Public Programs Funded Media Projects on the History and Experience of War

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Division of Public Programs

List of Funded Media Projects on the History and Experience of war

Note- This list is organized in four sections: films about specific wars, biographies, other projects of interest, and projects in production. Projects are listed chronologically by the time period they cover (not by production date). The Division has funded films on every major war through World War Two.  The presidential biographies also have extensive coverage of wartime issues, both at home and abroad.

  1. The War That Made America


    The War That Made America brings to life a vastly important—but often misunderstood—period of American history, a period that set in motion forces that would culminate in the American Revolution. The dramatic documentary tells the story of the French and Indian War (1754–63), which began in the wilderness of the Pennsylvania frontier and spread throughout the colonies, into Canada, and ultimately around the world. Narrated by Graham Greene, The War That Made America combines a commitment to accuracy with a compelling filmed portrayal of the dangerous world of the eighteenth-century frontier. A central figure is George Washington, then a brash and ambitious young officer in his twenties hoping to make his reputation in the military, whose blunders actually trigger the war. A primary focus of the series, and a story that has long been distorted or forgotten, is the critical military importance and strategic diplomacy of Native Americans in the conflict between the English and French for the expansion of their colonial empires. It was a war the British won, but the fruit of their victory contained the seeds of the Revolutionary War.

    PRODUCTION ORGANIZATION: WQED, The War That Made America Productions LLC, Pittsburgh, PAYEAR PRODUCED: 2006
    EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Deborah Acklin, Laura Fisher
    PRODUCERS/DIRECTORS/WRITERS: Eric Stange, Ben Loeterman
    CINEMATOGRAPHY: Peter Pilafian, James Callagnan
    EDITORS: William Anderson, Peter Rhodes
    PRINT MATERIALS: Teachers guide available on
    FORMAT: Video and DVD 4 hours

  2. Liberty! The American Revolution (1997)

    Documentary and Dramatic Series

    This six-hour series covers America’s greatest political story—the history of how we became a nation. The series spans 26 years, from 1763 to 1789, and traces the transformation of Americans from loyal subjects of the British king to revolutionaries, and finally, to citizens of an entirely new kind of country.

  3. The War of 1812


    The War 1812 is a two-hour film history of a deeply significant event in North American and world history. The war shaped American, Canadian, and British destiny in the most literal way possible: had one or two battles or decisions gone a different way, a map of the United States today would look entirely different. The U.S. could well have included Canada - but was also on the verge of losing much of the Midwest, and perhaps the entire West to boot. The New England states, meanwhile, were poised on the brink of secession just months before a peace treaty was signed. The fires of this war forged the nation of Canada; at the same time, the result tolled the end of Native American dreams of a separate nation. By war's end, the process of Native nation removal had already begun in the southeast, paving the way for a cotton kingdom powered by slavery and a United States that had been on the verge of collapse was ready to announce its arrival as a global power. The U.S. did not win the War of 1812, but the noble experiment of democracy had managed to survive intense pressure from without and within.

    PRODUCTION ORGANIZATIONS: Production of WNED-TV, Buffalo/Toronto and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc., in association with WETA Washington, DC
    EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: John Grant, David Rotterman, Dalton Delan, Karen Kenton
    PRODUCERS: Lawrence Hott, Diane Garey
    DIRECTOR: Lawrence Hott
    WRITER: Ken Chowder
    CINEMATOGRAPHY: Stephen McCarthy
    EDITOR: Diane Garey
    NARRATOR: Joe Mantegna

    PRINT MATERIALS: Companion BookThe War of 1812 - A Guide to Battlefield and Historic Sites, available through PBS Distribution. Bi-national Educators Guide for students in elementary, middle and high school, available for download on The War of 1812: An Essay Collection —Scholars featured in the PBS film share their perspectives. Contact WNED at 716-845-7000.

    FORMAT: Video/DVD (120:00)

  4. The U.S.-Mexican War 1846–1848 (1998- four hours)


    The U.S.-Mexican War (1846–1848) tells the dramatic story of a war in which Mexico lost almost half of its national territory—including all of the states of the present American Southwest—to the United States. The documentary series explores the events surrounding the conflict between two neighboring nations struggling for land, power, and identity.

