Part One of this epic event special follows these men through war in both the European and Pacific theaters, starting in December 1941 through late 1943, telling the story of their war experiences and how those experiences shaped them as leaders. In the Pacific, Johnson is nearly killed in a twist of fate, and JFK's PT boat is blown up, Reagan becomes the popular face of the American soldier, Carter joins the US Naval Academy and Eisenhower moves from a rookie to a seasoned general as he leads the invasion of North Africa, Italy and prepares for D-Day.
Hitler's fame reaches its climax. Germany is simultaneously admired and feared by foreign countries. In 1936, the Wehrmacht invades the Rhineland, a demilitarized zone by the Treaty of Versailles. The Nuremberg party rallies are a magnificent spectacle of the ever-growing leadership cult. The Summer Olympics in 1936 show Hitler's popularity internationally.
Today it is easy to see D-Day as inevitable - a straightforward victory against a German army that was already all but defeated. This film explodes that myth. It charts the careful planning of the campaign, the development of specialised equipment needed for the amphibious landing. It reveals the deception plan that wrong footed Hitler. It shows how the Americans were very nearly driven off Omaha beach. If that had happened, the whole operation might have failed. The film ends with the Liberation of Paris, as the Free French forces led by Charles de Gaulle matched down the streets of the capital.
In the premiere, King Edward the Confessor dies without an heir, triggering a bitter race to succeed him as King of England. Earl Harold is on the spot and takes the crown. But in Normandy, Duke William believes the throne has been promised to him.