Archive for August, 2007

The Art of War

August 27, 2007

There were artists in World War II, though the veterans I have interviewed wouldn’t consider themselves such.  But I have seen their works, either on a voluntary basis or by pawing through pristine museums they refer to as “boxes of old junk.”

They sketched, they carved, they took remarkable photos.  They drew cartoons.  They kept concise, thrilling journals and they sent home hundreds of beautiful letters.  They crafted gleaming objets d’art from spent artillery shells and wrecked airplanes.

Pocket-sized works created during the quiet moments of war.  Young men who couldn’t know they would never forget and they grabbed what they could of their strange and sudden new world.

Walter J. Ruegg wrote his first five poems as an automatic rifleman with the First U.S. Cavalry in the Philippine Islands.  He finished them in the hospital.  His wound was a bad one–he is one of few people who could identify his own intestines in a lineup–and the circumstances following it were less than ideal.  He said that putting these events into poetic form helped him to “cope with the unacceptability of war.”  He made it home to his wife and son and forgot about the poems.

The loss of his beloved wife Marie in 2002 devastated Mr. Ruegg.  Forget about his war experience, that was a sock hop compared to this new, otherworldly pain.  He returned to writing to combat the depression of losing his best friend, a woman he fell in love with after one glimpse from a street car in 1940.  The 250 poems he has since published in her honor are a tribute to that day and every day thereafter that he shared with her.  They also solve the riddle of how he once survived an unsurvivable injury: there was no way he was not going home to her.  Now his poetry keeps Marie nearby, for any reader to meet and admire.

Accept a volume of his poems with caution. Read enough of them and insecurity sets in, panic, in fact, just go ahead and know that no one will ever write poetry like this about you (me) and try to move on with your life.  Unless you are one in a million, a girl you’d save the world for, a girl like Marie Ruegg.

Click here to view Mr. Ruegg’s interview and poems.


Another D-Day, Part 2

August 27, 2007

Our good friends at YouTube were kind enough to allow us to upload Anne-Marie Berger’s story on the Iwo Jima Marines (even though it’s over the 10 minute limit). Here it is:

Another D-Day

August 24, 2007

D-Day has become known to most of us as June 6, 1944, but in reality the term “D-Day” in the military sense can mean the beginning date for any major attack or operation. And while the Allied invasion of Normandy was a defining event of World War II, there were quite a few other “D-Days” that were also instrumental in the winning of the war. Many of those other “D-Days” took place in the Pacific, and one of the bloodiest for American Marines took place at Iwo Jima.

Here is a link to a story by Anne-Marie Berger about that battle and the men who fought it (Note: We are trying to get this story uploaded to YouTube, but it is longer than they allow. I’m seeing what we can do).

So next time you happen to use the term D-Day, remember that for quite a few veterans it may have a whole other meaning.  

About People

August 24, 2007

Sorry, I know it’s been a while since we’ve had something new here. Ran into a small problem with YouTube (turns out they mean it when they say your video can’t be longer than 10 minutes…), and other day-to-day stuff got in the way.

We had a nice visit at the station yesterday with a vet and former POW. His son brought him down for an interview with Kate Shaw. I’ve been behind the scenes on the project for the most part, so for me it’s good to have a reminder that this project is really about people. We need to always remember that.

Suburan Journals

August 17, 2007

Metropoliton St. Louis–some see urban sprawl, others see a collection of small communities. When looking through the lens of the Suburan Journals, I definitely see a collection of small communities. No matter where you live in the area, there’s a Suburan Journal to serve the needs, interests and  uniqueness of the people in that little pocket of the landscape.

When trying to publicize something as large and far-reaching as Your Stories, however, navigating the crazy quilt of the Journals is tricky. Their readership is about 725,000, broken up into bits and pieces of 2,000 to 40,000 homes. Whom do I send information to?

I send releases to every editor, of course, and to the one writer who is unilaterally picked up by all the Journal newspapers–Janice Denham. Your Stories piqued her interest, and she came to Channel 9 to interview President and CEO Jack Galmiche.  Her resulting article perfectly described everything that Your Stories is about, including a coda that gave my name and phone number as the person to call for the Your Stories speakers bureau.

Her story hit on Wednesday. I know this because I began getting phone calls from nice people wanting to know how to go about sending in their WWII story. Lots of calls. That’s wonderful. But for anyone who every doubted the reach of the Suburban Journals or the power of the press, try having them publish YOUR phone number.

