The Murmansk Run required the shipping of lend-lease material by convoys to allied Russia. This meant skirting the German occupied territory of Norway replete with air, land, and sea forces and even the weather. On another side, the Japanese and the Aleutian Islands had to be dealt with.
This episode of Victory at Sea explores the battles between the Americans and the Germans over the Arctic Circle concerning the Nazi-occupied Norwegians and other like-minded nations. After the Germans' defeat, the Japanese take their turn resulting in another long, drawn out battle...A more somber segment in this classic World War II documentary series is once again given excellent treatment by the narration of Leonard Graves and the appropriate music of Richard Rodgers. Spectacular battle footage and the aftermath dominates to pay tribute to the fighting men who died in honor of their country. Well worth it to anyone interested in history as it was filmed for posterity.
"The Magnetic North" takes it's name from the location of pivotal battle fronts in the North Atlantic and Pacific during World War II. The first half of the documentary tells of American and British forces (with the help of Canada) in a successful attempt to keep the northern Atlantic sea lanes open despite the ever present threat of German submarines and surface war ships. I must say, the appearance of those ships had to look absolutely fearsome in person; even while watching today they appeared severely ominous. Dramatic combat footage at sea, combined with severe weather that proved nearly as brutal, was not enough to dissuade the Allied forces from surviving and delivering the goods to their ultimate destination, the city of Murmansk in Russia, desperate for supplies as they too battled the Nazis.
On the opposite side of the globe, the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska were eyed for their strategic location relative to Japan. In June 1942, Japan managed to occupy both Atu (spelling might be off) and Kiska, capturing ten American sailors in the process. It took almost a year for America to mount an effective counter, but in May 1943, twenty nine warships sailed from Cold Harbor, Alaske for Atu. At Massacre Valley, twenty three hundred Japanese defenders met their death along with six hundred Americans, but it was a rout that eliminated the Japanese from the Aleutians forever. Once again, the geography and latitude present the battle ground as a living frozen hell, and I for one can't imagine the valor and heroism that went into prevailing under those conditions. I merely thank God that our fighting men had that kind of fortitude and spirit.
As an aside, there was a pretty good film coming out of Hollywood in 1943 that tells the story of America's Merchant Marine operating in the North Atlantic during this period. "Action in the North Atlantic" starred Humphrey Bogart and Raymond Massey, and it was so well done that it was used as a training film by the Merchant Marine. A line near the end of the story seems to sum up not only the movie's premise, but that of this "Victory at Sea" episode as well. In commenting on America's success in delivering the goods to a ravaged Russian nation, it's duly noted that "It's not a miracle, it's American seamanship".
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