The Violence of History

Ken Burns' new megaseries The War helps us better see WW II--and today's war as well

National Archives

Ken Burns new megaseries The War helps us better see WWII and today's war as well.

It's a gray, stormy Tuesday in Manhattan--Sept. 11, to be precise--a day that can't help calling to mind a sunny Tuesday six years ago, a day that makes New Yorkers think about war and history, a good day, therefore, to be talking to Ken Burns.

Burns is quick to say that The War, his elegiac, exhaustive 15-hour documentary on World War II (PBS, debuts Sept. 23), is about that war, not today's. But he and co-director/producer Lynn Novick are not naive. "We're not unmindful that it will engage people with questions about the current situation," Burns says. "That's the reason you...

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