Thursday, October 04, 2007

The War

Over the last 2 weeks, we have been watching the Ken Burn's series 'The War' on PBS. If you haven't heard about it, it's a documentary about World War II, told from the viewpoint of Americans from 4 cities fighting both abroad and from home. There was footage from both sides, photographs, letters read and many interviews. A sister told of the letters her brother wrote, and of the howls from her mother when they received the dreaded news. Fighter pilots and infantrymen told of loosing their friends, of how death effected them and of the girls that were at home getting them through each day. The girl's waiting at home told about how they wrote to their boys abroad and worked at the USO and did all they could to support the war effort from home. Each episode spanned a time line from a few months to a year, and finally ended with J Day, the Americans finding the Death Camps and then talking about the lasting emotional and physical effects of the war on the men, the families and on the nation.

Quite frankly I didn't know much about WWII. I didn't know when it happened, or even who was on what side. Oh sure, I knew about Hitler and the Japanese's attack on Pearl Harbor, and then the final atomic bomb drop, but there was so much that I felt I should have already known, like that there were 2 atomic bombs dropped! I didn't know that Italy was involved, or Canada! Canada has an Army? I didn't know the battles extended down to North Africa. I didn't know about Omaha Beach but I did recognize that the footage reminded me of the opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan", which DUH! it was! Which completely explains why I have only seen maybe a minute of that movie and decided I never wanted to see the rest. I didn't know about the battles in the Philippines, Saigon, Guam, and all of the other islands in the Pacific. I had heard about Midway, but that was it on the Pacific front. The casualty numbers that the narrator would say after each vignette about a specific battle was completely mind boggling to me. How could they risk and loose so many lives? I guess I truly don't understand what a WORLD war is about, thankfully.

I talked to a friend of mine who is a high school history teacher about why we learn so little about such a huge event in World and US History. She said that so much time is spent on the Middle Ages that few teachers are able to get to the 20th century. And then in US History classes, again there is a focus on the birth of our nation and then on the Civil War, and they just run out of time. She said that she'd really like to show her Junior class at least part of the Ken Burn's series, but they don't have the budget to buy it. I hope Netflix will get it soon, so she can get her hands on it that way.

Tuesday night we watched the last of the Ken Burn's series. We have a few more shows to watch that were produced locally about Bay Area soldiers and how the War changed this area of the nation, but I think I'm done. That last episode was probably the hardest one to watch as there was a lot of footage about the death camps and the effects of the atomic bombs. The last few nights, neither of us have been sleeping well, and even though we haven't been having dreams that specifically point to the show, I'm still pretty sure it is effecting us. I'm very grateful and hopeful that I may never fully understand what war is really like. It's a shame that I say that, since we are still currently fighting in the Middle East, and yet I have no clue what it really means.

Maya's Granny wrote a great post about a realization that came to her out of the series, check it out!


J at said...

Another great WWII film is "The Thin Red Line"'s about the war in the Pacific, and is as quiet and internal as Saving Private Ryan is brave and external.

I didn't tape The War, but I'm thinking I might see about Netflixing it.

Starshine said...

It is so much to wrap our heads around. So many lives lost.

Anonymous said...

I once dated a German guy. He told me that before Hitler and WWII, about 50% of the German population was comprised of Jews. Sadly, it is now less than 1%.

Py Korry said...

I haven't seen the series either, but because of your reponse to the program, I really want to see it now!

Gina said...

I have a shameful secret. I saw it on PBS, and I could not watch it. I have been really emotional for whatever reason lately, and I just could NOT stand to see all the carnage and those poor boys getting slaughtered on the beach at Normandy.

I know Ken Burns' version is probably one of the definitive ones of WWII, but Hubba-hubba is a semi-WWII buff and so I have seen enough already.


laluna said...

Sounds very interesting. Not a big War fan so I don't usually tune into shows with that type of theme. My dad loves stuff like that, I'm going to tell him about this.

ML said...

My brother would eat this stuff up. One of his degrees is in history and is fascinated by WWII.

I know a little bit, but not as much as I would like. Watching stuff like this is hard! I'm interested, though!

ally said...

I'm hoping to get this series from Netflix when it comes available. WWII era has always fascinated me with how wonderful and how horrible people can be. We were truly a nation at war with a definite enemy back then. And the women's clothes from that era are so elegant. [. . . to end this on a more shallow note. :-)]

Love Bears All Things said...

We watched parts of the documentary. Now they are showing it again but not every night.
My Dad was in WWII at the end. What amazes me is how patriotic everyone used to be. Couldn't wait to join to do their part. Well not since then!
Ally says we had a definite enemy back then, so would that have been Japan or Germany. We were definitely fighting both.
I think it is good that Ken did this series and kids need to see it. I think it is important to know what our fathers and grandfathers did.
Mama Bear