Saturday, September 22, 2007
Ken Burns' THE WAR
"When a man dies, it's like a library burning down."
So Ken Burns sums up the sense of urgency he felt in preparing his latest, seven part documentary. This time his subject is War II, and more than 1,000 veterans of that war are dying every day. Each one takes a piece of the story with him.
Telling war stories is as old as war, so that's been a stock fireside activity since Eve and Adam left Eden. And War II is ground that has been searched and researched almost too much. It remains however a fascinating time, not the least because of the war stories our fathers and grandfathers have told us. Burns' approach has been to sidestep the well-trodden ground of generals, tactics, Nazis, and to focus on four US communities and what impact the war had on them. The four are Waterbury, Conn; Mobile, Ala; Luverne, Minn; and Sacramento, Calif. I'll let you guess what the Sacramento story will focus on.
A few years ago I did some work for an elderly man who had just moved with his wife to Madison. When I walked in his door, I noticed several model versions of the American fighter plane F4U Corsair. He'd flown them in the Pacific, and pointed out that all of the museum models today display the actual numbers of the plane he'd flown. As his wife looked on patiently, he talked me through his experiences flying these difficult-to-maintain machines. It was obvious he missed it badly.
The War series by Burns begins Sunday night on PBS, and runs through October 2. Having done really great jobs with the subjects of the Civil War and Baseball, I expect this to be well worth watching as well.