The Winds of War TV Series Overview


The Winds of War is a 1983 miniseries, directed and produced by Dan Curtis, that follows the 1971 book of the same name written by Herman Wouk.

Just as in the book, in addition to the lives of the Henry and Jastrow families, much time in the miniseries is devoted to the major global events of the early years of World War II. Adolf Hitler and the German General Staff, with the fictitious general Armin von Roon as a major character, is a prominent subplot of the miniseries. The Winds of War also includes segments of documentary footage, narrated by William Woodson, to explain major events and important characters.

It was followed by a sequel, War and Remembrance, in 1988, also based on a novel written by Wouk and also directed and produced by Curtis.


The film follows the plot of Wouk’s novel closely, depicting events from March 1939 until the entry of the United States into World War II in December 1941. It tells the story of Victor “Pug” Henry, and his family, and their relationships with a mixture of real people and fictional characters. Henry is a Naval Officer and friend of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


  • Robert Mitchum as Victor Henry (“Pug”).
  • Ali MacGraw as Natalie Jastrow.
  • Jan-Michael Vincent as Byron Henry (“Briny”).
  • John Houseman as Aaron Jastrow.
  • Polly Bergen as Rhoda Henry.
  • Lisa Eilbacher as Madeline Henry.
  • David Dukes as Leslie Slote.
  • Topol as Berel Jastrow.
  • Ben Murphy as Warren Henry.
  • Deborah Winters as Janice Lacouture Henry.
  • Peter Graves as Palmer Kirby (“Fred”).
  • Jeremy Kemp as Brig. Gen. Armin von Roon.
  • Ralph Bellamy as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
  • Victoria Tennant as Pamela Tudsbury.
  • Günter Meisner as Adolf Hitler.
  • Howard Lang as Winston Churchill.
  • Michael Logan as Alistair Tudsbury.
  • Barry Morse as Wolf Stoller.
  • Wolfgang Preiss as Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch.
  • Reinhard Kolldehoff as Hermann Göring.
  • Anton Diffring as Joachim von Ribbentrop.
  • Werner Kreindl as Col Gen Franz Halder.
  • Enzo G. Castellari as Benito Mussolini.
  • Sky Du Mont as Count Ciano.
  • Edmund Purdom as Luigi Gianelli.
  • Lawrence Pressman as Bunky Thurston.
  • Scott Brady as Captain Red Tully.
  • Leo Gordon as General ‘Train’ Anderson.
  • John Dehner as Admiral Ernest King.
  • Andrew Duggan as Admiral Husband Kimmel.
  • Charles Lane as Admiral William Standley.
  • Logan Ramsey as Congressman Lacouture.
  • Patrick Allen as Air Marshal Dowding.
  • Allan Cuthbertson as Major General Tillet.
  • Ferdy Mayne as Ludwig Rosenthal.
  • Barbara Steele as Frau Stoller.
  • William Berger as Phil Briggs.
  • Joseph Hacker as Lt Carter ‘Lady’ Astor.
  • Ben Piazza as Aloysius Whitman.
  • Peter Brocco as Natalie’s Father.



Author Herman Wouk was exceedingly pessimistic about a film adaptation of his beloved and scrupulously researched novel, because he had been extremely unhappy with earlier film adaptations of his novels Marjorie Morningstar, The Caine Mutiny and Youngblood Hawke. He was convinced by Paramount Pictures and the ABC television network that a miniseries would allow the full breadth of his epic story to be brought to life onscreen. Wouk required unusual control over the production in his contract, including considerable influence on the production and veto power over what products could be advertised during the miniseries and how many, commercials would be allowed. Wouk also has a cameo as the archbishop of Siena.

I, Claudius screenwriter Jack Pulman was originally hired to adapt the novel. He and Wouk worked for months preparing an outline. After Pulman passed away suddenly in 1979, Wouk himself wrote the teleplay for the series.


The casting of Lee Strasberg as Aaron Jastrow was publicly announced in February 1981. Strasberg had to withdraw from the production before filming any scenes, due to ill health (he died in 1982). He was replaced by John Houseman. Houseman later had to withdraw from the sequel miniseries, War and Remembrance, due to his own ill health (he died in 1988). Houseman was replaced by John Gielgud.


Paramount produced the miniseries for $40 million ($125 million in 2019 dollars). ABC paid $32 million for the broadcast rights, then charged advertisers $175,000 for 30-second commercials and $350,000 for one-minute commercials. ABC expected simply to break even on the original broadcast and make any profits from later reruns and syndication.

