Executive Producer Lance Tōland and Broadcast Solutions’ Jack English and Russ Jamieson have just completed “The Golden Isles at War,” a one-hour documentary recounting the impact of World War II on Georgia’s Golden Isles. The story unfolds through personal accounts of more than two dozen people who lived through the experience.
Work on the documentary began in February, 2016. Georgia Public Broadcasting is airing the program on December 21st at 1:00 AM and other PBS affiliates are looking at possible air dates. A “director’s cut” private premiere for the storytellers and their families, as well as the production crew, was held on Sea Island on December 6, 2016, the evening before this year’s 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
“The Golden Isles at War” tells the story of the Golden Isles immediately before, during and after World War II. This is a story of the Civil Air Patrol, liberty ships, blimps, u-boats, community, hard work and patriotism as told through those who lived it and narrated by John Weatherford. The documentary details the carnage of u-boat attacks off of the eastern seaboard and particularly the Georgia coastline, the building of “Liberty Ships” on the south side of Brunswick and the construction of enormous blimp hangars on Glynn County’s north side. The visuals include personal photographs and memorabilia of the almost 30 people interviewed for the project, as well as items from the Brunswick News, the Georgia Coastal Historical Society, the Jekyll Island Museum Archives, the Glynn County Airport Commission, the Sea Island Archives the Marshes of Glynn Libraries, author Sonja Olsen Kinard, Historian Tyler Bagwell and others as well as material acquired from archival and newsreel footage. Emmy award winning editor Beth Galvin spent ten months researching, writing and editing on the project. The project’s cinematographer was Kevin Maggiore and field producers were Lisa Goodman and Leslie Faulkenberry.
Tōland says the idea for “The Golden Isles at War” dates back about 25 years, to a conversation in an airplane cockpit. A friend was talking about his father’s exploits in and around the Golden Isles area during World War II. The more time Toland spent on Sea Island and around the Golden Isles, the more stories he heard from others about the reality of wartime in coastal Georgia. He began putting the story together in his head and realized there were myths that had to be dispelled as well. Tōland says: “This is a part of history that would have been forgotten, had we not done this [documentary]….I think what you will find is that you’re looking through the eyes of a child, and young adults and people who made a difference and it will prove to you that they too were part of the Greatest Generation.”
Producer Jack English (Broadcast Solutions) says: “The purpose of the documentary is two-fold: First, to tell the true and little-known story of the carnage caused by U-boats beginning a month after Hilter declared War on America in December 1941 and extending through late August 1942. The result was the sinking of nearly 400 Allied tankers and freighters and the deaths of more than 5,000 merchant seamen. This period has been referred to by historical Michael Gannon as “America’s Second Pearl Harbor.” The second purpose is to bring attention to those remaining GI Generation seniors who can tell the story from personal experience – the patriotism, the community, the hard work and even the good times that were a reflection of that period. That story is best told by the people who lived through it all. The value in telling this story can be seen in the expressions of those recounting what happened more than seventy-five years ago.”
English’s partner, Russ Jamieson, says: “What struck me most were the wonderful people we interviewed….looking at them and the pictures they lent us of themselves or their family members during the war. The ones who were in the service at the time looked so, so young… maybe too young for such a world-changing event. I remember how young my father looked in his military photo. I agree with Tom Brokaw’s description of them; they were the….”Greatest Generation.””
John Weatherford who narrates the documentary also helped in research and writing. John said he “liked clearing up a bit of historical folklore….about how the millionaires on Jekyll fled when the submarines began sinking boats. I had always heard that story and thought it was true… we [the producers] even thought it was true – until we did some research and consulted local historians….
Now we know….”
Editor Beth Galvin says, “The most surprising thing to me while I was researching was the sheer amount of Georgia and east coast history that isn’t taught or even mentioned. Outside of historians and the people who lived through it, no one really knows anything about the 8 months of carnage off the coast or local community efforts to combat it. I learned so much during the months working on this documentary, and I hope anyone watching it learns something new as well.”
Discussions are underway to air the documentary on other public television stations throughout North America.
For more information, call Jack English or Russ Jamieson at (404) 685-2806