Descent from the Skies • 1996 • episode "5/10" The True Action Adventures of the Twentieth Century

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The Story of the Parachute Parachutists are a breed apart, for few experience the freedom and the whims and the very substance of the air as they do. From its original development and use during the Great War, through the beginning of sport parachuting between the wars and its use in World War II (including airborne forces) to the skydivers of today. Includes footage of early unsuccessful attempts. A history of parachuting incorporates the pioneers, those who have leapt for their lives from stricken aircraft, the paratroopers who used the parachute to carry them to battle , the show-jumpers, the Sky Divers who jump simply for pleasure and the test jumpers who made it possible for them to do so. Like many inventions the parachute was originally developed during the heat of battle in the Great War. During the inter-war years it started to develop as a sport but came into its maturity in the Second World War with the development of airborne forces, which played a key part in Hitler's invasion plans. The skydivers of today are the latest in a long list of those who sought to descend from the skies; sometimes with unfortunate consequences. It is a story that relates the excitement, the triumph, and the tragedy that have accompanied parachuting through the years.

The True Action Adventures of the Twentieth Century • 1996 • 14 episodes •

Wings Across an Ocean

How the Atlantic was conquered by air ranging from the pioneering epic of Lt Cdr Read USN in his Curtis flying boat and Alcock and Brown in their converted Vickers Vimy bomber in 1919, to Charles Lindbergh's epic solo crossing of 1927 and the record speed flights, including Concorde. Once man had conquered the power of flight, his next goal was to find a way to cross the Atlantic. The pioneer was Lt Commander Read of the US Navy who crossed the North Atlantic in a Curtiss NC-4 flying boat. In 1919 he was followed by Alcock and Brown in their converted Vickers Vimy bomber; and a few years later Charles Lindbergh made his epic solo flight across the Atlantic. In the following years the record breaking attempts were aimed at speed with Concorde's breaking of the sound barrier.

1996 • History

Wheels of Adventure

The World's Longest Motor Journeys Long distance car rallies, including the London-Sydney and the Pan African rallies, and attempts to drive round the world (by Kegresse half-tracks in the 1920s) and the length of the Americas. Epic footage of speed and endurance. With the development of the motor car man soon turned his attention from using it as a means of travel to using it for his sporting aspirations, to driving around the world, to remote corners, to those places where few men have ventured before. Driving in these early days was always a challenge. Dirt roads that the horse found perfectly acceptable became impassable quagmires of mud for the automobile. Despite these challenges, it was not long before the automobile transformed itself from novelty to necessity. The advent of the world's longest motor journeys took place with the London-Sydney and Pan Africa car rallies, in deserts and at tropical jungles. These were then followed by epic attempts of endurance to drive round the world and across the length of the Americas.

1996 • History

Captain Courageous

The Story of Captain Carlsen and the Flying Enterprise Kurt Carlsen's epic solo struggle to save his 6,700 ton merchant vessel, her holds waterlogged, from the ravages of an Atlantic hurricane during Christmas 1951. Spectacular film taken at the time shows the immense bravery of this famous Captain in his efforts to stay with his ship. Danish Captain, Henrik Kurt Carlsen, was given the name of 'Captain Stay-put' by the press in 1952, when his ship rolled on her side and couldn't right itself. The vessel Flying Enterprese was doomed. Pounding seas had cracked her hull, tilting her thirty degrees on the port side, and sending a tidal wave pouring through her engine room. Making sure that the passengers were taken off, he--together with Mate Kenneth Dancey-- stayed on board his ship as rescue efforts to tow him into Falmouth failed. They battled the raging seas in a valiant attempt to bring the battered ship into port. Captain Carlsen only jumped off the ship at the last moment before it sank and was rescued by the Turmoil. Their story is one of astounding courage and determination.

1996 • History

Descent from the Skies

The Story of the Parachute Parachutists are a breed apart, for few experience the freedom and the whims and the very substance of the air as they do. From its original development and use during the Great War, through the beginning of sport parachuting between the wars and its use in World War II (including airborne forces) to the skydivers of today. Includes footage of early unsuccessful attempts. A history of parachuting incorporates the pioneers, those who have leapt for their lives from stricken aircraft, the paratroopers who used the parachute to carry them to battle , the show-jumpers, the Sky Divers who jump simply for pleasure and the test jumpers who made it possible for them to do so. Like many inventions the parachute was originally developed during the heat of battle in the Great War. During the inter-war years it started to develop as a sport but came into its maturity in the Second World War with the development of airborne forces, which played a key part in Hitler's invasion plans. The skydivers of today are the latest in a long list of those who sought to descend from the skies; sometimes with unfortunate consequences. It is a story that relates the excitement, the triumph, and the tragedy that have accompanied parachuting through the years.

