239 of 244 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The War Hits Home
This series is not a comprehensive account of the Second World War - it was not meant to be. It is unabashedly Americentric - and a "Peoples History" of WWII. It does not chronicle every detail of American involvement in places like North Africa( for that, read Rick Atkinson's Pulitzer winner An Army at Dawn - 5 stars). There are no generals or politicians. It fails...
Published on September 25, 2007 by BK
120 of 140 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a balanced view of the American military effort
I recommend this series to anyone who is a WWII buff like me. You will see images and movie coverage that you have never seen before. The Ken Burns team did an outstanding job of gathering material that is unique to this series.
However, I would have preferred a more balanced approach to the war. Almost every campaign covered is portrayed as thoroughly botched,...
Published on May 16, 2008 by R. H. P.
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239 of 244 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The War Hits Home,
This review is from: The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (DVD)This series is not a comprehensive account of the Second World War - it was not meant to be. It is unabashedly Americentric - and a "Peoples History" of WWII. It does not chronicle every detail of American involvement in places like North Africa( for that, read Rick Atkinson's Pulitzer winner An Army at Dawn - 5 stars). There are no generals or politicians. It fails to chronicle the struggles of my in-laws during the Blitz or much of the suffering felt around the globe during this terrible period of our history. It is not the BBC's The World at War. Why remake The World at War? I was fortunate enough to attend the premier in Waterbury Connecticut, where Mr. Burns addressed all of these issues. The War tries to convey how this momentous period defined the lives in four American towns that could really be Anytown, USA. It tries to explain why my grandfather has never really been able to speak about his experiences and his refrain of, "I don't need to see the movie, I starred in the original." It also explains much about my grandmother and the world my parents grew up in. Some of the hundreds of veterans at the screening were watching with their families for the first time what they had spent half a century trying to forget and had never been able to talk about. The emotion in the Palace Theater by the end of the screening was almost overwhelming. Most of the men who fought this war are dead, and the rest soon will be. The documentary tries to capture what remains of their stories before it is too late. I doubt most of the men fighting over there were as overly concerned with a complete picture and full understanding of the war as they were staying alive and hoping to return home. Few documentaries have explored in great depth the homefront beyond the newsreels of Rosie the Riveter. This documentary is the story of everyday people that live in my neighborhood and yours, who perhaps didn't see "the complete picture," but this was the war through their eyes. We can show The World at War ad nausium to school children today, but if it has no emotional attachment, garners no empathy, they gain nothing. For this reason, I feel that Ken Burn's The War is a critical part of preserving local American history and well as the tragedy of WWII. My only real disappointment was that of the 2400 people in attendance for the premier in Waterbury, only a handful were under 25-30.
124 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give the guy a break.,
This review is from: The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (DVD)It sure would be nice if people would quit trying to project their own agendas onto this documentary. Ken Burns didn't set out to make the ultimate World War Two narrative; just because a bunch of people expected that he would, doesn't mean that his film is somehow lacking.
Burns did exactly what he said he was going to do: tell the American experience of World War Two from the point of view of everyday, average American citizens.
I'm sure that Burns and co-producer Lynn Novick would be the first to agree that viewers looking for more "big picture" information (about political alliances, military strategy, technological development, the war's global impact) would do well to supplement this series with other sources of information. Burns isn't telling those stories, and the omissions are on purpose. This film looks at the war from a different angle, adding a new layer of social history to the big stories that have already been told. I think people should judge this work on the merits of the goals that Burns set out for himself, and not simply project their own personal historical and political wishlists onto it. (Axton)
202 of 225 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FUBAR,
This review is from: The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (DVD)After watching the latest episode of "The War" - FUBAR...I now know why my father who served this county during WW II did not like Thanksgiving. All those years of never knowing, and to learn 20 years after his death why he felt the way he did. I'm sure that by the end of the series, I will understand why he felt the same about Christmas. Till the day he died, he refused to talk about being a Army medic in WW II. I have kept all the letters he and my mother wrote each other during this time. I've never been able to read these letters, but now feel it is time to do so.......My prayers and respect for all who served. For those still alive - God Bless.
120 of 140 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a balanced view of the American military effort,
This review is from: The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (DVD)I recommend this series to anyone who is a WWII buff like me. You will see images and movie coverage that you have never seen before. The Ken Burns team did an outstanding job of gathering material that is unique to this series.
