On producing the World War One Living History Project:
World War One Living History Project
In 2006, the original 4.7 million doughboys of World War One had shrunk to a mere handful of veterans, aged 105 to 113. The World War I Living History Project was the only media project to recognize the legacy and contributions of this passing generation of soldiers. Will traveled the country to interview the last dozen soldiers of the “war to end all wars.” The original broadcast aired on more than 300 NPR affiliate stations.
The opening background segment, narrated by veteran CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, recaps the causes and consequences of WWI through a combination of scripted narrative, recordings of period speeches, and short first-person accounts. The subsequent segments recount the events of 1917-1918 through the voices of the last surviving American veterans, offering an intimate portrait of the veterans themselves, their experiences and their attitudes toward the war some 90 years after the fact. The program closes with a tribute to the Americans who served in WWI, and the veterans featured in the program.
W I L L E V E R E T T writer producer traveler
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"As I set out to interview America’s last World War I veterans, I realized that this country would soon be coming upon the end of an important era, an end that few seemed to know was even approaching.
Newsreel photography was still in its infancy when these centenarians were teenagers slogging it out in the trenches of Belgium and France. Sound movies hadn’t yet been invented. With so little to remember them by, history seemed all too willing to simply let them go, these veterans and their distant, hard-to-reach point in history.
World War I is truly the forgotten war. Its origins were complex, its goals unclear, and yet its consequences are still with us today. A full understanding of the 20th century begins with a study of the First World War. The bungling course set by a handful of diplomats, politicians and generals in 1914 is the course we sail by today. These are the memories of its last eyewitnesses."