1996 • History

Lawrence of Arabia

How He Helped the Arabs to Liberate Their Lands from the Turks The story of T E Lawrence's exploits with the Arabs during the Great War. Hitherto unseen clips of Lawrence riding in the desert with King Faisal and the victorious arrival into Damascus. Thomas Edward Lawrence was dispatched to Arabia in 1915 to support Britain's war effort there. Lawrence grew to love the desert people and their struggle and made it his private agenda to ensure that Britain granted the Arabs independence from Turkey as promised. Lawrence led countless raids on railways, long desert treks and repeated assaults on Gaza. He endured capture and brutal torture that scarred him emotionally and served to bolster his resolve. His heroism made him legendary in Arabia and worldwide. T.E. Lawrence was probably one of the greatest adventurers of the Great War and was immortalised in film by Peter O'Toole. But what was the true story behind this man who helped liberate the Arabs from the Turks? This documentary contains rare footage of Lawrence of Arabia riding with King Faisal at their triumphant arrival into Damascus.

1996 • History

Fjord Watchers

Norway's World War II Radio Spies A group of Norwegians, separate from Milorg, the main Resistance movement, sent back intelligence of German activities in their country by radio direct to the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). Among their coups was tracking down the German battleship Tirpitz. They were often infiltrated back into their country by the Shetland Bus, a group of Norwegian fishing smacks based in the Shetland Islands. When Hitler invaded Norway in 1940, some fled, most submitted...and a courageous few became Fjord Watchers-spies. Whether roaming a busy Oslo street or foraging in a remote mountain cabin, they radioed a constant stream of intelligence to Allied forces even as German soldiers relentlessly hunted them. Special agents such as Torstein Raaby, whose reports helped sink the infamous German battleship Tirpitz, and author Thor Heyerdahl would pose as merchants, fishermen an laborers while they scrutinized Hitler's every move. They were the eyes, ears and voice of the armies that liberated Norway.

1996 • History

They Landed by Moonlight

The Dropping of Agents into Occupied Europe during World War II Set against the backcloth of the Special Operations Executive and its US equivalent, the Office of Strategic Services, the use of light aircraft, parachutes, motor torpedo boats, and submarines to insert agents. The programme illustrates examples of particular agents such as Odette, Yeo-Thomas (The White Rabbit), and Violet Szabo. 1942. British Special Operations Executive ("SOE") agent Odette Sansom, mother of three, steps off a courier for the French resistance network--a highly trained Allied spy. One slip of the tongue, a flash of a British clothing label...and her life could be over. During the course of war, dozens of brave SOE agents gathered intelligence for relay back to England, destroyed Nazi roads, bridges and strongholds, and paved the way for D-Day, the largest military operaton ever attempted.

1996 • History

Fastest on Land

The Story of the Land Speed Record The men that have striven for it and the cars they drove. Craig Breedlove and the plane without wings and Malcolm Campbell's historic 'Bluebird'. Breathtaking shots of success and disaster in the Nevada Desert. In 1904, automotive pioneer Henry Ford set an early speed record--to increase sales. By the late '20s, British competitors Henry Seagrave and Malcolm Campbell had pushed the record to more than 200 mph...25 years later, Campbell's son Donald doubled his father's speed. Craig Breedlove's jet-powered "Spirit of America" soon rocketed to a new record--which was broken by a rocket-powered vehicle and then by one attached to a sidewinder missile. Today Breedlove is once again trying to become the world's fastest man...by driving the speed of sound. With breath-taking footage of triump and disaster this documentary tells the story of men who risked their lives to be the fastest on land. From Malcolm Campbell's 'Bluebird' to Craig Breedlove's self-designed plane without wings that broke the 600 mph barrier in 1965 it is the true story of man's obsession with speed and danger on land.

1996 • History

Wings over the Orient

The Story of Imperial Airways How the air routes were trailblazed to the east and the Pacific during the 1920s and 1930s. The fascinating story of how the East and Australia became just an air-journey from Europe. The air route to the east and the Pacific was a trailblazing effort for Imperial Airways during the 1920's and 1930's. Subsidised by the government its objective was to open air routes between Britain and her Empire. In January 1927 a service between Cairo and Basra was opened after a furrow several hundred miles long was dug in the sand to assist navigation across the desert. This programme depicts the fascinating story of how the East and Australia became just a plane journey from England.

