Ken Burns' latest documentary lets those who lived World War II tell what it was like - while they're with us.

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The presence of Ken Burns' father looms large in his son's latest PBS epic.
But viewers won't know it.

An unidentified photograph of Lt. Robert Kyle Burns Jr. is the first and last image in The War, a 15-hour documentary series about World War II. It launches Sept. 23.

Burns hadn't planned to use the photo, a beloved possession since college. After all, his dad had spoken to him about the war only once before his death in 2001.

But as War began taking shape as personal reminiscences of vets from various American towns, Burns decided the image "would be a quiet way to honor my father," he said during a recent visit here.

There is nothing quiet about War, however.

Its ear-splitting, raw combat footage is as shocking to the senses as the savage opening scene of D-Day in Steven Spielberg's acclaimed Saving Private Ryan.

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