Seventy years in the making. Three thousand hours of color footage few knew existed. The first documentary to show original color footage of World War II in immersive HD, the world premiere HISTORYTM series WWII IN HD uses the journals and accounts of those who served in the war s biggest battles to create a personal, introspective and detailed look at life on and off the front lines. Follow 12 unforgettable Americans, and experience the war through their eyes, in their own words, as it really looked and sounded. WWII IN HD transforms their stirring journey into a tangible piece of history. Culled from rare color film found in a two-year worldwide search and converted to HD with meticulous technique, WWII IN HD provides a picture of World War II as it has never been seen before.

Studio: A&E Entertainment
Year: 2011
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Run time: 605 minutes
Rating: PG-13

Audio: DTS HD MA lossless 5.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Disc Spec: 4 BD
Region: A

I had seen some of the History Channel’s series The Color of War so I knew that there was at least one production out there that contained original color footage of WWII. However, I couldn’t find The Color of War and didn’t know anything about some of the other productions like WWII: The Lost Color Archives or WWII in Color.I have been very surprised and greatly satisfied with the quality of this production. While I like my Century of Warfare collection it can be terribly dull and does little to shed light on the experience of war at a personal, individual level. This production does a very nice job of making the war personal by following the stories of twelve individuals with very different perspectives, from reporters to nurses to infantry men to sailors to airmen. It’s nice to see interviews with the real individuals whose personal stories provide the context for the larger actions depicted in the color footage. The trade off to this, of course, is that you are inevitably forced to leave out some events–even some significant ones–that were not directly experienced by any of your chosen subjects. Further shrinking the potential scope in a production like this is the limitation of available footage. There are some events, most notably the D-Day landings in Normandy, for which very little footage exists. Consequently, this is just something that you are going to have to anticipate and accept with a production like this.

That being said, I have been thoroughly impressed and surprised by the scope that was achieved by this production, and by the amount of new, never-before seen footage. Some events are covered that I have never before seen covered in any other production. Examples of this include in-depth segments covering the fighting on the Aleutian Islands, Saipan, and New Britain. You will note that all of those examples come from the war in the Pacific, and that is a shortcoming of this production that will undoubtedly frustrate some people. The producers mention in the special features that the majority of American color film was shot in the Pacific. Consequently, this production spends more of its time covering the Pacific war than the European. While there is still a lot of great color footage from the fighting in Europe, it just seems to be spread much more thin than the footage from the Pacific (I’d say it’s about a 60/40 split, Pacific to Europe).

I think that the hybridization of the documentary film with an arcing narrative following single individuals works splendidly and makes the footage more engaging than it otherwise would have been. I think the name WWII in HD is a bit of a misnomer as none of the actual footage is in HD, but I guess WWII in Color–a more appropriate name–was already taken. The music and narration are great. They do a great job of showing where things are going on, especially in the Pacific, using their world map/globe. I agree with another commenter that there is a little too much abrupt back and forth between storylines–Philippines, France, Philippines, France, Philippines–but this really is a minor quibble given the overall quality of the production. It is also quite graphic in several places, so be forewarned of that.
Movie Quality: 9/10

Special Features

  • The Battle for Iwo Jima [HD]
  • The Air War [HD]

Special Features: 8/10

Final Thoughts

Enjoy living WW II through the eyes of 12 people who have very different experiences. Each person’s story is illustrated with newely redigitized color videol We are history buffs and have seen many WWII movies, but these true stories really make history come alive. Both special features ‘The Battle for Iwo Jim’ and ‘The Air War’ were some of the best highlights of the entire collection as they were very interesting to watch and listen to the commentaries.
Overall Rating: 9/10