Later this month, Ken Burns' latest documentary will air on PBS. This time he has brought the fight to the Twentieth Century. The new series, The War, will be shorter than the actual conflict, but still comes in at a weighty fifteen hours.
I had the opportunity to see a preview of this documentary at the National Archives, when Burns sat down with the Archivist of the United States, Allen Weinstein. I expect it to be outstanding. Burns has chosen to focus on four American communities and uses "a vast range of archival footage"! to convey his message. It promises to give a very raw view of combat, yet we have become a populace desensitized in the era of embedded journalists, who often become the story as well.
In the spring and early summer, Burns weathered additional controversy, when he was accused of neglecting the efforts of Hispanics and American Indians in the war. Burns was urged to edit his documentary to include their contributions. However, as Burns based the documentary on specific communities, which did not contain members of that particular ethnic grouping. After intense pressure, Burns added 29 minutes to the documentary. Interviews with two Hispanic soldiers will appear in the first and sixth episodes and a story of a Native American soldier was added to the end of the fifth episode.
Burns opted to make the documentary when faced with the statistic that nearly 1000 World War II veterans die every day. He interviews 40 veterans and other survivors of the war era. Tom Hanks and Samuel L. Jackson provide voice to other reminiscences. Fire up the TiVo as the premiere is scheduled for during network premiere season.