TV Series Review: Victory at Sea

VictoryAtSeaby Steve Lancaster   1/5/14
This is not so much a movie review as a series review. This is a black and white documentary of the importance of naval power and how the United States Navy defeated Japan in the Pacific. There are episodes devoted to the war in the Atlantic, but for the most part it’s a tribute to the men and women who with limited resources won the war in the Pacific. Produced less than eight years after the end of the war, the series is remarkably free of the jingoism of a wartime nation. Much of the combat footage is vintage, taken by war reporters and combat photographers on the scene.

The theme is the importance of sea power and, as an underlying subject, a response to the USSR…after all 1953 is at the beginning of the Cold War. The need for the US is to defend the seas from authoritarian regimes. In that respect, it is a homage to Alfred Thayer Mahan who, along with Emory Upton, rewrote the book on naval and land power and combat.

TheSeaIt is amazing that NBC – who many of us today regard as the mouthpiece of liberal, progressive, social Democrats – would produce such a quality work and with their own symphony orchestra. Sixty years later we owe a debt of gratitude to David Sarnoff who ran NBC. It was his genius that put the series on the air, where in various incarnations it has been since. Lastly but certainly not least is the music by Richard Rodgers and Robert Russell Bennett.

Rogers and Bennett wrote an original score for the series with some borrowing of themes from classical composers, most notably Anton Dvorak. The themes from his New World Symphony are worked into the Overlord and D-day section. Beneath the Southern Cross was given lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, but in my opinion the main theme, Song of the High Seas and Guadalcanal March are the highlights of the soundtracks. For a Navy man, and Marines have strong affinity with the Navy, nothing captures the haunting beauty and danger of the Pacific as “Song of the High Seas”; as for “Guadalcanal March,” only John Phillip Sousa could equally capture a military march so well.

It is possible to purchase the entire series for about $5, or you can watch it on YouTube. Amazon Prime and Netflix also have it available for subscribers. If you have never watched the series you are in for a treat and if it is an old favorite, dust it off and enjoy. • (2501 views)

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9 Responses to TV Series Review: Victory at Sea

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I also found “Victory as Sea” available on Blu Ray for $29.95 at Amazon.com. That was a surprise to me. I didn’t know that it had came out on Blu Ray.

    I have the DVD series myself and love it. And I edited your price on the DVD in the article down to $5.00, because – surprisingly – that’s what I found it for on Amazon.com. A real steal.

    And you are completely correct to have emphasized the extraordinary music in this series. Those who want the CD soundtrack can find it here. And let’s give a nod as well to the wonderful narration by Leonard Graves.

    Great review, Steve.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I am at about episode 6 of the series. It is interesting to compare this series to the more famous “World as War”. While I find the second to be generally well done, I watch it with a very skeptical eye as the translation from German into English is not always done well. In fact, there is one instance where the English translation was almost the opposite of what the German speaker said.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Speaking of good WWII tunes that have to do with war on the high seas, one of the finest is Midway March by John Williams from the film, “Midway.” And before I go into my “You gotta see this, one of the finest war movies ever, before you die” shtick, let me just say, You gotta see this one before you die. (That goes double for “In Harm’s Way.”)

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I’ve seen Midway, and it is indeed quite good. They did a fine job of reflecting the actual history of the battle. (Incidentally, the sole survivor of Torpedo 8 gave Nimitz his first report on the battle, having been picked up by American rescuers after watching the climax of the attack from where he waited in the ocean and then sent back to Pearl Harbor. We saw this mentioned at the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas.

  4. My father was a PT boat captain in the Philippines so we watched every one of those films when they first came out. I grew up with Richard Rogers ringing in my ears. Thanks for the reminder — Beneath the Southern Cross was my favorite piece of music.

    • Chris says:

      I remember watching VICTORY AT SEA each Sunday with my Dad. He would try and explain it all… the music brought it all back…. and my Dad wore the SOUTHERN CROSS on his tour of the South Pacific.

      I have to get the music and the DVD’s……

  5. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    Got the series on DVD and the score on LP (many years ago). It was a fine series, and NBC did o.k. on it financially because it ran in syndication for so many years – I remember seeing it in the late 70’s. This was, of course, a much better NBC than the one we have today.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I watched a couple of episodes last night. I had tried to find it on Netflix for streaming the previous night, but they don’t have it, so I took my DVD’s (which I had at the office) home. Perhaps Netflix has it available on DVD. But I don’t think so.

      Anyway, thinking back to Steve’s review where he mentioned that the series was free from “jingoism,” these episodes seem wonderfully patriotic and pro-Anglo. The only thing that turned my stomach a bit was the glowing words for “our allies” the Stalinist Commies in the episode about the Murmansk Run. They were allies of convenience, surely, and no more than that other than perhaps for the Communist sympathizers within the Roosevelt administration.

      But these episodes generally show the gallant men of the Allied powers fighting the forces of oppression (Nazi Germany, Italy, and Imperial Japan). We need more jingoism like this. There was a poll taken recently in which 24 percent of respondents said the the United States “is the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” That is the subject of Dennis Prager’s article at NRO.

      I’ll take my pro-American jingoism, thank you. It’s about time we had a little in the face of the anti-American Left.

  6. Anniel says:

    Our family had finally gotten a TV when this series was running. We didn’t want to miss a single episode. The music is glorious and stays in the mind for a lifetime. My husband got me the series as a gift several years ago. Everyone of my grandkids has watched it, and I’m going to pull it out to watch again. Thanks.

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