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The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945 Hardcover – September 11, 2007

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The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945 + The War - A Film By Ken Burns and Lynn Novick
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (September 11, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307262839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307262837
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 9.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

History buffs, Ken Burns fans, and anyone whose life has been touched by war will be awed by Burns's new book, The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945, a stunning companion to his PBS series airing in September 2007. Focusing on the citizens of four towns, The War follows more than forty people from 1941 to 1945. Maps and hundreds of photographs enrich this compelling, unflinching narrative. Check out some of the photographs and read the first chapter below. --Daphne Durham

Exclusive Photographs from The War

Read the First Chapter of The War

A Necessary War
I don't think there is such a thing as a good war. There are sometimes necessary wars. And I think one might say, "just" wars. I never questioned the necessity of that war. And I still do not question it. It was something that had to be done. --Samuel Hynes

Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, began as most days do in Honolulu: warm and sunny with blue skies punctuated here and there by high wisps of cloud. At a few minutes after eight o'clock, the Hyotara Inouye family was at home on Coyne Street, getting ready for church. The sugary whine of Hawaiian music drifted through the house. The oldest of the four Inouye children, seventeen-year-old Daniel, a senior at William McKinley High and a Red Cross volunteer, was listening to station KGMB as he dressed. There were other sounds, too, muffled far-off sounds to which no one paid much attention at first because they had grown so familiar over the past few months. The drone of airplanes and the rumble of distant explosions had been commonplace since spring of the previous year, when the U.S. Pacific Fleet had shifted from the California coast to Pearl Harbor, some seven miles northwest of the Inouye home. Air-raid drills were frequent occurrences; so was practice firing of the big coastal defense batteries near Waikiki Beach.

But this was different. Daniel was just buttoning his shirt, he remembered, when the voice of disk jockey Webley Edwards broke into the music. "All army, navy, and marine personnel to report to duty," it said. At almost the same moment, Daniel's father shouted for him to come outside. Something strange was going on. Daniel hurried out into the sunshine and stood with his father by the side of the house, peering toward Pearl Harbor. They were too far away to see the fleet itself, and hills further obscured their view, but the sky above the harbor was filled with puffs of smoke. During drills the blank antiaircraft bursts had always been white. These were jet-black. Then, as the Inouyes watched in disbelief, the crrrump of distant explosions grew louder and more frequent and so much oily black smoke began billowing up into the sky that the mountains all but vanished and the horizon itself seemed about to disappear.

Read more from Chapter 1...

From Publishers Weekly

This lavishly illustrated companion to the September PBS documentary series reduces the American side of WWII to the local and personal. Documentarian Burns (The Civil War) and historian Ward (The Civil War: An Illustrated History) foreground the iconic experiences of ordinary people, including a young girl interned in a Japanese camp in the Philippines, marines in the thick of combat in the Pacific and a fighter pilot who exchanges letters with his sweetheart. Their stories are full of anxiety and exhilaration, terror and pathos. (Sample vignette: a GI casually tosses pebbles into the skull of a Japanese machine-gunner, still upright and wide-eyed after the top of his head has been shot off). The authors' portrait of the home front glows with nostalgia—war bonds, scrap-metal drives, USO dances—but they also note racial tensions at a Mobile, Ala., shipyard and the bitterness of Japanese-American soldiers whose families were interned. In the background, Roosevelt and Churchill confer, Patton struts and growls, and arrows march across maps as the authors deftly sketch major campaigns and battles and offer tart criticism of inept generals. This visually appealing coffee-table book gives little idea of how and why America won, but a strong sense of what it felt like on the way to victory. Photos. (Sept. 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

It helps to remind us to be thankful.
J. Green
He has refined his writing style and more than ever clearly and concisely tells a story while blending it seamlessly into a historical context.
G. P. Keim
Got the audio book to listen to in my car after enjoying the DVD series when it was first released.
LM Tacoma

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey T. Munson on September 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Following in the tradition his previous books on the Civil War, Jazz, and Baseball, Ken Burns has written another compelling and informative volume, this time on the Second World War.

