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The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945

4.28  ·  Rating Details  ·  707 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
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, Alaba
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Hardcover, 480 pages
Published September 11th 2007 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,536)
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Mara
I haven't actually seen Ken Burns' PBS series The War to which this is a "companion book." The written work survives alone, but it did, at times, feel scattered. It's intended to give you a variety of perspectives from "everyday" people from across the United States, and it does manage to capture a wide range of voices. It's a good book (three stars is, after all, more than half), especially if you're looking for something short and sweeping. However, having recently read the likes of Cornel ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I listened to the audio version of this book on eight CDs. It's abridged, but I wouldn't have known it if it didn't say so on the case. This book gave me a very thorough education about World War II, "The Big Picture." I've read a lot about the war before, but it was usually about specific areas only. This book gave me a clear understanding of what was happening on all the different fronts (including the home front). It switches back and forth from Europe to the Pacific (and a little of Africa), ...more
James
Wonderfully done - informative, sometimes heartbreaking. The companion to the Ken Burns video documentary, which is every bit as good as the one he made on the Civil War almost a generation ago. As the title indicates, and like that earlier work, this tells the story of the war primarily from the point of view of the ordinary men and women who served in it and their families rather than of the heads of state, generals, and admirals on whom histories have more often focused. In this case, unlike ...more
Tony
Dec 20, 2012 Tony rated it it was amazing
This is a book about people. It is about the people who saved the world, but also the people and families behind the obvious historical monument.

The first line of this book should be; I don’t know what you thought about those who obligated themselves and sacrificed to save the world but…

It is books such as this, that grant a view of the humanity behind the history, that should be read and reread by all generations. Much of what occurs today is fashioned by those ignorant of the actual contributi
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Pamela
Sep 22, 2007 Pamela rated it really liked it
This book blew me away. I don't know what your American History classes were like in high school, but by the time June rolled around in my class, we hadn't made it past the Great Depression. Blame it on snow days or slow-witted students, but I know next to nothing about post-1930s history. Thank goodness a work project required me to read this book. THE WAR goes far beyond its service as a companion book to Ken Burns's upcoming PBS documentary—poring through startling photographs and unforgettab ...more
Jim
Jun 09, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it
I’m not going to write much on this one, mainly because so much has been written about WWII and this book, while extremely well written, and very moving, really provides very little in the way of new information about the conflict. Like most mainstream looks at WWII this one does not ignore the scope of the tragedy, recognizing there is no such thing as a good war, but nevertheless views it through the lens of those who believe it was a “noble,” or “necessary” war. Certainly that is the majority ...more
Jack Lehnen
Jan 13, 2008 Jack Lehnen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
A very good book and gives great individual insight into mens personal war as well as the larger picture. Missed the PBS series but it is coming out in CD soon . I watched the cD and was glad I read the book first. The book has things in it the CD series does not, and the CD goes a bit too fast through such important points and events in history
Kelly
Apr 29, 2009 Kelly rated it liked it
Shelves: wwii
Decent narrative of the war, interspersed with vignettes to make it more interesting/ personalized. But over all, mediocre. Abbreviated and very much failed to capture the same feeling, poignancy of the televised series. So, I say skip the book and watch the documentary instead.
KarmA1966
May 25, 2015 KarmA1966 rated it liked it
Based on the Ken Burns PBS documentary of the same name The War is a great book for novices to dip their toe into WWII history. If you're looking for a book that covers a particular theater or particular platoon or particular battle then you'll be disappointed. The War is clearly an overview of WWII.

New ground is rarely if ever covered for Ph.D.-level history buffs, but the book does a fine job of offering a broad sweep of the war's big events. And The War really takes off when it reveals the s
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Jenny
Feb 22, 2015 Jenny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-books
I know many people died as a result of this war. Usually you get the numbers all in a lump sum. This intimate history of the war was exactly that, up close and personal. It staggers the mind to hear of the senseless loss of life and the ruin of it all. Whenever I think about war I think of all the lives it cut short, of all the people who still had so much they were capable of. In those that died was there someone who could have cured cancer or been a force for great good in another way? Then I ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Book accompanying Ken Burn's PBS series on World War II focuses on a small set of men and women from Sacramento, Mobile, Luverne, MN, and Waterbury, CT. This focus on personal stories and pictures, both at home and at war, makes an indelible emotional impact as it is layered on top of the main events of The War.

