Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Review of "National Geographic Video: Untold Stories of WWII, Three Secrets that Changed the War"

Review of

National Geographic Video: Untold Stories of WWII, Three Secrets that Changed the War, VHS version

Four out of five stars

While one of the topics fits into the category of the title, the other two do not. The first describes the successful Norwegian commando attack on the heavy water extraction plant in Norway. Heavy water, (where the hydrogen has a neutron), is a critical resource in the research of atomic weapons. Therefore, since there was no more heavily guarded secret than the Manhattan Project, this clearly was a secret and the successful damaging of the plant arguably changed the outcome of the war. It was a major setback to the German atomic weapons program.

 The second topic, the failed attempt of the Japanese to use midget submarines in the attack on Pearl Harbor, clearly had no affect whatsoever on the attack on Pearl Harbor, much less on the outcome of the war. The debate over whether one of the subs fired a torpedo that hit an American ship is still being debated today. What is clear is that had the information about the presence of the Japanese submarines rapidly passed up the chain, the attack would have been less of a surprise.

 The last topic is the Japanese suicide pilots known collectively as the kamikaze. Literally meaning “divine wind,” the Japanese understood that the only possible way that they could prevent an invasion of their homeland was to damage or destroy large numbers of the ships of the American Navy. With most of their skilled pilots killed, it was concluded that their only hope was to recruit minimally trained pilots to crash bomb their planes into the ships.

 The advantages were that the pilots did not have to be well trained, older planes could be used, they could take more damage and remain functional and they did not have to be fully fueled. The battle known to the Americans as “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” had demonstrated that the Japanese air forces could not come close to winning in aerial combat. Therefore, the decision was made to use the suicide pilots. However, the kamikaze forces did little to alter the course of the war and they were hardly a secret weapon, once they were deployed. Therefore, they do not satisfy either of the conditions stated in the title of this video.  

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