Ken Burns: This time he doesn't rely on historians to tell his story

Historians in the News

IN Ken Burns' "The War," historians are missing in action.

It's the most noticeable difference between "The War," Burns' gut-wrenching, 14-hour documentary on World War II, and the most famous of his other films, "The Civil War," in which historians such as the late Shelby Foote played such an important part.

The only talking heads in "The War" are a handful of men and women, now elderly, who lived through it, either overseas in Europe or the Pacific, or at home awaiting news of their loved ones.

As it happens, these witnesses are not seen on screen very often. And that leaves plenty of time - about 80 percent of this epic miniseries, according to Burns' own estimate - for film and still photos of actual combat and its grisly aftermath.

The sheer tonnage of the images - another Burns hallmark - makes watching "The War" a relentless experience. The images include everything you might imagine from a documentary on World War II - aerial bombardments, jungle firefights, beach landings, prison camp scenes, you name it. ...

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