Ken Burns' The War on PBS (Reality Check Two Three)

Sorry to interrupt our little campfest with a brutal dose of reality but... God. Words completely fail me in trying describe the experience of watching the Ken Burns' PBS series on WWII called simply The War. You could say War is Hell but Hell has nothing on this War. (Or any war.) I rarely turn on the TV anymore but happened upon the last episodes (and now, thankfully, the second airing ) of this series when I switched on the set to watch the latest finds from the Hollywood vault. I've ignored all the escapist DVDs that have piled up ever since because I can't stop watching The War.

I've been riveted every night to the Tube Formerly Known As Boob which finally delivers something that... well, again, words fail me. This series not only shows what war really is (and what our own news outlets should be showing us about Iraq and the Sudan) but reveals how insanely pampered and lucky we are. Witness what these people have gone through (and how history is sadly repeating itself today) and you will never complain about anything ever again. (Talk about developing an Attitude of Gratitude!)

I've seen a lot of WWII documentaries and thought I'd seen every bit of footage available on the subject. My husband can't understand why I'm not bored by The History Channel by now. Yes, it is an obsession. (The only reason I didn't make a point of tuning into The War from the get-go is because we've really been making a habit of keeping the TV off because there is literally NOTHING worth watching. Till now.)

You see, my father was a big history buff and actually went to Japan with the army during The Occupation. His interest in the subject rubbed off on me. Plus my grandmother had every LIFE magazine ever published up in her attic where I spent hours and hours getting better history lessons than I did at school. There were a lot of gruesome photos from WWII in those LIFE magazines. And I've been to The Imperial War Museum in London several times and learned about and seen things that I will never forget. But NOTHING has prepared me for what I've seen in and learned from The War.

One of the most chilling moments in the series was when one of the G.I.s fighting in Europe described capturing a German soldier who spoke perfect English -- with NO trace of an accent. But he was German. And he kept asking the G.I. where he was from. "The Northeast," the American reluctantly replied. "Where in the Northeast?" the German wondered. "Connecticut" the G.I. answered, annoyed. "Where in Connecticut?" the German persisted. "A town called Waterbury" the American angrily replied. "Oh yes, Waterbury," the German answered, then went on to describe the various rivers that converged nearby. The American, now elderly, said he was flabbergasted and explained to Ken Burns' camera crew that one of the rivers the German mentioned was "nothing more than a stream that you could jump over." Dumbfounded, the American asked the German how he knew that. The German matter-of-factly replied, "I was trained to be an administrator for that territory."

Thank goodness The Allies defeated the Nazis. Otherwise we might not have Fashion Week. At least not in English. And not with anyone who wasn't tall, blonde, beautiful, perfectly proportioned with great cheekbones and... wait a minute...

There is an extended preview of The War from PBS you can view here. But, if you can stomach it, watch the entire series. I plan to get it on DVD.

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