As part of its annual observance of Memorial Day, WTTW11 will premiere a new 60-minute documentary HEROES ON DECK: WORLD WAR II ON LAKE MICHIGAN. WTTW also serves as the national presenting station. The three filmmakers, Executive Producer/Writer/Director JOHN DAVIES, Executive Producer/Aircraft Recovery Photographer HARVEY MOSHMAN, and Producer/Editor BRIAN KALLIES, are all former WTTW producers. This program was underwritten exclusively by the Chicago Marine Heritage Society and its Chairman, Capt. Dave Truitt.
HEROES ON DECK tells the little-known story of a bold and innovative local response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Following that catastrophic event, the U.S. Navy was desperate for aircraft carrier-qualified pilots. With enemy submarines patrolling both coasts, Commander Richard F. Whitehead, of the Ninth Naval District - Chicago, proposed a radical idea. Why not train pilots in the safety of Lake Michigan? Two Great Lakes passenger steamers were immediately converted into makeshift aircraft carriers, the USS Wolverine and USS Sable. Between 1942 and the end of the war, more than 15,000 aviators – including future President George H.W. Bush -- were trained aboard these “freshwater flattops.”
Crashes and “water landings” often led to serious injuries and occasionally death. As a result, more than one hundred fighters and dive-bombers sank to the bottom of the lake. To date, more than 40 aircraft have been brought to the surface. HEROES ON DECK captures some of the key recoveries and restoration efforts, and celebrates the stories of the brave pilots who survived this ingenious training operation. Narrated by legendary CBS and A&E newsman BILL KURTIS, HEROES ON DECK, brings to life a vital chapter of American history.
JOHN DAVIES (Executive Producer/Writer/Director) is a multi-Emmy® Award winning writer/producer/director who has created series, specials and documentaries for almost every network and cable outlet, including NBC, ABC, FOX, MTV, AMC, TRU-TV, BRAVO, VH-1, A&E, LIFETIME, ESPN, & COMEDY CENTRAL. His SHOWTIME documentary Phunny Business, about Chicago’s first black owned comedy club, was hailed as “one of the best documentaries of 2012” by film critic Roger Ebert.
HARVEY MOSHMAN (Executive Producer/Aircraft Recovery Photography) is a multi-Emmy® Award winning producer and editor, having worked at Chicago network affiliates for NBC, CBS and PBS. During his tenure at WTTW/Chicago, Moshman produced The Eastland Disaster, which was called “one of the best documentaries ever produced for local television” by the Chicago Sun-Times. His more recent film, Lost & Found: The Legacy of USS Lagarto, aired nationally on Public Television.
BRIAN KALLIES (Producer/Editor) is an independent filmmaker who has produced, edited and directed documentaries, specials, and series for SHOWTIME, TRU-TV, WGN, BBC, ESQUIRE TV, and Public Television. He co-produced WTTW’s Seven Wonders of Chicago, The New River Tour, and was associate producer for Chicago Stories. Brian directed and edited the national Public Television documentary Everglades of the North, which inspired a national wildlife preserve.
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