Thirteen’s four-part Ground War series looks at different technological advances, from the AK-47 and the chariot to the trebuchet and the tank, that have changed the battlefield. It’s the completion of a trilogy that has stretched over 10 years: its predecessors, Warship and Warplane, looked at military technology innovations in the water and in the air.
In 2001 William Grant, executive-in-charge of the trilogy and director of history, science and nature at WNET, and Bill Jones, then head of science at Granada Television, came up with the idea of a program about the history of naval warfare, which became Warship. ‘It looked at the intersection between technology, history and naval tactics,’ says Grant. ‘We sort of imagined that if Warship was successful we would do aviation and then the war on the ground.’
After the success of Warship, which gained a glowing review from Navy Times, the sequel came in the form of Warplane in 2006 and now Ground War in 2010.
‘It took several years in between each [series], but I’m very happy to see Ground War now come to the air because you imagine a lot of things that are going to play out over the course of years and a lot of [it] never happens,’ says Grant.
The final chapter of the trilogy airs on PBS tonight (May 19) with two hour-long documentaries, Warrior Weapons and Battlefield Mobility, kicking off Ground War. The following Wednesday, May 26, PBS will air the final two episodes, Firepower and Command and Control. The online component of Ground War (pbs.org/ground-war) – which includes streaming of the full films after broadcast – takes each of the Ground War stories a bit further, with interviews and material that weren’t in the program.
‘There’s a certain amount of pride on my part that we’ve been able to pull this off,’ sums up Grant.