02/05/07 — Public television stations seeks World War II veterans' stories

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Public television stations seeks World War II veterans' stories

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 5, 2007 1:46 PM

With World War II veterans dying at a rate of 40 to 50 a day, the importance of capturing the stories of the Greatest Generation in written, audio and visual archives is becoming increasingly important. It is the motivation behind famed director Ken Burns’ new documentary “The War,” and it’s the impetus behind UNC-TV’s new effort to capture North Carolina’s World War II experience.

In September, “The War” will be shown on UNC-TV, North Carolina’s public television station. Between now and then, UNC-TV will be hosting a series of events across the state, hoping to capture stories and memories from the war that changed the nation.

“This whole thing is being driven by the fact that Ken Burns, one of the big names in public television, is about to complete a 14-hour documentary that will be broadcast by PBS in September,” UNC-TV spokesman Steve Volstad said. “Leading up to that, we’re trying to do a number of things to record the World War II experience of veterans and those on the homefront in North Carolina.”

Kicking off those events will be “An Evening with Ken Burns,” — a screening and discussion with the director of such popular documentaries as “Baseball,” “JAZZ” and “The Civil War” — at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville at 7 p.m. on April 11. That will be followed by a screening at the Consolidated Theatres’ Southpoint Cinema 16 at 7:30 p.m. on April 12 in Durham.

Other events, Volstad said, are still being planned.

But UNC-TV’s main focus over the rest of the year and into 2008 will be the collection of the stories of World War II veterans and those who remained at home in North Carolina.

“World War II veterans are now in their 80s for the most part and there are fewer and fewer of them every day and we don’t want to miss the chance to do this,” Volstad said. “Ken Burns’ efforts are giving us the perfect opportunity to focus on this.”

Stories are already being collected on UNC-TV’s Web site at www.unctv.org/wwii.

UNC-TV staff will begin taping those stories at the April 11 screening in Fayetteville and will hold other recording sessions across the state throughout the rest of the year.

The goal, Volstad said, is to create North Carolina’s own documentary or series of programs similar to those created by Utah’s public television station — “Utah WWII Stories: Europe” and “Utah WWII Stories: The Pacific” — in recent years.

“It made for a really dramatic program and that’s the ultimate goal,” he said. “That’s what we really want to do.”

And, he continued, North Carolina’s story has the potential to be even more poignant given the state’s connection to the military with such major bases as Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Fort Bragg and Camp LeJeune.