Smithsonian’s War In The Pacific

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

In Britain, there is exultation and relief on VE-Day in Europe in May 1945. But in the Pacific, American troops on Okinawa are in the midst of one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war. It will be exactly 100 more days to VJ-Day, and it will include some of the most tumultuous and significant days of the 20th century. Two characters dominate the storytelling. One is American Marine Harold Clay, fighting on Okinawa and prepping to invade Japan. The other is Japanese Admiral Matome Ugaki, in charge of a group of Kamikaze pilots. The rules of war are in tatters as both sides use brutal tactics to kill as many of their opponents as possible. Kamikazes plough into American ships, and American firebombs incinerate Japanese cities.

Race To Victory: WWII Pacific (Monday 10th August, 8pm) uses a countdown-as-it-happened narrative and remarkable colour footage to reveal both iconic and intimate moments of the climax of the Pacific War. Nearly everyone thinks the end will be the two-million-man invasion of Japan itself. Planners estimate the fighting could rage into 1947. But a handful of scientists are testing a brand new superweapon. President Truman makes the ultimate decision, and a new horror is unleashed upon the world. Japan’s emperor finally capitulates. Harold Clay is spared the invasion and possibly his life, but Admiral Ugaki chooses to become the last Kamikaze of the war. These are the moments that illustrate some of the most radical days of the century, which sparked destruction such as the globe has never witnessed. When the end finally comes, the world is at peace – and profoundly different.

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