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Review: 'Apocalypse: The Second World War'

History buffs, military enthusiasts and anyone interested in the preservation of archival film will want to check out a double dose of World War II documentaries this month.

Both History and the Smithsonian Channel are debuting ambitious multipart series that recount the story of the second world war via actual footage, much of it made public for the first time.

Launching on Veterans Day, Smithsonian's six-hour Apocalypse: The Second World War is (as its title suggests) the slightly more sensationalist of the two efforts - billing its "top-secret" footage of wartime battles and atrocities as previously deemed "unfit" for civilian viewers. The material, culled from films shot by citizens and soldiers witnessing the war first hand, is extraordinary in its vivid quality and wrenching immediacy. Among the most moving segments are home movies of a 3-year-old British girl living through the Blitz.
History's WW II In HD frames its narratives in terms of the personal wartime experiences of 12 Americans - among them, a Navy seaman, a Tuskegee Airmen fighter pilot, a U.S. Army nurse and two war correspondents. Whereas Apocalypse's footage has been colorized, History unearthed a trove of actual color footage in archives and private collections, which it then converted to high-definition.
Narrated by actors Martin Sheen and Gary Sinise, respectively, Apocalypse and WWII In HD are extraordinary visual records of the war that should not be missed.

Apocalypse: The Second World War premieres on Smithsonian Channel, Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m.

WWII In HD debuts on History, Sundaty Nov. 15 at 9 p.m.