The Civil War

The War: An Intimate History, 1941–1945

Geoffrey C. Ward, Author, Ken Burns, Author . Knopf $50 (480p) ISBN 978-0-307-26283-7

This lavishly illustrated companion to the September PBS documentary series reduces the American side of WWII to the local and personal. Documentarian Burns (The Civil War ) and historian Ward (The Civil War: An Illustrated History ) foreground the iconic experiences of ordinary people, including a young girl interned in a Japanese camp in the Philippines, marines in the thick of combat in the Pacific and a fighter pilot who exchanges letters with his sweetheart. Their stories are full of anxiety and exhilaration, terror and pathos. (Sample vignette: a GI casually tosses pebbles into the skull of a Japanese machine-gunner, still upright and wide-eyed after the top of his head has been shot off). The authors' portrait of the home front glows with nostalgia—war bonds, scrap-metal drives, USO dances—but they also note racial tensions at a Mobile, Ala., shipyard and the bitterness of Japanese-American soldiers whose families were interned. In the background, Roosevelt and Churchill confer, Patton struts and growls, and arrows march across maps as the authors deftly sketch major campaigns and battles and offer tart criticism of inept generals. This visually appealing coffee-table book gives little idea of how and why America won, but a strong sense of what it felt like on the way to victory. Photos. (Sept. 12)

Reviewed on: 07/30/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
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