Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
D-Day 360: PBS Commemorates the 70th Anniversary
would be a scandal today. A battle that cost the lives of 2,499 American
soldiers would result in a paroxysm of disingenuous media outrage. Gen. Bradley
would be called in front of a Senate committee. MSNBC would want to know what
did FDR know and when did he know it. Errol Morris would make a documentary
inviting Eisenhower to offer a tearful mea culpa—and the war in question would
drag on even longer. Viewers will learn the surprisingly stark arithmetic of
the Normandy Invasion in D-Day 360, directed
by Ian Duncan,
airs this Tuesday as part of PBS’s special programming marking the Seventieth
anniversary of the Longest Day (promo here).
everyone has a Saving Private Ryan understanding
of how bloody and chaotic it was on the Normandy beaches. However, the first
fifteen minutes of 360 will be a
revelation to many. Far from proceeding according to plan, the initial hours of
the invasion were an unqualified disaster. The statistics speak for themselves.
Despite the barrage of ordinance expended to soften up the coastal defenses,
the exact number of Germans killed and obstacles destroyed equaled exactly
zero. The beaches became the killing fields intended by the architect of
Germany’s coastal defense system: Erwin Rommel.
did the Allies carry the day? They just kept throwing wave after wave of
soldiers on those mine and corpse filled beaches. It was a brutal business.
Through computer imaging, 360 gives
viewers a sense of what the battlefield looked like and the destructive power
of the German defenses. For human interest, 360
also follows the respective fates of two GI brothers, Ray and Roy Stevens,
from Bedford, Virginia, the town with the highest per capita American
fatalities on D-Day.
times, 360 has wonky preoccupation
with numbers, a techy fascination with technology, and a touchy feely concern
for the fate of the so-called Bedford Boys. While the inconsistency of tone
might be an issue for a feature documentary, the critical standard is different
for a broadcast television special. What is important is that each segment
further illuminates our understanding of D-Day, which they do.
There is a good deal packed into 360, much of which could alter how
viewers think about D-Day. In various ways and with radically different
semantics, the commentators, surviving D-Day veterans, their family members
make the point freedom is never free, especially for soldiers. Recommended for
general audiences who will have just celebrated Memorial Day, D-Day 360 premieres on most PBS outlets
this coming Tuesday (5/27) as part of a slate of anniversary programming.
Labels: D-Day, PBS