War, a documentary by Gwynne Dyer

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

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