I’m looking forward to Ken Burns’ The War, which starts on PBS on Sunday evening. My father was an infantry captain who landed at Utah Beach with the 4th Division on D-Day, and fought his way to Germany via the Battle of the Bulge. Like many of his generation, he didn’t really talk much about his experiences, and I regret that I never pulled harder to get his stories — good and bad — out of him. I suspect some of the personal histories that Burns uncovered will be similar to what my father went through.
But I have sympathy with Alessandra Stanley’s review of the documentary series in today’s New York Times. She writes about the near-exclusive focus on the American experience:
In 1944 infantrymen in the Ardennes followed every step of the Red Army’s advance. Certainly the men and women serving in uniform at the time were more curious about other fronts than Mr. Burns is. Public television is too often in a defensive crouch, fending off attacks by right-wing groups that accuse it of liberal bias. That insecurity has perhaps driven PBS to underestimate its audience’s appetite for widened horizons.
Having seen Burns speak about his series, it’s clear he set out to provide an insight into the American experience of the war and not what Jeremy Isaacs attempted in the great World at War, a synoptic television history of the war.