Letters Home from the War

CONTACT: Jim Dowd         (212) 210-1375         jim.dowd@aetn.com

"**** (4 Stars)... A stirring tribute to veterans... It's a beautiful piece of television... You could hardly commemorate Veterans Day more fittingly than watching Dear Home with your family" -- Erick Mink, NY Daily News (on Dear Home: Letters from WWII from 11/99)


World Premiere airs Friday, November 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

"This is the seventh day of the St. Mihiel drive and I find myself sitting in a thick muddy forest, with my knees and a gas mask as a table writing to you." -- Charles Stevenson

New York, NY, October 25, 2000 -- The real story of World War I wasn't told in official reports. It came in battered, dirty envelopes more often than not marked "Somewhere in France." These letters were filled with stories of everyday life, of battles and boredom, loneliness and longing, and fear and fatigue. SAVE OUR HISTORY: DEAR HOME: LETTERS FROM WWI tells the story of war through the eyes of the American men and women soldiers who lived through it. It recounts, in their own words, the hopes and dreams, fears and frustrations of those men and women who were on the front lines of the First World War. This one-hour world premiere documentary airs Friday, November 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

"I haven't changed clothes for over two months... I have not had a bath for six weeks... You only think you want to come over here" -- Albert Smith, October 15, 1918

Narrated by Harry Smith, DEAR HOME: LETTERS FROM WWI chronicles the experiences of American soldiers and supply clerks, pilots and postal workers from draft day to homecoming, how they clung to pen and paper as their only connection to home, and how the war left them forever changed.

"Nearly everyone is a fatalist here. It is hard to dodge a shell and when the time comes, it's going to get you..." -- Pvt. Dean Robertson, June 11, 1918

These letters to loved ones expressed what no newspaper or newsreel could. In intimate and horrifying details, we hear of the rigors of training camp, the relentless rain and bone-chilling cold of trench life, the stench and noise of the battlefield, the horror of seeing death firsthand, the aching longing for home. DEAR HOME: LETTERS FROM WWI weaves together these heart-wrenching letters with family photos, archival footage and a powerful original musical score and the result is a powerfully raw and personal picture of this brutal war.

"One man has both legs gone. He lay in a shell hole six days, there was nothing to eat but the hole was filled with water and in that water lay decaying the body of his best friend. And he had to drink that water to keep alive. Pleasant it isn't. Such wrecks as many of these men are -- such faces," -- Marion Rice

SAVE OUR HISTORY: DEAR HOME: LETTERS FROM WWI introduces you to ordinary men and women who found themselves in the most extraordinary, unimaginable circumstances. Through their correspondence home, we see them change over the course of the war... irrevocably altered by what they see and do.

SAVE OUR HISTORY: DEAR HOME: LETTERS FROM WWI is a sequel to last year's critically acclaimed special, Dear Home: Letters from WWII. That program was called, "a poignant and heartfelt documentary" by the Hollywood Reporter and the Boston Globe raved, "Dear Home makes your heart swell and then breaks it. It personalizes the experience of the war in such a way that you can't forget it. Out of its humble resources, Dear Home fashions something far more valuable and memorable than 'Saving Private Ryan.'"

SAVE OUR HISTORY: DEAR HOME: LETTERS FROM WWI is a production of History Television Network (HTV) Productions. Executive Producer for HTV Productions is Susan E. Leventhal. DEAR HOME was produced and written by Christina Lowery. Executive producer for The History Channel® is Susan Werbe.

Now reaching more than 67 million Nielsen subscribers, The History Channel reveals the power and passion of history as an inviting place where people experience history personally and connect their own lives to the great lives and events of the past. The History Channel is the only place "Where the Past Comes Alive." The History Channel received the prestigious Governor's Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for the network's "Save Our History" campaign dedicated to historic preservation. The History Channel web site is located at www.HistoryChannel.com.

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World War I Veterans whose letters are featured in Dear Home: Letters from WWI

* Lloyd Staley, Ottawa, Kansas. Captain of his high school football team and president of his class, Staley bid farewell to his quiet life on the plains to sail for France on April 24, 1918. He was detailed to the Postal Detachment and faithfully wrote home to his high school sweetheart, Mary.

"My dearest Mary, I write this on board a boat that will leave for overseas soon... I can scarcely realize we are going... goodbye little girl for a time at least."

* Jack Douglas, Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was commanding officer of the only complete U.S. black division in France in WWI. He typed most of his letters home to his wife and daughter on a portable Corona typewriter.

"We are holding a sector of the front now -- and every night there is cannonading and bombing. And almost daily and nightly both friendly and enemy avions fly over us... they come and go quickly -- like hawks. Sometimes they fly so high they look like swallows..." (August 27, 1918)

* Marion Rice, Brattleboro Vermont. Sailed for overseas in the winter of 1915 as a volunteer Red Cross nurse; she chronicled her daily responsibilities in the hospital, describing the sight of the wounded and the ever pressing need for more supplies and money.

"... Monday night I came in to find that the wounded were to arrive, which they did... 116 at once, about 7 o'clock. You never smelled such smells or saw such sights. I can't tell you how many amputations there were, almost all of which will have to be done over..."

* W. Stull Holt, Brooklyn, New York. The Cornell University student was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his work as a volunteer ambulance driver near Verdun in the summer of 1917. When his 6 month service as an ambulance driver was completed, he opted to stay on in Europe, enlisting in the Army Air Service to train as a pilot.

"I am doing day bombing... we fight in formation except when they shoot everybody down but one and then he fights alone... Way up so far that a city looks like a village, and a village looks like a few pebbles, with air rushing by so fast it blows right thru you and makes you feel like jumping out and try flying by yourself."

* Albert Smith, Cookeville, Tennessee. Oldest son of a well-to-do Tennessean family, he enlisted at 19 and found himself on the front lines. Used to good, fresh food from the farm, Albert often includes various culinary requests in his letters home.

"Sometime I want you to send me a box of fried chicken and some cake, and anything else you want... I must have candy to whip the Germ out of Germany..."

* Alan Seeger, New York. Pete Seeger's uncle and a well-known poet, he volunteered for the Foreign Legion and died in battle on July 4, 1916 at the age of 28. His letters home to friends and family describe the beautiful French landscape and the horrific scenes on the battlefield with breathtaking lyricism.

"It is four months now that we have been on the firing lines -- four months with the noise of the cannon continually in our ears... I see no end to the thing... it may go on for years."

* Edward Lukert, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the army in 1914 and fought at the front as a First Lieutenant. His letters home described life on the battlefield in vivid detail.

"The sights which greeted my eyes, as we pushed ahead were frightful. Our men, and Germans too, were lying around in heaps. The wounded smiled and cheered us on and the dead were a sight to behold. Some of them were blown to pieces, while others, killed instantly by bullets, still grasped their rifles -- eyes open, but ghastly white and cold."

* Robert F. Mitchell, Greeneville, Tennessee. Columbia law student traded his textbooks for an Enfield rifle and wrote to his friend Winifred on YMCA letterhead. He was killed in action on October 6, 1918.

"I had never handled an Enfield (the rifle we use) but did well enough to convince myself I know how to use it. At the three hundred yard range I hit a target (or silhouetted figure roughly corresponding to a man's head and shoulders)... The first shock is now over and I'm looking forward with more confidence..."

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