Building the Alaska Highway
One of the biggest and most difficult homeland defense projects ever undertaken.
In May of 1942, across the rugged sub-Arctic wilderness of Alaska, British Columbia, and Yukon Territory, thousands of American soldiers began one of the biggest and most difficult construction projects ever undertaken -- the building of the Alaska Highway.
The United States had toyed for 80 years with the idea of building a road link from the lower 48 states to Alaska; but it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that spurred Washington into action. Worried that the Japanese might invade Alaska, President Roosevelt directed that a supply line be built to U.S military bases in the region.
Interweaving interviews with the men who were there, archival footage and beautiful cinematography of the sub-Arctic route the road took, this American Experience production tells how for eight months, young soldiers, some of whom had never left the southern United States before, battled mud, muskeg, and mosquitoes; endured ice, snow, and bitter cold; bridged raging rivers, graded lofty peaks, and cut pathways through primeval forests to push a 1,520-mile road across one of the world's harshest landscapes.
Daughter from Danang
The dramatic story of a Vietnamese mother, her Amerasian daughter, and their reunion 22 years after the Vietnam War.
In 1975, with the end of the war in Vietnam imminent, Mai Thi Kim, a poor, young Vietnamese woman, sent her seven-year-old daughter to America as part of a controversial evacuation program known as Operation Babylift. The parting was devastating to both mother and child, but Kim believed her Amerasian daughter -- the product of a brief love affair with an American Navy officer -- would be in danger in Vietnam. The little girl was adopted by a single woman, renamed Heidi and brought up in Tennessee, where she concealed her Asian past and became "101%" American.Twenty-two years later, Heidi tracks down her birth mother and visits Danang. The reunion that had raised so many hopes and expectations for Heidi and Kim quickly becomes rife with tension and misunderstanding as the cultural gulf between Heidi and her Vietnamese family grows larger and larger.
George Washington -- The Man Who Wouldn't Be King (no website available)
The little known story of our first president.
He was bumbling, yet ambitious. He volunteered to serve his country, but insisted on being reimbursed for expenses. He was the most famous general of the Revolution but a dismal tactician on the battlefield. Greedy and selfish, service to the colonies would profoundly change him. The man who came to symbolize the American Revolution could also be incredibly brave, generous and an inspirational leader who scorned attempts to participate in any system but a democratic one.
Ike (no website available)
A skillful politician, a tough Cold Warrior and one of America's least understood presidents.
(Dwight D. Eisenhower on The Presidents Web site)
He went off to war an unknown soldier and returned a beloved hero. Often dismissed as a good-natured bumbler, Dwight D. Eisenhower was actually a skillful politician, a tough Cold Warrior and one of America's least understood presidents. When he left office in 1960, historians ranked Eisenhower in the bottom third of American presidents, below Chester Arthur. By the 1990s, he ranked near the top.
The story of an ambitious peanut farmer who rose to become America's thirty-ninth president. A failure in his single term in office, Carter turned to humanitarian work as an ex-president.
(Watch the program online on The Presidents Web site.)
Jimmy Carter traces the ascent of an ambitious country boy from a peanut farm in Plains, Georgia, to the Oval Office; examines the failings of Carter's political leadership in the turbulent 1970s; and explores the role religion played in his career. Carter ran for president as an outsider. He rode into power on the post-Watergate disaffection with Washington politics. But his inexperience resulted in an ineffectual and fractured administration. Inflation, recession, and a humbling hostage crisis blew his presidency dramatically off course. The crowning achievement of his one term in office, the Camp David Accords, which established a framework for peace in the Middle East, was the inspiration for his life after the White House. In the years since, Carter has recast himself as a giant of moral leadership. He has struggled to bring peace to war-torn countries; fought for the eradication of life-threatening diseases; and dedicated himself to housing America's poorest citizens. The film features interviews with many close to the Carter administration, including his wife Rosalynn, son Chip, Press Secretary Jody Powell and Vice President Walter Mondale.
Orphans of the Storm (no website available)
In the summer of 1940, 10,000 British children were sent on a perilous sea voyage to safe havens in the United States.