However, I would have preferred a more balanced approach to the war. Almost every campaign covered is portrayed as thoroughly botched, costing countless American lives, due to our unconscionably negligent and inept generals. I really don't mind an anti-war theme, but when you view these episodes you wonder how we won the war. With the number of American snafu's prominent in this series, we must have been awfully lucky, or the German soldiers were led by generals that were even more incompetent than ours.
Also, Ken Burns seems to be obsessed with the race issue in the military, and its adverse impact on our war effort. This is certainly an important subject and must be covered, but there is obviously disproportionate emphasis/time devoted to this part of the series.
It would have been a more difficult task for Burns to accomplish, but if he had tackled the subject on a more global scale---he could have still dealt only with the American participation---it could have been a documentary of lasting value! However, he chose the easy way out by confining the details to a few American cities and the interviews of the same people over and over again.
In my opinion, the best film history of WWII is still the British series, "The World at War," narrated by Laurence Olivier.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique,
This review is from: The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (DVD)I think people should see all seven parts before passing judgment. A recent review labeled THE WAR "garbage", indicating it was too "feminist". If this person had seen the episode entitled FUBAR and Burns' description of the Peleliu campaign, she would, I think, feel otherwise. Burns relied on the reminisces of E.B. Sledge whose WITH THE OLD BREED AT PELELIU AND OKINAWA is largely considered one of the finest memoirs to come out of the Pacific war, if not the entire war itself. The segment shows horrific footage of the savage fighting on the island and is anything but "girly", an extremely immature and poorly chosen term, especially for college student. In my estimation THE WAR is the most unique documentary yet on the conflict. Many have indicated a preferece for WORLD AT WAR, which was excellent in its own right, but Burns has given us a different perspective of l941-l945--a perspective that humanizes perhaps the most inhumane period in history.
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important story,
This review is from: The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (DVD)First, let me say that we are enjoying watching this program on PBS NOW, in September 2007, just as it is showing for the very first time. So, except for the people who saw it at the premier in Connecticut, how can any others give a real review of the documentary?
For those who always want to include everyone else and despise any history that is presented solely as American history, I say to you "Bah, Humbug!" An American perspective cannot be given if it includes the perspectives and opinions of everyone else. You do not ask Bob about Joe's story when you are trying to tell what Joe experienced, what he thinks or feels! In a court of law, that is called hersay.
Regarding the complaint of the use of "stock footage"; just what type of footage from WW II do you think is available?? There IS no more footage to be had. It is ALL "stock footage" and has been seen, studied, analyzed and disected for more than 60 years. Any visual telling of WW II will be told with "stock footage", so to speak, because that is all there is. You cannot make more!!!
There is no negative in the retelling of any part of the WW II story. It needs to be told, retold and then told again. We must never forget those who sacrificed their youth and their lives. We must NEVER forget what happened and why. We must never forget why it was fought. We must keep it in the forefront of our collective minds so that we can learn from it and never allow despotism and genocide to rear their ugly heads again. In every generation and in every decade, the same evils rise again to attempt to take a stranglehold of our world. We must learn its lessons and MAKE SURE our posterity learns them too! Knowledge is prevention!
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it,
This review is from: The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (DVD)After watching the HBO DVD program "Band of Brothers" this summer I became interested in WWII history. As a late baby-boomer I had forgotten much of what I had ever learned about this time period other than Pearl Harbor, D-day, and the two atom bombs the US dropped on Japan.
Ken Burns has done an outstanding job with this new series. He tells the history of the war in it its many theaters, but more importantly, he tells the history from the average person's viewpoint. This is what makes the series sometimes hard to watch because it makes the horrors of war all too real. Hearing a private fighting in the Phillipines realize that his life is "expendable", hearing a d-day veteran who lost his brother in the same campaign say that he would have rather returned without his arms and legs than without his brother, seeing the massive toll of lives in lesser known (at least to my generation) operations such as market garden brings the history of this war into our hearts and minds. I've learned about America's isolationist policy before entering the war as well as much more detail about the war. It was a horrible war and my heart aches for all of the lives lost. I hope this scope of war is never again fought on our planet. This is why I'm purchasing this series - for my children to watch and learn from when they are old enough. This is history that should not be forgotten. Thank you Ken Burns.
