Archive for June, 2007

Diaries of a KETC Intern

June 26, 2007

It has begun. Last week, I finally got to dig into the piles of letters and emails sent to us by our viewers— and let me just say that it is quite a daunting task and I don’t ever really know what to expect. But, in such a short time, I feel like I’ve covered quite a large chunk of history. I’ve read about little girls practicing air raid drills and collecting grease, an injured soldier on the Anzio beachhead in Italy, a fighter pilot who was captured as a POW and the tearful reunion of two brothers on a Pacific island. Again and again, I’m most amazed that the people telling these stories live within a few miles of me.

Thus far in my relatively short life, I’ve had a pretty broad education: in addition to a high school diploma and a pending college degree, I’ve spent nearly a year living in Europe, and hope to someday return for a more permanent stay. Across the pond, people often refer to World War II as “the War,” like it just happened yesterday. Historical markers are everywhere; my own cousins live in one of Salzburg’s only houses that wasn’t destroyed by heavy bombings nearly 70 years ago. Even American histories of the war (like Band of Brothers, one of my all-time favorite film series) are based around Europe. For me to read the stories of St. Louisans who contributed to such a key event in world history amazes me. The Your Stories project has opened up a whole new chapter in my education, and frankly, it reminds me that the city that I call home can be just as exciting and historic as our east Atlantic neighbors.



New Featured Story

June 23, 2007

We’ve got a new featured story on our Your Stories site. The epilogue I think says something about the memories our vets have been carrying with them all these years, and will carry with them to the grave. While we are remembering the sacrifices these heroes (and they are heroes in the truest sense) made, we would all do well to remember the words of William Tecumseh Sherman spoken during the Civil War: “War is all hell.”

It’s not too late

June 22, 2007

At first the Your Stories project was a great idea that needed to get up and running.  Station-wide, it was a big job with a lot of logistics to consider: namely, how do we best share this potential archive of stories with the community?

We developed on-air and web formats.  The plan was for director and producer Anne-Marie Berger to conduct interviews in our studio and produce them for on-air use whereas I would go out into the field for the web content.  My idea was to go anywhere there were veterans and hope they would talk to me.

I admit that I had to cram for the assignment and I’m glad I had two weeks to do it.  The scant facts I did possess stemmed more from great movies than anything else.  My knowledge of WWII history was a shameful no-show and I reached for some books.

I started with the bad guys, Hitler and Mussolini.  Going over their plans, policies and demented practices made me want to get up and double check that all my doors were locked. It’s hard to believe that mere boys were sent so far to clean up the messes of such monsters. I then stumbled into the Battle of the Bulge.  Even told in the driest of academic narratives, my heart pounded to read about it.  I delved into all of the theaters, all of the invasions.  Far from grade school social studies, the history of WWII turned out to be a damned page turner, both grisly and heroic.

I pondered my vast ignorance and past lack of curiosity.  I decided I could blame the veterans themselves for it.  They have always been protective of us. Both my granddads were in the Navy, had fought in the Pacific and neither one of them ever talked much about it.  They wanted things to be nice for us, went to great and unbelievable lengths for it, and conversation was made accordingly.  Yet another sacrifice on their part as it might’ve done them good to talk about it.

This life-long policy of, well, if not silence, then abbreviation and censorship, was another barrier I would have to get through.  As the veterans themselves frequently say, “I don’t want to talk about the bad stuff. I spend too much time forgetting it.”  Just someone referring to “the bad stuff” in such a context probably says more than we are truly capable of hearing.

I made it through my first outing, a veterans’ appreciation event over Memorial Day weekend in historic Kimmswick, MO.  The crowds weren’t as big as the previous year’s but I was still impressed by the number of people who traveled all the way there in the heat, just to shake a veteran’s hand.  It had never occurred to me to do something like that. 

I have since met with dozens of veterans and will continue to do so for the rest of the summer.  I still feel like an idiot around them—these guys might be in their 80s but they are plenty intimidating.  But because of them, the Your Stories project has taken on an entirely different meaning for me.  No longer is it just work and deadlines.  It is stories and old pictures and tears–my own and theirs.  It is also a time for me to finally catch up on an active level of appreciation for these people.  As many know, we lose over a thousand WWII veterans everyday.  Please give them a hug if you get a chance.  These brave and modest people don’t like to make a big deal of it but they will hug you right back. And when they thank you for such a simple act, believe me, you’ll feel about an inch high.  But it’s a good feeling just the same.


Kate Shaw

See them off…and seeing them when they came back

June 21, 2007

As part of the Your Stories effort, we are creating short stories (called interstitials in the public TV world) that we are airing between programs. We are also uploading them to our YouTube Channel. Here’s one by producer Anne-Marie Berger where veteran Betty Mudd Ellison tell us about what it was like to see the boys (and they often were boys) off to war, and about visiting the ones who came back wounded.

Your story may not be “your” story…

June 19, 2007

I think a lot of us who have been working on the Your Stories project for the last few months have heard something along the lines of “I don’t have a WWII story, I wasn’t born until well after the war.” But maybe your grandfather (or great grandfather) has a story. Maybe it’s your grandmother who still cooks a certain way—and taught your mom to cook it that way—because of rationing during the War. Maybe you’ve heard these stories a million times, or maybe you haven’t, but I’ll bet if you ask a couple people in your family, you’ll find that there are stories. 

So ask your grandmother or grandfather to share their story with you, and find out something you didn’t know before you asked. You’ll be glad you did.

My story

June 18, 2007

As KETC’s Public Relations Intern, I am really excited to be spending my summer working on The War project, rather than copying and filing. Like Amy, I also have stories to share, even though I wasn’t born until more than 40 years after World War II had ended.

