Sunday, October 23, 2016

Veterans Day 2016: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Every Thursday in November at 9 p.m., Rhode Island PBS features films profiling local veterans with universal stories of war-time duty and extraordinary courage. These films are the work of award-winning filmmaker Tim Gray (Tim Gray Media), the World War II Foundation, and award-winning cinematographer Jim Karpeichik. These films not only document history for us now and for future generations, but the films tell it through poignant stories of the uncommon valor of those who lived the horrors of war and survived.
At 1 p.m. on Sunday, November 13, of Veterans Day weekend, the World War II Foundation marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor with a special advance screening of their newest documentary, Remember Pearl Harbor, at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence. Admission is free for veterans. Tickets for all others are available online or at The Vets box office.
November 3 - Navy Heroes of Normandy
The film chronicles the building and dedication of the first-ever United States Navy monument in Normandy, France. Dozens of interviews with Navy D-Day veterans are included. Won New England region Emmy Awards for writing and photography.

November 10 - Uncle Jack: The Manhattan Project and Beyond (Rhode Island PBS Premiere)
The Manhattan Project in World War II was an enormous undertaking that required the efforts of many of the world's most brilliant scientists. Thousands of physicists, mathematicians and engineers were needed to design, build and test the world's first atomic weapon. The United States government did everything in its power to attract these individuals to the top-secret program. One of those assigned to the project was the filmmaker's uncle, John Edmund Gray. Regarded as a pioneer in the field of nuclear energy John Gray was front and center as the evolution of that power from wartime use to peaceful means came to fruition.

November 17 - Omaha Beach: Honor and Sacrifice
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the green 29th Infantry Division faced some of the most brutal fighting on Omaha Beach. In June of 2014, a handful of remaining members of the 29th Infantry Division made a final trip back to Normandy to recognize the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The World War II Foundation was along as these veterans shared their stories and looked over the bluffs of Omaha Beach one last time. The aging veterans also visited the Normandy-American cemetery to say their final goodbyes to their friends who never left Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. Local villages and towns also honored the men of D-Day with dozens of celebrations around Normandy.

November 24 - The American St. Nick
The Nazis had outlawed the annual Christmas-related celebration of St. Nicholas Day when they occupied Luxembourg in 1940. Even though American GIs had liberated the town of Wiltz in late 1944, the citizens had no resources left with which to mark their very special holiday. So a group of soldiers of the battle-weary 28th Infantry Division got together and brought back hope and joy back to a small town. One GI, Corporal Richard Brookins, played the role of Saint Nick, costume and all. His sleigh was a U.S. Army jeep. Brookins and the men of the 28th passed out candy and baked goods to the children of Wiltz.

Beginning in 1947, the annual St. Nicholas day became the American St. Nick celebration, complete with someone dressed as Saint Nick in a jeep re-tracing the exact route Dick Brookins took in 1944. A shocked Richard Brookins knew nothing about the annual American Saint Nick celebration in his honor until 1977 when he was invited back to re-create his role. Thousands of people turned out to welcome him. is a World War II Christmas story that spans seven decades and continues to this day.

Stay tuned for more Rhode Island PBS news mid-November about Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7.