The vivid voices that speak from these pages are not those of historians or scholars. They are the voices of ordinary men and women who experienced—and helped to win—the most devastating war in history, in which between 50 and 60 million lives were lost.
Focusing on the citizens of four towns— Luverne, Minnesota; Sacramento, California; Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama;—The War follows more than forty people from 1941 to 1945. Woven largely from their memories, the compelling, unflinching narrative unfolds month by bloody month, with the outcome always in doubt. All the iconic events are here, from Pearl Harbor to the liberation of the concentration camps—but we also move among prisoners of war and Japanese American internees, defense workers and schoolchildren, and families who struggled simply to stay together while their men were shipped off to Europe, the Pacific, and North Africa.
Enriched by maps and hundreds of photographs, including many never published before, this is an intimate, profoundly affecting chronicle of the war that shaped our world.
History buffs, Ken Burns fans, and anyone whose life has been touched by war will be awed by Burns’s new book, The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945, a stunning companion to his PBS series airing in September 2007. Focusing on the citizens of four towns, The War follows more than forty people from 1941 to 1945. Maps and hundreds of photographs enrich this compelling, unflinching narrative. Check out some of the photographs and read the first chapter below. –Daphne Durham
Exclusive Photographs from The War
Read the First Chapter of The War
A Necessary War
I don’t think there is such a thing as a good war. There are sometimes necessary wars. And I think one might say, “just” wars. I never questioned the necessity of that war. And I still do not question it. It was something that had to be done. –Samuel Hynes
Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, began as most days do in Honolulu: warm and sunny with blue skies punctuated here and there by high wisps of cloud. At a few minutes after eight o’clock, the Hyotara Inouye family was at home on Coyne Street, getting ready for church. The sugary whine of Hawaiian music drifted through the house. The oldest of the four Inouye children, seventeen-year-old Daniel, a senior at William McKinley High and a Red Cross volunteer, was listening to station KGMB as he dressed. There were other sounds, too, muffled far-off sounds to which no one paid much attention at first because they had grown so familiar over the past few months. The drone of airplanes and the rumble of distant explosions had been commonplace since spring of the previous year, when the U.S. Pacific Fleet had shifted from the California coast to Pearl Harbor, some seven miles northwest of the Inouye home. Air-raid drills were frequent occurrences; so was practice firing of the big coastal defense batteries near Waikiki Beach.
But this was different. Daniel was just buttoning his shirt, he remembered, when the voice of disk jockey Webley Edwards broke into the music. “All army, navy, and marine personnel to report to duty,” it said. At almost the same moment, Daniel’s father shouted for him to come outside. Something strange was going on. Daniel hurried out into the sunshine and stood with his father by the side of the house, peering toward Pearl Harbor. They were too far away to see the fleet itself, and hills further obscured their view, but the sky above the harbor was filled with puffs of smoke. During drills the blank antiaircraft bursts had always been white. These were jet-black. Then, as the Inouyes watched in disbelief, the crrrump of distant explosions grew louder and more frequent and so much oily black smoke began billowing up into the sky that the mountains all but vanished and the horizon itself seemed about to disappear.
Read more from Chapter 1…