The War

(Rochester, New York) – The War, the seven-part documentary series directed and produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, encores on Tuesday, July 31 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11), and continues Wednesday, August 1, Thursday, August 2 and Sunday, August 5 at 9 p.m.  The series explores the history and horror of the Second World War from an American perspective by following the fortunes of so-called ordinary men and women who get caught up in the greatest cataclysm in human history.

Six years in the making, this epic 14-hour film, reminiscent in scope and power of Burns’s landmark series The Civil War, focuses on the stories of citizens from four geographically distributed American towns — Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minnesota. These four communities stand in for — and could represent — any town in the United States that went through the war’s four devastating years. Individuals from each community take the viewer through their own personal and quite often harrowing journeys into war, painting vivid portraits of how the war dramatically altered their lives and those of their neighbors, as well as the country they helped to save for generations to come.

“The Second World War was so massive, catastrophic and complex, it is almost beyond the mind’s and the heart’s capacity to process everything that happened and, more important, what it meant on a human level,” said Burns.

By focusing on the personal stories of ordinary Americans who had extraordinary experiences, the film tries to bring one of the biggest events in the history of the world down to a very intimate scale. And in the end, we all begin to see that there are no “ordinary lives.”

 “PBS has a deep and abiding respect for the history, drama and tragedy of war,” said John F. Wilson, PBS Senior Vice President and Chief T.V. Programming Executive. “It’s critical that we capture the stories of the generation that fought and lived through World War II before they are lost to us forever. Serving our mission to educate and inform, PBS’ goal for The War is to reach into every home and classroom — so together we can better understand what we as a nation experienced in those difficult years and what we as a nation accomplished.”

 Accompanying the series will be a companion book, written by Geoffrey C. Ward and introduced by Ken Burns, that will be published by Alfred A. Knopf; Ward and Burns collaborated previously on the unexpected bestseller The Civil War. PBS Home Video is producing a complete DVD box set that will feature “making of” footage and an interview with Burns and others involved in the film. The soundtrack will be released in September 2007 by Sony BMG Legacy Recordings. As with all of Burns’s films, there will be an extensive educational outreach component and an interactive Web page that provides more information on the film, the battles and related issues.

The War is a stunning achievement in filmmaking,” said Sonny Mehta, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the Knopf Publishing Group. “It is an honor to be working with Ken and Geoffrey once again on this very special book, which promises to be a landmark publishing event.” Knopf is announcing a first printing of 750,000 copies for the book, which will go on sale nationwide August 21, 2007. 

 In addition to Keith David’s narration, The War features first-person voices read by some of America’s greatest actors. Tom Hanks reads the voice of Al McIntosh, the editor of the Rock County Star-Herald in Luverne, Minnesota, whose weekly columns poignantly tried to explain the unexplainable to his neighbors. Other voices include Josh Lucas, Bobby Cannavale, Samuel L. Jackson, Eli Wallach, Robert Wahlberg, Carolyn McCormack, Adam Arkin and Kevin Conway.

Pictured: Saipan, 1944 
Courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration




WXXI is the essential, life-long educational media resource for the Greater Rochester area. WXXI puts the community first with programming that stimulates and expands thought, inspires the spirit, opens cultural horizons and promotes understanding of diverse community issues. Log on to for more information about our services and programs.


WXXI Media Contact:

Kristin Tutino

Creative Services Department

[email protected]


Go to the NPR Pressroom

Go to the PBS Pressroom

Get logos for Media Use

Read our Media Policy

Radio Archives

TV Archives