Thinking Inside the Box

THE WAR: ORDINARY LIVES, EXTRAORDINARY STORIES

by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV


In all the decades of writing and reporting, for print and video, about World War II, is it possible something, anything, hasn't been covered? Are there angles yet to be explored, stories yet to be told?

Maybe, just maybe, there are.

Ken Burns' much anticipated seven-episode film, THE WAR, comes to MPTV-10 and MPTV-HD beginning Sunday, September 23, at 7 p.m., and incorporates stories about World War II that promise to spur new conversation about one of the most significant events of our time.

I'm stretching the truth a bit when I say "our time." To be sure, most of us were born after World War II. (I was born exactly 11 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a date which FDR promised would "live in infamy.")

But even those of us who didn't hear the news reports of Iwo Jima or Berlin, the Holocaust, the London blitz, Hiroshima, the Battle of the Bulge, or VE-Day as they were happening realize the impact World War II had on our parents and grandparents, and continues to have on our lives today. In very profound and also subtle ways, World War II changed America forever.

Burns relates the stories of people in four American towns: Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; Waterbury, Connecticut; and Luverne, Minnesota. The program also includes segments on the experiences of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and American Indians. By doing that, THE WAR presents a very different look at World War II than many other treatments you've seen over the years.

The premise is this: "in extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives." By hearing the extraordinary personal stories of ordinary Americans from these four towns, viewers will learn about the war in a very different, very intimate way.

In that same spirit, MPTV has produced a companion piece to THE WAR that looks at the challenges and opportunities World War II presented to the folks in our state. STORIES FROM THE HOMEFRONT: THE WAR IN WISCONSIN, produced by MPTV's Everett Marshburn, premieres Friday, September 21, at 9 p.m. on MPTV-10 and MPTV-HD. It includes insights and recollections from surviving World War II vets, German POWs who were imprisoned in camps in Wisconsin, women and African Americans who found employment in Milwaukee's factories during the war years, and others.

Marshburn has also produced a special BLACK NOUVEAU episode about three African American World War II veterans from the Milwaukee area. That program premieres Wednesday, September 19, at 6:30 p.m. on MPTV-10.

As part of our new MPTV COMMUNITY CINEMA series -- free, public discussions about significant films scheduled to air on MPTV -- STORIES FROM THE HOMEFRONT was screened twice earlier this month, at Discovery World and the Wisconsin Black Historical Society, both in Milwaukee.

Please join me in thanking the Koeppen Gerlach Foundation, the National Center for Outreach, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Wisconsin Humanities Council for their generous underwriting support of STORIES FROM THE HOMEFRONT: THE WAR IN WISCONSIN.

And, as always, thank you for watching and contributing to MPTV!


Ellis Bromberg
MPTV General Manager