Both  my maternal and paternal grandparents lived in St. Louis during the war. My dad’s parents had more of a typical war experience: they were in their early 20s and dating when the war began. My grandpa was drafted and shipped out. He was quite a charismatic guy and consequentially, he had quite a few adventures during his army days — most of which were documented in letters he wrote home to my grandma. Unfortunately, both of them passed away before I was old enough to sit down and talk with them. Their stories have become family legends, retold to me by my dad — a history buff himself.

I am much more familiar with the stories of my mom’s parents. They were much younger during World War II — in their early teens. My mom’s dad doesn’t have any stories from the front lines, but he does have the unique perspective of a German immigrant living in very anti-German times.  To this day, his family still lives in Germany and Austria, one member in a century-old house that survived World War II bombings.

 As I continue to read and gather stories this summer, hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to share some of my family stories too.

Diane Poelker

PR Intern

These Stories Need to be Told

June 15, 2007

This is an exciting summer for our team at KETC/Channel 9.  We’ve just launched Your Stories:  St. Louis Remembers World War II.  We’re connecting with the community in a big way around this project in hopes of unlocking the stories of WWII that reside in so many places in our region. In just the last month, through word of mouth alone, hundreds of people have come forward to share their poignant and compelling stories—their stories and those of their family members and loved ones.  It is also clear that everyone has a story—young and old.  Many stories are coming from the children and grandchildren of those who lived the WWII experience. 

I am one of those people with a story.  June 15th is the anniversary of my father’s death.  Talking about WWII makes me wish I could still ask him about his experiences.  I am the youngest child of parents from that Greatest Generation.  Because I am much younger than my siblings, I never really knew much about what my father actually did in the war—only that he served as a bomber in the Army Air Corps in Italy.  I never heard stories of combat, just a few stories about revelry with buddies. Ironically, through a conversation with my oldest brother about the Your Stories project, my brother also said that my father never talked about combat.  My brother then shared that on his deathbed, my father revealed some of his WWII stories.  His aircraft hit with enemy fire, his crew parachuted behind enemy lines.  He watched members of his crew shot from the air as their parachutes cascaded to the ground.  Many of his buddies with whom he had shared revelry, the same buddies I had heard about, perished that day.  There were many other stories that echoed a haunting and sorrow that had long been buried.  Perhaps he didn’t want these stories to die with him, perhaps he knew it was just time to tell them.   It reiterates to me how all of us need to have these important conversations with our families and friends to unlock these WWII stories so that they are preserved.   Please join us in this effort.


Amy Shaw

KETC/Channel 9

An “ordinary” extraordinary story

June 14, 2007

Here’s a quick story submitted to us via email ( that I think shows why this project has moved us all in such a short period of time:

My father Benserlao Fuentes was born in 1912 in Fort Stockton, Texas and served with the U.S. Army in Europe as a litter bearer. He was a second generation Texan as his father was also born in Fort Stockton, Texas, as I was also. My father served for 3 years and yet he knew very little, if any English. I have no idea how he did it. Thinking about it after I was older, I realized that while he could not speak any English, he was able to understand enough to be able to do what he was told. I remember he said that he was taught how to shoot a rifle and for the rest of life he was a very good shot. He learned how to be tough in the Army. After the war he worked as a laborer for the Santa Fe Railroad and the work he did meant that he was always hurting his hands or back or something but he did not miss any days. He received several medals but none of them were very important, I’m sure they were medals that just about every solider gets (i.e.. Good conduct, campaign medals, etc). He left a wife back home while he went to war and when he returned in 1945, I was conceived and I was born in 1946. My father’s army career was not anything extra-ordinary, he was just an ordinary man who served his country to the best of his abilities.

I wasn’t sure what you are looking for, but I am very proud of my father for all the sacrifices he endured for a country that now in some places, since he could not speak English, he would not be allowed to live.


Manuel R. Fuentes

The parts I love:

  • “I wasn’t sure what you are looking for” (this is EXACTLY what we are HOPING for)

  • “My father served for 3 years and yet he knew very little, if any English.”/”…he was just an ordinary man who served his country to the best of his abilities.” (I don’t see anything ordinary about what his father did)

So, what are we blogging about, anyway?

June 12, 2007

St. Louis Remembers World War IIGreetings, Welcome to the KETC Your Stories blog. If we seem a little self-conscious as we start down this path, bear with us. While we are not new to the storytelling business, we are new to telling stories this way.

The project we have started has a pretty impressive sounding name: Your Stories – St. Louis Remembers World War II. The jist of it is this: While we all think we know the story of WWII (we’ve seen the films, we’ve passed the tests in school), the stories of the men and women who lived through the war are actually be lost to us each day. My grandfather died without really sharing his story with anyone. Other veterans (and “ordinary” people) are dying each day — right here in St. Louis — without sharing their stories with anyone.

In September, KETC will air Ken Burns’ latest film, called The War. Ken himself has said that he was inspired to make this film because of the realization that stories were being lost every day. He didn’t want this story to have to be told like his film on The Civil War — from diary accounts and other histories, he wanted to hear the stories himself where he could. Ken’s film focuses on the WWII experience from four towns across the U.S.:  Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minnesota.

KETC is hoping that we can tell the St. Louis-area story of World War II by getting as many people as possible to share their stories with us.How can you share your story? Well, you can do it right here if you’d like (we’d love to hear from you). Or you can visit our Your Stories site and share it there in a number of ways. And if you know of way to let people share their stories we haven’t thought of let us know. So share your stories, tell others to share their stories, check back to see what’s new, and wish us luck.

Mike Bauhof
Web Coordinator
KETC/Channel 9