Both Battle 360 and Patton 360 have provided viewers with one of the more interesting looks at two of the most impressive records in World War II. In the Pacific it was the crew of the aircraft carrier Enterprise. In Europe it was the iconic leader, General George S. Patton and his troops. Together they have amassed the most impressive wartime records in American history. World War II was a defining moment for the United States, establishing this nation as a super power with influence on world affairs unequaled. The results might have been dramatically different if not for these two fighting forces. Now A&E has collected them both in one high-definition Blu-ray collection.
“USS Enterprise, aka The Big E, a fighting city of steel. She is the most revered and decorated ship of World War II. On this 360-degree battlefield, where threats loom on the seas, in the skies, and in the ocean depths, The Enterprise’s enemies could be anywhere. Now follow this sea-bound band of brothers through four years of hell. From Pearl Harbor to the doorstep of Japan, there’s nowhere to run, when the war is all around you.”
These are the voyages of the aircraft carrier, Enterprise. Her four-year mission: to explore strange new seas, seek out and destroy the enemy, to boldly go where no carrier has ever gone before. Cue the music. While all of us are familiar with the fictional voyages of the starship Enterprise, few of us know the incredible tale of the World War II aircraft carrier that gave her her name. It’s really a story as thrilling as any that James T. Kirk might tell. She participated in every major battle in the war. For a time, she was the last remaining carrier in the entire Pacific fleet. She was bombed and nearly destroyed in at least three raids. She missed being attacked at Pearl Harbor by less than 24 hours. If not for an unexpected storm, she would have been a sitting duck for the surprise attack that took out a significant portion of the Pacific Fleet before the war had even started for America. That doesn’t mean that her aircraft didn’t participate in the fight. She was 200 miles away and closing when the raid came. Her planes participated in the attempted defense of Pearl Harbor. It was the first battle of the war, and although Enterprise wasn’t there, she participated in the battle and helped mitigate the damage. It was an incredible tale of epic heroism…but it would only be the beginning.
The series covers those four years in the operation of Enterprise with amazing detail. We learn not only of the battles, but what life was like for the sailors and pilots that made the floating city their home. The material is presented through an impressive combination of archive footage, computer generated re-enactments, and the voices of surviving men who were there when it all happened. There are times the footage blends seamlessly, and it’s hard to pinpoint the exact place where the source shifted. There are also pieces where the CG is quite obvious, most notably when humans are depicted. There is careful reproduction of the ships and aircraft from the era that are startling in their accuracy and detail. Unfortunately, much of the same footage is reused countless times. It might not appear so obvious when you watch the show once a week. When you try to watch the entire run over a couple of days, the pieces do stand out.
All of the major action is included here. The Enterprise had a front-row seat for most of the war’s biggest Pacific battles: the Dooley Bomber Raid, Midway, Guadalcanal, Santa Cruz Islands, Gilbert Islands, Truk Atol, Saipan, Leyte Gulf, which was the largest naval battle in human history, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The episodes cover the times we almost lost her. The ship’s various repair and refit operations are completely detailed here. The episodes also recap what else is going on in the Pacific to put these moments into perspective for the entire war. She was the first US naval vessel to operate at night. By the time the war was over, the Japanese learned to fear the ship they called The Grey Ghost.
World War II buffs will like this unique take on the events. They can be sure of the stories because they are told by men who were there. The film treats the material with respect, if a bit of a flair for the dramatic. But, of course, these times were dramatic. This will make a rather nice addition to your World War II collection.
“General George S. Patton. His bold attacks are legendary. See the war the way he saw it and ride along with his hard-fighting troops as they battle their way through World War II. On this 360-degree battlefield, Patton’s enemies could be anywhere and everywhere. There’s nowhere to run, when the war is all around you.”
