Sunday, August 28, 2016

Battlefield Recovery

Netflix Screen Capture*
It is hard to grasp just how large the Eastern Front in World War II was, not only in terms of square miles, but in terms of the distances involved, the number of troops, tanks, and aircraft involved, the number of casualties, and, often forgotten by many, the devastation inflicted on the civilian population.

Google Maps

The distance from Berlin, the capital of the Reich, to Moscow, the heart of the Soviet Union is slightly over a 1000 miles. The distance from Tallinn (in Estonia) on the Baltic Sea down to Sevastopol (in the Crimea) is 1372 miles. The front covers a massive area. Of the estimated 70 million people who died in World War II, over 30 million died on the Eastern Front. Of those, 13 to 17 million were civilians. The war on that front was so chaotic, so destructive that records were either not kept, were destroyed during the war, or were lost in the chaos which reigned at the end of the war.

One of the TV programs which popped up in my Netflix feed lately was Battlefield Recovery. Looked interesting, so I thought I'd give it a go. The premise is that a team of four guys (one American, three Brits) go to some of the battlefields of the Eastern Front equipped with metal detectors and shovels to see what they could find. (Important note, they do this with the permission and the consent of the local authorities.)

The first episode took place in the Courland peninsula in northwestern Latvia. My first impression was that it was very interesting to see this area in full living color. As most of you know, the bulk of World War II footage is in black and white. Seeing what these places look like now is very interesting. (I also noted that the terrain and the architecture of small town Latvia doesn't look all that different now than it did back then.)

At any rate, as an amateur historian with a huge interest in World War II, especially the Eastern Front, I was very satisfied with the show. Prior to watching the second episode, there are four, I just had to Google it. (Of course.) One reason is that the American, who describes himself as an historian and a military officer, seemed familiar. Well, his name is Craig Gottlieb and I had seen him before, on Pawn Stars. He had served in the Marine Corps and (according to at least one source) had attained the rank of major. He does seem to know his stuff.

What else I discovered rather blew me away. It seems that this program was surrounded by controversy. It had first been announced as a series by the National Geographic channel with the title Nazi War Diggers. No, seriously, you read that correctly. A rather poor choice in my view, but as many book sellers have discovered, include the word "Nazi" in the title and slap a swastika on the cover and your book will fly off the shelves. I'm not sure what that says about our society, I'm sure it's nothing good.

First pulling the show then resurrecting it as Battlefield Recovery didn't seem to slow the hue and cry of the academics and professional whiners though. Here's one quote I found interesting -
National Geographic’s decision followed a vigorous campaign by many archaeologists and military historians, who said that the films were distasteful, and portrayed a lack of respect for those who died in combat situations. Source
After watching the first episode of the series (and the subsequent three episodes all in one day, hey, I'm recovering from surgery, what else have I got to do?) I felt that these "archaeologists and military historians" really need to go get stuffed. What a load of poppycock and nonsense from so-called "professionals" who probably didn't bother to watch the show at all. No doubt all they saw was a clip on National Geographic's website which was, from what I understand, probably in pretty poor taste.

But then again, it seems that National Geographic's standards have fallen a long, long way since their programs that I watched as a kid. Now it's all "global warming" and politically correct bullsh!t. Pardon my French.

I thought the show respectful of the men, women, and children (see episode two, filmed in Poland) who lost their lives in that cataclysm which tore Eastern Europe apart between 1939 and 1945.

They did find bodies in addition to artifacts and, in my estimation, those fallen were treated with far more respect than, let's say, the dead Egyptians filling the British Museum. You know, those dead people collected by "professional" archaeologists. Yeah, you academics, piss off.

Anyhoo, I highly recommend the show. It's on Netflix, might be available elsewhere, but it's good. Poignant, respectful, these men's love of their work comes across very well.

(Source)

As to why this show is not on the History Channel is anyone's guess. Oh, that's right, the History Channel doesn't really do that "history" thing much anymore, do they?

Sigh...



* Anyone keen to guess what that sign leading into a German bunker translates to in English? Bueller...


40 comments:

  1. Haven't watched History Channel since they pulled "Dogfight" several years ago. For the same reason, I might add. Actually, I don't watch much live TV anymore for the same reason. I'm about through with Star Trek Enterprise reruns, so I may look into this recommendation. Thanks

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    1. I am a big fan of the original series, and I started watching ENTERPRISE at the beginning of August, when H&I started showing it My word, what an enjoyable show! I especially like Dr. Phlox, I really do. T'Pol is not hard on the eyes, and also a fun character to watch, she has Spock's Vulcan sarcasm levels, with added female snarkiness. I think I will have a good time watching this show.

      I just finished the first season, and have no idea what the point of the episode Silent Enemy. I am told they are never seen again.

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    2. I will occasionally watch "Pawn Stars", though that shtick is starting to wear thin. Now it's more about the guys running the shop and less about what they deal in.

      "Dogfight" was awesome.

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    3. Scott - I too am something of a Trekkie.

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    4. I enjoyed the series, although the last few episodes were "weird". I won't go beyond that. Enjoy!

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    5. I watched it so long ago I've forgotten most of it ("Enterprise" that is). I suppose it's time to watch it ago, heck I've got another week of down time.

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    6. I liked that one where T'Pol changed costume behind the sheets on the clothesline. That was film at it's highest level of art.

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    7. Um, um, yes.

      Most artistic and edifying that was.

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    8. I haven't gotten to that episode.

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    9. Don't fast forward or look for it.

      Let it happen naturally.

