends with the implementation of the Final Solution.
21) Nemesis: Germany (February – May 1945)
The final invasion of Germany by both the Western and Eastern allies, the denouement at Dresden, and the events in the Führerbunker. Interviewees include Albert Speer, Traudl Junge and Heinz Linge.
22) Japan (1941-1945)
Japan’s society and culture during wartime, and how life is transformed as the country gradually becomes aware of increasingly catastrophic setbacks including the Doolittle raid, defeat at Midway, the death of Isoroku Yamamoto, the Battle of Saipan, Okinawa and the relentless bombing of Japanese cities.
23) Pacific (February 1942 – July 1945)
The successive and increasingly bloody land battles on tiny islands in the expansive Pacific, aimed towards the Japanese heartland. Following the bombing of Darwin, the over-extended Japanese are progressively turned back at Kokoda, Tarawa, Peleliu, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and finally Okinawa.
24) The Bomb (February – September 1945)
Following the events from the death of US President Roosevelt through to the dropping of the two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that prompted Japan’s surrender.
25) Reckoning (April 1945)
The situation in post-war Europe including the allied occupation of Germany, demobilisation, the Nuremberg Trials and the genesis of the Cold War. The episode concludes with summations about the ultimate costs and consequences of the war. Interviewees include Charles Bohlen, Stephen Ambrose, Lord Avon, Lord Mountbatten of Burma and Noble Frankland.
How the war – both good and bad experiences – was experienced and remembered by its witnesses.
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Published on: Apr 14, 2016 @ 14:56