  • The 962-page script contained 1,785 scenes and 285 speaking parts.
  • The production involved 4,000 camera setups and shot a million feet of exposed film.
  • The production had a 206-day shooting schedule and came in four days ahead of schedule.
  • The series was shot at 404 locations in Europe, California and Washington state over 14 months.
  • Principal photography began on 01 December 1980 aboard the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California and was completed (except for miniature photography) on 08 December 1981, on US Navy vessels at Port Hueneme, California, with filming of the recreation of the Attack on Pearl Harbour.
  • Principal locations were Zagreb, Opatija and Rijeka in Yugoslavia; Berchtesgaden and Munich in West Germany; Siena, Florence, Milan and Rome, Italy; London, UK; Vienna, Austria; Naval Station Bremerton in Bremerton, Washington and throughout the Los Angeles area and Southern California. Scenes were filmed onboard the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) and the USS Missouri (BB-63) the latter still in mothballs.
  • The opening scene sub-titled “Berlin” was actually filmed in and around the Hofburg in Vienna.
  • The production made use of battle scenes from other films during the attack scene on Pearl Harbour and during the German attacks on the Soviet Union, including scenes for both battles from Tora! Tora! Tora!
  • The OpsRoom at RAF Uxbridge, from which the Battle of Britain fighter defenses were commanded, is only rarely made available to the public. Such producers as Dan Curtis managed to get permission to film there.
  • Nazi concentration camp-survivor Branko Lustig was an associate producer in the miniseries and also on Schindler’s List (1993).


The music was composed by Robert “Bob” Cobert, a composer often associated with Curtis.


A premiere screening of the first episode was held in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center on Thursday 03 February 1983, three nights before airing on ABC. The screening was attended by members of the cast including Robert Mitchum, Ali MacGraw, John Houseman, Polly Bergen and Peter Graves. Producer/director Dan Curtis and writer and Washington resident Herman Wouk also attended, though Wouk refused all requests for interviews, saying “I’m a very private person.” Also attending were Paramount owner Charles Bludhorn, who hosted the event, as well as ABC Motion Pictures President Brandon Stoddard, Jack Valenti, Ted Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Art Buchwald, two senators, and numerous other Washington luminaries.

After running a massive year-long advertising campaign, which cost an additional $23 million, ABC reported that the miniseries had 140 million viewers for all or part of its eighteen hours, making it the most-watched miniseries up to that time.


The show was a success throughout the US and received many accolades, including Golden Globe nominations and various Emmy wins and nominations.

  • Won:
    • Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or a Special.
    • Outstanding Individual Achievement – Costumers.
    • Outstanding Individual Achievement – Special Visual Effects.
  • Nominated:
    • Outstanding Art Direction for a Limited Series or a Special.
    • Outstanding Directing in a Limited Series or a Special.
    • Outstanding Film Editing for a Limited Series or a Special.
    • Outstanding Film Sound Editing for a Limited Series or a Special.
    • Outstanding Film Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or a Special (three individual episodes nominated).
    • Outstanding Limited Series (Dan Curtis, producer).
    • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special (Ralph Bellamy, for playing Franklin Delano Roosevelt).
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Special (Polly Bergen, for playing Rhoda Henry).


  • With 140 million viewers of part or all of Winds of War, it was the most-watched miniseries at that time.

The Winds of War Series

The miniseries was shown by ABC in seven parts over seven evenings, between 06 and 13 February 1983. It had a runtime of 18 hours including commercials, or 14 hours 40 minutes excluding commercials. Parts One, Two, Six and Seven ran for three hours including commercials, while parts Three, Four and Five ran for two hours including commercials. It attracted an average of 80 million viewers per night.

Production & Filming Details

  • Creator(s): Dan Curtis.
  • Narrator(s): William Woodston.
  • Director(s): Dan Curtis.
  • Producer(s): Dan Curtis.
  • Writer(s): Herman Wouk.
  • Cinematography: Charles Correll and Stevan Larner.
  • Editor(s): John F. Burnett, Bernard Gribble, Jack Turner, and Peter Zinner.
  • Production: Dan Curits Produtions, Jadran Film, and Paramount Television.
  • Distributor(s): Paramount Domestic Television.
  • Release Date: 06 February 1983 to 13 February 1983.
  • Running time: 883 minutes (total running time).
  • Rating: 15.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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