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.
Narrator "Thank God for the French Army", said Winston Churchill when Hitler came to power. But by 1940 the French army was no longer the superlative weapon it once had been. They had pioneered motor transport in warfare, but went back now to relying on railways and the horse; especially the horse.

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 Seven: On Our Way: U.S.A[edit]

Narrator February 1942, six-hundred ships loaded with men and materiel set sail for North Africa: Operation Torch. Said Roosevelt when he heard the news, "at last we're on our way."


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.
Narrator February 1941, Hitler comes to Mussolini's rescue. A small mobile force that had been hurriedly put together set sail to Tripoli. A force that was soon to become known as the Afrika Korps.
Narrator The man Hitler chose to save Mussolini from further disaster had made a name for himself in France the summer before: Erwin Rommel.
Narrator The peculiar conditions of the desert bred a comradeship which was unique in the whole war. To many, the desert war was a private war, the last to retain any pretense of chivalry.
Winston Churchill "Now, this is not the end! It is not even the beginning of the end. But what it is, perhaps, is the end of the beginning."

Episode Nine: Stalingrad[edit]

Narrator Russia, the summer of 1942, the Germans are on the move, again. The sixth army, Hitler's largest, victorious in France, almost victorious in the first year of the Russian campaign. Now it has a new task: to fight further east than the Wehrmacht has ever fought before. To cut Russia in two, on the Volga.
Narrator Goring, the Luftwaffe's Commander in Chief. Earlier that year, his planes had supplied a whole army cut off for sixty days with fuel, ammunition and food. Now he thought they could do it again. Provided the weather was good and provided the distances weren't too great, they could fly in five hundred tons a day. Hitler thought that would do. Although he knew, the Army said, it needed at least eight hundred tons. The Russians were waiting. Bombers were used as transport. The weather was vile. The airlift was only able to bring in a tenth of what was needed. Although it did once deliver a plane load of ground pepper, and twelve cases of contraceptives.
Narrator Two German Armies, twenty Four Generals, two thousand officers, ninety thousand soldiers: prisoners. One hundred and fifty thousand dead. The Romanian, Hungarian and Italian armies destroyed. Enough materiel lost to equip a quarter of the whole German army. This was the same Sixth Army, which two years before, could not imagine defeat
Narrator When it was all over, a Russian soldier said: "Germans are funny fellows, coming to conquer Stalingrad in shiny leather boots. They thought it would be a joyride."
Narrator When it was all over, Hitler said: "What is life? Life is the Nation. The individual must die anyway. Beyond the life of the individual is the Nation."
Narrator On February the third, 1943, German radio announced that Stalingrad had fallen. That the Sixth Army had fought courageously, but had succumbed to "vastly superior enemy forces", and to "unfavorable circumstances."

Episode Eleven: Red Star[edit]

Narrator No country, no people, suffered so terribly in the war, as the Soviet Union. Nowhere else are the memories of war so alive today, and so profound. The German invasion brought about a catastrophe which seemed at first no nation could survive. In the siege of Leningrad alone, which lasted for over two years, more human beings died than the total war dead of Britain and the United States, combined. Yet it was here that Hitler was broken. The Russian people faced the possibility that they might perish, and overcame it.
Narrator In bleak places, lacking food or sleep, the Russians reconstructed a new war industry beyond the reach of the Nazis.
Narrator (describing conditions in Leningrad) Bread was now made with sweepings, cattle cake, sawdust. People ate soap, linseed oil, the paste for wallpaper.

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 Thirteen: Tough Old Gut[edit]

Narrator Winston Churchill once told Stalin, the Mediterranean is the soft underbelly of the crocodile. Churchill and the British chiefs of staff were sure that attacking German occupied Europe through Italy would help shorten the war. The Americans were not convinced, preferring to concentrate on the decisive blow across the English Channel. Only reluctantly did they agree to join their British allies on the road to Rome.

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 Berlin in the summer of 1940 welcomed victory beyond belief. The soldiers of the Third Reich came home after only a year of war. They had conquered France; Central and Northern Europe had fallen too. These crowds were delirious with exhalation and relief. They turned to their Fuhrer in a frenzy of gratitude. They had not fancied war, they had feared defeat. Now they thought the war was over, and they rejoiced.
Narrator Along with Geography and the rest, Nazi schools were obliged to add a special subject; children were taught, with pictures and measurements, the dimensions of a healthy aryan race. Official films prepared the public for the consequences of keeping the race pure. The mentally incurable, condemned as the "bad seed", went to experimental gas chambers.
Narrator (describing the Volkssturm preparing to defend Berlin): They went towards the Russians, keeping their thoughts to themselves.

Episode Seventeen: Morning[edit]

Narrator On a different stage, another American, General Dwight David Eisenhower, appointed by Roosevelt, Overlord Supereme Commander. Eisenhower had commanded the Allied North African expedition in 1942. As well as generalship, he would need the finesse of a diplomat, as he was now to lead a huge multinational force.
Narrator Many men were afraid that night. They were storming Hitler's vaunted Festung Europa, Fortress Europe. Across the water the Germans waited, not knowing when or where the blow would fall.
Narrator At 5:30 the Armada was off the French coast. After a massive air attack, a devestating naval bombardment.
Narrator Some units landed in the wrong areas. Some met unexpectedly light resistance, others were cut down almost on the shoreline. The Americans got the worst of it.
Narrator Only the insistence of Eisenhower and the King himself had stopped Churchill from coming over on D-Day. Now, within days of the landings, he was there to see how things were going.

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.
Narrator This tiny island, less than one square mile, cost more than four thousand lives. This is Tarawa, typical of some of the most concentrated fighting of the war as the Americans pushed the Japanese back island by island, across the Pacific.

Episode Twenty Four: The Bomb[edit]

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 pilot's mother. The next day before dawn, the Enola Gay took off. It's target: Hiroshima.
Narrator On April the 12th 1945, Franklin Roosevelt, President of the United States, died suddenly. The nation mourned its lost leader. He had brought them from the depths of economic depression 12 years before, now he had led them to the eve of victory in a World War.
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.

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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