The War (documentary): Wikis


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The War
Written by Geoffrey C. Ward
Music by Wynton Marsalis, "American Anthem" music/lyrics by Gene Scheer - performed by Norah Jones
Cinematography Buddy Squires
Editing by Paul Barnes
Distributed by Public Broadcasting Service
Release date(s) September 23, 2007
Running time 14 hours (total)
Country United States
Language English

The War is a 2007 American seven-part World War II documentary television mini-series that premiered on September 23, 2007. The program was produced by American filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and narrated primarily by Keith David.[1]



The film focuses on World War II in a "bottom up" fashion through the lenses of four "quintessentially American towns":

The film recounts the experiences of a number of individuals from these communities as they move through the war in the Pacific, African and European theaters, and focuses on the effect of the war on them, their families and their communities.

A number of notable actors including Adam Arkin, Tom Hanks, Ernie Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Eli Wallach are heard as voice actors reading contemporary newspaper articles, telegrams, letters from the front, etc.

The documentary is 14 hours and was broadcast in seven parts on PBS over two weeks, starting on Sunday, September 23, 2007 and continuing four nights the first week and three nights the second week, from 8 to 10 p.m. (8 to 10:30 p.m. on three nights). The documentary was provided to PBS affiliates in two versions: One with profanity generally prohibited by FCC regulations (including explanations of the acronyms FUBAR and SNAFU) and one without the expletives.[2]


Each episode begins with the introduction:

The Second World War was fought in thousands of places, too many for any one accounting.

This is the story of four American towns and how their citizens experienced that war.

Number Name Period Covered Original Air Date (EDT)
1 "A Necessary War" December 1941-December 1942 September 23, 2007, 8:00 PM – 10:30 PM [3]
2 "When Things Get Tough" January 1943-December 1943 September 24, 2007, 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM [3]
3 "A Deadly Calling" November 1943-June 1944 September 25, 2007, 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM [3]
4 "Pride of Our Nation" June 1944-August 1944 September 26, 2007, 8:00 PM – 10:30 PM [3]
5 "FUBAR" September 1944-December 1944 September 30, 2007, 8:00 PM – 10:30 PM [4]
6 "The Ghost Front" December 1944-March 1945 October 1, 2007, 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM [4]
7 "A World Without War" March 1945-September 1945 October 2, 2007, 8:00 PM – 10:30 PM [4]

Episode 1: "A Necessary War"

Introduction to the American entry into World War II. Tells us about the four towns mentioned that Burns selected for its wartime experiences and of the residents of those places. By this time, they have already known of the early initial conflicts of World War II in Europe through newspapers and newsreels, but it was only through the Pearl Harbor Attack that roused an isolationist, unprepared country into mobilization to war. But setbacks arose: The Philippines fell and with it the internment of Americans at Santo Tomas in Manila and the Bataan Death March. But America succeeds under great heroism to stop Japan at Midway and Guadalcanal.

Episode 2: "When Things Get Tough"

With American industry in full production, the United States entered the European war through the North African Campaign where they defeated the Germans despite initial setbacks; the air war over Europe; and the tough Italian Campaign through Sicily and Salerno, punctuated by the experiences of the soldiers from the towns featured. However, a shameful episode arose in America through the internment of Japanese Americans.

Episode 3: "A Deadly Calling"

The American mobilization transformed cities like Mobile, Waterbury and Sacramento into boom towns. Mobile thrived on its extensive shipyards that employed a lot of African-Americans, but racial segregation hampers the war production effort in the U.S., resulting in ugly riots like in Mobile. But African-Americans, as well as Japanese-Americans, were recruited by the armed forces into combat units and sent into action, though African-American units were still segregated. The American public finally gets to see the bloody sacrifice of their armed forces through pictures published in Life Magazine: One of these is the dead in the island of Buna. But there are other bloody conflicts reported in the press and the newsreels: The Battle of Tarawa (in color, too); Anzio; and the Battle of Monte Cassino. Eventually, the Americans triumph and Gen. Mark Clark's forces take Rome.

Episode 4: "Pride of Our Nation"

1944: On D-Day, 1.5 million Allied troops embark on the invasion of France, which, after initial setbacks, succeeded, eventually resulting in the liberation of France and of Paris. The Marines meanwhile fight a costly battle on the island of Saipan in the Western Pacific. These were punctuated by recollections of the participants of the designated towns. The American public, through radio, the press and newsreels, were normally kept informed of the progress of the war. However, as the war progresses, the dreaded War Department casualty telegrams appear at a fast rate.

Episode 5: "FUBAR"

This episode starts with the disastrous Allied assumption that the war in Europe would be over before the winter of 1944 (Hence the slang term). It covers the disastrous Operation Market Garden; the bloody invasion and battle for Peleliu; the incompetence of General Dahlquist and the rescue of the Lost Battalion by the 442nd; and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. But there are achievements: MacArthur's return to the Philippines; the heroism of the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team; and the thrill of the internees at the Santo Tomas internment camp in Manila in seeing American planes strafing Japanese ships in Manila Bay. There are the experiences of black servicemen and those of American Indians. But the reality is that the war will not end in 1944, and more ground will have to be covered and lives lost to achieve the ultimate victory.

Episode 6: "The Ghost Front"

It's 1945, and The War goes into its concluding crescendo: The Battle of the Bulge; the Battle of Manila and the liberation of the Santo Tomas internment camp; the Battle of Iwo Jima; the air war against Japanese and German cities; the final invasion of Germany; and Gen. Patton's attempts to rescue his son-in-law from a German prison camp behind the German lines. There are also insights into the role of medics in combat, pinups and American POWs in Japan. But still, there are the newspaper reports of new setbacks and losses, and the endless and unendurable telegrams bearing the bad news from the War Department.