  5. The Civil War

    Documentary Series (1986-1990)

    This nine-part series examines the history and meaning of the American Civil War, from its complex causes and the daily life of soldiers to its impact on the nation’s political and social life.

  6. American Experience: Death and the Civil War


    With the coming of the Civil War, and the staggering casualties it ushered in, death entered the experience of the American people as it never had before—permanently altering the character of the republic and the psyche of the American people. Contending with death on an unprecedented scale posed challenges for which there were no ready answers when the war began. Americans worked to improvise new solutions, new institutions, and new ways of coping with death on an unimaginable scale.

    PRODUCERS: Robin Espinola, Bonnie Lafave, Ric Burns
    WRITER: Ric Burns
    CINEMATOGRAPHY: Buddy Squires, Stephen McCarthy, Allen Moore
    EDITORS: Lewis Erskine, Aljernon Tunsil
    NARRATOR: Oliver Platt

    PRINT MATERIALS: Program transcript and teachers guides available on the website

    FORMAT: DVD 118 minutes

  7. The Great War (1997)


    An eight-part series that reveals the impact and importance of World War I, The Great War explores the poignant, powerful, and permanent ways the war changed the lives of everyone it touched.

  8. Pearl Harbor: Surprise and Remembrance


    This film examines Japanese-American relations and the events leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor, with special emphasis on the way in which various interpretations of events and evidence arise from conflicting national purposes and personal insights.

    PRODUCTION ORGANIZATION: American Studies Film Center, Inc., New York, NY
    YEAR PRODUCED: 1991 (first broadcast on The American Experience)
    PRODUCERS/DIRECTORS: Lance Bird, John Crowley, Tom Johnson
    WRITER: Tom Johnson
    EDITORS: Victor Kanefsky, Julianna Parroni
    NARRATOR: Jason Robards

    FORMAT: Video (85:00)

    DISTRIBUTOR: Direct Cinema Limited

  9. The War (2007- Ken Burns/15 hours)


    The War explores the history of the Second World War from an American perspective by following the fortunes of so-called ordinary men and women who get caught up in one of the greatest cataclysms in human history. The film focuses on the stories of citizens from four geographically diverse American towns—Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minnesota. Individuals from each community take the viewer through their own personal and quite often harrowing journeys into war, painting vivid portraits of how the war dramatically altered their lives and those of their neighbors. The War is an attempt to describe, through their eyewitness testimony, what the war was actually like for those who served on the front lines, in the places where the killing and the dying took place, and equally what it was like for their loved ones back home. The film does not sentimentalize, glorify or aestheticize the war, but instead simply tells the stories of those who did the fighting—and of their families. The film illuminates the intimate, human dimensions of a global catastrophe that took the lives of between 50 and 60 million people—of whom more than 400,000 were Americans. Through the eyes of these witnesses, it is possible to see the universal in the particular, to understand how the whole country got caught up in the war; how the four towns and their people were permanently transformed; how those who remained at home worked and worried and grieved in the face of the struggle; and in the end, how innocent young men who had been turned into professional killers eventually learned to live in a world without war.


  1. John and Abigail Adams (2005/two hours)


    Drawing on the extraordinary correspondence between the second president and his wife, this joint biography sheds light not only on the characters of two remarkable people, but also on the tumultuous times through which they lived. John and Abigail Adams played a critical role in many of the pivotal events of their era: he was a vociferous participant at the Continental Congress; she was an important eye-witness reporter during the Siege of Boston; he was an important war-time emissary to France. In the post-war era, first as vice president, then as president, Adams was caught up in the increasing political divisiveness that characterized the 1790s when rifts in the country almost pulled the fledgling nation apart. In addition to a window onto the revolutionary era, John and Abigail’s story provides a strikingly intimate look inside a marriage of true companions, for whom life included not just the great events of history, but also laughter, loneliness, affection, and family tragedy. This American Experience program reminds us that the Founding Fathers—and Mothers—were not men and women of marble following a script that made independence and American national success a pre-ordained conclusion but rather real, flawed, multi-dimensional people, who had no idea how things would turn out.