This book is loaded with photographs, maps, and testimonials from civilians and service people alike. It encompasses both the European and Pacific theaters of war, as well as the home front. The narrative is rich and easy to read, and the photographs show just what it was like to be in battle or work on an assembly line back home. The personal accounts from the front add an element of actually being in the fighting to the book. Of particular interest to me was the story of the Army's 442nd infantry. This unit was composed entirely of Japanese-Americans who fought in the European theater. Other points of interest include an informative section on the movement of Japanese-Americans to relocation camps inside the United States, war bond drives conducted throughout the war, and, mainly, the brutality of combat in both the European and Pacific theaters.

I've read Burns' books on Baseball and the Civil War, and I've seen the companion video series to them as well. Burns has a knack for bringing out the "human" side to a particular event or situation, and he maintains this quality with the personal stories and historical narrative contained in this book. The excellent photographs and maps add a true sense of what it was really like at home and overseas during World War II.

I give this fine book my highest recommendation. Ken Burns has written a terrific piece of military history which will remain a staple of the genre for years to come. This book is a must read for World War II readers.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By G. P. Keim on September 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have read several of Geoffrey C Wards books, specifically his companion books to the Jazz, Mark Twain and Baseball documentaries but I have to say Mr Ward has outdone himself here.

He has refined his writing style and more than ever clearly and concisely tells a story while blending it seamlessly into a historical context. He puts a human face on the past making it very real and vivid for the reader.

This book tells the story of 4 American cities and their citizenry and how they weathered WWII. It is a page turner. There were numerous photos I had never seen before which add immeasurably to reading experience. I cannot wait to see the show on PBS.

Ward, with an assist from Ken Burns, has penned (computered?) another great read.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A. Manalli on September 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The photographs alone are worth the price of this book, covering all theaters of war, all branches of the service, and the american homefront. I have seen many of these photographs published in other books, and many I have not see before, but to have them all in one book is something special. The illustrations are also well done.

The writing is powerful, easy to read and easy to understand. From an account of a man who was 17 years-old and living near Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941; to Ernie Pyle walking on the beach after D-Day, looking at items left behind by the dead - stationary that would never be written upon, or photographs looking up from the sand.

The book itself is a heavy, handsome hardcover. It would make an excellent addition to anyone's personal library. I highly recommend it.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on September 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Without any doubt, The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945 by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns is a worthwhile read in and of itself. That the book is a companion to one of Burns' documentaries is even better. Like other reviewers I am a huge fan of Ward and Burns having purchased and read the companions to the Jazz and Baseball programs.

The War is organized roughly chronologically. It focuses on four towns and four families and four veterans and tells the story of the war through their stories. There are interesting explorations of ancillary subjects, but the book always comes back to the same pattern.

Written for the average person, The War is sure to add to the pleasure of the television program. I have it on my lap while I'm watching The War on television.

This is a worthy addition to your personal libraries.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R S Cobblestone VINE VOICE on September 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I started reading Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns' book, The War, after I had started viewing the companion miniseries, and I finished it before the miniseries was concluded. They are, in every sense, two peas in a pod. The book has more material, and the miniseries, of course, has the video clips. However, the stories told by the townspeople in America, and the soldiers from those towns, is consistent.

The War is not like the majority of other nonfiction accounts of WWII. Lacking are the meticulously researched campaigns, descriptions of weapons, and lists of... everything, from casualties to cannons. Instead, this is a story of the war from the perspectives of common soldiers. Not the generals. Not the journalists. And not the politicians. What do you experience when you surrender in the Philippines, get forced into the Bataan Death March, and get shipped over to Japan to be a slave worker in a factory. Then you get home, but your parents had been told you were dead. What is it like to be a sergeant, shot in the abdomen, and still kill German soldiers with a machine gun and grenades, until only you are standing, gun in your left arm, and your right arm destroyed?

What are those perspectives in the war?

These perspectives are THE perspectives in The War, by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns.

You are lulled into a sense of peacefulness, with Americana of the 1930s and 40s, then you turn the page, and are shocked with the horrors of war. The soldiers comment not on the victories ( and losses), but on the shock to the senses, the decomposing and putrid bodies, and the loss of their friends and acquaintances. They remember how tired they were, and wet, and dirty.

You really get a feel, I believe, of the immensity of this war.
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