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The War: FUBAR

Airs Monday, August 6, 2012 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: A soldier near Hürtgen, Germany, December 1944.

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.

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.

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.

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.

"FUBAR" (Part Five) - 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.

Two soldiers in Geich, Germany, pause for a cigarette behind a tank on December 11, 1944.
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Above: Two soldiers in Geich, Germany, pause for a cigarette behind a tank on December 11, 1944.

Letters and Diaries

Letters to and from the front lines were a lifeline for service men and women fighting in World War II. Few things mattered more to those serving abroad than getting letters from home, “mail was indispensable,” one infantryman remembered. “It motivated us. We couldn’t have won the war without it.” The mail, whenever it arrived, also helped reassure the worried families of servicemen back home.

Over the next three months, American soldiers are ordered into some of Germany's most fiercely defended terrain. In the Hürtgen 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.

Up Next: The next two episodes will follow on August 7th at 9 p.m. and the 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.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Video

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

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

Video

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.

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