The PBS documentary uses graphic imagery to drive home to Americans that we "dehumanized" our enemies and that the Pacific campaign "became increasingly racial." Footage of U.S. troops employing flamethrowers, bombing area targets from high altitudes, grisly combat film of a brutal incident on Peleliu in September 1944, and a Life magazine photo spread about a U.S. serviceman who sent home the skull of a dead Japanese all make the point -- repeatedly. Supposedly, this explains why so many Japanese troops fought to the death rather than surrender.
No one who has been to war denies that it is terrible. I describe it as the most vicious of human endeavors. In hating war, however, one need not come to despise the warriors. Unlike our adversaries in WWII, it was never U.S. (or British) policy to kill prisoners of war or noncombatants. Well before we captured a single enemy soldier, the Japanese photographed and filmed atrocities and used the images in propaganda to demonstrate their superiority. The Nazis and Japanese made members of their armed forces complicit in crimes of mass murder as instruments of state policy. The U.S. never condoned such behavior. In fact, Americans were prosecuted for it.
Ferguson concludes that WWII was "a tainted victory, if victory at all." That's a tough sell for the people of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Denmark, Norway, South Korea, New Guinea and the Philippines. It may have been incomplete, and it certainly wasn't perfect, but it was victory.
So was the Cold War, which the PBS special describes as a "proxy" conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It's a fascinating theory, but the "proxy" argument just doesn't wash for anyone who knows anything about (or who served in) the Korean War, Vietnam or the Israeli army. Perhaps that's why all these "icebox" battles were all but ignored by PBS. Ferguson, who serves as an adviser to the McCain presidential campaign, should ask the Arizona senator whether he was a "proxy POW" at the Hanoi Hilton.
Here's the bottom line that the PBS series ignores: Twice during the 20th century, Americans died liberating Europe from tyranny. We did so without subjugating any ethnic group on any continent. We're the only nation on the planet to have tens of thousands of its sons and daughters volunteer to don a uniform and go into harm's way around the globe. They go not for gold or colonial conquest or ethnic cleansing, but to offer others the hope of freedom -- the kind we celebrate on Independence Day.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.