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"What Was It Like To Fight In A War?"

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns poses at his office in Walpole, N.H., in this April 5, 2007 file photo.
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

My father-in-law Ralph Kuslits served two tours of duty with the Marine Corps in the South Pacific during World War II.

That he survived was a miracle.

For years we'd ask him, "Poppy, what was it like to fight in a war?" and he'd say, "Well, you know I got to see Red Skelton at the Hollywood Canteen." Or he'd tell how he and his pals would make homemade hooch out of potato skins in a 50-gallon drum. He said, "we knew it was ready when the top blew off."

What he almost never talked about, though, was war itself. And that's why I'm recommending you see Ken Burns' new documentary "The War" on PBS. Burns, well aware that World War II vets are dying by the thousands, found men who had stories to tell, in some cases, stories they'd never told before, not even to their own families.

What they have to say makes "war is hell" sound trite. Add film footage you've never seen before, and you appreciate anew the real cost of war.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.