April 02, 2012

Chicago TV station to air ‘The Tragedy of Bataan’

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Featuring narration by actor Alec Baldwin, an award-winning documentary that pays tribute to thousands of World War II veterans will be featured on a Chicago television station next week.

“The Tragedy of Bataan,” a 30-minute documentary written and produced by Jan Thompson, will air on WTTW Channel 11, at 5:30 p.m., Sunday, April 8.  The documentary will air once again on the station at 4:30 a.m., April 10.  Thompson is an associate professor in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Department of Radio-Television.

The first-person documentary features accounts of more than 20 Bataan Death March survivors, archival photos, and never-before-seen Japanese propaganda film footage.  Between 5,000 and 15,000 of the more than 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners did not survive the 65-mile forced march following the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese in the spring of 1942.

A three-time Emmy-award winning documentary producer and writer, Thompson began working on the project 20 years ago; her father was a POW who surrendered on Corregidor, but was not in the Bataan Death March.

The documentary began airing on Public Broadcasting Service stations throughout the country on Veterans Day 2011.  Approximately 125 stations have aired the film. The documentary is also one inspiration behind legislation re-introduced late last year by Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to troops who defended Bataan during World War II.  The documentary is part of a one-hour program that will air this month on New Mexico Public Broadcasting Service stations that will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the fall of Bataan.

A website, www.tragedyofbataan.com/ includes profiles of the men and women who shared their stories, information on the Bataan Death March, the fall of Corregidor, and additional resources.

The documentary includes first-hand accounts of Bataan veterans, including excerpts from the unpublished diary and interviews with 101-year-old Albert Brown of Pinckneyville.  Brown was an Army captain at the time of the surrender, and the oldest living survivor of Bataan until his death in August at 105.

Thompson earlier this year earned several awards in the Broadcast Education Association’s (BEA) Festival of Media Arts competition for “The Tragedy of Bataan.”  A five-piece companion radio series earned “Best of Festival” honors in the Faculty Audio competition; the documentary earned an “Award of Excellence” in the “Short Form” category; and received “Best of Competition” in the Interactive Media “Documentary/Promotional/Informational” category.  She also earned an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Mid-America Regional Chapter for her work on an earlier version of the documentary that aired in spring 2010.