This boxed set contained the eight episode of the Pacific: Hell on Earth series and a bonus disc with a biography of Eugene B. Sledge, the author of 'With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa', one of the best eyewitness accounts of the fighting during the Pacific War. The eight episodes in the main series are a slightly unusual mix. They start, as you would expect, with Pearl Harbor. Of the remaining seven episodes six look at some of the most famous of the island battles, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa while the seventh covers the battle of Leyte Gulf.
This series relies on three main features for its success - first a series of interviews with surviving veterans of the fighting (mostly American but with some extracts from contemporary Japanese diaries), second a good selection of contemporary film clips, most of which appear to be directly relevant to the events being discussed and third a nice use of aerial reconnaissance photographs. These detailed pictures have been wrapped over 3D models of the islands, an approach that gives a very clear idea of the topography of these battlefields, something that isn't always clear in normal maps and is totally missed from printed versions of the photographs. As a result we get a clear idea of the often extreme environments being fought over, where jungle clad mountain ridges were often key strategic objectives. One particularly impressive sequence shows the craters left after one of the bigger artillery bombardments on Guadalcanal and gives a real feel for the scale of the fighting.
As with most made-for-TV documentary series it is normally possible to tell where the ad-breaks have been removed, although thankfully in more episodes there is a minimal amount of the sort of repetition that can sometimes creep in at this point.
This is an interesting series of eight independent documentaries on eight different topics, and not a connected account of the Pacific War. Fortunately each of the documentaries is strong enough in its own right to support this format. The interviews with the surviving veterans of the battles makes this series worthwhile all by themselves, and the unusual use of aerial photography is nicely done.
1 - Pearl Harbor
2 - Guadalcanal
3 - Tarawa
4 - Saipan
5 - Guam
6 - Leyte Gulf
7 - Iwo Jima
8 - Okinawa
9 - Sledgehammer - Old Breed Marine