The War


The War (2007) is the story of the Second World War through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four American towns.

  • South Pacific: Okinawa | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken on Okinawa during World War II. In the spring of 1945, allied forces arrived on Okinawa to take the island, which was considered a gateway to Japan. It would be the worst battle for the Pacific for the Americans in World War II, who suffered terrible losses there. By June, allied forces would take Okinawa, leaving 92,000 Japanese killed.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Battle of Anzio | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken from the 1944 Battle of Anzio, which took place in the European Theater of World War II, in Italy. Allied forces arrived in a risky amphibious beach landing made to surprise and overtake German forces. They became engaged in a five-month battle to break through German lines at Anzio and Monte Cassino. The allied plan was to liberate the city of Rome, and the objective would be met on June 4, 1944.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Battle of the Bulge and the Malmedy Massacre | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken from the Battle of the Bulge the Malmedy Massacre. Weakened by Allied forces, the German army launched a final assault in World War II on the Western Front in December 1944, in the dense Ardennes forest and mountain range that stretches through Belgium, France, and Luxembourg. The Battle of the Bulge would be a bloody, costly win for American soldiers, who battled bitter cold, snow, dwindling supplies, and poor communications. In Malmedy, Belgium, German soldiers captured and murdered American prisoners. General George S. Patton’s Third Army would be key to ensuring the Allied victory.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Battle of Hürtgen Forest | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken during the Battle for the Hürtgen Forest during World War II. The U.S. Army would suffer one of its worst defeats of World War II at the Battle for the Hürtgen Forest in Germany between September and December of 1944. Allied forces had weakened the German Army and believed they could win the war by year’s end. But fighting on the German’s home territory in a dense forest during winter was a formidable and ultimately lost challenge and the campaign came to a halt.

    Grades: 9-12
  • D-Day | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken from D-day of World War II. On June 6, 1944, a million and a half Allied troops stormed the French coastline in the greatest invasion in history. More than 2,500 Americans would lose their lives as the Allied Army ripped through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, a German fortification along the Atlantic coastline, and began its campaign to liberate the country. The Allies would succeed in liberating Paris two months later, on August 25. The day of the invasion is forever known as “D-Day,” and would it mark a turn in World War II toward an eventual Allied victory.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Guadalcanal | Ken Burns: The War

    View images from Guadalcanal, one of the largest islands in a cluster in the South Pacific know as the Solomon Islands. It was a key strategic position for the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II. U.S. Marines and other Allied troops engaged in the first offensive of the war in the Pacific on Guadalcanal. The battle lasted six months, from August 1942 until February 1943. U.S. forces were intent on taking control of the island, and particularly the air base the Japanese had built, which was renamed after the American victory, “Henderson Field."

    Grades: 9-12
  • Saipan | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken from Saipan, the second largest island in a cluster in the South Pacific known as the Northern Mariana Islands. It was a key position for the Japanese during World War II. As U.S. forces drove back the Japanese presence in the South Pacific, they met in Saipan in 1944 during a brutal and costly battle. Japanese soldiers were prepared to die defending the island. The island’s air bases would be critical for the B-29 bombers the U.S. planned to use to reach the Japanese mainland. U.S. Marines would prevail and take the island less than a month after the battle began.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The South Pacific: Peleliu, Leyte, Tarawa, and Iwo Jima | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken from locations in the South Pacific during World War II, including Peleliu, Leyete, Tarawa and Iwo Jima. In 1942, as the United States entered World War II, General Douglas MacArthur, a military advisor in the Philippines, was forced to leave because of advancing Japanese troops. He vowed his return. Allied progress in the South Pacific was slow and costly. Japanese soldiers were committed to fighting to the death. U.S. Marines would take the Tarawa Atoll in 1943. In 1944, they took the island of Peleliu, a brutal battle for an island with no strategic value. Marines won another month-long brutal battle on the volcanic island of Iwo Jima. By late 1944, MacArthur and his troops would invade the Philippine island of Leyte, making good on his promise.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The South Pacific: Bataan | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken from the Bataan Peninsula and during the Bataan Death March. In 1942, as the Japanese Imperial Army began its advance on the Philippine Islands, General Douglas MacArthur’s forces of American and Filipino soldiers was forced to retreat and hold the Bataan Peninsula on the island of Luzon. MacArthur’s forces were isolated with little support and after three months surrendered to the Japanese. Japanese captors ordered the 12,000 Americans and 66,000 Filipino soldiers to march 55 miles. It became known as the Bataan Death March, as thousands died because of the brutal treatment of their captors.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The South Pacific: Santo Tomas POW Camp | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken at Santo Tomas, a POW internment camp established by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. The camp was located in the heart of Manila, the capitol of the Philippines, on the campus of the University of Santo Tomas. It held several thousand Allied prisoners, many of whom were Americans, during the Japanese occupation, from 1942-1945. Camp conditions were not good, and by the time the camp was liberated, prisoners were suffering from starvation and disease.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Battle of Monte Cassino | Ken Burns: The War

