September 16, 2015

‘Never the Same’ to be shown again on Sept. 29

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A second showing of “Never The Same: The Prisoner of War Experience,” a documentary that chronicles how Americans held as Japanese POWs during World War II survived, is set for later this month at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

The event, sponsored by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, is at 6 p.m. Sept. 29 in the Student Center auditorium. The event is free and open to the public, with seating on a first-come, first-seated basis. 

A standing-room-only crowd attended the film’s local premiere Sept. 14 in the Student Center. That event featured Emmy Award-winning actress Loretta Swit, a star in the 1970s hit television series, “M*A*S*H,” who narrated the film by Jan Thompson, a professor in the Department of Radio, Television, and Digital Media. 

On Sept. 29, Thompson will offer comments and answer questions after the film. September marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. 

The documentary shows how POWs used ingenuity, creativity and humor to survive. It features narration by Swit, and the vocal talents of actors including Alec Baldwin, Ed Asner, Jamie Farr, Mike Farrell, Robert Loggia, Kathleen Turner, Robert Wagner and Sam Waterston. The actors, who also include Robert Forster, Christopher Franciosa, Christopher Murray, Don Murray and John O’Hurley, dramatize entries from 17 diaries, along with poems, and songs.  The film includes more than 140 original drawings and cartoons, ranging from ingenious traps for catching rats and other animals for food, to recipes and cookbooks. 

The film includes the story of the infamous “hell ships” where the POWs were sent to Japan and Manchuria as slave laborers. The death rate was high due to suffocation, starvation, exposure and “friendly fire”; the POWs’ own U.S. bombers were unaware of the human cargo below decks. 

Thompson’s late father was a POW after his capture on Corregidor in the spring of 1942. The project and work on behalf of POWs has been a focal point of Thompson’s for the past 24 years. She is president of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society, and attended the private ceremony in July at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, during which Mitsubishi Materials Corp. executives apologized for using American POWs as forced labor in company mines during World War II.  

More information on the film is available at