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October 02, 2007

Forum post: Episode 7 of "The War" - the finale!

Tonight, we close out the premiere broadcast of Ken Burns' The War with episode 7, A World Without War, which takes us from March 1945 through December 1945. In one way, at the close of last night's episode, it seemed impossible that there could be any more bad news; from another perspective, it seemed impossible that the war could be in any way nearing the end. In tonight's episode, Burns takes us through the horrifying final nine months of the war, and looks ahead into the hopeful future for Americans after the war.

Again, here's an abbreviated synopsis of tonight's episode:

In spring 1945, although the numbers of dead and wounded have more than doubled since D-Day, the people of Mobile, Sacramento, Waterbury and Luverne understand all too well that there will be more bad news from the battlefield before the war can end. ... In mid-April, Americans are shocked by news bulletins announcing that President Roosevelt is dead; many do not even know the name of their new president, Harry Truman. Meanwhile, in Europe, as Allied forces rapidly push across Germany from the east and west, American and British troops, including Burnett Miller of Sacramento, Dwain Luce of Mobile and Ray Leopold of Waterbury, discover for themselves the true horrors of the Nazis' industrialized barbarism - at Buchenwald, Ludwigslust, Dachau, Hadamar, Mauthausen and hundreds of other concentration camps. Finally, on May 8, with their country in ruins and their fuehrer dead by his own hand, the Nazis surrender. But as Eugene Sledge remembers, to the Marines and soldiers still fighting in the Pacific, "No one cared much. Nazi Germany might as well have been on the moon." ... On August 9, a second American atomic bomb destroys the city of Nagasaki, and the rulers of Japan decide at last to give up - and the greatest cataclysm in history comes to an end. In the following months and years, millions of young men return home - to pick up the pieces of their lives and to try to learn how to live in a world without war. 

As one of my colleagues commented today, The War is worth your time - all 840 minutes of it. I doubt that any one series, no matter how long, could capture all the details of the Second World War, but it is well worth our while to continue exploring our past from as many perspectives as possible. PBS and KCTS 9 are committed to the exploration of our past to illuminate our present and improve our future. I hope you'll continue to tune in to KCTS 9 long after tonight's finale and continue to give us your feedback on our programming.

Your faithful correspondent,

Erin Whitcomb

Erin Whitcomb,
Project Manager, The War

October 01, 2007

Forum post: Episode 6 of "The War"

Tonight brings us the penultimate episode of Ken Burns' "The War." It took him and his production team six years to make it and, while some of the moments have felt unbearably long--there were moments in last night's episode where the voiceover all but told us things were about to go horribly awry in the German forests and the island of Saipan--it all seems to have gone by very quickly.

Here's the abbreviated synopsis for tonight's episode, The Ghost Front:

(December 1944-March 1945) By December 1944, Americans have become weary of the war their young men have been fighting for three long years; the stream of newspaper headlines telling of new losses and telegrams bearing bad news from the War Department seem endless and unendurable. In the Pacific, American progress has been slow and costly, with each island more fiercely defended than the last. In Europe, no one is prepared for the massive counterattack Hitler launches on December 16 in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and Luxemburg. (Click here for the full episode description.)

KCTS 9 staff and I are reading all your comments, almost as fast as you can post, so keep them coming. Thanks for being a part of public television.

Erin Whitcomb

Erin Whitcomb,
Project Manager, The War

September 29, 2007

Forum Post: "War" Marathon and Episode 5

Beginning at 10 am Sunday, we're repeating the first four episodes of "The War" in a day-long marathon. You can access the first four "forum posts" using the "Recent Posts" menu to the left to read the comments about the series so far and to add your own thoughts, or post new comments below.

