When I was on study sabbatical a couple summer's ago, I picked up a used book on CD at the library. It was Ken Burns' "The War", his documentary of World War II. I never listened to it and it sat in my truck door compartment until a few weeks ago. On one of my many 90-minute trips to my favorite hunting location, I started listening to the book (8 CD's total). It is a riveting documentary. I wish I would have listened to it earlier and had my Dad listen also. He was a pretty big war buff. He would tell you that World War II was the last "necessary" war the U.S. fought. He was a veteran of the Korean War, which colored his outlook on how the U.S. Military should be used. There appears to have been an incredible unity among U.S. citizens concerning the necessity of being part of World War II, a kind of national one-mindedness seemingly long gone in our country.
As for dropping the bombs on Japan? Even Burns, the liberal political activist, seems to admit there was no real choice. The Japanese Emperor would have fought until every Japanese citizen was dead and a million allied troops with them. War is hell, no doubt.
World War II was complex, to say the least, but I think Burns does a good job simplifying the story without leaving out anything major. I quibble with some of his characterizations of allied commanders, but not majorly. Burns is of a different ideological stripe than I, and I think his lack of mentioning the role Christianity played in 1940's American culture is a poor oversight. Still, I highly recommend both his book on CD and the actual PBS documentary, which I just picked up for $20 on Ebay!! Total steal.
There are relatively few WWII vets still living. Within the next 10 years they'll probably all be gone. This documentary gave me a greater appreciation for our country and the brave people who have defended and preserved it.