Press Releases

WWII-Wisconsin Stories

August 30, 2007


The challenges and opportunities that World War II presented to state residents come to life in a new documentary, Stories from the Homefront: The War in Wisconsin, premiering on Milwaukee Public Television (MPTV-10 and MPTV-HD) on Friday, Sept. 21, at 9 and 11:30 p.m. and repeating Monday, Sept. 24, at 11 p.m.

A free, public preview of the documentary will take place at Discovery World, 500 N. Harbor Dr., Thursday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. The advance screening will include a question-and-answer session with Everett L. Marshburn, the program's producer, and other guests.

Stories from the Homefront: The War in Wisconsin is one of several MPTV efforts tied to the PBS premiere of The War, a miniseries produced and directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The MPTV documentary will be the first in the new MPTV Community Cinema series providing opportunities for public discussion of socially significant films.

Wisconsin's Black Historical Society, 2620 W. Center St., also will offer a free preview Wednesday, Sept. 12, 5-8 p.m. Reservations are required for both events. Call 414-271-1036 for tickets.

Produced in high definition, the 30-minute documentary will precede MPTV's airing of The War, a seven-part, 14-hour production. The documentary follows the experiences of ordinary men and women who become caught up in World War II. The War premieres Sunday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. and will continue Sept. 24-26 and Sept. 30-Oct. 2 on MPTV-10 and MPTV-HD.

The War focuses on the stories of citizens from four geographically distributed American towns -- Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minnesota.

Stories from the Homefront: The War in Wisconsin gathers perspective, insights and recollections from area historians, authors, surviving WWII vets, former German POWs, as well as women and African Americans who found employment in Milwaukee's factories during the war years.

They include Rose Truckey who talks about being "Rosie the Riveter," and how women joined the workforce to keep the factories running. Joe Trotter, author of "Black Milwaukee: The Making of A Black Proletariat 1915-45," explains that the economic opportunities afforded blacks by the war eventually spurred the rapid growth of Milwaukee's African American community over the next two decades.
Betty Cowley, author of "Stalag Wisconsin," recalls that there were 39 POW camps in the state that housed Axis prisoners, including a large number of German soldiers. The prisoners often were put to work in the fields and occasionally in canning factories.

Stories from the Homefront: The War in Wisconsin also features interviews with two former German POWs, Harry Hetz and Kurt Pechmann, who were held in Wisconsin. They describe what it was like being prisoners and relate how, after their release and return to Germany, they eventually came back to the Midwest to live.

Marshburn, the documentary's producer, is a former Maryland Public Television vice president of news and community affairs who has earned four Emmys and many other awards. He joined MPTV last October as the producer of MPTV's Black Nouveau, a weekly program that promotes a better understanding of African Americans.

Black Nouveau will feature an episode hosted by Marshburn on three African American World War II veterans from the Milwaukee area. The program airs Wednesday, Sept.19, at 6:30 p.m.
In addition, MPTV is offering Wisconsin veterans and their families an opportunity to record their recollections and stories of World War II on the station's Web site. MPTV viewers can share their wartime stories and submit photos by visiting MPTV.org and clicking on The War icon. They can either use a computer or a telephone to record their memories of life at home or on the battlefield.

Underwriters for Stories from the Homefront: The War in Wisconsin include the Koeppen Gerlach Foundation, National Center for Outreach, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Wisconsin Humanities Council.