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Episode Synopses

EPISODE ONE: “A Necessary War”
EPISODE TWO: “When Things Get Tough”
EPISODE THREE: “A Deadly Calling”
EPISODE FOUR: “Pride of Our Nation”
EPISODE SIX: “The Ghost Front”
EPISODE SEVEN: “A World Without War”

Episode Two
“When Things Get Tough”
January 1943-December 1943

By January 1943, Americans have been at war for more than a year. The Germans, with their vast war machine, still occupy most of Western Europe, and the Allies have not yet been able to agree on a plan or a timetable to dislodge them. For the time being, they will have to be content to nip at the edges of Hitler’s enormous domain. American troops, including Charles Mann of Luverne, are now ashore in North Africa, ready to test themselves for the first time against the German and Italian armies. At Kasserine Pass, Erwin Rommel’s seasoned veterans quickly overwhelm the poorly led and ill-equipped Americans, but in the following weeks, after George Patton assumes command, the Americans pull themselves together and begin to beat back the Germans. In the process, thousands of soldiers learn to disregard the belief that killing is a sin and come to adopt the more professional outlook that “killing is a craft,” as reporter Ernie Pyle explains to the readers back home.

Across the country, in cities such as Mobile and Waterbury, nearly all manufacturing is converted to the war effort. Factories run around the clock, and mass production reaches levels unimaginable a few years earlier. Along with millions of other women, Emma Belle Petcher of Mobile enters the industrial work force for the first time, becoming an airplane inspector while her city struggles to cope with an overwhelming population explosion.

In Europe, thousands of American airmen are asked to gamble their lives against preposterous odds, braving flak and German fighter planes on daylight bombing missions over enemy territory. All of them, including Earl Burke of Sacramento, know that each time they return to the air their chances of surviving the war diminish.

Allied troops invade Sicily and then southern Italy, where, as they try to move towards Rome, the weather turns bad and the terrain grows more and more forbidding — twisting mountain roads, blown bridges — all under constant German fire. With them is Babe Ciarlo of Waterbury, whose division loses 3,265 men in 56 days of fighting in Italy — and moves less than 50 miles.

As 1943 comes to a close, Allied leaders draw up plans for the long-delayed invasion of the European continent; Hitler put tens of thousands of laborers to work strengthening his coastal defenses. For the people of Mobile, Sacramento, Waterbury and Luverne, things are bound to get tougher still.

NEXT EPISODE: "A Deadly Calling"
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