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The War: A Deadly Calling

Airs Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, February 1, 1943. THE WAR intertwines vivid eyewitness accounts of the harrowing realities of life on the front lines with reminiscences of Americans who never left their home towns and tried their best to carry on with the business of daily life while their fathers and brothers and sons were overseas.

THE WAR, a seven-part documentary series directed and produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, explores the history and horror of the Second World War from an American perspective by following the fortunes of so-called ordinary men and women who become caught up in one of the greatest cataclysms in human history.

Witnesses from the Home Front

The power of THE WAR comes from the intimate, personal stories of dozens of American citizens who lived through the war. They moved to booming “war towns,” worked in defense industries, made the best of life in internment camps, contributed to the war effort, met servicemen and fell in love, and worried about the boys they knew who were overseas. Select a name to see a biography and a list of video interviews, photographs and objects related to that witness.

Six years in the making, this epic 15-hour film focuses on the stories of citizens from four geographically distributed American towns — Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minnesota. These four communities stand in for — and could represent — any town in the United States that went through the war's four devastating years.

Individuals from each community take the viewer through their own personal and quite often harrowing journeys into war, painting vivid portraits of how the war dramatically altered their lives and those of their neighbors, as well as the country they helped to save for generations to come. Winner of three Primetime Emmys.

Gilbert Islands, Makin Atoll, ca. November 1943.
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Above: Gilbert Islands, Makin Atoll, ca. November 1943.

African American women work on the B & O Railroad, 1943.
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Above: African American women work on the B & O Railroad, 1943.

Women working at Douglas Aviation Co., Long Beach, CA, October 1942.
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Above: Women working at Douglas Aviation Co., Long Beach, CA, October 1942.

"A Deadly Calling" (Part Three) - Despite American victories in the Solomons and New Guinea, the Japanese empire still stretches 4,000 miles.

In November 1943, on the Pacific atoll of Tarawa, the Marines set out to prove that any island can be taken by all-out frontal assault. Back home, the public is devastated by color newsreel footage of the furious battle and grows more determined to do what's necessary to hasten the end of the war.

Mobile, Sacramento and Waterbury have been transformed into booming, overcrowded "war towns"; in Mobile this leads to confrontation and racial violence.

African Americans, serving in the segregated armed forces, demand equal rights; the military reluctantly agrees to some changes. Many blacks, including John Gray and Willie Rushton of Mobile, join the Marine Corps and train for combat, but most are assigned to service jobs.

Japanese-American men, originally designated "enemy aliens," are permitted to form a special segregated unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In Hawaii and the internment camps, thousands sign up, including Robert Kashiwagi, Susumu Satow and Tim Tokuno of Sacramento.

In Italy, Allied forces are stalled in the mountains south of Rome, unable to break through the German lines at Monte Cassino. The killing goes on all winter and spring as the enemy manages to fight off repeated Allied attacks.

A risky landing at Anzio ends in utter failure; thousands of Allied troops, including Babe Ciarlo of Waterbury, are exposed to enemy fire and unable to advance for months.

On June 4, Allied soldiers liberate Rome. But in heading towards the city, they fail to capture the retreating German army, which takes up new positions on the Adolf Hitler line north of Rome. Meanwhile, the greatest test for the Allies — the long-delayed invasion of France — is now just days away.

Up Next: The next four episodes will follow on August 5th at 9 p.m., 6th at 9 p.m., 7th at 9 p.m., 8th at 9 p.m., 2012 on KPBS Television.

Video

Extended Preview: The War

Above: THE WAR, a seven-part series directed and produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, tells the story of the Second World War through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four quintessentially American towns.

Video

The War: Near Execution

Above: After surviving the "Bataan Death March," Mobile's Glenn Frazier recounts a near-death experience from a Japanese prison camp.

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The War: Maurice Bell Watches Tarawa

Above: Mobile's Maurice Bell recounts the landing at Tarawa, a tiny Pacific island, as he observed it from the deck of the U.S.S. Indianapolis.

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The War: "Killed Men"

Above: Quentin Aanenson, a fighter pilot from Luverne, MN, explains what it was like to find the enemy in his gun sights -- and pulling the trigger for the first time.

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The War: Sidney Phillips: "Lapse into bad language"

Above: Sidney Phillips worries that his colorful wartime vocabulary might follow him home to Mobile, Alabama.

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The War: "Change your underwear"

Above: Mobile's GI Dwain Luce talks about luck and finds a rare bit of humor in the trenches.

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The War: "Bulge broke right there"

Above: Mobile's Tom Galloway finds himself on the frozen front lines as the shells start falling in The Battle of The Bulge.