Patton 360 does for the European theatre of World War II what Battle 360 did for the fight in the Pacific. Just as in that earlier program, we are brought into somewhat intimate contact with one of the most prolific and successful fighting corps in that part of the war. Patton was a larger-than-life general who often got into his own way more than the enemy ever did. He was nicknamed Old Blood & Guts based on a standard speech he delivered when addressing the troops. He was the most successful general in the European war. From Normandy he pushed across France and into Germany, liberating towns along the way. The French citizens loved him and considered him a hero. His troops respected him and drew confidence from him, even if they did not necessarily love the man himself. He didn’t suffer what he considered foolish behavior very well. He found himself suspended and out of the war for nearly a year when he slapped two battle-fatigued soldiers with whom he had lost patience. However, it would be impossible to discuss the Great War without spending some significant time on George S. Patton. This series does just that … and with a certain flair.
Like the series before it, the show uses a combination of computer-generated images, archive footage, re-enacted footage, and testimonials from surviving soldiers who lived the campaigns depicted in the series. The pieces detail the various pieces of equipment. You get all of the specs and a good idea of how it was used strategically. This time there are a few segments that detail the difference between World War II equipment and tactics and those of modern warfare. It’s a nice touch to see how we would do these same kinds of operations today. There’s a touch of “what if” here as current military folks demonstrate the advantages the modern warrior has over those members of the Greatest Generation.
Patton is certainly an interesting and compelling subject. The episodes also offer his personal insights through his journal entries and letters home to his wife. The man was a huge believer in his personal destiny. He was convinced that some divine providence had placed him here at this moment in history to do great things. He was consumed toward glory. He allowed his hubris to taint his judgment at times. One such time had him organizing an ill-fated mission to free his son-in-law from a Nazi POW camp. Unfortunately, my father-in-law would risk such a mission to put me inside of one. The mission failed miserably and cost countless lives and equipment losses. He considered his colleagues as rivals and almost hated them as much as the enemy. He was severely disappointed when he was not allowed to deliver the fatal blow at Berlin. He was instead sent to an area where he uncovered the horrors of the Jewish concentration camps. Little could he have known then that the images he sent back from those places would capture the lasting attention of the world, long after the invasion of Berlin itself was forgotten. He never lived long enough to appreciate the irony. He died before he could return home in a freak automobile accident.
You can’t really go wrong here. It’s a good addition to your World War II collection. The unique perspective will help to round out an historical record that is unsurpassed today. All of the big moments are depicted here: North Africa, Sicily, Battle of the Bulge, and his pushing into Germany itself. If it was a big moment in the European theatre of World War II, you can pretty much bet that Patton’s forces were there.
Each episode is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. There is archived footage here, so you should expect the picture to vary in its quality. This does not look as good as the World War II In HD series did. The CG work is very clean and detailed, but it doesn’t have quite the sense of documentary that the previous series gave us. The picture is often a bit soft on the CG moments. Detail is good, but colors appear muted. It does look somewhat animated. The interview segments look the best. You can really see into these warriors’ minds and get a sense of the emotions they carry nearly 70 years later.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is all about the narration. You’ll hear everything clearly. There’s no added intensity to the war footage. The presentation here is straightforward all the way down the line.
Most of us think of that iconic image of George C. Scott in front of a massive American flag whenever someone mentions the name of George S. Patton. It’s a powerful image that helped to make that one of the most beloved war films of all time. But history is seldom the way Hollywood portrays it. However, they certainly might have come close with Patton. He’s the kind of guy we would most certainly have had to make up if he hadn’t actually lived.
The Enterprise might have survived the Japanese Fleet, but it could not survive peacetime. The ship was sold for scrap soon after the war ended. There was a great effort to save her as a museum or some such monument, but it all fell on deaf ears. Not even Admiral Halsey himself could save the ship from her ultimate fate. It’s a tearjerker for her surviving crewmen even to this day. They shouldn’t be quite so sad, however. History has just given them the immortal monument the ship so richly deserved. It won’t weigh anchor anytime soon, but you can display it in your own home video collection. Whenever you want, “we can reach out and we can touch them”.