In 1981, Reagan aided the Polish workers movement. "If Poland were freed, [he] felt all Eastern Europe would follow."
Narrator: In 1981, Reagan saw a chance to strike at the heart of the Soviet empire. The Polish workers movement, Solidarity, marched for democratic freedoms. When the government declared martial law, Reagan was determined to keep Solidarity alive.
He met Pope John Paul II a few months later in June 1982. Like Reagan, the Polish Pope had also survived an assassin's bullets in 1981. He too believed God had spared him for a special mission.
The Pope would turn the Catholic Church in Poland into an underground Solidarity network. Reagan imposed economic sanctions and committed the CIA to undermine the government and keep Solidarity alive. If Poland were freed, they felt all Eastern Europe would follow.
Other covert actions were less peaceful. In Afghanistan Reagan continued President Carter's policy of backing the factions fighting a Soviet invasion. In Central America, the CIA began to train forces to harass the Sandinistas, the Soviet backed government in Nicaragua. The "Contras" became one of Reagan's favorite causes.
Reagan (archival): They are the moral equal of our Founding Fathers and the brave men and women of the French resistance. We can not turn away from them. All they need is proof that we care as much about the fight for freedom 700 miles from our shores as the Soviets care about the fight against freedom 5,000 miles from theirs.
Narrator: Reagan spoke to the hopes of people the world over who feared communism. The "Great Communicator" had the actor's gift of connecting with his audience in a deeply personal way.
American prisoners of war in North Vietnam tell of their experiences at the Hanoi Hilton and other notorious prisons.
Creating Miami Beach from a narrow spit of Florida swampland, Carl Fisher made a fortune until a devastating hurricane and the stock market crash of 1929 wiped him out.
A central figure in the narrative of how the west was won, Wyatt Earp and his story became an American legend. Part of the Wild West collection.
America's first great songwriter, Stephen Foster, wrote 200 songs but died a penniless alcoholic at 37.
Before he became the first U.S. president, service to the colonies would profoundly change George Washington.
A saga of ambition, wealth, family loyalty and personal tragedy.
Bascom Lamar Lunsford and his campaign to preserve mountain music and dance.
The Last Stand, the final act of General George Custer's larger-than-life career, played out on a grand stage with a spellbound public engrossed in the drama. Part of the Wild West collection.