My subscription to Life expired, but I still have a subscription to Mad.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The War

When I was growing up, the adults in my family always referred to World War II as "the war" as if the previous and subsequent wars did not count. In a way, the other wars did not count because World War II was like no other war. It not only profoundly affected the soldiers fighting the war, but it also had a profound affect on everyone, who lived through it.

I majored in history, so I should know my history, but after sitting through each segment of The War series on PBS, I learned a few things.

For instance, I was not aware of all the incompetency of many of our military leaders. I guess I was brainwashed by all those old war movies in which our side always made the right moves against an incompetent enemy. We almost lost the war a couple of times due to the incompetency of our military leaders. If it wasn't for Patton, Bradley, and a few others, I might be typing this in German today.

I never knew about the civilian prisoners of war in Manilla. Those poor people must have a life-long hatred of their captors.

I did not know about the Japanese-Americans that fought on the European front.

My Dad was a Marine, 4th Division, during the war and fought on the islands of Tinian, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. He was wounded twice and awarded two Purple Hearts. He did not talk much about his war experiences, although he often mentioned that he likely would have been involved in the invasion of Japan and he was glad that the invasion was made  necessary by the atomic bomb. After watching The War, I can understand why.

I am glad I watched The War. I think it was a job well done. I found Ray Leopold (a Waterbury native) reflections on the war particularly poignant, although I disagree with his statement that you can jump across the Mad River.

On the other hand, just about anytime that woman from Alabama opened her mouth, I wanted to go up to the television and slap her in the face. I got the feeling that for her, the war was an inconvenience and a source of humorous stories that she can retell over the future tea parties. I think she was included in the series to show both sides of the "greatest generation," too.

I look forward to viewing The War DVDs for additional footage not included in the television broadcast.

Another great job, Mr. Burns!


  1. I also watched "The War" on PBS. I also learned a few new things, like you I was unaware of the civilian POW's on Manila. I found it very interesting to hear about not only a perspective of someone in combat, but also the stories of those stateside. When I was younger and saw the WWII movies I did have a "romantic" view on combat. It wasn't until I read about some real-life experiences in WWII and Vietnam that my eyes were opened. I learned about how the Japanese broke treaties on the size and number of warships. I, like you, thought that the U.S. was a superpower in that time, but after some research learned how weak and unprepared we really were. I am not ashamed to tell you that there were a few occasions that brought tears to my eyes, like the fighter pilot in Europe who later became a captain and to watch out for his men had to keep working with another airmen's brains on him after a nearby shell exploded, or a Marine telling us of his frightful night on Guadalacanal when a nearby soldier was mortally wounded and moaning in agony throughout the night and all he could think was about the other soldier dying to finally be quiet. I also knew before the war that America was "isolationist" and did not fully believe the reports of the concentration camps and other atrocities in the events leading up to the war, but I did not know that even after we knew of the horrors that we still tried to downplay the numbers and facts. It was very interesting to watch, the series missed some other events but there is only so much time for the series and so much history. Ken Burns did a fine job on his masterpiece of "The War". I do honestly think of those who have served in combat especially on Memorial Day and Veterans' Day. Memorial Day to me is not just a day off of work. God bless those veterans, not only the ones who gave their all, or parts of their body and mind, but all of them for what they endured. "The War" may be another way for those of us too young to have a heartfelt rememberance of them and their time in history.

  2. I've discussed The War by Ken Burns with several people. It started slow but grew on me after the first couple of episodes. One recurring theme in those conversations was the reticence of their fathers and uncles who had faught in the war. We're lucky to have somebody like Burns come along at just this time to finally break that silence and get these stories--before it is too late.

    If we are lucky, perhaps The War is just the first course. It would be wonderful if those who had been there would now open up and write about their experiences. It would serve to honor them, and to serve as a warning to anyone who might lightly enter into such an unholy adventure.

    Thanks for writing on this, Stan.

    -- Scott (NE1RD)