I related in The Job To Be Done that I have experienced frustration and annoyance on many occasions since I started the research into my Dad’s time in the R.C.A.F.
The source is always the same: misleading and downright sloppy “documentaries” related to the Bomber Campaign during the Second World War. In my book I specifically mention Death By Moonlight, a deceptive film by the N.F.B. from the 1980’s, which caused protests from outraged veterans in Canada upon it’s release.
I have watched dozens of YouTube videos over the years, and some have been fair and accurate and some have regurgitated outrageous nonsense. You would think that big budget network documentaries would have higher standards than a random YouTube video, but it is often not the case.
The most recent encounter I have had with a documentary that caused me to want to throw a coffee cup at my TV was Netflix’s WW2: From The Front Lines. The visuals in this mini series are stunning, there is no doubt about it – the colourizing of the original black and white footage is masterfully done. What had me frothing at the mouth was the way the producers handled the Bomber Campaign, basically disparaging it with misinformation and misleading commentary.
The narrator explains that precision bombing was beyond the capabilities of Bomber Command, so the British answer was “to find easier targets”. Libellous nonsense. The producers scoured the archives and managed to find a 30 second clip of a Canadian veteran expressing remorse that he and his friends were sent to bomb Hamburg. The emotion and sincerity of this aging warrior is beyond question, his words help us understand the terrible pressure the young men of Bomber Command were under, but such sentiments don’t change the facts. Portrayals of raw emotion can be an important part of any documentary, but they have to be balanced with factual analysis. To add to the slander, the narrator concludes the portion on the Bomber Campaign by implying that the bombing of Hamburg actually hurt the Allied cause by increasing the numbers of young German men joining the armed forces! That is so nonsensical that it gave me a headache when I heard it. Germany had been a military dictatorship under Hitler’s iron rule for 10 years by 1943 – the idea that there were pools of able bodied young men sitting around, three years into the war, waiting for the proper motivation to join the Wehrmacht is laughable. Four months previous to the Hamburg attacks, Josef Goebbels had made his infamous Sportspalast speech, in which he told the German people that what they were engaged in was “total war”.
Despite the fact that I think the producers of From The Front Lines should be ashamed of the sloppy work they did, I actually recommend watching the series, as the visuals are breathtaking – just make sure you take a healthy grain of salt first. As an antidote to this nonsense about the Bomber Campaign, I heartily recommend Bomber Boys, a BBC production by the McGregor brothers – stirring, inspiring...and factual.
Clint L. Coffey is the author of The Job To Be Done, available now through FriesenPress. Check back soon for new blog posts