Monday, February 13, 2012

"Historical Odds and Ends"

I watched some WW-II documentary programs on the Discovery Channel today and they were interesting to watch, although I came away from the material (a couple of different shows) with a mixture of feelings and thoughts. First, I was struck with how simplistic parts of the coverage were - for example they went on about the Yamato and how it was an amazingly large ship, etc., but completely ignored the existence of the Yamato's sister ship, the Musashi, which was built after the Yamato and included some design changes as improvements. From Wikipedia:

"Yamato (大和), named after the ancient Japanese Yamato Province, was a battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. Flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet, she was lead ship of the Yamato class. She and her sister ship, Musashi, were the largest and heaviest battleships ever constructed, displacing 72,800 tonnes at full load, and armed with nine 46 cm (18.1 inch) main guns."

A different program about kamikaze attacks was quite interesting, although there was a weird situation where, when I tried to listen to the original Japanese of the Japanese survivors from the war, it was a Japanese translation of the English translation of the original Japanese! (You could just barely hear some bits and pieces of the original in the background.) Too bad they didn't have access to the original audio that used to be with the original footage, so they could have just used that.

Some of the interviews were really interesting. A couple of things:

A Japanese pilot who had been out in the thick of it and got shot up pretty badly - who expressed his irritation with a commander who led a last squadron of pilots off to die *after* the war was declared over. Three of the people in the squadron were the pilot's friends and he was obviously angry that the commander had thrown their lives away for no good reason.

An American sailor who was on a destroyer that was hit by kamikaze pilots - commented that it was one thing to be trying to kill each other by shooting at each other, etc., but that there was something about the kamikaze pilots that made it personal. It's an angle I'd never thought of before. As a dispassionate concept, it doesn't seem like much, but hearing from a man who experienced it directly - personally - the full meaning of it came through pretty clearly.

This is why I have the greatest respect for actual archival film footage and interviews with survivors. I hate the reenactments with modern actors that it's so popular to mix in with documentary footage. I think it's a horrible mistake to do that. If it's historical footage, that's one thing. And if it's a modern reenactment with modern actors, that's another. The two should not be mixed.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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