The book is a heavy and visually appealing book, with great pictures, but never seems like just a coffee-table movie companion. It has weight and worth of its own that marks it as classic
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Tracey
Oct 25, 2015 Tracey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
audio playaway / nonfiction (history: ww2). personal accounts from families in Luverne, Minnesota; Sacramento, California; Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama from the Ken Burns documentary.

This seems to be fairly well done, to Ken Burns standards; my main issue with it is the length of the tracks (an hour or longer each), which makes it difficult for me to find my place again after I've drifted off to sleep (which I do a lot during audio books; it is why I like the format so much).

So while
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Mary Louise Sanchez
Nov 29, 2014 Mary Louise Sanchez rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I never saw the Ken Burns special but did enjoy reading about the lives of forty people who lived the World War II years from 1941-1945 and were from four towns around the United States. One of the highlighted voices was of former Senator Daniel Inouye, who recalled his life serving in the Japanese American unit, the 442nd. I would have appreciated a Mexican American voice, since one of the highlighted towns was Sacramento, California, but I did appreciate the mix of civilians, women, and servi ...more
PennsyLady (Bev)
Jan 16, 2016 PennsyLady (Bev) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww1-2
An Intimate History, 1941-1945

As the subtitle indicates, The War captures the intimate experiences of Americans in WW2.

In Waterbury, Connecticut, Mobile, Alabama, Sacramento, California,and Luverne, Minnesota, we're given an overview of both war front and home front.
We see the war front in the air, on the sea and on the ground.
We're also given the opportunity of witnessing homefront thoughts, feelings and activities.
There are snapshots of the war's short term adaptations as well as long term lif
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J.S.
Aug 21, 2015 J.S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii
My wife's grandfather passed away a couple weeks ago. He was 90 years old and served in the Navy during WWII, but until recently the family hadn't known anything about his service. When my son interviewed him for a school project he talked about driving landing craft boats loaded with Marines toward beaches under enemy fire. His goal was to get them as close to shore as possible so they didn't have to wade through more water than necessary giving them a better chance of reaching the beach alive, ...more
Andrew Liptak
Oct 16, 2008 Andrew Liptak rated it it was amazing
Over the weekend, I picked up the companion book for Ken Burn’s The War, written by Burns and longtime collaborator Geoffrey C. Ward. The book, along with other companion books, is a literary mirror to the multiple hours long documentaries that Burns is well known for producing and writing. The War is a 14 hour long documentary that’s to air on PBS starting September 23rd. The book is an outstanding and highly detailed look at the Second World War.
The War is practically comprehensive. Covering a
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CD
An average or slightly above WWII history. Using the 'oral history' techniques of interviews and journals, letters, and even a screenplay or two, the authors create a living memoir of those who were there and fought the war.

The summary or encapsulations of the events of WWII in this book are 'common knowledge' type for the most part and don't by themselves shed any new light or add unusual anecdotes. There are poignant personal stories and a few incidents brought to light again in this work that
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Justin Tapp
Jun 12, 2014 Justin Tapp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war
This looks at the war from more of the "common man" standpoint. Burns follows several different soldiers from their small towns to the battlefront. He tells the war from the viewpoint of places like Mobile, Alabama as well as the front. I liked that approach, but the later chapters are mostly just war with very little mention of life at home.

