The History Channel’s representation of WWI aviation…
Having watched the recent History Channel show, The World Wars, I have to admit, I’m angered and frustrated by it. I write books on the Great War and have won awards for them, so I don’t come at this show raw and uninitiated.
The parts with the speakers were, for the most part, accurate (though subject to debate at times). The historians on the show were, for the most part, good.
It was the narrative text and images/props used that were, in many cases, completely wrong. Here’s a smattering of examples:
- Patton alone did not come up with the idea of massing tanks. The show went out of its way to make it appear that Patton invented the entire concept of armored combat. My apologies to our British cousins who actually DID invent this idea.
- It would have been nice of the Germans in WWI used Mauser rifles.
- Patton’s tank in all of the WWI battle segments was a 1940 Stuart. Now I’ll grant you, there are not a lot of Renault tanks floating round they could have used, but with CGI, they could have faked it. Even with some cardboard and duct tape you could have tried to mock up a Renault.
- In the segment on the Meuse Argonne Offensive, the narrator made the comment, “For the first time in the war the Germans were on the retreat.” Seriously? I guess the Marne didn’t count.
- Contrary to the show, Douglas MacArthur and George Patton did not single-handedly win the Great War. My apologies to our allies. You almost got the sense that the French were not part of the war the way they portrayed it.
- The invasion of Poland. While the show mentions that the Soviets invaded Poland as well, on the map, it shows Germany absorbing all of Poland, with no movement on the part of the Soviet armies. A decade ago my wife used to call the History Channel “The Hitler Channel.” It appears they have wandered away from that when it came to Poland.
- In the Battle of Britain segment, I particularly liked the images of American B-17’s being used by the Germans to bomb London. Those crafty Germans! Also, I was a bit surprised to see American P-51 Mustangs in the defense of Britain years before they were invented.
- Pearl Harbor – showing twin engine bombers for the attack? Oh, and the shot of the Japanese Navy ship on its way to the attack, it was a modern US cruiser (complete with her radar array) with a CGI Japanese flag. It reminded me of the movie Final Countdown where the USS Nimitz goes back in time.
- Douglas MacArthur was evacuated from Corregidor by airplane! In reality, it was by boat but hey, at this point, why bother with reality?
After the MacArthur stuff I had to stop watching because it hurt too much.
Any school that shows this in their history class should have their teachers examined for drug use. Unfortunately, many people are going to get their history from this show. And yes, some of my points are minor, seemingly insignificant technicalities. But they remain wrong. Ignoring the mistakes is incorrect as well.
A great deal of the presentation is dumbed down and simplified. I understand that, given the limitations of time.
I know the History Channel has long ago abandoned history, but this production shows a certain lack of laziness on their part. I had high hopes after watching the Hatfields and McCoys last year, which was actually not too bad. But The World Wars is nothing short of a mind-blowing fraud. They didn’t even use the accurate stock footage for the scenes.
A lot of people are going to watch this and assume it is correct because of the History Channel branding. They have been ripped off, cheated of their true history, but this cobbled-together debacle. This is, at best, a misrepresentation of history. At worst, it is a farce. It was as if they had a group of high school kids write the script and told them to hit Wikipedia or Google the wars as source material. Sadly, it would have been more accurate. Chuckle now, it really wasn’t that much of a stretch.
I feel bad for the legitimate historians who appeared in the show. I’m sure they filmed their segments without realizing how the final product was going to be portrayed.
Shame on you History Channel…you had an awesome topic with tons of great potential and completely mishandled it.