Nearly one million New Yorkers fought in World War II. Millions more joined the war effort on the home front. New York Goes to War shares the World War II experience of men and women from the New York metropolitan area through personal stories from the battlefield and the home front.
Interviews and images capture the mood of the time, from the familiar strains of the "Make Believe Ballroom" radio program to the common threads that defined life in wartime no matter where you lived or on what line you fought. For today's generation, the documentary provides a very personal take on events that changed the world forever.New York Goes to War shares the stories of six New Yorkers with a broad range of wartime experience:The Soldier and His Sweetheart: Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the neighborhood in Brooklyn now known as Carroll Gardens, Manny Medina enlisted in the Army in 1939, becoming a member of the legendary 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard. He served in the Pacific for three years, fighting in some of the most brutal battles of the war. In Okinawa he was shot in the thigh and told he would never walk again, but proved the doctors wrong. His wife Gloria, a former Miss Puerto Rico in Brooklyn, had been a schoolmate from before the war. Romance bloomed when he was home on a furlough at a dance. After he was shot, she took a train to an army hospital in Ohio to be by his side. They were married after the war.
The Tanker: Bill McBurney, who grew up in Harlem, was a member of the first African American tank battalion to see combat. Although proud to enlist, when he and his segregated battalion were sent to the Jim Crow South to train, he was confronted by racism both from the locals and from white soldiers who were training nearby. Despite claims that black soldiers were unfit for combat, McBurney and his battalion were sent to Europe in 1944 and fought with distinction in the Battle of the Bulge.The Prisoner of War: Born and raised in Borough Park in Brooklyn, Paul Canin (now a resident of Berkeley, CA) enlisted in the Army Air Force after high school graduation and was sent to Europe as a radar navigator on a bomber plane. On a bombing raid of an oil refinery on the outskirts of Auschwitz, his plane was shot down and he parachuted out. He was captured by German soldiers and held as a prisoner of war for eight months. He and other Jewish soldiers were separated from the others, raising fears they would be sent to a concentration camp. A talented artist, he filled his YMCA-issued diary with pencil sketches of his barracks-mates, and used paints bribed from the guards and a paintbrush made out of his own hair to create dramatic watercolors of the moment his plane was shot down. His stunning artwork is featured in the program.
The Thunderbolt Maker: Josephine Rachiele, an Italian-American woman from Babylon, Long Island, contributed to the war effort by becoming a riveter at Republic Aviation, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of wartime aircraft. Thousands of women took part in this effort, working 60-hour weeks as they learned to operate drill presses and riveting guns. Rachiele worked at Republic alongside two of her sisters; the three of them were dubbed "The Home Front Sisters" in the company newspaper. She shares memories of exhausting hours on the factory floor as well as the day Tommy Dorsey came to Republic to give a morale boosting concert for the defense workers.
The Marine: Raised in Westchester County, Marine Lieutenant Phil Wood wrote letters home to his mother and sister in New York describing the rigors of training, his pride in being a Marine officer, his fears about combat, his homesickness for the city, and finally the changes he experienced after being in battle. Killed by enemy rifle fire in the Pacific, his letters are read aloud throughout the program, the universal themes tying together the stories of all the characters.