History Channel's six-hour The World Wars has ended, and it's an instructive clinic on how stories become legends become fantasy.  (And thus one Ragnar Lothbrok can figure in events that took place over a 200 year span in History Channel's Vikings, as at twelve centuries remove, because there's enough uncertainty about the record to allow the bard all manner of artistic license.)

But at a century's remove, retelling the interactions of Hitler and Stalin and Churchill and Roosevelt in a way that buries the richer true stories annoys me.  Germany's failure to take Moscow before the 1941-1942 polar vortex was a consequence of forces being diverted to Leningrad and Kiev, the attempt to block the Volga at Stalingrad came later, and Hitler's recorded mockery of the notion that the city was important because it was named for Stalin would have illustrated his Wolkenkuckucksheim much better than just another temper tantrum.   The Anglo-American campaign across Africa and into Italy was something the U.S. command resisted, preferring to prepare a cross-Channel invasion, although it allowed the soyuznichki the opportunity to show Stalin something other than preparations at the same time that the attrition in the Caucasus was in full flow, and Churchill's "underbelly of Europe" concept for the Italian invasion has more in common with his failed Gallipoli campaign than the show credits him for.  And Patton and the U.S. forces did not conquer Italy in six weeks.  The Italian government fired Mussolini and switched sides, but the Germans were more effective at conducting a fighting retreat in Italy than they ever could be in Ukraine or France.

The Pacific Theater gets a more superficial treatment, although it's going to give future students of that conflict the impression that four Japanese carriers were sunk in six minutes at Midway, despite the Japanese Navy having Aegis destroyers.  In another hundred years, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" may well be a legitimate opening paragraph of a history term paper.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I also caught the 'four carriers in six minutes' error. I expect better from the History Channel. Maybe I'm expecting too much.