At 8 pm, a new episode premiers. Episode 5 is ominously titled "FUBAR" and covers another few months of desperate fighting in Europe and in the Pacific (September - December, 1944). Here's the episode description:

By September 1944, the Allies seem to be moving steadily toward victory in Europe. "Militarily," General Dwight Eisenhower's chief of staff tells the press, "this war is over." But in the coming months, on both sides of the world, a generation of young men will learn a lesson as old as war itself - that generals make plans, plans go wrong and soldiers die. On the Western Front, American and British troops massed on the German border are desperately short of fuel. Allied commanders gamble on a risky scheme to drop thousands of airborne troops, including Dwain Luce of Mobile and Harry Schmid of Sacramento, behind enemy lines in Holland, but nothing goes according to plan; it's clear that the war in Europe will not end before winter. Over the next three months, American soldiers are ordered into some of Germany's most fiercely defended terrain. In the Hurtgen Forest, tens of thousands of GIs, including Tom Galloway of Mobile, fight a battle in which the only victory is survival. During his missions over Germany, fighter pilot Quentin Aanenson of Luverne loses so many friends and sees so much death that he comes close to collapsing in despair. In the Vosges Mountains, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, including Robert Kashiwagi, Susumu Satow and Tim Tokuno of Sacramento, is assigned to an overly ambitious general and endures weeks of brutal combat. At the end of October, they are ordered to break through to a battalion of Texas soldiers caught behind the lines - no matter the cost. In the Pacific, General MacArthur is poised to invade the Philippines at Leyte. The 1st Marine Division, including Eugene Sledge and Willie Rushton of Mobile, is ordered to take the nearby island of Peleliu. The fighting drags on for more than two months in one of the most brutal and unnecessary campaigns in the Pacific. In October, Sascha Weinzheimer of Sacramento and the other internees in Manila thrill to the sight and sound of American carrier-based planes bombing Japanese ships in the nearby bay, and a few weeks later, American troops land on the island of Leyte, 350 miles away. In movie theaters back home, as Katharine Phillips of Mobile recalls, Americans cheer the newsreels of General MacArthur's "return." But months of bloody fighting lie ahead before the Philippine Islands are liberated.

At times it's hard to watch the images on the screen and hear the voices of the survivors, but it seems that's exactly where the power of the film lies.

Erin Whitcomb

Erin Whitcomb,
Project Manager, The War

September 26, 2007

Forum post: Episode 4 of The War

Tonight's episode of "The War" marks the halfway point for the series, but it covers events that were so critical to the end result--saving the world from tyranny for future generations--that Ken Burns devotes two and a half hours to just a three-month period. Here's the synopsis for tonight's episode:

"Pride of Our Nation" (June 1944 - August 1944) - By June 1944, there are signs on both sides of the world that the tide of the war is turning. On June 6, 1944 - D-Day - a million and a half Allied troops embark on the invasion of France. Among them are Dwain Luce of Mobile, who drops behind enemy lines in a glider; Quentin Aanenson of Luverne, who flies his first combat mission over the Normandy coast; and Joseph Vaghi of Waterbury, who manages to survive the disastrous landing on Omaha Beach, where German resistance ravages the American forces in the bloodiest day in American history since the Civil War. But the Allies succeed in tearing a 45-mile gap in Hitler's vaunted Atlantic Wall. Bogged down in the Norman hedgerows, facing German troops determined to make them pay for every inch of territory they gain, the Allies for months measure their progress in yards and suffer far greater casualties than expected. In the Pacific, the long climb from island to island toward the Japanese homeland is underway, but the enemy seems increasingly determined to defend to the death every piece of territory they hold. The Marines, including Ray Pittman of Mobile, fight the costliest Pacific battle to date - on the island of Saipan - encountering, for the first time, Japanese civilians who, like their soldiers, seem resolved to die for their emperor rather than surrender. Back at home, Americans try to go about their normal lives, but on doorsteps all across the country, dreaded telegrams from the War Department begin arriving at a rate inconceivable just one year earlier. In late July, Allied forces break out of the hedgerows in Normandy; by mid-August, the Germans are in full retreat out of France. On August 25, after four years of Nazi occupation, Paris is liberated - and the end of the war in Europe seems only a few weeks away.

I can't believe we're nearly to the end of the first week of "The War." The response both in terms of viewership and conversation on this blog has been excellent. Keep your comments coming -- your feedback is what helps keep "public television" of the people.

Erin Whitcomb

Erin Whitcomb,
Project Manager, The War