This book isn't looking to expose new facts about the war, or tell stories you haven't already read about or seen in movies. He leaves out a lot, and just f
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Lee
This is the fascinating companion to Ken Burns' PBS series "The War". From the introduction to four pre-war cities, Mobile, Alabama, Waterbury, Connecticut, Sacramento, California and Luverne, Minnesota, to the post-war life of returning veterans, the pictures and text cover the war's progress and end in each of these places as well as the battlefields. The home front, the European theater, the Pacific theater all are presented in haunting reality.
Patrick
Dec 21, 2013 Patrick rated it liked it
This book accompanies the Ken Burns documentary series of the same name. Much of the text and photographs are directly from the series as well, but the book does go into more detail in many aspects than the film series. The photographs and narrative show the absolute massive scope of the second world war and the profiles of individual towns and people make it much more emotional and relatable. When you look at the size and power of the enemy and how much was at stake, you see that the second wor ...more
Ken
May 18, 2015 Ken rated it really liked it
Shelves: military, history
Great total overview of World War II. I haven't read any books that cover both the European Theatre, the Pacific Theatre, and the home front as well as this book did. Obviously the authors can't get too detailed with such a broad overview, but it was great review of the entire struggle. Now I want to watch the PBS series.
Doug
Feb 01, 2014 Doug rated it liked it
I have to admit that I mostly got this for the wonderful pictures. There are those that are wonderfully moving and those which (of the dead) are quite shocking.

I like the general idea (taking the lives of a few and following them through the war.) That part of the narrative which I did read was well done.
Karen K - Ohio
The War is a companion book to Ken Burns documentary series that aired in 2007. I enjoyed the series and I also enjoyed this book. Focusing on the citizens of four towns, The War documents the experiences of ordinary people in the European and Pacific theaters of war, as well as the home front.
Stacy
Dec 29, 2010 Stacy rated it really liked it
Did you see how many pages this has? A kajillion! That's why I haven't posted any reviews for a month. Plus, I'm a little bit lazy. This is terrific but sobering close up look at World War II from the American perspective. Told by several different people who were soldiers, doctors, medics, girlfriends, family members etc.. using personal interviews, letters, telegrams, journal entries and more. A gripping story that takes you from Europe to Africa and the Pacific theater. So hard to read and di ...more
Emily S.
Sep 02, 2015 Emily S. rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking and riveting-I had a hard time putting this down. I especially liked the letters between servicemen and the people waiting for them back home. There were many pictures I hadn't seen before, and I found them fascinating.
Hannah
Dec 22, 2011 Hannah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: blog-shelf
Wow - this is emotionally stirring, informative, and powerful. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in realizing how truly overwhelming this war felt to those on the ground as they were led by both good and failable leaders.

While we are currently engaged in war, I am reminded of a saying I hear often among Marines: "The Marines are at war, America is at the mall." We have nothing to compare to the WWII experience within our generation. I challenge you to read about the bleak emotional lan
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Robin
Jun 18, 2014 Robin rated it it was amazing
Please read this book. It is a very intense, personal telling of war and what the soldiers endured. With more and more of our WWII veterans passing every day, we need to honour them by remembering and gaining some idea, however small, of what they endured for our country - for our freedom.
Meggen
Dec 29, 2009 Meggen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such an amazingly powerful collection of actual accounts from servicemen during WWII. Some parts of this book are so difficult to learn about, yet are so vital to our lives, our history, our sense of who we are as Americans. This is moving and a must for anyone who loves America and wants to understand why our freedom is so important. It made me appreciate what my 2 grandfathers did and went through so much better.

For a more powerful look at this history, watch the PBS documentary upon which thi
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Mark
Feb 16, 2009 Mark rated it really liked it
This huge book, filled with stunning pictures, both benefits & suffers from the constraints that Ken Burns & the makers of the PBS miniseries put on themselves - track people from 4 different towns throughout the U.S. (Sacramento, Mobile, Luwerne, Waterbury) through WW2.

It really is an intimate portrait of war, this particular war, and how it impacted families & towns here in the U.S. At the same time, the intimate focus of the book would make the flow of the war difficult to follow
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Bap
Dec 13, 2008 Bap rated it it was amazing
This is a companion book to the Ken Burns special by the same name. It is full of great pictures. It follows the course of the war from the vantage point of a handful of families in the towns of Sacramento, CA, Waterbury, Conn, Mobile, AL, and Luverne, Minn. It is not a complete history of the war but it is an intimate portrait, mostly drawn from letters and journals that presents a compelling picture of ferocity and sacrifice from the perspective of regular Americans thrown into the war. In the ...more
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Geoffrey Champion Ward is an author and screenwriter of various documentary presentations of American history. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1962.

He was an editor of American Heritage magazine early in his career. He wrote the television mini-series The Civil War with its director Ken Burns and has collaborated with Burns on every documentary he has made since, including Jazz and Baseball.
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