  2. Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil and the Presidency


    This film biography of America’s seventh president explores whether Andrew Jackson is a president Americans should celebrate or apologize for. We discover how Jackson fought in the Revolutionary War when he was just thirteen—then used what he learned to kill a man over a gambling debt; how Jackson led the American army to the most surprising victory in its history in the Battle of New Orleans—but also launched an unauthorized invasion of Florida; how Jackson was the first great champion of the common white man—but also “owned” over a hundred black Americans; how Jackson dramatically expanded the United States—by brutally wresting vast regions of the south from Native Americans; how Jackson, in one of the boldest political strokes in history, founded the Democratic Party—and yet was viewed by his enemies as an American Napoleon. The film concludes with the words of Jackson’s first biographer, “Andrew Jackson was a patriot, and a traitor. He was the greatest of generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. He was the most candid of men, and capable of the profoundest dissimulation. He was a democratic autocrat, an urbane savage, an atrocious saint.”

    DIRECTORS: Carl Byker, Mitch Wilson
    CINEMATOGRAPHY: Mitch Wilson
    EDITOR: Richard Kassebaum
    NARRATOR: Martin Sheen
    CAST: Brain Dennehy, Marion Ross, Eric Stoltz, Blair Brown, David Ogden Stiers

    PRINT MATERIALS: Press release

    FORMAT: Video/DVD (2 hours)

  3. Robert E. Lee


    He is celebrated by handsome equestrian statues in countless cities and towns across the American South, and by no less than five postage stamps issued by the government he fought against during the four bloodiest years in American history. Nearly a century and a half after his death, Robert E. Lee, the leading Confederate general of the American Civil War, remains a source of fascination and, for some, veneration. This film examines the life and reputation of the general, whose military successes made him the scourge of the Union and the hero of the Confederacy, and who was elevated to almost god-like status by his admirers after his death.

    PRODUCER/WRITER: Mark Zwonitzer
    DIRECTORS: Mark Zwonitzer, Jamila Wignot
    CINEMATOGRAPHY: Michael Chin
    EDITOR: Bruce Shaw
    NARRATOR: Michael Murphy

  4. Ulysses S. Grant


    This multi-hour biography of Ulysses S. Grant paints a nuanced portrait of one of America’s most paradoxical leaders. The greatest hero of the Civil War, Grant was a brilliant military strategist who rose from obscurity to a rank held previously only by George Washington. However, the strength of the Confederate resistance forced Grant into a hard war that destroyed the South and led to his being labeled “a butcher.” Propelled into the White House by his battlefield success, Grant lacked the political skills to deal with the issues of the era: reconstructing the South and managing the nation’s rapidly expanding economy. His two terms were rocked by bitter racial conflict and corruption scandals. Seven years after leaving office, Grant was financially ruined by the collapse of an investment house in which he had placed his assets. He spent his final days in a race against time as he battled cancer while finishing his epic war memoirs.

    PRODUCTION ORGANIZATION: WGBH-The American Experience, Boston, MA
    EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Margaret Drain, Elizabeth Deane
    PRODUCERS/DIRECTORS: Adriana Bosch, Elizabeth Deane
    CINEMATOGRAPHY: Terry Hopkins, Buddy Squires, Boyd Estus
    EDITOR: Jon Neuberger, Bill Lattanzi
    NARRATOR: Liev Schreiber
    Cast: Alex Ingram, Julia Dent, Janine Jacques, John Jacques, Harry Bulkeley, Derek Nelson

    PRINTED MATERIALS: outreach resources can be found on the program’s website,

    FORMAT: Video 4 hours

  5. Lincoln and the War Within


    This is the story of Abraham Lincoln’s handling of the Fort Sumter crisis of 1861, just as he assumed the office of presidency.

    PRODUCTION ORGANIZATIONS: WGBY-TV, Springfield, MA, and Lumière Productions, Inc., New York, NY
    PRODUCER/DIRECTOR: Calvin Skaggs
    ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Robert Brent Toplin
    CO-PRODUCER: Paul Marcus
    WRITERS: Frederic Hunter, Thomas Babe
    CINEMATOGRAPHY: Michael Spiller
    EDITOR: Jay Freund
    CAST: Chris Sarandon, Tom Aldredge, Will Patton, Remak Ramsay, Dylan Baker, Alan North, Joan Macintosh, Tony Carlin, Jack Gilpin, Pirie MacDonald, Veronica Cartwright

    FORMAT: Video (73:30)


  6. TR: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt


    This film looks deep into the life of the man who embodied the confidence and exuberance of America at the turn of the century, revealing both the heroic and the tragic sides of Roosevelt’s character. TR combines photographs, newspapers, motion pictures, sound recordings, family diaries and letters, and interviews with scholars, historians, and Roosevelt family members to create a vivid and comprehensive portrait of this larger-than-life figure.