172 of 212 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Necessary War,
This review is from: The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (DVD)My late father (Canadian WWII author George G. Blackburn) would have appreciated this -- but he couldn't be with me, last night, as I watched the first episode of this latest `masterpiece' from Ken Burns. I tried my best to see it through my father's eyes. [He was the longest-surviving "Forward Observation Officer" (FOO) on any front in WWII. FOO's, always with front-line troops, lasted an average of 23 hours before being killed or wounded; George Blackburn lasted ten months from just after D-Day until VE-Day (Victory in Europe).]
My father appreciated ALL of Ken Burns' work (especially the "Baseball" series -- Dad was a star pitcher when he was young: he left me his VHS tapes of that one).
My father, who almost made it to age 90, lived long enough to author a best-selling WWII trilogy for Canada's largest publishing house. He would have been greatly impressed, I believe, with Ken Burns' latest accomplishment.
"Episode One -- A NECESSARY WAR" aired last evening (on our closest PBS station -- "Prairie Public Television" of North Dakota - which gets most of its funding from this Manitoba city of 700,000). I found myself enthralled by Ken Burns' approach to "THE WAR."
We're taken in quick sequence to four places: a small town in Connecticut - close to New York City - "Waterbury." Next we visit the Midwest, (a town just to the south of us, here in Manitoba) -- Luverne, Minnesota; then, off to the heart of the South -- Mobile, Alabama; and finally, out to the west coast -- standing in for all of California - SACRAMENTO (a city of "110 thousand that feels like a small town").
The opening thoughts --from Luverne MN - are narrated by a familiar voice (from "Saving Private Ryan") -- Tom Hanks:
"Much of the world was already at war in the Fall of 1941 . . . " (and)
"There was a saying (in this small town where everybody knew everyone else's business) that, "If you don't want everyone to know about it . . . don't do it."
In our first glimpse at Mobile, we're introduced to one WWII veteran, now in his 80s, "John Gray who (because of the color of his skin) would soon be asked to fight a war for `Freedom' - though his own country's definition of that word, didn't include HIM."
Then back to the Midwest for a few minutes: "Sam Hynes," a surprisingly young-looking WWII veteran from Minnesota who was "barely 17 in 1941," recalls how,
"You could, all of a sudden, choose to be an adult (just) by signing your name; and suddenly (I see myself as) a fighter pilot - an "Ace" . . . or a submarine commander going into Tokyo Bay: It is the opportunity to be someone more exciting than the kid you are."
[To inject a personal note (since my lovely, new daughter-in-law "Eriko" hails from Osaka Japan), I was deeply moved by the interviews with Japanese-Americans, now in their 80s, who'd been singled out as enemy aliens, requiring internment.
We see and hear "Asako Tokuno" -- born in America, whose parents were born in Japan, as she fights back tears, recalling what it was like (on a day's notice) to be sent off to remote internment camps.
We're told how this grim process flowed from a simple, innocuous-sounding "executive order" from President Roosevelt's office: "(First,) designate military areas - then exclude anyone who might pose a military threat." On the strength of which, "110 thousand Japanese-Americans were forced out of their homes, with only the possessions they could carry, and moved inland."
But it's the interviews with those "old soldiers" (Navy, Airmen and Marines too), that really hit home: Some of these men being interviewed, were still in their teens when they volunteered for military service; they're still comparatively young-looking today. But you hear some of their stories on this great program - and you wonder how they survived at all.
"Glen Frazier" with the infantry in the Phillipines, (the largest, eventual surrender of Americans in U.S. military history) was among those few who survived the infamous "Bataan Death March." A good-looking man in his old age, he quietly sums up the experience in a sentence or two.
After a march in which he saw his comrades (and Filipino civilians including women) "beheaded, buried alive" (etc.) -- a march on which between 6,000 and 11,000 died ("no one knows for certain the correct number") -- Mr. Frazier, says, matter-of-factly,
"I marched without sleep for six days and seven nights . . . no water and no food. They say you can't do that. But I did. (At the end of the march) my tongue wouldn't go back into my mouth."
Ken Burns' approach is so well-balanced and suddenly, inter-cut gracefully with such horrific recollections are the peaceful scenes of small-town America - back where "war bond drives raise one billion dollars in a month."
We learn that "The War" cost the U.S. 304 billion dollars ("more than 3 trillion in today's terms"). Citizens of Sacramento - "in one bond drive alone" raised 16 million "to pay for 96 minutes of the war.")
