Korea: The Unknown War (1988 Thames/WGBH documentary)

Jari K

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Is this documentary released on DVD, anyone know? Where can I see it?

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1078269/
Review: http://www.nytimes.com/1990/11/12/arts/review-television-the-unknown-war-on-the-korean-conflict.html

Also, can you recommend other documentaries about the Korean War? "The Korean War: Fire And Ice" by History Channel, maybe? There are several low budget releases and "news reel" compilations, but I'm looking a bit more professional approach (with proper historians, interviews, photos, timelines, etc).
 
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LeoA

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Sadly, not too many fans of documentaries around here I've discovered (Or musical variety shows from the 50's and 60's, another area that seems underrepresented in our crowd).

Is it actually a documentary or more like a dramatization, since there's actors here like Charlton Heston? Other than something along the lines of GI Diary where voice actors narrated some 1st hand recollections from soldiers that were actually there, documentaries usually are just narrated by a single person outside of interviews.

I remember liking one a lot about the Korea War that was narrated by Loretta Swit of M*A*S*H fame and thought at first that this one was it, since it was from about the same time. I wonder if that's available on DVD?
 
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Flashgear

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Timeless released a 4 disc set KOREA: The Unknown War 1950-53. I haven't ordered it yet, but it's very affordable...

I think it's a real shame that the Korean war is so obscure to most people today...it doesn't make sense as we still live with the consequences today...madman dictator for life Kim Jong Un and the most isolated and evil thought control regime in the world...famine, slavery and nuclear weapons...the term "Orwellian" only begins to describe them...

Most Americans would be shocked to learn that the US army was on the ropes twice in 1950-51...first at Pusan in the battles of the Naktong, then again at the Yalu river in late November to early December 1950... the 2nd infantry division, 1st Cavalry division, 24th infantry division and 1st Marine division were all under attack and encircled by a completely fresh 300,000 man Communist Chinese army...British, French, Turkish and Republic of Korea forces also...the enemy had a realistic opportunity to force their surrender...the winter was brutally cold, -30 to -40...it was only by hard and incredibly brave fighting and US resourcefulness that a complete disaster was averted and breakout acheived...our Canadians, Australians, more British, French and other allied forces were still in transit aboard ships and airlift...this crisis shook the Pentagon and Washington...it was the worst crisis of President Truman's administration, led to a constitutional crisis and the firing of supreme commander General MacArthur...

This was a far worse crisis than anything that transpired during the Vietnam war...although most people have at least a rudimentary pop culture grasp on that war...

Korean war veterans need only look at the thriving, modern and democratic Republic of Korea...and compare that to the destitute, terrible and evil darkness of North Korea to feel good about their sacrifice...and it's our duty and honour to celebrate them...
 

Jari K

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Timeless released a 4 disc set KOREA: The Unknown War 1950-53. I haven't ordered it yet, but it's very affordable...
This is actually released on Blu-ray (just an upscaled SD, I'm afraid), but it's not the 1988 Thames/WGBH documentary that I'm looking for:
http://www.amazon.com/Korea-Forgotten-War-1950-1953-Blu-ray/dp/B005JZBPDW/

About the 1988 doc... Interesting thing is that the U.S. version of the documentary is a bit different and WGBH executive producer Austin Hoyt shot new interviews and rewrote some portions of the show to create a more "balanced" account:

"The origins of the series, Hoyt says, "were really sort of a revisionist view" by Halliday and Bruce Cumings. The latter is a Chicago-based history professor with whom Halliday wrote a book on the war. He is among those interviewed in the series."

"The show's U.S. version, narrated by an American, includes interviews with North Korean officers who fought in the war and North Korean civilians."

"It (NOTE: the original UK version) also re-examines - and in the WGBH version, generally rebuffs - the communist side's accusation that the United States waged germ warfare in North Korea, charges sharply denied by the United States."

( source: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/...-PBS-THIS-WEEK-IGNITES-NEW-BATTLE.html?pg=all )
 
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Flashgear

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Jari, I have only somewhat hazy recollections of the Thames/WGBH documentary broadcast, but I do seem to recall the Hugh Halliday / Bruce Cummings involvement...I do believe that British historian Max Hastings was also involved, concurrent to a book he had just published...I believe that original UK documentary was, rightfully, more focused on the UK political / NATO aspect and more concerned in it's battle narrative with the British army, and to a lesser extent, the Commonwealth division comprised of British, Canadian, Australian and NZ troops...

When PBS decided to air it, they decided to flesh it out and add more narrative and interviews with US veterans and historians...again, rightfully so...I don't recall if Halliday and Cummings had given any credence to the allegations of germ warfare...in my view, that is a Big Lie that regained some pop culture currency during the Vietnam war when some low information know-it-all antiwar activists seized upon that communist propaganda for renewed purpose...

There were widespread epidemics in China, Manchuria and both North and South Korea during the war...but not because of any US/UN or allied biological weapons...no such weapons were ever used, even at the worst time of the crisis that winter of 1950 - spring of 1951 (tactical nuclear weapons were considered and quickly rejected) ...those epidemics (mostly smallpox) were introduced into Korea by the movement of the several million Chinese peasant army troops into North Korea...bringing the epidemic diseases with them...those diseases were endemic and widespread in China...

Once a mostly fixed battlefront developed at the 38th parallel, reinforcements, hard and courageous fighting, US firepower and excellent leadership by General Matthew Ridgeway forced the war into a stalemate... the dramatic war of maneuver that characterized the first year was over...

Other than the recurring stories of soldiers remains being identified and repatriated to the US, the last time that the Korean war's legacy emerged into the news narrative was in the early '90s...the debate over whatever massacre or not happened at No Gun Ri...the PBS series NOVA did have an excellent episode about air combat over MiG alley and the fate of a USAF pilot in China whose crash site and remains were identified...it aired a couple of years ago...I believe that is available on dvd...

Overall, I do remember that Thames/WGBH documentary to have been very well done...I hope you can find it on dvd, Jari.
 
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