    PRODUCTION ORGANIZATION: David Grubin Productions, Inc., New York, NY
    PRODUCER: David Grubin
    WRITERS: David Grubin, Geoffrey C. Ward
    CINEMATOGRAPHY: James Callahan, William B. McCullough, Roger Phenix
    EDITORS: Geof Bartz, Howard Sharp
    NARRATORS: David McCullough, Jason Robards

    FORMAT: Video 2 (120:00) programs


  7. Woodrow Wilson (2001 2 90-minute programs)


    In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson led a reluctant America out of decades of isolationism into a ghastly and frightening global conflict. In doing so he helped define the U.S. role on the world stage for the rest of the twentieth century. It was an unlikely job for a man who started his working life as a college professor and whose political interests lay in domestic reform. But once Wilson believed America had a responsibility to bring peace and democracy to the world, it was a mission he pursued tenaciously and one that would ultimately destroy him. His campaign to save humanity from future wars took a devastating toll on his health, and while Wilson’s closest advisors refused to publicly acknowledge his inability to perform the tasks of his office, his second wife effectively ran the country as president by proxy.

  8. MacArthur


    No soldier in modern history has been more admired-or more reviled. Douglas MacArthur, liberator of the Philippines, shogun of Occupied Japan, brilliant victor of the Battle of Inchon, was an admired national hero when he was suddenly relieved of his command. A portrait of a complex, imposing, and fascinating American general.

    PRODUCTION ORGANIZATION: WGBH-The American Experience, Boston, MA
    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Margaret Drain
    PRODUCERS/DIRECTORS: Austin Hoyt, Sarah Holt
    WRITER: Austin Hoyt
    CINEMATOGRAPHY: Terry Hopkins
    EDITOR: Bernice K. Schneider, Sarah Holt
    NARRATOR: David Ogden Stiers

    PRINTED MATERIALS: educational resources are available on the program’s website,

    FORMAT: Video 4 hours

  9. George Marshall and the American Century


    This is a biography of General George C. Marshall who as U.S. Army Chief of Staff led the Allied Victory in World War II and as Secretary of State helped create the Marshall Plan.

    PRODUCTION ORGANIZATION: Great Projects Film Company, Inc., New York, NY
    PRODUCERS: Daniel B. Polin, Kenneth Mandel
    DIRECTORS: Kenneth Mandel, Ken Levis
    WRITER: Geoffrey C. Ward
    CINEMATOGRAPHY: Phil Abraham
    EDITOR: Ken Levis

    AWARDS/SCREENINGS: National Educational Film & Video Festival, Silver Apple; Worldfest (Houston, TX), Silver Award; American Film and Video Festival, Red Ribbon; Film Council of Greater Columbus, Chris Award, Best in History Category; CINE Golden Eagle

    FORMAT: Video (88:00)

    DISTRIBUTORS: Direct Cinema Limited

  10. LBJ (David Grubin-1991)-includes significant section on Vietnam

    Documentary Series

    This four-part documentary series traces the political career of America’s thirty-sixth president Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Other projects of interest (roughly chronological)

  1. Mary Silliman’s War


    The experience of the Silliman family during the Revolutionary War as told from Mary Silliman’s point of view and based on her family’s letters and the scholarship of Richard and Joy Buel.

    PRODUCTION ORGANIZATION: Heritage Films, San Dimas, CA, in association with Citadel Communications, Halifax, Canada
    YEAR PRODUCED: 1994 (first broadcast on Lifetime Cable Channel)
    EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Nick Spiropoulous, Stuart Rath
    PRODUCERS: Steven Schechter, Barry Cowling
    DIRECTOR: Stephen Surjick
    WRITERS: Steven Schechter, Louisa Burns-Bisogno
    EDITORS: Joanne D’Antonio, Allan Shefland
    MUSIC: John Welsman
    CAST: Nancy Palk, Richard Donat, Diane D’Aquila, Paul Boretski, Joanne Miller