Statistics are parceled out in small digestible chunks throughout the show - again a remarkable "balance" to keep the show moving along at a pace that an entire family watching this together, would appreciate. (I watched alone but kept thinking that my ten-year-old grandson would find this as riveting as Ken Burns' "THE CIVIL WAR."
Ken Burns reserves the longest, single interview in Program One until the very end. I didn't catch the name of this "old soldier" when it flashed on the screen (I was busy jotting down a note about him). He is an Hispanic-American who joined the Marines -- after the Navy twice turned him down ("too small").
He tells the story of the death of one of his buddies (on one of the Solomon Islands, which he described as "hell on earth") recounting how his "best friend" died on a night "so dark you couldn't see your hand in front of you" - so dark he didn't realize it was his own best friend who'd taken a single bullet of `friendly fire' -- then moaned and cried out in the darkness, "all night until dawn."
Not knowing who this dying man was, but, like the rest of his buddies, desperately in need of sleep, he muttered under his breath, "Just DIE -- Die, will you? -- let the rest of us get some sleep." He runs out of words to say - allowing the viewer imagine how he felt at the moment he saw his friend's body in the light of day. The episode ends there, with a fade-to-black in silence.
How wished I could have turned to my father to say, "Well . . . what do you think of it, so far?" I believe he'd have said (once again) "Good work, Ken Burns!" But then, I can hear his voice adding, "Bet you Canada (and its WWII efforts) will hardly get a mention." (Hope you're wrong, Dad!)
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Viewing from a survivor...Right on target,
This review is from: The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (DVD)This series is RIGHT ON TARGET. My grandfather who just turned 96 and was taken prisoner in Manila in the Philippines just loves this series. I have never seen him so excited about a t.v. series before. Being a POW for 5 years, he missed out on a lot of action. Watching this program has taught him a lot. I am also a veteran of the first Desert Shield / Desert Storm and love watching along with him. My war time experience was nothing compared to the men and women back in 1941-1945. This series is so well documented that it should be shown in all public schools so all the youth of today may appreciate their freedom a bit more.
Outstanding is all I can say. I just bought the hard cover book at Borders and WOW, beautiful to say the least.
Thank you Ken Burns for all your hard work and thank you for bringing a smile to my Grandfather's face.
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humbling and Inspiring,
This review is from: The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (DVD)Ken Burns' "The War" dramatically communicates the intensity and savagery of WWII. This includes the sacrifices, worries, and involvement by civilians (fortunately much less in the U.S., but impressive here nonetheless), as well as those on the front lines. One also gets a sense of how lucky America was, having to throw our almost non-existent military immediately into total conflict against fully mobilized Japan, Germany, and Italy - yet managing to hold on until our military could be built up. And then there is also the incredible story of how our industrial resources (factories, design and planning skills, workers) combined to produce the countless planes, rifles, tanks, ships, and other armaments necessary for those on the front lines to overcome the enemy.
WWII took place in thousands of locations, and involved millions of contributors' stories. "The War" tells it's story primarily through a limited number of individuals coming from four small towns across America in Alabama, California, Connecticut, and Minnesota. The focus is on "regular people," not the high level generals and political leaders. The narrative (often from those there), and photos and newsreel clips are compelling.
Viewers are likely to become haunted by a number of tragic questions: Why didn't Germany (Hitler) give up when it was obvious they would lose and were subjecting civilians to massive fire-bombing casualties? Similarly, why did the Japanese choose to organize a massive "fight to the bitter end" civilian defense of Japan, despite enormous fire-bombing losses and the almost total loss of their former armed might? Why were some incompetent American generals not relieved?
Viewers also learn that Germans had much better winter uniforms (warmer, and better camouflaged - a shortcoming that would be repeated in the Korean War vs. the Chinese), and experience the horror of Japanese POW and civilian internment status.
In addition, "The War" provides factual perspectives supporting the controversial decision to use atomic bombs on Japan: 1)The Japanese usually fought to the last man, rarely surrendering. 2)Preparations were beginning on the mainland to do likewise, involving civilians as well as the military. 3)Estimated U.S. casualties from invading Japan were 500,000.
As one of the participants aptly phrased it, "We (were) all casualties" in WWII - even those not wounded and those at home.
The WWII generation is fast fading from the scene. We owe an enormous debt to them for their sacrifices and achievements, and to Ken Burns as well for reminding us of what was required and contributed.
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The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick by Lynn Novick (DVD - 2007)