The War, by Ken Burns

While I have something of a WWII theme going on this year, I can honestly say that I would watch just about anything that Ken Burns decides to produce.

Because the subject matter is so broad, Burns used an interesting storytelling device: he picked four U.S. towns, one in each part of the country, and wrote about the War from their points of view.   There was plenty of video footage, and lots of photographs, as well as voice-overs of correspondence and articles – very similar to his documentary on The Civil War.  The difference was that instead of interviewing historians, Burns recorded interviews with survivors – soldiers and their families.

My favorite story was one that I hadn’t heard a thing about before.  A young girl had been living with her family in the Philippines when the War broke out and they were sent to an internment camp.  Sascha kept a diary, of which exerpts were read, and she was interviewed in the present day (2006?).

I was also drawn in by the interviews with Senator Inouye of Hawaii.  Because he was the son of Japanese immigrants, Inouye was banned from enlisting until ..1943?   He was a platoon leader in Italy.

Things I learned:

  1. 240 days straight is about the maximum that any human being can be in combat without going insane.
  2. We lost an awful lot of planes crash landing onto air craft carriers.
  3. We bombed the hell out of Tokyo before dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
  4. (This was more an “I’d forgotten”).  Stalin didn’t declare war on Japan until after we had dropped The Bomb on Hiroshima.
  5. Army medics were paid less than the average soldier – $10 a month.

Last Christmas, I gifted my grandfather with Burns’ documentary on the National Parks.  Is it too soon to ask if I can borrow it?

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