The vivid voices that speak from these pages are not those of historians or scholars. They are the voices of ordinary men and women who experienced—and helped to win—the most devastating war in history, in which between 50 and 60 million lives were lost.
Focusing on the citizens of four towns— Luverne, Minnesota; Sacramento, California; Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama;—The War follows more than forty people from 1941 to 1945. Woven largely from their memories, the compelling, unflinching narrative unfolds month by bloody month, with the outcome always in doubt. All the iconic events are here, from Pearl Harbor to the liberation of the concentration camps—but we also move among prisoners of war and Japanese American internees, defense workers and schoolchildren, and families who struggled simply to stay together while their men were shipped off to Europe, the Pacific, and North Africa.
Enriched by maps and hundreds of photographs, including many never published before, this is an intimate, profoundly affecting chronicle of the war that shaped our world.
“Heart-rending . . . This companion volume to the Ken Burns documentary should be read by everyone in the family, from the high-schoolers to the Baby Boomers . . . [It is] unique not only among previous volumes that have accompanied Burns’ documentaries but among just about any book on World War II . . . Geoffrey C. Ward handles the historical narrative deftly [and] juxtaposes major events with illuminating details. But it’s the personal side of the book, the stories of the common people from these towns and many others, that pulls the reader in . . . The photographs make up a mesmerizing collection of both the war the GIs saw and the changing world they left behind . . . Part history, part memoir and part photo album, The War is compelling on many levels.”
–Allen Barra, Newark Star-Ledger
“Lavishly illustrated [and] visually appealing . . . Documentarian Burns and historian Ward foreground the iconic experiences of ordinary people . . . Their stories are full of anxiety and exhilaration, terror and pathos . . . The authors’ portrait of the home front glows with nostalgia, but they also note racial tensions . . . 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.”
–Publishers Weekly (boxed review)
“Ward and Burns present the big picture by focusing on the human element through the fates of four small towns . . . The accounts of survivors bring a human perspective to an event almost incomprehensible in scope . . . There’s the wistful tale of a young girl’s childhood in a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines, and the hair-raising story of a pilot who walked away from more than his share of crashes . . . In the 1980s, Ward and Burns created what may be the most riveting and revolutionary documentary in television history, The Civil War . . . If words and pictures are any indication of what is to come [from their new film], this could be another watershed cultural moment.”
–James Neal Webb, Bookpage
“Masterful in mass-audience appeal, this likely best-seller, though U.S.-centric, can inspire exploration of the wider contexts of WWII’s origin and course . . . The stories of many [of these individuals] have never been published before. As told, the accounts faithfully reflect the moods of America’s war years, such as anxieties for the safety of loved ones, racial tensions, the frightfulness of combat, and the sorrow of loss. The photography selections also accent the personal and emotional, with close-ups of haggard soldiers and marines numerous among frames of devastation the war visited wherever it went.”
–Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
“Epic . . . This history manages to be at once pointedly cautionary and celebratory in a Capraesque sort of way . . . Ward and Burns take a wide-angle approach, considering the effects of combat on the home front and providing plenty of photographs that have not been seen dozens of times in other books; the absence of iconic Iwo Jima and Times Square shots is refreshing, the inclusion of made-for-moderns images of mayhem and death often disturbing, which is just as it should be. . . . Excellent–an introduction to the war for the uninitiated, and a scrapbook of sorts for those who remember it.”
–Kirkus Reviews (starred)
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Geoffrey C. Ward wrote the script for the film series The War and is the winner of five Emmys and two Writers Guild of America awards for his work for public television. He is also a historian and biographer and the author of fourteen books, including most recently Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. He won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1989 and the Francis Parkman Prize in 1990. He lives in New York City.
Ken Burns, producer and director of the film series The War, founded his own documentary company, Florentine Films, in 1976. His films include Jazz, Baseball, and The Civil War, which was the highest-rated series in the history of American public television. His work has won numerous prizes, including the Emmy and Peabody Awards, and two Academy Award nominations. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.