1996 • History

Barnstormers and Stuntment

A History of Aerobatics Fighter pilots developed the art during the Great War, but it soon became a source of wonderment for the peoples of the world. A select group of these daredevils found new audiences, performing their stunts in the silent feature films and serials that proliferated throughout the 1920s. Startling footage never seen previously of early flying stunts. The history of Aerobatics was developed into an art by the fighter pilots of the Great War who sometimes performed miracles in the air. They flew their rickety aircraft within a few feet of the ground, looped them again and again in dangerous maneuvers and roared earthward in seemingly suicidal dives, pulling out at the very last minute. These were the danger-loving fliers of aviation's early days, widely known as barnstormers. Soon it became a source of wonderment around the world as people risked their lives trying to perform dangerous feats that really tested the Limits of Man's endurance and agility. Startling, never seen before, footage of early flying stunts are included in this programme.

1996 • History

Kennedy's Torpedo Boat Drama

How a Future US President Faced Death in the War in the Pacific Set against the backcloth of motor torpedo boats attracting adventurous spirits in both world wars, this is the story of the future US President and his struggle to survive after the sinking of his PT-109 off New Georgia in the Solomons in July 1943. Few people know how close JFK came to death in World War II when his PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer in the Pacific killing two of its crew. While on night patrol in the Solomon Islands, skipper Jack Kennedy's torpedo boat was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. Although injured himself, Kennedy pulled one badly wounded man to the shore, then swam to nearby islands to find help for his crew. Kennedy's torpedo boat was the only one to be rammed by the Japanese navy during the war, which led to accusations of poor leadership. However, nobody could doubt the courage of Kennedy to lead his 10 men to safety as he swam for over five hours to raise the alarm and be rescued by a navy that had given him up for dead. His exceptional courage and leadership saved his men... and made him one of World War II's most notable heroes.

1996 • History

Over the Wall

Berlin Escapes 1961-89 The many and sometimes successful attempts to escape under the watchful eyes of the East German border guards. Set against the background of the history of the Wall. On August 13th, 1961 building commenced on die Berliner Mauer, the wall that would divide the world for nearly thirty years, as well as the city of Berlin. During that period more than five thousand people escaped to freedom, but over two hundred lost their lives. Even the phrase, Checkpoint Charlie, evokes the deception and fear that existed every day in the East and West Berlin. On a Sunday morning in 1961, shocked citizens awoke to the sounds of a barrier being built along the border separating East and West Berlin. Over the next three decades, thousands of of East Berliners risked their lives--leaping from buildings, crashing vehicles into gates, digging tunnels--in desperate attempts to breach the Berlin Wall and reach the West. In 1989, as Communist rule was collapsing throughout Europe, defiant Berliners began to tear the Wall down. Today, a few battered sections remain standing--a monument to those who died trying to escape to freedom.

1996 • History

Spies in the Sky

The Story of Aerial Photographic Reconnaissance The fascinating story with newly released footage on how flying high and fast, and often unarmed, aircraft brought back valuable intelligence on the enemy in both war and peace. Sometimes they did not return. We have come a long way since the first few silk-suited aerostiers of the French revolution ascended in tethered balloons to scan the battlefield through wobbly telescopes. In just 230 years, humanity has progressed from its first faltering flights to the capability to photograph from space an object the size of a grapefruit - a testament both to technological progress and our need to keep a close eye on the world around us. From the days of artillery-spotting balloons the extensive use of aerial reconnaissance began in the Great War and has continued throughout wartime and peacetime. Newly released footage shows the dangers that these planes faced flying high and fast in enemy territory. Many of these reconnaissance planes were unarmed with only their wits to guide them safely back home. Some however never returned.

1996 • History

Save Our Souls

Dramatic Sea Rescues Some of the Twentieth Century's most famous examples, with emphasis on how the rescue services have operated in the most appalling conditions. When the "unsinkable" Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage, she went down long before rescue ships could reach her. Those who survived owed their lives to the brave, self-sacrificing efforts of some of the crew and passengers on board. Shipbuilding, sea communications and rescue capabilities have advanced since then, but as the ill-fated voyages of the Morro Castle, Andrea Doria, Estonia and others show, disaster can strike at any time. And when it does, heroic efforts often mean the difference between survival...and a watery grave. Disasters at sea can be due to war, negligence or more often the force of nature. The twentieth century is littered with examples of sea disasters, from the negligence that sunk the unsinkable Titanic on her maiden voyage, to the tragedies of war and the weather. However, if the cause of the disaster was bad weather, the rescue services then have the most difficult task of responding to the SOS in the most appalling conditions.

1996 • History

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