Episode 7: "A World Without War"

The War finally reaches its end: The bloody Battle of Okinawa and the Kamikaze attacks; the death of President Roosevelt and the assumption of Harry Truman; the Soviet assault on Berlin and the fall of the 3rd Reich; the awful reality of the liberation of the Nazi Concentration Camps and Death camps; VE Day; the tragic story of the USS Indianapolis; plans for the ultimate, long, and bloody conquest of Japan; the dropping of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the "liberation" of the American POWs in Japan; and VJ Day. The episode concludes with the return and reunification of the American fighting men, and the fates of the towns and personalities first featured earlier in this series as they—and the United States—continue with the business of living in a postwar world—in a "world without war". [Extras: This is followed by David Brancaccio interviewing Ken Burns, Rev. Forbes, and Lynn Novick about what they were attempting to accomplish in this production.]

International releases

In some countries, notably Australia, The War was released as a 14-episode series. The region 4 DVD release of The War splits the series into 14 episodes, but notes that it is 'a seven-part documentary'.

Critical reception

Time magazine's James Poniewozik named the series one of the Top 10 New TV Series of 2007, ranking it at #9.[5]


The War came under fire after previews during the editing process indicated no mention of the contributions of Hispanics to the war effort, whose representation in the war itself is estimated at up to half a million people; complaints followed later as to omissions of Native American contributions and those of women in uniform.[6][7][8] Originally the premiere was scheduled for September 16, 2007; the fact that this date is both Mexican Independence Day and the start of U.S. observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month drew additional fire from its detractors, and the initial airdate was later moved to September 23, 2007, with no comment from PBS.[9]

Although at first the dispute seemed to be settled with the inclusion of additional footage to address the omission, in subsequent weeks, groups began to question conflicting reports from Burns and PBS as to whether the additional footage would be provided as supplementary material or would be integrated into the overall program.[10][11][12] Burns initially insisted that re-editing the film was out of the question, with PBS defending that decision on the basis of artistic freedom. Over the months of May and June, as of mid-July, 2007, estimates put out by Burns suggested that additional footage showing interviews with two Hispanics and one Native American would be added to the series, for a total of 28 minutes additional footage to the nearly 15 hours the program was originally planned to cover; the additional footage would air at the conclusion of the selected episodes, but before each episode's final credits.[13]

News outlets began to report as of July 11 that the additional content had not been included in materials made available for preview by television writers and critics, prompting renewed discussion and speculation as to the eventual outcome of the debate. In an interview granted to the Austin American-Statesman that day, Latino filmmaker Hector Galán expressed surprise at this omission, but also confidence that the new content would appear in the finished product in a satisfactory form. He also addressed concerns raised by others that he had not been included in the panel presentations made to the critics, saying: "I didn't get invited, but that's OK. It's awkward, because it's not my film. I don't want to 'big-foot' his movie. I wouldn't want anyone to do that to me. I'm 100 percent certain our material will be included. I haven't seen exactly where it will be placed, but it will be incorporated into the story. We shot it, it's there and it's beautiful. It will not be tacked on after the credits."[14]


  1. ^ The War | Pbs
  2. ^ Means, Sean P. (2007-09-20). "Memories of the War: Burns' new documentary tells story through everyday Americans' eyes". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-10.  
  3. ^ a b c d "Airing Schedule 9/23-9/26". WV PBS Website.,5281,13758,18999&station=WSWP&zipcode=45680&transport=&provider=&supersite=stations&display_date=2007-09-23. Retrieved 2007-09-26.  
  4. ^ a b c "Airing Schedule 9/30-10/02". WV PBS Website.,5281,13758,18999&station=WSWP&zipcode=45680&transport=&provider=&supersite=stations. Retrieved 2007-09-26.  
  5. ^ Poniewozik, James; Top 10 New TV Series;
  6. ^ Guerra, Carlos (2007-04-25). "Commentary: Honor Latinos' sacrifice even if 'The War' doesn't". San Antonio News Express. Retrieved 2007-06-09.  
  7. ^ Dick Kreck (March 4, 2007). "Latinos left out of "The War"". Denver Post. Retrieved 2007-06-09.  
  8. ^ Goodman, Amy (2007-04-13). "PBS Criticized for Excluding Latino, Native Voices from WWII Documentary" ("rush transcript" version of interview of Maggie Rodríguez-Rivas). Democracy Now. Retrieved 2007-07-17.  
  9. ^ Guerra, Carlos. "PBS' WW II film no longer on Diez y Seis, but still no Latinos". San Antonio Express-News.  
  10. ^ Gamboa, Suzanne (2007-04-12). "Hispanics Still Unhappy With Burns Film,". The Washington Post (Associated Press).  
  11. ^ Farhi, Paul (2007-04-18). "Ken Burns Agrees To Expand Documentary: Inclusion of Minority WWII Service Members Follows Latino Protests". The Washington Post: p. C-1.  
  12. ^ Farhi, Paul (2007-04-19). "Burns Won't Reedit 'War,' PBS Clarifies". The Washington Post: p. C-1. Retrieved 2007-10-09.  
  13. ^ Associated Press (2007-07-11). "Ken Burns adds half-hour to 'The War' series to include Hispanic, American Indian veterans".  
  14. ^ "Galán waiting to see his stories in 'The War,'". Austin American-Statesman. 2007-07-11. Retrieved 2007-07-12.  

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