      ;-)

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    10. I know that there is an episode where T'Pol's Grandma was one of the first Vulcans on Earth, in 1957, when the scout ship she was on crashed while investigating Sputnik, and she was stuck in Oregon for awhile, until the Vulcans were able to come and pick her and the other survivors up. I saw picture of T'Pol's Grandma in 50's era clothing, standing next to an pickup of hat era ( IH KB-1? It looks sort of like the one I had ).Could it be her Grandma, that changed behind the clothesline? http://www.startrek.com/legacy_media/images/200303/ent-027-t-pol-s-great-grandmot/320x240.jpg

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    11. Ah! I just found out Jolene Blalok played the Grandma, T'Mir, as well as T'Pol.

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  2. I think the actual toll was far higher than 70 million.

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    1. That's just the dead who were accounted for, doesn't count the millions of wounded and missing. We need to better distinguish the terms "dead" and "casualties." Many writers do not, sloppy work in my estimation.

      But you are right, the actual toll could be much higher. (And that's if we don't lump in the folks Stalin had murdered!)

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    2. There were ,many, many millions dead in China that tend not to get counted, but died because of the War, nonetheless.

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    3. Ah, but they did get counted. I found one reference which lists deaths (civilian and military, all causes) total 70 to 85 million. Of that total, deaths in China totaled 15 to 20 million. The Soviet Union, by far, suffered the greatest death toll: 26 to 27 million people.

      It's possible that the Chinese war dead could be underestimated if one counts WWII starting on the 1st of September 1939. In China the fighting began much earlier. I consider that part of WWII, some historians don't.

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    4. I start WWII at the Marco Polo Bridge incident.

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  3. Thanks for the post. I'll spare y'all my snippy comments on those " archaeologists and historians ".

    Paul L. Quandt

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  4. Ah, binge watching. The salvation of those recovering from surgery. For me, it's been 13 Hours, the entire third season of Turn, and In the Heart of the Sea for new offerings. Rewatched Master and Commander (for about the 1,532nd time), followed by the entire Hornblower series by A&E. Now I have another series to keep me going. Thanks for the recommendation, Sarge!

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    1. Ah, so do did you like "Turn"? I did, can't wait for the next season.

      In my defense I like to read as well. Books have oft saved my sanity when I've been laid up.

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    2. Loved Turn. Wound up buying the season, since it won't be released to Netflix until about a month before the next season comes out.

      Books are usually my preferred choice too, but my powers of concentration were lacking earlier in the week, and later in the week I didn't have the mental energy after getting back to work. 'Twasn't til Friday afternoon that I started a book.

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    3. Yes, books right after surgery would have been a no go, I need to be somewhat focused to read!

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  5. Great post and a great tip! And after waiting some years for amazon prime to fulfill their long-hinted promise, I took and went and joint up to the netflix. I suspect my productivity curve will soon be making like a lawn dart. Maybe I'd better go have some surgery, for tax purposes of course.

    I got extremely turned off by the so-called history channel years ago when they showed SBD's bombing Pearl Harbor. I'm sure you've seen the clip many times; a three-ship releasing from a glide bombing pass. I wouldn't have minded if they'd said something like "similar to these Douglas SBD dive bombers" or something, and I'd have only been a little grumpy if they just slipped them in without comment or identification, but noooo, they had to add firetrucking meatballs! Kuhscheisse! To be fair, I don't know it was the hx channel that altered the images, but if they're gonna take the name they should take on the responsibility. And don't get me started on that d*****bag arthur kent.

    There. I feel better now. No, really.

    As to the sign, google makes me believe it says "always (something) in the merde." Running? Swimming? Izzat close?

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    1. Thinking back, I think the gubmint released a film on Pearl Harbor during the war, I'm thinking as early as 1942, wherein they used Navy assets to portray the Japanese. I seem to recall the SBDs with meatballs (sounds like a pasta dish). But yeah, someone should have pointed that out. Arthur Who? (Actually I had forgotten that Scheisskopf. No doubt I'll soon forget him again, consigned to the dustbin of history.

      Your translation is close enough. That sign rather caught my eye so I just had to grab it.

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    2. "Rinnen" is the verb for "to trickle" or "to flow". Literally "always flows in the crap"?

      I never got to the point where I could handle idiomatic German, but maybe "Crap just keeps coming!"

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    3. I like that translation, it's how a grunt would look at it.

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    4. Believe it or not, the recreated Pearl Harbor attack film/scenes were directed by legendary John Ford!!

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    5. Thanks Dan, you're absolutely right. I had forgotten that detail.

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    6. Well, now we know why the navy shot down all those c-47's during Operation Husky.

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    7. That's right, it's Hollywood's fault!

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    8. Perhaps it's the German analog of "Up ... creek without a paddle"?

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    9. I think you're onto something ColoComment. Seems like the same concept.

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  6. The scope of the Eastern Front is difficult to grasp. To put it in terms that make it a little more comprehensible to the average American think of a theater of war that extends from the Atlantic to Kansas City and from Boston to Tampa. Now slide that hundreds of miles North to account for the Northern latitudes of Europe and you get a feel for the distances involved. Add to that the fact that it was three quarters of a century ago and both sides were still using horses. Roads were often little more than dirt tracks, and railroads were hugely over stressed. The logistic problems, on both sides, were epic.

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    1. Dave, you've seen right through to the heart of the matter. The logistics were an absolute nightmare.

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  7. not long ago builders managed to dig out a pantherturm (basically panther turret set up as stationary bunker) not much away from my dad's house - it was apparently guarding Oder river bridge which the builders were renovating...

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    1. Wow!

      Your country is steeped in history, Paweł. Oft times I wonder how you Poles have survived over the centuries, then I realize, the Poles are one of the toughest peoples on this planet. Good to have on your side in a fight, fun to have a piwo or two with as well. Lot of folks of Polish descent in my old home town.

      Niech żyje Polska!

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  8. Looks like a fun parade! I liked the Old Dinosaur crack. Haha.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)