War, a documentary by Gwynne Dyer

April 15, 2011 § 5 Comments

Gwynne Dyer’s War is a seven part miniseries, released in 1983, that explores the evolution of war from the bronze age to the Napoleonic era, from the World Wars to the nuclear age. The film has a broad scope, funded by The National Film Board of Canada, it was shot in ten countries, features six national armies, and contains interviews with many veterans and military specialists, including the infamous Bomber Harris.

Dyer himself has a strong military background: he served in the Canadian, American and British navies as a reserve officer; taught military affairs at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto; and for four years was a senior lecturer in war studies at Sandhurst, Britain’s Royal Military Academy. One suspects that, at least at one time, Dyer must have been relatively enthusiastic about the military, but through his understanding of the consequences of a war between great powers has become anti-war, recognising that such a confontation would inevitably escalate to nuclear war, threatening all life on the planet.

The premier episode defines the milestones along the road to total war: the birth of nationalism, conscription, the mobilization of large armies; the invention of the machine gun, tank and atomic bomb; and the deliberate killing of civilians. Paintings and visual material from archives around the world complement interviews and Mr. Dyer’s commentary, which sums up modern warfare, from Napoleon to Nagasaki.

The series was broadcast in 45 countries and the episode The Profession of Arms was nominated for an Academy Award.

The Road to Total War

part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6

On-camera host Gwynne Dyer analyzes two centuries of world military history and defines the milestones along the road to total war: the birth of nationalism, conscription, the mobilization of large armies, the invention of the machine gun, tank and atomic bomb, and the deliberate killing of civilians. From Napoleon to Nagasaki, The Road to Total War charts how the social, economic and technological developments of the last two hundred years have made warfare so efficient that it can now destroy us all. Part one of the seven-part series War, hosted by Gwynne Dyer, examining the nature, evolution and consequences of modern warfare.

Anybody’s Son Will Do


part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6

Photographed on location at the United States Marine Corps Parris Island Training Depot in South Carolina, this film follows a group of young recruits through their gruelling ten-week “basic training.” Anybody’s Son Will Do provides insight into techniques that all armies use to indoctrinate recruits with a new set of morals–techniques that transform ordinary citizens into soldiers ready to kill, even to die, for their country. Part two of the seven-part series War, hosted by Gwynne Dyer, examining the nature, evolution and consequences of modern warfare.

The Profession of Arms


part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6

This film is about professional soldiers–the career officers who devote their lives to maintaining military organizations and nurturing the attitudes that go with them. With extraordinary frankness, officers from six nations recount their combat experiences, describe how they come to terms with their job demands, and explain how sophisticated technology is changing the nature of their profession. Part three of the seven-part series War, hosted by Gwynne Dyer, examining the nature, evolution and consequences of modern warfare.

The Deadly Game of Nations


part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6

To explain the link between war and nationalism, The Deadly Game of Nations focuses on the Middle East, a volatile area claimed by many nations. While making a film about sovereignty, the film crew unexpectedly found itself amidst the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. From the war-torn streets of Beirut to the Golan Heights and the border kibbutz of Kfar Giladi, the film provides a close-up view of the devastating effect of continuous war on the lives of both soldiers and civilians. Part four of the seven-part series War, hosted by Gwynne Dyer, examining the nature, evolution and consequences of modern warfare.

Keeping the Old Game Alive


part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6

Along the vigilantly patrolled line separating East and West Germany lie half the world’s conventional (non-nuclear) armed forces–the Warsaw Pact forces to the east, the NATO Alliance to the west. It is here in Europe that military experts predict the next major world war will begin, initially with conventional weapons. In Keeping the Old Game Alive, top military leaders from both NATO and Warsaw Pact countries describe how any future superpower confrontation might evolve. The frightening outcome of one recent NATO war exercise was rapid escalation to all-out nuclear war once supplies of conventional weaponry were exhausted. Part five of the seven-part series War, hosted by Gwynne Dyer, examining the nature, evolution and consequences of modern warfare.

Notes on Nuclear War


part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6

This film follows the development of the nuclear arms race from Hiroshima to the nuclear stalemate of today. It examines the Western military-industrial complex and its Warsaw Pact counterpart, and explains how the concept of “limited” nuclear war came to be. Notes on Nuclear War shows the devastating effect of nuclear bombs; American and Soviet physicians describe the medical consequences and the inability of their profession to cope with the casualties. Part six of the seven-part series War, hosted by Gwynne Dyer, examining the nature, evolution and consequences of modern warfare.

Goodbye War


part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6

Goodbye War looks at some of the causes and consequences of the last two World Wars and of recent small conflicts that have brought us perilously close to nuclear war. As well, it examines why attempts to limit arms and achieve lasting peace have so far failed. Gwynne Dyer outlines political and international peace initiatives and asks citizens of several nations for their views on war and peace. The series concludes with the warning that we must find a way to say goodbye to war if the human race is to survive. Part seven of the seven-part series War, hosted by Gwynne Dyer.

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§ 5 Responses to War, a documentary by Gwynne Dyer

  • delia ruhe says:

    Thanks for bringing this dated series out of the archives. Although filmed at the peak moment of our anti-USSR/nuke anxieties, I think it is still relevant.

    Rather than “anti-war,” Dyer is much more anti-militarism.

    Dyer also published a book to go along with the series. It, too, is called *War*. He revised it during the Geo. W. Bush years. It’s a good revision, I think.

  • mo anwar says:

    Doing a course about war and aggression this semester. I dont have time to read the book, so this really helps.
    Much appreciated.

  • This remains as excellent today as it was when first broadcast. There are 8 episodes in all; however. Why is this not available for purchase on dvd, I wonder. I would love to own this.

  • These are the Entire Eight Episodes of “War: A Commentary by Gwynne Dyer”:

    1.”The Road to Total War”
    2.”Anybody’s Son Will Do”
    3.”The Profession of Arms”
    4.”The Deadly Game of Nations”
    5.”Keeping the Old Game Alive”
    6.”Notes on Nuclear War”
    7.”Goodbye War”
    8.”The Knife Edge of Deterrence”

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