The World at War

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The World at War is a 26 episode series about World War II, produced by ITV in 1973-1974. The episodes were narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier.

Episode One: A New Germany[edit]

Narrator: (opening lines) Down this road on a summer day in 1944, the soldiers came. Nobody lives here now. They stayed only a few hours. When they had gone, the community, which had lived for a thousand years, was dead. This is Oradour-sur-Glane, in France. The day the soldiers came, the people were gathered together. The men were taken to garages and barns, the women and children were led down this road, and they were driven into this church. Here, they heard the firing as their men were shot. Then they were killed too. A few weeks later, many of those who had done the killing were themselves dead, in battle. They never rebuilt Oradour. Its ruins are a memorial. Its martyrdom stands for thousands upon thousands of other martyrdoms in Poland, in Russia, in Burma, China, in a world at war.

Episode Three: France Falls[edit]

Narrator: Forlorn monsters today. In May 1940, these forts of the Maginot line were France's first-line defence against the Germans. Half a million French soldiers lurked beneath these man-made hills. These were the most extensive, the most elaborate forts ever constructed. Here the guns would halt the Hun - provided the Hun came this way.

Episode Six: Banzai![edit]

Ken Murray (describing the attack on Pearl Harbor): My first knowledge of the attack was when I was awakened by the sound of bombs dropping and the roaring of aircraft all around us. I ran out and saw immediately that they were Japanese planes and there was this fellow standing next to me who said, "Boy, it certainly looks real doesn't it?" And I said, "Yes, I'm afraid it is."

Episode Eight: The Desert: War in North Africa[edit]

Narrator (describing the setting of the Western desert campaign):
This land was made for war. As glass resists the bite of vitriol, so this hard and calcined earth rejects the battle's hot, corrosive impact. Here is no nubile, girlish land; no green and virginal countryside for war to violate. This land is hard. Inviolable.

Episode Twelve: Whirlwind: Bombing Germany[edit]

Hamish Mahaddie: If you couldn't get the kraut in his factory, it was just as easy to knock him off in his bed, and [if] granny Schicklgruber in the seat next door got the chop, that's hard luck.
Narrator: Fighter Command had shown how difficult it was for bombers to destroy a country which could defend its own airspace – a lesson the Air Staff apparently neglected to teach itself.

Episode Fourteen: It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow: Burma[edit]

Teruo Okada: We felt that the British officer – was a very good fighter, although the ones we captured, they always said to me, “We will win the war.” Now this I could not understand, because here is a man who has surrendered and he still says, “We will win the war.”

Episode Sixteen: Inside the Reich: Germany[edit]

Narrator (describing the Volkssturm preparing to defend Berlin): They went towards the Russians, keeping their thoughts to themselves.

Episode Nineteen: Pincers[edit]

Brian Horrocks: Then they came to me and they said, “Do you want Cleves taking out?” By taking out they meant the whole of the heavy bombers putting on to Cleves. Now, I knew that Cleves was a very fine old historical German town. Anne of Cleves, one of Henry VIII’s wives came from there. I knew that there were a lot of civilians in Cleves, men, women and children. If I said no, they would live. If I said yes, they would die. A terrible decision you’ve got to take. But everything depended on getting a high piece of ground at Materborn. The German reserves would have to come through Cleves, and we would have to breach the Siegfried Line and get there. And your own lives, your own troops, must come first, so I said yes, I did want it taking out. But when all those bombers went over, the night just before zero hour, to take out Cleves, I felt a murderer. And after the war I had an awful lot of nightmares. It was always Cleves.

Episode Twenty: Genocide[edit]

Dov Paisikowic: What we went through will be difficult to understand, even for our contemporaries, and much more even for the generations who already have no personal experience from those days
Rivka Yosselevska (describing her survival of a massacre): My daughter was in my arms the whole time - somehow I found the strength to carry her. She was so close to me that I couldn't undress - she wouldn't let me. She said, "Let's run away! They're killing us! Why do we just stand here? Why do people stand and not run away? Why are they standing?" I said to her...I could not really speak. I think I said, "Where are we going to run to?"

Episode Twenty Two: Japan[edit]

Narrator: Man and woman, boy and girl, the survivors prepared to defend their homeland, to drive the invaders back into the sea with wooden rifles, bows and arrows, bamboo spears. But the end, when it came, was to be from the sky - irresistible, unimaginable, mushroom-shaped.

Episode Twenty Three: Pacific[edit]

Richard Coleman (describing his opinion of Japanese soldiers): I was always taught to hate them, in the Marine Corps, to detest them and that they were animals. We were the men, they were the animals. By the same token, we were taught that they would die for the Emperor and we weren't taught to die for our President. And to fight, or to come up against an individual who wants to die, or who doesn't care about dying, is a tough thing to combat in your mind. We wanted to live, we wanted to kill him, and we wanted to survive.

Episode Twenty Four: The Bomb[edit]

Kishi Matsukawa (describing her experiences of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima): When I regained consciousness everything was pitch dark all around me. I tried to stand up, but my leg was broken. I tried to speak and I found that six of my teeth had been broken. Then I realised that my face was burnt and my back was burnt. There was a slash right across from one shoulder down to the waist. I crawled to the riverbank and when I got there I saw hundreds of bodies come floating down the river. And it was then that I realised with a shock that all Hiroshima had been hit.
Kiyoshi Tanimoto (describing his memories of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima): I encounter a long and ceaseless line of escapees. All of them had no clothes whatsoever on their bodies. And the skin from their faces, arms and breast peeling off and hanging loose - and yet without any expression. In deep silence they are escaping. I thought it was a procession of ghosts.

Narrator: North Field on the Island of Tinian, in the Marianas - 1500 miles south of Japan. Here on August the fifth, the world's first Uranium bomb was loaded into a B-29 Bomber, named Enola Gay - after its pilots mother. The next day before dawn, the Enola Gay took off. It's target: Hiroshima.

Episode Twenty Six: Remember[edit]

Noble Frankland: The effect of war on people who take part in it is, of course, extremely various. Lots of people are maimed, completely either mentally or physically. But I suppose the majority of those who survive, survive apparently intact. But there must be marked effects, and in some ways the effects are very good on people, because they feel that they’ve been able to fulfil themselves. A lot of people go through life without ever feeling a sense of fulfilment, but those who take part in hectic war operations usually get a sense of fulfilment, to some extent, especially if they believe in what they’re trying to do, which I think in war people tend to do very readily. On the other hand, I think that there are very bad effects, obvious bad effects. Perhaps one of the less obvious ones is that people undertake these operations I think have a tendency to feel afterwards that society owes them something very special. And when the war is over, they tend to go home or back to where they came from and expect people to look up to them and to look after them, which is not what people are going to do at all, nor is it even what people ought to do.
Narrator: (last lines) At the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, the day the soldiers came, they killed more than six hundred men, women ... and children. Remember.

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