In the summer of 1940, as the German Luftwaffe began its assault on England, 10,000 British children were sent on a perilous sea voyage to safe havens in the United States. There, they forged life-long relationships with their "adopted" families, relationships that changes lives and attitudes on both sides of the Atlantic.
Patriots Day (no website available)
In 1775, local American militias routed the British at the Battle of Lexington and Concord -- but 65 men of His Majesty's 10th Regiment and 67 American rebels are still fighting today.
In 1775, local American militias routed the British at the Battle of Lexington and Concord -- but 65 men of His Majesty's 10th Regiment and 67 American rebels are still fighting today. Who are they, and what has taken them on their personal journeys into the American past?Among the characters on the British side is one-time Off-Broadway theater director turned electrical engineer, Paul Hutchinson, who assumes the role of Major John Pitcairn. Leading the defense of Lexington is 54-year-old Skip Hayward, who plays the militia's Chief of Staff. Among the supporting characters are Henry Liu, a Chinese American banker, Mike Coppe, a pediatric dentist, and Dan Feen, a self-described "forensic historian" who leads discussions about historical accuracy.The film follows the reenactors as they shuffle between their 18th and 21st century lives. It captures them building sets, planning military engagements, drilling, rehearsing battles as well as celebrating Thanksgiving, moving house and working. In the end it celebrates their patriotism, love of costumes, civic duty, willingness to perform, and passion for history.
Pearl Harbor -- Surprise And Remembrance (no website available)
A minute-by-minute account, on both sides of the Pacific, leading up to the surprise attack that Sunday morning.
The shock of what happened on December 7, 1941 has made Pearl Harbor a synonym for deceit and unpreparedness. Produced for the 50th anniversary, this examination of events shows the attack could have been foreseen -- the US and Japan had been on a collision course for years. A minute-by-minute account, on both sides of the Pacific, leading up to the surprise attack that Sunday morning.
Radio Bikini (no website available)
While the U.N. debated strategies for control of atomic energy, the U.S. Navy was preparing two highly-publicized nuclear tests.
While the U.N. debated strategies for control of atomic energy, the U.S. Navy was preparing two highly-publicized nuclear tests. Seven hundred fifty cameras were shipped to Bikini to be used for a major propaganda film. Bikinians had no say about turning their idyllic island into an atomic test site. Forty years later, their home would still be too contaminated to support human life.
Reconstruction The Second Civil War
The stories of ordinary people, North and South, in the tumultuous years after the Civil War, when America struggled to rebuild the Union and integrate former slaves into the life of the nation.
In his first speech after the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln began with only a few words to celebrate the recent victory. He went straight to the problem at hand: acknowledging that there was no agreed-upon plan for the future, and warning that the way ahead would be "fraught with great difficulty." Spanning the years 1863 to 1877, Reconstruction tells the story of the tumultuous years after the Civil War during which America struggled to rebuild itself, successfully bring the South back into the Union and integrate former slaves into the life of the country. This three-hour series interweaves the stories of key political players in Washington -- among them Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses Grant -- with the stories of ordinary people, black and white, Republican and Democrat, in the North and South, whose lives were caught up in the turbulent struggles of the era.
Remember the Alamo
In the early 1830s Texas was about to explode. Under Mexican rule, the region was home to more than 20,000 U.S. settlers, and 4,000 Mexican Texans or Tejanos. With war on the horizon, the Tejanos had to pick a side.
In the early 1830s Texas was about to explode. Although under Mexican rule, the region was home to more than 20,000 U.S. settlers agitated by what they saw as restrictive Mexican policies. Mexican officials, concerned with illegal trading and immigration, were prepared to fight hard to keep the province under their control. Caught in the middle were the area's 4,000 Mexican Texans or Tejanos.With war on the horizon, the Tejanos had to pick a side. Many chose to fight with their Anglo neighbors against an army sent by Mexico City. The conflict pitted brother against brother and devastated the community. The Tejano gamble for a more prosperous future in an independent Texas proved tragic. Following the revolution, the Tejanos were overwhelmed by a surge of Anglo immigration leaving them foreigners in a land they had fought to defend.
