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The Korean War: Fire and Ice, produced by Lou Reda Productions, History Channel, documentary.

This documentary, which is airing periodically on the History Channel during the fiftieth anniversary of the Korean War, is a hard-hitting, no-nonsense account of one of the twentieth century’s most divisive and controversial armed conflicts. The format combines wartime footage, voice-over, and on-camera commentary by veterans of the war and military historians. Fire and Ice incorporates information about the origins of the war that has only been available since the mid-1990s, when some archives of the former Soviet Union were opened and when Chinese authorities released some of Mao Tse-tung’s correspondence and messages to People’s Liberation Army commanders. Additionally, the scriptwriters had the benefit of some recently declassified U.S. military documents and of information obtained from wartime military participants and memoirs of various Truman administration officials.

The on-camera interviews are a particularly welcome aspect of Fire and Ice. Understandably, the show reflects an American perspective, and a wide variety of enlisted veterans vividly describe shocking and sometimes highly emotional events. But there are several veteran-historians, men who were participants in the conflict and later wrote books about their own and others’ experiences, who provide the necessary historical context for the interviews. Fire and Ice is a straightforward and worthwhile presentation and as good a historical account as TV permits.