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Scott's World -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By
VERNON SCOTT, United Press International

HOLLYWOOD, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- War is the heaviest cross mankind carries as verified in "Hell In The Pacific," a Learning Channel special significantly scheduled for Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day.

It contains the most graphically shocking violence ever shown on TV. No movie has approached the appallingly gruesome scenes found in "Hell In The Pacific," an unforgettable documentary where the violence is anything but

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gratuitous.

Combat photographers captured sea, air and ground warfare at their most repugnant: organized murder, mutilation, rape, torture and blind hatred.

Segments of the show include Japanese veterans, few of whom evidence signs of remorse.

American veterans of World War II (and Korea and Vietnam) can only cringe and try to erase the memories altogether. By comparison, the current war against terrorism is curiously remote, excepting, of course, the catastrophic events of Sept. 11.

"Hell In The Pacific" is somewhat encapsulated by actor Rod Steiger, a World War II veteran who says on camera, "They're shooting at these defenseless people and you're thinking, 'What the hell happened to the Ten Commandments?'"

Documentary footage, compiled and edited by English producer Jonathan Lewis, includes the Pearl Harbor attack, Guadalcanal, the Bataan Death March, the battle of Midway, and actions in Pacific bastions of Japanese troops.

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Most of the film is close-up and personal. Viewers can almost hear the screams of the dying and smell the stench of death and corpses and filth.

The current war against terrorism is a new sort of conflict with few American casualties and is incomprehensible to vets of 19th century's conventional warfare.

Producer Lewis' documentary acquaints viewers with the grim realities and sickening details of combat.

Lewis, a youngster during World War II, was encouraged to make this film because, "I do not think we had done justice to the people who fought the second World War.

"To some extent we thanked them and paid homage to our fathers and grandfathers. We organized the film to show what it was REALLY like, so we really know what we are actually thanking them for.

"Regarding the veterans in the film, we didn't want to ask and they didn't want to tell. It was a double push-pull on what the war was really like.

"If we didn't ask and they didn't talk, we would never find out what it was truly like and what we have to be grateful for and how lucky we were to have avoided it.

"We have seen situations where people have been in combat for years and how they change without realizing it; their bodies, their appearance, who they will go home to, whether they will ever get home.

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"The World War II generation is getting old -- and they don't need us to remind them of that. The younger generation is comfortable just thanking granddad and not asking what was it like to be in Peleliu (Palou) in combat."

Jumping forward to now, the USS Peleliu, an amphibious assault ship, is cruising off Pakistan with a battalion of Marines, their equipment, and planes and helicopters.

Lewis' film demonstrates how ordinary young Americans were forged into killers. Had they not been, he says, we'd have lost the war.

Certainly Imperial Japanese and German Nazi troops, pilots and mariners were trained killers, and Allied warriors of necessity became efficient killers to defeat them.

Today's Americans are greatly concerned about killing enemy civilians, apparently heedless of some 4,000 American civilians murdered in New York's Twin Towers.

Paul Tibbets, A-bomb pilot at Hiroshima, is seen on film saying he did not have a moment's regret about demolishing that city.

The show argues there's no telling how many Japanese and American lives would have been lost had there been an invasion of Japan instead of dropping the Bomb.

The valor and determination of American fighting men a half-century ago in the savage destruction of enemy troops was reality, as it may well become in the war against terrorism.

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Yet former TV host Phil Donahue appeared on the tube this month suggesting that the U.S. stop bombing Afghanistan in favor of covering Muslim countries with leaflets explaining how good and kind Americans are.

Kill terrorists with charm?

Can anyone imagine Taliban forces casting aside their weapons, losing their deep hatred of America by preaching Donahue's fellowship of man? The only good American to them is a dead American.

Veterans of previous American wars understood the enemies fanatical intent. Today's enemies are worse.

U.S. support of Israel alone excites paroxysms of hatred in the hearts of many Middle-Eastern residents. Pamphlets and propaganda appear to be as futile today as in 1918 and 1942. Enemies of free democracy are dedicated only to our defeat.

Should there be any doubt, tune in The Learning Channel at 9 p.m. Dec. 7.

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