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The War: Companion Guide for the PBS Documentary Film Series

Episode Three: A Deadly Calling

Soldiers, in grove of palm trees, crouch on palm fronds covering the ground.
Sgt. John Bushemi, photographer. Soldiers of the Shamrock Battalion want to push ahead--Gilbert Islands, Makin Atoll. Between 1941 and 1945. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

November 1943 - June 1944

In the war’s Pacific Theater, the battle in November 1943 to take the island of Tarawa from the Japanese illustrated just how difficult a fight the U.S. would have for the next 20 months. Treacherous landing conditions, inhospitable terrain, and an enemy determined not to surrender combined to make each island invasion seem more daunting than the last.

In Italy, the fight went on at the heavily fortified Monte Cassino monastery and on the beach at Anzio as the drive to liberate Rome continued. Civilian ambulance drivers from the American Field Service worked the battlefields to transport the wounded to safety.


John Herbert Armstrong's story

"I went in the second day ... the morning of the second day..."

John Herbert Armstrong's story

Image of Norman Lee Brown

"I had feedback from Saipan afterwards… You know, nightmares and stuff... "

Norman Lee Brown's story

Sherwin H. Goodman's story

"As a kid, it’s just excitement, not a feeling of foreboding or anything like that..."

Sherwin H. Goodman's story



Joseph L. Bieber's story

"I doubt if anyone ever gets used to combat."

Joseph L. Bieber's story

Image of Ruth Deloris Buckley

"I always wondered what kind of a feeling it would be to think you are a goner..."

Ruth Deloris Buckley's story

Image of Harold Conan Hammil

"...some new recruit would come in and we would tell him, don’t be so particular; wait until dark..."

Harold Conan Hammil's story

Image of  Elsie F. Getz Perch

"One day we lost six of our thirty patients and I was pretty depressed..."

Elsie F. Getz Perch's story

Image of Robert H. Rudolph

"We were just down in that [foxhole], and we stayed for almost four months."

Robert H. Rudolph's story

Image of Walter B. Stevens

"...just a few hundred yards more in a different direction it could very well have been me that would have been hit ..."

Walter B. Stevens' story

American Field Service

Image of Ward B. Chamberlin, Jr.

"And then they gave me orders to report back to headquarters for desk duty for a year, and I tore those up..."

Ward B. Chamberlin, Jr.'s story