Dogfight Over Guadalcanal (2006)

PBS Home Video

Cast: N/A

Rating: PG.

Run time: 60 mins.

Genre: Documentary.

Verdict: Beautiful (see rating system)

More than 60 years after it crashed, the rusting jungle remains of an American plane shot down in 1942 provided some clues to close a mystery - and the material for a fascinating documentary.

When U.S. Wildcat pilot James ``Pug`` Sutherland tangled with Japanese Zero ace Saburo Sakai during the Pacific campaign, theirs was just one of thousands of aerial battles fought between 1941-45. What made this one special was the mystery of why Sutherland didn't shoot down the Zero when he flew right behind it and had it cold in his sights. Instead, Sakai regained the upper hand, aimed at the Wildcat's engine and forced Sutherland to parachute to safety from his burning plane.

Although both men survived the war (Sakai lived until 2000), Sutherland was killed in an air accident in the U.S. 1949. Both wrote of their encounter shortly after the battle, but Sutherland never explained why he didn't shoot down the Zero when he had the chance.

It was only when a villager on Guadalcanal recently found the remains of the Wildcat that historical investigators were able to discover the likely answer.

This is an absorbing documentary that uses exciting computer game special effects to recreate the dogfight. Guns blaze as the planes twist and turn on each other - it's really like being part of the battle.

The documentary also details the way young American and Japanese fliers prepared for battle and looks at the planes they flew.

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