    AWARDS/FESTIVALS: Gold Medal, Houston International Film Festival; Silver Medal, National Educational Film and Video Festival; Best Educational Production, 10th Annual TV Movie Awards; Bronze Plaque, Columbus Film Festival

    PRINT MATERIAL: Study Guide

    FORMAT: Video (93:00)

    DISTRIBUTOR: Heritage Films

  2. Mission US- note Revolutionary War component

    Digital-Based Series of online role-playing games

    This series of free, interactive online games is designed to give students in grades 5 to 9 a first-person perspective on American history. The first game in the series, Mission 1: “For Crown or Colony?” puts players in the shoes of Nat Wheeler, a 14-year-old printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston who must decide if his loyalties lie with the Patriots or Loyalists. In Mission 2: “Flight to Freedom,” players take on the role of Lucy King, a fictional 14-year-old enslaved person in Kentucky in 1848. As players navigate her escape and journey to Ohio via the Underground Railroad, they discover that life in the “free” North is dangerous and difficult. The website includes resources to support use of Mission US in the classroom, including lesson plans, document-based activities, primary source documents, vocabulary activities, background on historical figures, writing prompts, and more.




    PRODUCER: Michelle Chen

  3. We Shall Remain
    Documentary/Drama Series

    From American Experience website ( a five-part television series that shows how Native peoples valiantly resisted expulsion from their lands and fought the extinction of their culture -- from the Wampanoags of New England in the 1600s who used their alliance with the English to weaken rival tribes, to the bold new leaders of the 1970s who harnessed the momentum of the civil rights movement to forge a pan-Indian identity.  I think we only funded two parts.  One of these episodes, Tecumseh’s Vision, could be relevant to this project.

  4. No Job For a Woman: The Women Who Fought to Report WWII


    Before World War II, war reporting was considered “no job for a woman.” But when the United States entered the war, American women reporters did not want to miss covering the biggest story of the century so they fought for and won access. But there was a catch: women reporters would be banned from the frontlines, prevented from covering front page stories about generals and battlefield manoeuvres and assigned "woman's angle" stories about nurses and female military personnel. Several refused to abide by these journalistic conventions and military restrictions and, instead, brought home a new kind of war story: one that was more intimate yet more revealing. They reached beyond the battlefield and deep into human lives to tell a new story of war. Combining rarely seen archival footage and stills with actors reading the written words of the three main characters and interviews with contemporary female war reporters, the film focuses on the lives and work of wire service reporter Ruth Cowan, magazine reporter Martha Gellhorn, and war photographer Dickey Chapelle. The film is narrated by Julianna Margulies, Emmy Award Winner and star of CBS's The Good Wife.

    PRODUCTION ORGANIZATION: Hurry Up Sister Productions, LLC, New York City, NY


    EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Michele Midori Fillion, Jeanne Houck

  5. Reporting America At War


    Reporting America at War chronicles over one hundred years of American war correspondents, from the Spanish American War through the present day and the conflict in Iraq. The documentary also traces the evolutionary nature of media-military relations in that period, through the experiences and reflections of the correspondents themselves. The revelations offer critical insights into how Americans perceive armed conflict, and the role of a free press in a democracy at war. A special coda added analysis of the experiences of the embedded reporters during the Iraq War.

    PRODUCTION ORGANIZATIONS: WETA, Arlington, VA, and Insignia Films, New York, NY
    EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Dalton Delan, David S. Thompson, Robert A. Wilson
    PRODUCERS: Stephen Ives, Amanda Pollak
    DIRECTOR: Stephen Ives
    WRITER: Michelle Ferrari
    CINEMATOGRAPHY: Buddy Squiers
    EDITORS: George O’Donnell, Toby Shimin
    NARRATOR: Linda Hunt

    PRINT MATERIALS: Companion book, Hyperion Press

    FORMAT: Video 180:00 mins. (2X90)

  6. Latino Americans is a three-part, six-hour documentary film that will chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape the United States over the last 500-plus years and have become, with more than 50 million people, the largest minority group in the U.S.  Episode Three has a significant section on World War Two service and post-war discrimination.

Upcoming/In Production

Journey to Normal: Women of War Come Home (received Development only)

A 90-minute documentary film and interactive website featuring a searchable database of interviews with female U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, an online community discussion forum, and a story-sharing tool.

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