Union University
Union University Dept of History

Department News

Department Members Present Program on Ken Burns’ Historical Documentary The War

Oct 23, 2007 - Four members of the history department presented a program on October 22, 2007, about Ken Burns’ recently released World War II documentary The War. Approximately 150 people attended the event, which Dr. Stephen Carls, the department chair, began with an introduction about Ken Burns’ six years of work in putting the film together. That was followed by a DVD that contained both an overview of the documentary and a brief U.S. government wartime newsreel about U.S. soldiers fighting against the Japanese on the island of Okinawa in 1945.

Dr. Carls then opened the department members’commentaries about Burns’ film by discussing not only U.S. involvement in the war against the European Axis powers but also the Holocaust. He praised Burns’ documentary as a whole, but felt that the filmmaker might have given more background information about the role of the Holocaust in American thinking and decision-making during the war and that America’s military contributions might have been more clearly weighed against those of other major Allied powers fighting in Europe. Focusing on the Pacific war against Japan, Dr. Terry Lindley corrected some omissions and errors in Burns’ discussion: he pointed out, for example, the importance of American submarines in the decimation of the Japanese merchant fleet in the Pacific, and the widening gap in the number of aircraft carriers America had as opposed to Japan as the war progressed.

In his presentation about the American home front, Dr. Keith Bates highlighted Burns’ emphasis on the United States’ ability to mobilize rapidly and on a large scale for war and on the fact that Americans everywhere were ready to make sacrifices in order to assure victory over the Axis powers. Finally, Dr. Judy LeForge talked about the roles of American minority groups in the war. She underscored Burns’ point that women were pivotal to America’s success in the production of weapons and munitions, and she also praised his efforts to provide coverage for the wartime contributions of African Americans, Native Americans, and Mexican Americans both at home and abroad.

Dr. Stephen Carls welcomes those in attendance at the history department event “Ken Burns’ The War: Assessments” on October 22, 2007.

Attendees at Union’s October event on The War watch a brief DVD presentation about how the documentary was put together.

Dr. Terry Lindley makes a point about Ken Burns’ documentary and World War II in the Pacific.

Commenting on the American home front, Dr. Keith Bates talks about the readiness of Americans to make sacrifices in order to help the Allies achieve victory in World War II.

Dr. Judy LeForge focuses on American minority groups in her presentation to the large crowd assembled for the October 22 history department event on Ken Burns’ The War.

People attentively listen to Dr. Judy LeForge discuss Ken Burns’ efforts to strike an appropriate balance in his portrayal of the roles of American minority groups in World War II.