Roots of Resistance -- The Story of the Underground Railroad (no website available)
Men and women, black and white, risked their lives to carve an elaborate network of escape routes out of slavery.
Men and women, black and white, risked their lives to carve an elaborate network of escape routes out of slavery in the mid 1800s -- trails and backroads, safehouses, river crossings and night trains leading as far north as Canada. Disguises, secret rendezvous and special codes were used to guard the identity of "conductors" and their fugitive "passengers." But flight to free territory didn't guarantee freedom; fugitives could be hunted down and returned.
Spy in the Sky (no website available)
The plane provided a high-tech peek behind the Iron Curtain.
In the spring of 1960, Francis Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union. Overnight, this top-secret plane became the most famous aircraft in the world. Behind the incident was a team of engineers and pilots who had raced against the clock to design, perfect and deploy a plane which could provide a high-tech peek behind the Iron Curtain.
Joe Louis and Max Schmeling fought for their people, and for their nations on the brink of war. Most of all, they fought for themselves.
On June 22, 1938, 70,000 fans crammed into Yankee Stadium to watch what some observers have since called "the most important sporting event in history." Millions more tuned in to hear a blow-by-blow description on the radio.The rematch between the African American heavyweight Joe Louis and his German opponent Max Schmeling was riveting -- "one hundred and twenty-four seconds of murder," as one newspaper put it. But for most spectators the fight was much more than a boxing match; it was an historic event freighted with symbolic significance, both a harbinger of the civil rights movement and a prelude to World War II.In this first feature-length documentary about the momentous encounter, American Experience captures the anticipation the bout generated, the swirl of events leading up to it, the impact Louis's victory had on black America and its significance for Jews on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Great War -- 1918 (no website available)
The bloodiest war of the century.
All lingering 19th-century notions of the romance of battle were replaced by the terrible reality of 20th-century mechanized warfare. At Verdun, the French lost 300,000 men; at the Somme, the English lost one million. Against this setting, America reluctantly sent its boys to fight. The wrenching and heroic accounts of U.S. soldiers and nurses who served in the closing battles of the bloodiest war of the century.
The Hunt for Pancho Villa (no website available)
General John Pershing and his cavalry set out to get Villa, dead or alive.
Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico, was the culmination of years of bloody incidents along the border. For Americans, it was the last straw. In 1916, General John Pershing and his 150,000 man cavalry set out to get Villa, dead or alive. Before it was over, the U.S. and Mexico would be at the brink of war.
The Last Stand At Little Big Horn (no website available)
One of the most frequently depicted and least understood moments in American history.
In 1876, when the U.S. Army planned its biggest Indian campaign yet against Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, General George Custer led the chase. Custer and his 210 men were surprised and surrounded, the result of arrogance, bad planning and bad intelligence. The battle took "about as much time as it takes a hungry man to eat dinner," leaving no white survivors. One of the most frequently depicted and least understood moments in American history, the story is told from both sides.
The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter (no website available)
A look at five real-life "Rosies" and the reality of working in the defense plants during WWII.
An original look through newsreels, war department films, posters and interviews with five, real-life "Rosies" about the reality of working in the defense plants during WWII, and their reactions to having to give up those jobs for returning GIs.
The Living Weapon
This film examines the international race to develop biological weapons in the 1940s and 1950s, revealing the scientific and technical challenges scientists faced and the moral dilemmas posed by their eventual success.
In early 1942, shortly after the United States entered World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt received an alarming intelligence report: Germany and Japan were developing biological weapons for potential offensive use. In response, the U.S. and its allies rushed to develop their own germ warfare program, enlisting some of America's most promising scientists in the effort. This AMERICAN EXPERIENCE production examines the international race to develop biological weapons in the 1940s and 1950s, revealing the scientific and technical challenges scientists faced and the moral dilemmas posed by their eventual success. As America's germ warfare program expanded during the Cold War, scientists began to conduct their own covert tests on human volunteers. The United States continued the development and stockpiling of biological weapons until President Nixon terminated the program in 1969. "Biological weapons have massive, unpredictable, and potentially uncontrollable consequences," he told the nation. "Mankind already carries in its hands too many of the seeds of its own destruction."
