Name this WWII documentary series

Let’s see who can come up with this using my hazy recollection.

I remember watching a documentary series with my father when I was a child. It was a multi-episode series about the entire war. It was along the lines of “Victory at Sea” or “The World at War.” I would have seen it mid to late 70s or early 80s. We had cable pretty early but I have the impression that it was on syndicated tv or PBS.

The main identifying aspect of the series was that it was more or all about the Soviet war effort. My father was very middle of the road and not likely to spout better dead than red but I remember him commenting on one particular episode. It was about the Soviet union entering the war against Japan. He was a bit annoyed that it was portrayed as a heroic effort to help the allies against the evil empire. He explained to me it was a landgrab at the end of the war and that they entered into it too late to be a help to anyone but themselves.

Name that series.


Was a British series, very good and in-depth too.

They did have an episode on the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in august of 1945.

The Unknown War (1978)?

As for the episode you recall, sounds like the penultimate one (#19), “The Last Battle of the Unknown War.”

That was a GREAT series and introduced me to the Eastern Front, which was sadly neglected in the West.

And it’s on YouTube: The rousing military music will keep you awake longer than the music in Battlefield, which strikes an odd balance between hypnotic and pensive:

Yes that has to be it. The title didn’t seem familiar but when I saw it was narrated by Burt Lancaster that knocked something lose in my memory. The date is exactly right and I see that the New York PBS station was one of the first to buy it so it all fits.

I do see some criticism that it was Soviet propaganda and it certainly was. It starts with Barbarossa with no mention of pact with Germany and the occupation of half of Poland.

Thanks I’ll have to check it out on YouTube.

One of the most egregious pieces of nonsense in this series was puting the blame for the Katyn Massacre on the Germans.

Hardly surprising since they didn’t acknowledge it was the Soviets until 1990.

shrug It’s Soviet propaganda, but it’s not Stalinist propaganda. It’s a toe reaching through the Iron Curtain, testing the water, seeing if the USSR is welcome to come out and earn a little hard currency. The start of Glasnost.

And just look at hour after hour of film you haven’t seen before!!!

But then they invaded Afghanistan and the toe got cut off. I read that stations pulled it after the invasion.

Well, a preview of glasnost, anyway. More like a leftover from detente.

I remember watching that series the summer of 1983, Andropov was in power then.

One segment that sticks in my mind was the interview with the pilot who became an ace flying a Bell P-39, a much maligned and underrated airplane. Taking a hit from a 37mm cannon will ruin your whole day, fer sure!