In advance of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Rotary, every Club world-wide was asked to plan and conduct a special project of lasting value to commemorate a century of “Service above self”.
After careful consideration the Rotary Club of Charlotte chose its project as an oral history of World War II. In partnership with WTVI and the history department of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte the project got off the ground with Richard Bailey and Tom Burgess as co-chairs.
Discussions with the staff of WTVI and Dan Morrell, history dept. head of UNCC let to the decision for video recordings of the experiences of WW II era individuals, interviewed by Dan Morrell.
Since the project would be an expensive one, and Richard Bailey had extensive experience in fund-raising, he headed that half of the project. Tom Burgess took on the responsibility of recruiting and scheduling the interviewees. The nature of the oral history to be kept for posterity dictated a wide range of selected persons. It was necessary to identify and recruit veterans that represented each branch of military service, different responsibilities within each service, a range of ranks both enlisted and commissioned officers, as well as covering all geographic areas of the Pacific and European campaigns.
Men and women as well as racial diversity along with civilians at home and abroad were all sought out and eventually there were one hundred twenty five hour-long interviews accomplished and recorded in high definition television.
After completing all interviews a detailed index allowing for cross-referencing search was created and complete sets of DVD interviews were presented to area universities, schools and libraries.
WTVI contracted with an independent producer to create an hour-long program entitled “How I survived WW II” which has had and continues to have extensive airing. This special was produced with selected participants returning to WTVI for a second interview by Dan Morrell specifically tailored to the producer’s program outline.
Every Charlotte Rotarian in military service during the war was included in those interviewed along with several having particular civilian war-time experiences.
Charlotte Rotarians included Jim Horton who was a survivor of the Bataan Death March and suffered over three years of Japanese imprisonment; Ray Killian, an aircraft carrier fighter pilot who did photo reconnaissance of Hiroshima; Helmut Duessen who was in the German Army, a defender on “D-Day” and later captured by Americans; Bert Voswinkle a German teenager living in a heavily bombed area of Germany; Powell Majors served on both Selective Service and Rationing Boards; Tom Burgess, an Infantryman fighting in the “Battle of the Bulge” and others.
Read the Greater Charlotte Biz's article on the making of this documentary - Read Article