How Tom Hanks Became America's Historian in Chief

With his new miniseries The Pacific , Tom Hanks tells the story of America's Pacific theater in World War II. How did this actor turned producer become our chronicler in chief?

Dan Winters for TIME

Correction appended March 11, 2010

To the young Tom Hanks, history was as dull as an algebra equation. For Hanks — a classic baby boomer, born in 1956 — World War II was just a string of long-ago muzzle flashes in black-and-white. Yet he did have a more direct connection to the global cataclysm. His father had been a U.S. Naval mechanic (second class) in World War II. But Amos Hanks wasn't the type to tell his son tales of bravery and sacrifice. "Growing up, I always knew Dad was somewhere in the Pacific...

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