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American Experience; Return With Honor


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American Experience
Return With Honor
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Series Description

Premiered October 1988 As television's longest-running, most-watched history series, American Experience brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that helped form this nation. Now in its eighteenth season, the series has produced over 180 programs and garnered every major broadcast award. Series release date: 10/1988

Program Description

Tom Hanks introduces the program which tells the compelling story of American fighter pilots shot down over North Vietnam and details their transformation from self-confident top-gun aviators to prisoners of war. Weaving powerful interviews with the airmen and their wives with never-before-seen footage from Vietnam's government archives, the film features: •Cmdr. Jeremiah Denton, USN. When placed before newsmen with movie cameras, Denton blinked out the word "torture" in Morse code, trying to communicate the captives' conditions. Denton was shot down July 18, 1965, and held captive for seven years, seven months. •Cmdr. James Stockdale, USN. Along with other POW senior ranking officers, Stockdale was in solitary confinement for much of his seven and a half years of captivity. Back in the States, his wife, Sybil, and other wives of POWs formed The League of Families of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action, in an attempt to change the "keep quiet" policy of the US government, which kept the plight of the POWs secret. Stockdale was shot down September 9, 1965. •Lt. Col. Robinson Risner, USAF. A decorated Korean War ace, Risner, whose capture put him on the cover of Time magazine, was told by his captors, "The only people we would rather have captured are Johnson, McNamara, and Rusk." Risner was shot down September 16, 1965, and held for seven years, five months. •Lt. Ed Mechenbier, USAF. During captivity, Mechenbier held "wine tastings" for other prisoners, pouring imaginary vintages and vividly describing their flavors. Mechenbier was shot down June 14, 1967, and was a prisoner of war for five years, eight months. •Lt. John ("Mike") McGrath, USN. A self-taught artist, McGrath drew his first picture on a prison wall with his own blood. He vowed to remember everything he saw in prison so he could draw it if he got out; all the drawings in Return With Honor were made by McGrath after his release. Shot down June 30, 1967, McGrath was a prisoner of war for five years, nine months. •Lt. Ron Bliss, USAF, was shot down September 4, 1966, the same day as his friend and fellow Air Force Academy graduate Tom McNish. Their capture was extensively filmed by the North Vietnamese. He was a prisoner of war for six and a half years, most of them at the Hoa Lo Prison (built by the French and nicknamed by the American POWs the "Hanoi Hilton") where, he says, "You could hear the screams of about fifty years. It was a hard place." •Lt. Cmdr. John McCain, USN, was shot down October 26, 1967; he ejected and landed in a lake in the center of Hanoi. Seriously wounded in the bailout, McCain was not expected to live. After he refused an offer of early release, his interrogator told him, "Things are going to be very bad for you now." McCain adds, "He was right." •Col. Tom Madison, USAF, shot down and captured on April 19, 1967, was a prisoner of war for six years. During his time of captivity, he kept hope alive: "You tell yourself, maybe I'll get out by Labor Day. Or, maybe I'll get out by Thanksgiving." When he was released, his wife, Henry Etta, thought, "This is my husband and I haven't seen him in six years. That was scary."



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Broadcast program

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Chicago: “American Experience; Return With Honor,” 03/30/2001, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 17, 2018, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_A4F31A9BA818402BA604BFA57A7F2959.
MLA: “American Experience; Return With Honor.” 03/30/2001. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 17, 2018. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_A4F31A9BA818402BA604BFA57A7F2959>.
APA: American Experience; Return With Honor. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_A4F31A9BA818402BA604BFA57A7F2959
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