    View images from the Battle of Monte Cassino. It began in January of 1944 and was comprised of four separate assaults, as part of the critical World War II Allied effort to retake Rome, Italy, from the Germans. German forces held fast to the territory surrounding Monte Cassino, an historic 6th century abbey founded on a hilltop. Allied forces assaulted the German lines in a number of battles over the course of several months before they were able to break through, and clear a path to Rome. Allied casualties from these assaults numbered in the tens of thousands

    Grades: 7,9-12
  • Nazi Concentration Camps | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken at liberated Nazi concentration camps during World War II. When Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany in the early 1930s, he began to establish thousands of camps to imprison political enemies and people considered inferior. Prisoners were starved, tortured, and killed. By 1941, killing centers were created specifically to murder the Jewish population. Nazi Germany was responsible for the deaths of 2 million non-Jewish Polish prisoners, 4 million Soviet POWs, and 6 million Jews. Nazis were also responsible for the deaths of thousands of gypsies, handicapped persons, and homosexuals. The full extent of the atrocities and genocide was not realized until Allied troops liberated the camps in 1945.

    Grades: 9-12
  • American Shipyards and the War Effort at Home | Ken Burns: The War

    View images of the American workforce taken during World War II. After the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered into World War II, declaring war on Japan and Germany. War changed the social and economic makeup of the country, as a vast industry needed to rise to meet the needs of military efforts. Since so many men were at war, women left homes to work in factories that built airplanes, ships, bombs, and other military weapons and supplies. Families rationed food, gasoline, and clothing. Industries like automobile manufacturers stopped and diverted their work to the war effort.

    Grades: 6-12
  • North Africa | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken in North Africa during World War II. World War II (1939-1945) was the most destructive, and most costly, war in human history. It involved dozens of countries, spanned continents, and resulted in the loss of 50 million lives. In North Africa, the Axis powers of Italy and Germany fought Allied powers for three years, between 1940-1943, before the Allied forces reached victory.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Pearl Harbor | Ken Burns: The War

    View images from Pearl Harbor, including the USS Shaw, a destroyer, as it exploded, as well images of rallies that occurred in Taos, NM, after the United States entered the war. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army launched an unprovoked attack on an American naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise attack resulted in the deaths of 2,403 Americans, and ushered the United States into World War II.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Air Power | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken of pilots and crewmen during World War II. World War II (1939-1945) was the most destructive, costliest war in human history. It involved dozens of countries, spanned continents, and resulted in the death of 50 million lives. Air warfare was a key component to the battle strategies waged throughout the war. The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF or AAF) was the predecessor of today's United States Air Force, and fought in campaigns throughout the European, North African and Mediterranean, and Pacific Theaters of war.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The War in France | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken from the Allied invasion of Normandy, France during World War II. On June 6, 1944, a million and a half Allied troops stormed the French coastline in the greatest invasion in history. More than 2,500 Americans would lose their lives as the Allies ripped through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, a German fortification along the Atlantic coastline, and began its campaign to liberate the country. The Allies would succeed in liberating Paris two months later, on August 25, 1944.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The War in Italy | Ken Burns: The War

    View images from the Italian Campaign of World War II, including the United States 442nd Infantry Regiment, composed almost entirely of men of Japanese-American ancestry, who fought with distinction and valor. In 1943, after the Axis Powers of Germany and Italy failed to secure North Africa, Allied forces, led by the United States and Britain, invaded Sicily, forcing Italy to surrender. But German troops held fast to the Italian mainland. The Italian Campaign of World War II began in 1943 and lasted until May of 1945. The battles were fierce and costly for the Allied troops.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Operation Market Garden | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken during Operation Market Garden in World War II. In September 1944, after the Allies achieved success at Normandy and the liberation of Paris, British Field Marshal Montgomery conceived an attack in the Netherlands to weaken the German army and open a path to Germany to cripple the Nazi forces and end the war. The operation was called Market Garden. Market referred to the airborne forces (a combined Allied effort), and Garden referred to the ground forces (British). It was the largest airborne and glider operation in history. But German resistance proved too strong, and Operation Market Garden failed.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The War in Belgium and the Netherlands | Ken Burns: The War

    View images taken in Belgium and the Netherlands during World War II. Belgium and the Netherlands were invaded by Nazi Germany in the late spring of 1940, in the early years of World War II. Both countries experienced heavy losses and destruction to their cities, and much of the population was forced to work in German factories to support the war effort. Much of the Jewish population of both countries was deported to German concentration camps. Allied forces would eventually liberate Belgium by October 1944, and the Netherlands in May of 1945.

    Grades: 9-12

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