The War series

Several people have recommended The War – A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, but I was surprised to see that it’s already available on DVD.

Do any MO readers have thoughts to share on the series?


  1. Murdoc, I found it to be technically well done, as is most of his work. However, I shut it off when he had Kieth Olbermann on to talk about the ‘good war’ nd then proceeded to get in hos shots about Iraq, etc. There’s also the usual stuff about American internment camps, etc. You wanna learn about WWII? Get the ‘Why We Fight’ series, and ‘Victory At Sea’. Respects,

  2. Hey Tim: I grew up a few blocks from one of those Japanese internment camps, in San Bruno, California. Remnants were still standing as late as the 1970’s. My favorite WWII documentary is the Battlefield series, which is UK produced. I watched most of The War. I didn’t like some of the soundtrack, especially the parts retelling the terribleness of war. I have to say that I found most of the archival footage thoroughly familiar. My favorite two interviews were by the P-47 pilot and the Marine that fought at Guadalcanal.

  3. Saw Episode 7 last night, wrapping up the full series for me; Burns’ film appears to contain most of the archival film everyone’s ever seen on WWII, and probably some not often seen. That by itself limits how the war can be presented because there’s no way to add new footage. I’ll agree with Mr. Pryuz, above, on the soundtrack; I recognize music as having a strong influence on the emotions, and it seemed to me that it was used rather deliberately as a tool to achieve just that. More than a bit heavy handed at times. One comment on another blog mentioned that the segment which included Iwo Jima failed to include the flag raising scene; I watched that segment twice and don’t remember seeing it, but want to look at my tapes to be sure. If omitted, that’s an egregious error. There may have been licensing issues affecting the decision, but I’d like to hear Burns mention why it wasn’t there. Burns selected about 70 people (I think that’s the right number) to feature in one way or another to bring the war down to a personal level, which seemed a not unreasonable way to do that. To call America’s experience in World War II an incredibly massive undertaking is an understatement of the first order; there simply is no way to present all that went on over the 45 months we were involved, and the two+ years before we got in. To distill 4-6 years of mortal conflict into 15 hours of video involves a lot of decisions, and there will always be criticism directed toward those decisions. One cannot help but compare the ’40s to the ’00s; there was no question that just about every American during WWII understood the threat to our culture, and to civilization in general, and that was reinforced in the personal vignettes. That we seemingly share no such concern for our culture and civilization today, against all threats, which includes but is not limited to Islamofacism, is certainly worthy of thought. I thought it interesting that Burns described WWII as a ‘necessary’ war, implying, of course, that some wars may not be necessary. I didn’t see the heavy hand of PBS in the series, but since Burns does most of his work under their auspices, compensated by the usual PBS contributors, there had to be some influence. I’m not going to buy the DVDs – don’t need to since I have it all on tape – but I may rent them at some point.

  4. I caught some segments. Like any program with old Vets telling their stories (Band of Brothers, etc…) and rare battle footage, I loved it. Once you start watching, it is very hard to turn off. I missed the Uberdouche segment thankfully.