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Great Battles of WWII [DVD]
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$9.99
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Overview

Special Features

  • Direct scene access
  • WWII facts
  • Photo/gallery
  • Previews

Synopsis

The Battle of San Pietro
The Battle of San Pietro was Hollywood filmmaker John Huston's first effort for the U.S. War Department. Scripted by British novelist Eric Ambler, the film, largely comprised of on-the-spot combat footage, concentrates on a grueling battle in the Italian stronghold of San Pietro. The Germans, making full use of the town's natural fortifications, dug in and began defending their position by slaughtering hundreds of Allied troops. The 143rd infantry regiment lost 12 of its 16 tanks in the bloody battle. Huston and Ambler concentrate on the men of the 143rd, sparing the audience nothing in showing the bodies of the victims, intercut with shots of those same unfortunates, grinning and gabbing in the hours before their deaths. The filmmakers fully intended Battle of San Pietro as an anti-war film, but the military brass, concerned that the relatives of the dead soldiers would be subject to undue agony by so uncompromising a film, demanded that the picture be recut, toning down the stench of death and emphasizing the resilience of those who survived. Even in its truncated form, The Battle of San Pietro was strong stuff for a home-front audience weaned on the optimistic propaganda dispensed by newsreels and fictional Hollywood war pictures. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain was the fourth of the US government's Why We Fight documentaries. The film uses newsreel footage and a few re-created scenes to illustrate the courage of the British people under the bombardment of Hitler's Luftwaffe. Much is made of the fact that Britain stood alone in 1940 when it was besieged by bombs, and that the little island was virtually the only Nazi target that refused to capitulate. The film concludes with scenes of the Royal Air Force preparing to pay Hitler back. Like the rest of the Why We Fight series, Battle of Britain was directed (or rather, assembled) by Frank Capra. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The True Glory
British filmmaker Carol Reed and American playwright Garson Kanin team up to direct the war documentary The True Glory. The movie was assembled from actual footage of the WWII allied invasion of Europe, captured by thousands of different camera operators. Starting with D-Day, the documentary covers the major battles all the way to the fall of Berlin, along with personal vignettes. The prologue is read by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, with Robert Harris and Peter Ustinov providing narration. The True Glory won an Academy award for Best Documentary in 1945. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, Rovi

The Great Battle of the Volga
While this film of one of the epic struggles of WWII is over 50 years old, it still delivers the drama of the battle fought by Russian soldiers and sailors to defend Leningrad. Codenamed "Operation Barbarrosa" by Hitler, the battle was truly horrific. This documentary, The Great Battle of the Volga, focuses on the bravery and suffering of the Russian soldiers as they endure the tremendous attack by the well-equipped German army. That they could regroup and fight back with such ferocity is depicted, along with the terrible destruction caused by the Germans. ~ Alice Day, Rovi

The Battle of China
Battle of China was number six in the Why We Fight series, a group of government-sponsored documentaries aimed at explaining World War II to the American home front. The film describes the rape of China at the hands of the Japanese warlords. Once China is enslaved, Japan uses the captured land and its facilities to overwhelm the rest of Asia. Included are scenes of wartime atrocities--some filmed by the Japanese as proof of their invincibility. Frank Capra directed Battle of China, as he did all seven of the Why We Fight films. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Battle of Russia
The 60-minute documentary was the fifth of the Army Special Service's "Why We Fight" series. Assembled under the supervision of Lt. Colonel Frank Capra, the film is a sublimely assembled collection of authentic newsreel footage from both the U.S. Signal Corps and various Soviet sources. Narrated by Anthony Veiller, Battle for Russia is designed to clarify the history of America's Russian allies to military and civilian audiences alike, and to emphasize the importance of Russo-American cooperation in defeating the Nazi juggernaut. The film's highlight is the siege of Stalingrad, alternately terrifying and awe-inspiring. The musical score was by Russian expatriate Dmitri Tiomkin, who'd previously collaborated with Capra on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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