More Video — More Thoughts

August 15, 2007

The stories our Living St. Louis producers have been doing all summer for the Your Stories project have just been amazing. We’ve been showcasing their stories on our YouTube channel, and have been giving you some of them here as well. Of course, there is more to Living St. Louis than World War II stories, as you’ll be able to see from their just launched Living St. Louis blog.

But back to World War II for now. I used to watch Hogan’s Heroes as a kid. It sure made the life of a POW seem not so bad. But as Patrick Murphy found out, that wasn’t what it was really like:

VJ Day

August 15, 2007

Today—August 15—Is VJ Day, the day Japan announced it would surrender (although the actual surrender ceremony wouldn’t take place until September 2) in 1945. These are the sort of dates we all learned and were tested on during school. And while a certain amount of history knowledge is no doubt a good thing to have (as Ken Burns has pointed out, 40 percent of high school seniors think we fought with the Germans against the Russians during World War II), one thing the Your Stories project has taught me is that fact and dates take on a new significance when you know what is behind those dates and facts. 

An example? Here’s one from the war in the Pacific, the one that ended on August 15, 1945:


Black and White

August 14, 2007

We’ve heard a lot of stories about the heroism of those who served in World War II, but it is worth remembering that, as veteran Richard Hancock tells us, the 1930s and 40s were not free of prejudice, in or out of uniform:

It has been suggested that we should have more video here on the Your Stories blog (we are, after all, a TV station), so we will be trying to bring you more and more of the work we’ve done. We’d like to hear from you, however, as to what you’d like to see. More of our shorter memories, or more of our longer (5-6 minutes or so) stories?

Let us know. 


Our Interns – A Quick Word of Thanks

August 13, 2007

It’s no secret that our interns have been a great help to us with their work on the Your Stories project. You heard from Diane here as she told you some about what she was doing and learning from working here this summer. But Diane is off back to school, as are our other summer interns Robin and Margaret. We will certainly miss them, and hopefully they’ll miss us at least a little. When they arrived here I don’t know that they knew they’d spend so much time working on this project, but they all spoke about how they were moved by the stories you’ve shared with us. All in all, I’d say it was a summer well spent for them.

So a quick word of thanks to them as they move back to their world of friends and teachers. “Your Stories” has given them stories to tell, that’s for sure.


Lunch with Ken Burns? Oh, Yeah.

August 9, 2007

As Channel 9’s PR person, some of my favorite on-the-job moments have come when my duties have compelled me to do something so cool and awesome that I think, “I can’t believe I get paid for doing this!” That thought came to me a few weeks ago when Ken Burns’ publicist Dave invited me along on two interviews he had set up in St. Louis while K.B. was in town to preview The War. Have lunch with Ken Burns? Oh, yeah.

So, fyi, Ken Burns is charming, cute and trim. Yes, he has great hair and gleaming teeth. I’m just saying that because everyone ALREADY knows that he’s brilliant, erudite and has a mind like a steel trap. At lunch (he ate a hearty salad) he convivially draped his arm over the back of the chair of the reporter seated next to him, fixed her with eyes so intense they seemed to be working with fiber optic technology, and he downloaded thoughtful, considered answers to her questions from his brain to her tiny tape recorder. I’m surprised the machine didn’t explode.

Then we went to the Post-Dispatch, where Burns was put under the spotlight in a small room filled with the newspaper’s editorial board and assorted other editors, writers, a videographer, a photographer, graphic artists and whoever else wanted to show up. Burns was unflappable, relaxed and self assured in the way an astrophysicist would be when questioned by the high school astronomy club. Among intellectuals and people whose interests extend beyond Paris Hilton, Burns is a rock star. He confidently alluded to mythology and ancient history, tossed out quotes by famous people and spoke not just in full sentences and paragraphs, but in fascinatingly worded essays. Hardball questions from the panel seemed to dissolve in Burns’ surety. He even quoted back to the group a statement by Post founder Joseph Pulitzer that Burns had just read in the lobby.

My one moment came at the restaurant, when someone asked how long I had worked at Channel 9. I replied that I have been here since Burns’ earliest documentary, Brooklyn Bridge. Burns’ smiled and leaped up to high-five me. It made me feel for a second as if we were in the same club. But I know better.