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Carolina Stories

The Vanishing Generation



It has been over sixty years since the end of World War II, and the last of the South Carolina veterans who fought against the Empire of Japan and Nazi Germany are now dying at an alarming rate. Soon their living memories will be gone and World War II will simply become another chapter in history. The Vanishing Generation is a powerful visualization of the first-hand accounts of World War II by South Carolina veterans. These personal remembrances tell the story of what these men experienced, and how it not only changed the world but their lives as well.

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Behind the Scenes

Interview with Mark Adams, the producer, director and editor

What was the inspiration behind making this program and its topic? When Amy Shumaker approached me about making a documentary about "the personal memories of World War II Veterans," I jumped at the chance. Unbeknownst to Amy, I had spent several years at my previous job shooting and editing World War II Oral Histories as a project with Barton County Community College History Instructor Linda McCaffery. When Amy asked if I wanted to make this documentary, I not only wanted to showcase these personal memories but explore why is it important to record them. Why should we remember World War II? Especially when we are at the time when that generation will soon be gone. That's why I wanted to call it The Vanishing Generation.

If you could describe the production in one sentence what would it be? The Vanishing Generation is a documentary about the personal memories of World War II Veterans from South Carolina, and why is it important to record them and remember World War II.

What is the message that you want viewers to take away from the program? I want the viewers to realize how important it is to record and remember these World War II Veterans stories, and how important the Second World War was to us as a nation and to the world.

What was the most difficult part of making the production? For me personally, I had to try to make this documentary while busy with all of my other duties in the Electronic Field Production (EFP) department. But overall I think the most difficult part of making The Vanishing Generation was deciding which interviews to use and which had to be ‘left on the cutting room floor.' Each veteran had some amazing stories, and I could only use a fraction of what they told me. Plus I had interviewed about 15 veterans, but in the end could only use about 10 of them in the final show. So that was difficult to decide which ones to use and which ones not to use.

Because of a budget, were there any special tricks used to make the most out of a dollar without decreasing the quality of production? I was already familiar with working with smaller budgets and crew, so I knew how to get a visually interesting product with less money. It would have been nice to have a dolly system with a crew to lay down tracks, etc. But I ended up just using the wheels on the camera's tripod and still got some dynamic shots of the U.S.S. Yorktown aircraft carrier and the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum. And I used my own video camera in order to get some of the behind-the-scenes shots of the World War II Veterans interviews. Luckily it was capable of recording in native 16x9 as well as the ETV camera equipment, so it blended in really well in the final show.

Were there any unforeseen obstacles (weather, actors, etc) that hindered production? The only problem came when I was trying to edit the program. We had ordered World War II footage from the National Archives, but there was a delay because Washington D.C. had been hit by the really bad weather and flooding that shut down the capitol for a while, including the National Archives. So in the end I didn't get all of the World War II footage until I was almost done with my editing time. Is there a defining scene and what is its significance? For me there is the final section of the documentary that starts with the title; "Heroes," that I think has some of the most moving moments in the program. It really shows how these veterans are very humble about their experiences in World War II, and yet they did so much at a time when the world changed forever. They talk about how they weren't heroes, "the only heroes are the ones under the white crosses," as one of them says. And one states while trying to hold back his tears that he's not a hero, just a survivor. It makes you realize that even though these men and women found the courage to fight in a world war, they are still people just like you or me.

Has making the program given you a new appreciation for anything? You can't help but gain an appreciation for the veterans of World War II. It also makes you realize how important the personal memories of Korean, Vietnam and Iraq veterans will be. And how important it is to record your own oral history for your children and grandchildren.

Was there extensive research done to ensure historical accuracy or was there more room for artistry? There was certainly a need to be historically accurate with the World War II footage, but I was not interested in making this documentary a history lesson. The veterans themselves were the source of the information. Even with such a program about an important historical time there is always room for artistry in the photography of the interviews and the museums such as Patriots Point in Charleston, SC, The Military Heritage Plaza at Clemson University, and the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler, Georgia. And the editing process can allow for a very creative expression of what happened and what this all means.


Guests

  • Patrick Maney - Chair, Department of History University of South Carolina
  • Jerry Reel - Senior Vice Provost & Clemson University Historian
  • Russell Meyne - Pearl Harbor Survivor B-17 Pilot from Irmo, South Carolina
  • Maj. C. “Buck” Wiley - Pearl Harbor Survivor, Red Ball Express Grand Marshall, V-E Parade in Luxembourg, Germany from Columbia, South Carolina
  • Guy G. Wright - Prisoner Of War Survivor from Leesville, South Carolina
  • Philip I. Perkins - Company C, Camp Upton, NY from Columbia, South Carolina
  • Don Ziglar - U.S.S. Yorktown Quartermaster, Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum Tour Guide in Charleston, South Carolina
  • Tom Grove - Prisoner Of War Survivor from West Columbia, South Carolina
  • Murray Price - B-24 Pilot from Lexington, South Carolina
  • Tee Senn - Cryptologist from Clemson, South Carolina
  • John Hammond Moore - LSM-R 193 from Columbia, South Carolina
  • David Burnette - Executive Director, Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
  • Dr. Walter E. Brown - President & CEO, Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler, Georgia
  • Bud Porter - B-17 Ball Turret Gunner, Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum Docent on Hilton Head, South Carolina

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