The Man Behind Hitler
This portrait of Joseph Goebbels, delivered in words taken directly from his diaries, offers an insiderÍs view of the rise of the Nazi party.
A symbol of Nazi cruelty and a master of cynical propaganda, Joseph Goebbels was the mastermind behind Adolf Hitler's disturbing success.Goebbels, called the "genius of spin" and the "Reich-Liar-General," was a complicated man whose attitudes fluctuated between extremes of self-pity and grandiose excess. This program shows how Goebbels constantly reinvented himself through the years of his greatest success, and allows the man to speak for himself through the diaries he kept. Actor Kenneth Branagh reads the diary excerpts, revealing a chilling personality whose words justified racism, the Holocaust, and total war.Rare historical footage from German archives traces the path of the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany, exploring his initial attraction to the Nazi party, his adoration of Hitler, his wild extermination fantasies, and, ultimately, his tragic self-delusions and suicide in 1945.
The Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry (no website available)
The first officially formed regiment of northern black soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
The first officially formed regiment of northern black soldiers who fought in the Civil War, the 54th's roster included shopkeepers, clerks, cobblers and seamen. They knew the eyes of the nation would be on them at a time when many whites insisted that black soldiers were too cowardly to fight. By the war's end, 180,000 black troops filled the Union ranks.
Two Days in October
In Vietnam, a U.S. battalion marched into an ambush. Half a world away, a student demonstration turned violent for the first time. Two days in 1967 revealed a nation divided over a war that continues to haunt us.
Based on the book They Marched Into Sunlight by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Maraniss, this American Experience production tells the story of two turbulent days in October 1967 when history turned a corner.
In Vietnam, a U.S. battalion unwittingly marched into a Viet Cong trap. Sixty-one young men were killed and as many wounded. The ambush prompted some in power to wonder whether the war might be unwinnable.
Half a world away, angry students at the University of Wisconsin protested the presence of Dow Chemical recruiters on campus. The demonstration spiraled out of control, marking the first time that a student protest had turned violent.
Told almost entirely by the people who took part in the harrowing events of those two days -- American soldiers, police officers, relatives of men killed in battle, protesting students, university administrators and Viet Cong fighters -- the film offers a window onto a moment that divided a nation and a war that continues to haunt us.
Victory in the Pacific
The story of the end of World War II, told through American and Japanese first-hand accounts.
In this provocative, thorough examination of the final months of the war, American Experience looks at the escalation of bloodletting from the vantage point of both the Japanese and the Americans. As the film shows, most of the Emperor's inner circle was determined to continue the war even after losses in the Philippines in February 1945 cut off Japan's supply lines. And though he was warned that the country, brought to its knees by the conflict, might erupt in a Communist revolution, Emperor Hirohito believed that one last decisive battle could reverse Japan's fortunes.
The Americans, for their part, were startled by the intensity and determination of the Japanese defenders in the South Pacific. "Do the suicides of Saipan mean the whole Japanese race will choose death before surrender?" wrote a reporter in Time . From the U.S. capture of the Mariana Islands through the firebombing of Tokyo and the dropping of the atomic bomb, Victory in the Pacific chronicles the dreadful and unprecedented loss of life and the decisions made by leaders on both sides that finally ended the war.
From the American Revolution to Desert Storm -- newly discovered stories of courage, longing, and sacrifice.
Based on newly discovered personal correspondence from the Revolutionary War to the Gulf War, this program brings to life vivid eyewitness accounts of famous battles, intimate declarations of love and longing, poignant letters penned just before the writer was killed, and heartbreaking "Dear John" letters from home.The best of these letters transcend the subject of war; they are about love, perseverance, honor, passion, and faith. Most are unpublished, many rescued from oblivion in attics and basements. Read by a cast of celebrity actors, they are illustrated with a blend of dramatic archival footage and photographs, evocative recreations, and images of those who wrote, and those who read, letters from American battlefronts.