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D-Day To Berlin: Allies At War

Airs Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Normandy Invasion, June 1944. Senior U.S. officers watching operations from the bridge of USS Augusta (CA-31), off Normandy, June 8, 1944. They are (from left to right): Rear Admiral Alan G. Kirk, USN, Commander Western Naval Task Force; Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley, U.S. Army, Commanding General, U.S. First Army; Rear Admiral Arthur D. Struble, USN, (with binoculars) Chief of Staff for RAdm. Kirk; and Major General Hugh Keen, U.S. Army.

This three-part series recounts the Allies' remarkable progress from the beaches of Normandy to their ultimate victory in Germany 11 months later. Told through the powerful testimonies of those who took part, this is the story of the courage, grit and determination behind one of the greatest military campaigns, and one that changed the course of European life. Using archive and dramatic action to recreate famous battles, the powerful narrative pays homage to the bravery of all those who took part in the defining drama of World War II. A BBC/History Channel co-production.

Normandy Invasion, June 1944. Army troops on board a LCT, ready to ride across the English Channel to France. Some of these men wear 101st Airborne Division insignia. Photograph released June 12, 1944.
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Above: Normandy Invasion, June 1944. Army troops on board a LCT, ready to ride across the English Channel to France. Some of these men wear 101st Airborne Division insignia. Photograph released June 12, 1944.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, at his headquarters in the European theater of operations. He wears the five-star cluster of the newly-created rank of General of the Army. T4c. Messerlin, February 1, 1945.
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Above: General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, at his headquarters in the European theater of operations. He wears the five-star cluster of the newly-created rank of General of the Army. T4c. Messerlin, February 1, 1945.

"Allies At War" - In the second episode, Hitler’s armies were in headlong retreat. Paris was liberated in August, Brussels in the first week of September. Only one thing stood between the Allies and the German border – the Allied generals themselves.

"Allies At War" looks at how the most basic debate remained unsolved – how to conquer Germany itself. Personality differences and radical disagreements in strategy threatened to create a rift between Eisenhower and Montgomery, and burst the alliance open.

Until autumn 1944, the direction of the land campaign had been Montgomery’s responsibility, but on September 1st, the Supreme Commander, Eisenhower, announced he would take over personal control of the armies in the field. Monty was convinced that only a single powerful British-led thrust into Germany would finish the war, and in an effort to bounce Eisenhower into supporting him, launched the ill-fated drive towards the Rhine – Arnhem.

Ike’s Generals, Bradley and Patton, insisted the advance into Germany should be on a broad front and that the final victory should be led by an American. Eisenhower chose the broad front and, by spreading Allied troops too thinly, turned hope of an early victory into a pipe dream.

U.S. troops of the 28th Infantry Division, who have been regrouped in security platoons for defense of Bastogne, Belgium, march down a street. Some of these soldiers lost their weapons during the German advance in this area. Bastogne, Belgium, December 20, 2944.
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Above: U.S. troops of the 28th Infantry Division, who have been regrouped in security platoons for defense of Bastogne, Belgium, march down a street. Some of these soldiers lost their weapons during the German advance in this area. Bastogne, Belgium, December 20, 2944.

Using eye witness testimony and first hand written sources, "Allies At War" pieces together the bitter behind-the-scenes struggle over strategy. It revisits Monty’s disastrous defeat at Arnhem where more than 10,000 British soldiers were dropped into occupied Holland to capture a vital bridge over the Rhine.

Archive and drama sequences also capture the bitter and bloody Battle of the Bulge – the German counter-offensive which punched a hole through Eisenhower’s ‘broad front’. Monty’s leadership of two American armies would help to reverse an embarrassing and costly defeat. As 1945 approached, Monty reminded Eisenhower of the bet he’d made that the war would be over by Christmas. It was time for Ike to pay up.

The final episode, "The Dream That Died," will air at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15.