Here is the trailer for this mini-series from HBO; hurry up Sky and put it on Sky One. It is produced by the same team that brought us Band of Brothers. The key difference, other than being set in a different theatre of war, is that it is not based on one book but two. Making it different again is that these books, With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge and Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie, are memoirs and not an operational history like Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. It will be interesting to see how they integrate these two stories in the series. I am looking forward to seeing it as Band of Brothers was a good series that given the limitations of the genre stayed quite faithful to the book. My only concern is how will the series deal with some of the issues raised by combat in the Pacific such as the brutality that was quite unlike what was seen in the European theatre. Also how will it represent the experience of the Japanese soldier. I have these concerns simply because TV/Film is now the key method by how young people consume information and having taught ‘A’ Level history I know that there is lack of proper reading and that many myths are built up by simply consuming TV History. Unfortunately, pupils/students of this age take much of what is shown in these programmes as red and fail to understand that there is more complex narrative to the events than they seemingly care to understand. While I can sit and enjoy it for what it is the question remains can pupils/students who think that by watching it they are gaining an insight into history. I admit to having used elements of Band of Brothers in teaching. Indeed when teaching Leadership to a group of Public Service student on a BTEC course I used elements to illustrate the problems of small unit leadership and unit cohesiveness that grows out of a shared experience. I also used the following scene when teaching the Holocaust to illustrate the reaction to that event:
While of course it was not archival footage it did have a more potent impact on the students I was teaching. Why? I am not sure. To be honest I did not think about it at the time. I just realised that something they might have already watched would be useful in reinforcing an image and understanding that I was trying to give them. I suppose this is the power that TV/Film has on young people and if used properly and in the right context it can be useful pedagogical tool. But the problem is context. Without young people take what is shown as accurate. I suppose this is why as a historian I do get annoyed with Hollywood and its representation of history. Do not get me wrong there are good historical films out there but they lack depth and in a society where information is power and where people want it on tap a lack of depth and context can be a dangerous thing.