Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why I don't like the Ken Burns WWII documentary

I'm sure that Ken Burns and his staff put a great deal of time and effort into making the documentary on World War II currently running on PBS. I missed the first two segments, then watched the third and didn't care for it. Not so much for what it included but because of what it left out.
I was on the ground during two of the events portrayed in the third episode. The first was the massive bombing along the highway near St. Lo that preceded the breakout from the Normandy hedgerow country. Ernie Pyle's column on the bungled affair was quoted, but only the early passages. Omitted was the story of how the bombs began falling on the American side of the road. Many men were killed. Among them was the general in charge of United States ground forces in Europe. Was this left out because it didn't fit the image of American efficiency? I don't know, but the portrayal of the event will mislead anyone who sees it.
Grossly distorted was the presentation of the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944. As the narrator mentioned that date, viewers were shown a parade that took place three days later. The impression given was that the liberation consisted of thousands of men forming up near the Arch of Triumph and then marching in formation down the street. The men in the parade had nothing to do with the liberation. It was a totally false view of what actually happened.
Those were events I played a small role in. I wasn't in the Pacific, but was surprised - shocked would be a better word - when a sailor on the ship Indianapolis was mentioned as having watched as two Japanese planes were shot down by men on another ship. That was it about the Indianapolis. Omitted was the fact it was later sunk and for nearly a week the small number of survivors floated in shark-infested waters because the Naval commanders failed to notice that one of their ships had vanished.
Then a loudmouth Marine spoke time and again about the invasion of Saipan. I came to doubt everything he said because I had met similar loudmouths in Europe. They arrived as replacements saying what they would do when they got a crack at the Germans. What they actually did was either head for the hills or shoot themselves in the foot as soon as they had a taste of the shooting end of war. Every time. Without exception that's what they did.
I was impressed by the stories told by the pilot of a P-47 Thunderbolt in Europe. Ken Burns should have found more men like him to interview.
The episodes centering on the home front were interesting as well. I felt there were more important things that might have been mentioned, but it is impossible to present a big war in a short program. I believe an overall view of the war was too much of an undertaking so the omissions exceeded the events included. I've seen better documentaries that focused on just one segment of the war.
I wonder, though, if in the future the Burns documentary won't be seen as the definitive view of World War II. It isn't. It doesn't even come close, but future viewers may not realize that. Neither will many present day viewers.
I won't watch the remaining episodes. It isn't a very good documentary. Not so much because of what it shows but because of what it does not.


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