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'American Experience: The Bombing of Germany'

THE DOCUMENTARY

"American Experience: The Bombing of Germany"

WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 9 on WNET/13

WHAT IT'S ABOUT On Sept. 1, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called upon all combatants in Europe to avoid the bombing of civilian populations - just as the Nazis overran Poland and bombed its civilian populations. Those words would, however, ultimately be ignored by both the Axis powers and the Allies. This program examines the destruction of Germany's major cities during the war (some of them, like Hamburg, almost completely destroyed).

As World War II buffs (and History Channel buffs) know so well, the British bombed by night, the American 8th Force by day, targeting industrial sites up toward the end of the war, when full-scale bombing, especially of Berlin, began.

MY SAY Those aforementioned buffs will want to watch this hour, which includes stunning footage and perspective by historians like Donald L. Miller (whose "Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany" is brilliant narrative history). But the operative word is "hour." Sixty minutes is not enough time to cover such an enormous subject.

There's an admirable attempt at balance, with the German perspective well represented, but "chapters" seem like they're missing or too thinly told. The Dresden firebombing? Barely mentioned. The remarkable airmen who flew the B-17s and the obstacles they faced? (Tens of thousands of U.S. airmen died and 500,000 German civilians were killed - probably most by the indiscriminate British bombing.) Not nearly enough of their story is told here, either.

GRADE B

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