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The War: Pride Of Our Nation

Airs Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Normandy, France, June 6, 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.

"Pride Of Our Nation" (Part Four) - By June 1944, there are signs on both sides of the world that the tide of the war is turning. On June 6, 1944 — D-Day — a million and a half Allied troops embark on the invasion of France.

Among them are Dwain Luce of Mobile, who drops behind enemy lines in a glider; Quentin Aanenson of Luverne, who flies his first combat mission over the Normandy coast; and Joseph Vaghi of Waterbury, who manages to survive the disastrous landing on Omaha Beach, where German resistance ravages the American forces in the bloodiest day in American history since the Civil War.

But the Allies succeed in tearing a 45-mile gap in Hitler's vaunted Atlantic Wall. Bogged down in the Norman hedgerows, facing German troops determined to make them pay for every inch of territory they gain, the Allies for months measure their progress in yards and suffer far greater casualties than expected.

Soldiers at battle, Saipan, 1944.
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Above: Soldiers at battle, Saipan, 1944.

A soldier, Saipan, 1944.
Enlarge this image

Above: A soldier, Saipan, 1944.

In the Pacific, the long climb from island to island toward the Japanese homeland is underway, but the enemy seems increasingly determined to defend to the death every piece of territory they hold.

The Marines, including Ray Pittman of Mobile, fight the costliest Pacific battle to date — on the island of Saipan — encountering, for the first time, Japanese civilians who, like their soldiers, seem resolved to die for their emperor rather than surrender.

Back at home, Americans try to go about their normal lives, but on doorsteps all across the country, dreaded telegrams from the War Department begin arriving at a rate inconceivable just one year earlier.

In late July, Allied forces break out of the hedgerows in Normandy; by mid-August, the Germans are in full retreat out of France. On August 25, after four years of Nazi occupation, Paris is liberated — and the end of the war in Europe seems only a few weeks away.

Up Next: The next three episodes will follow on August 6th at 9 p.m., 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.

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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: "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.