Skip to main content

A Guide to Memorial Day Programming on WTTW

Meredith Francis
A group of six soldiers from the Korean War posing for a photograph
A still from Chicago Stories: Our Soldiers, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Credit: The Castro Family

This Memorial Day weekend, explore the extraordinary stories of those in the armed forces with a variety of programming on WTTW.

Chicago Stories: Our Soldiers, Our Lady of Guadalupe

Saturday, May 25 at 6:00 pm and Monday, May 27 at 9:00 pm on WTTW
This is the story of pride and heartbreak in a close-knit south side community. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Chicago’s first and oldest Mexican American parish, lost 12 young men in the Vietnam War during a brutal five-year period. These young men came from a proud military heritage, and some felt they owed a debt of gratitude to America. But as the war dragged on and antiwar protests escalated, some in this patriotic community began to question why Mexican Americans bore a disproportionate brunt of an unpopular war. Explore the companion website for more, or stream the show any time. 

American Veteran Marathon

Sunday, May 26 at 11:00 am on WTTW Prime
American Veteran is a four-part documentary series tracing the veteran experience across the arc of American history and exploring the present-day divide between civilian and veteran communities. From the citizen-soldiers returning from the Revolution to today’s warrior class, it is a deeply moving story, illuminating the veteran experience and drawing civilian viewers into an unfamiliar culture.

Shrapnel Down: My Korean War Story

Sunday, May 26 at 3:00 pm on WTTW Prime
In 1952, Gunner's Mate Bill Rector was serving on the USS Los Angeles during the height of the Korean War. Using an 8mm camera, Bill documented his war experiences, including battles during the Blockade of Wonsan – the longest naval blockade in modern history.

After Action: "Parenting in Service"

Sunday, May 26 at 3:30 pm on WTTW
When service before self is the military mantra, the family's needs often come second to Uncle Sam. As the saying goes, “If the military wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one.” Yet over 40% of service members have children. Host and retired Air Force Staff Sergeant Stacy Pearsall talks with Bill Brokop, Maria “Coco” Gunther, and Hannah Merchant, three veterans who faced the challenge of balancing the needs of a nation with the needs of their families.

Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Generation

Sunday, May 26 at 3:30 pm on WTTW Prime
During World War II, troops would look up and say, “Here come the Sky Blossoms” – paratroopers rushing to their aid. Today, a new generation is answering that call for help. The documentary Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Generation captures their stories.

Lost & Found: The Legacy of the USS Lagarto

Sunday, May 26 at 4:30 pm on WTTW and Sunday, May 26 at 7:00 pm on WTTW Prime
In 1944, the submarine USS Lagarto left a small shipyard in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and traveled 8,000 miles to serve in the war in the Pacific. While on patrol, the sub vanished after engaging a Japanese convoy in a ferocious sea battle. For 60 years nothing further was known; families were simply told “Lagarto overdue from patrol, presumed lost.” In 2005, a British diver stumbled upon the remains of Lagarto and her crew of 86 at the bottom of the Gulf of Thailand. Wreck divers John Chatterton & Richie Kohler led numerous dives to solve the mystery of the disappearance and to determine why no one escaped. Lagarto is the first sunken American WWII submarine found since the war ended.

Heroes on Deck: World War II on Lake Michigan

Sunday, May 26 at 6:00 pm on WTTW
Heroes on Deck: World War II on Lake Michigan tells the story of a bold operation that changed the course of World War II. In 1942, responding to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy converted two passenger steamships into aircraft carriers to train more than 15,000 pilots and 40,000 deck crews in the safety of Lake Michigan. Today, dozens of aircraft still rest on the lake bottom.

National Memorial Day Concert 2024

Sunday, May 26 at 7:00 pm and 8:30 pm on WTTW; 5:30 pm and 10:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. A more than three-decades-long tradition unlike anything else on television, America's national night of remembrance takes us back to the real meaning of the holiday through personal stories and tributes interwoven with musical performances. Co-hosted by acclaimed actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise, joined by Mary McCormack, and an all-star lineup with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly, the deeply moving and reverential night brings us together as one family of Americans to honor the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, military families and all those who have given their lives for our country.

The Ghost Army

Sunday, May 26 at 8:00 pm on WTTW Prime
This program tells the true story of American G.I.s – many of whom would go on to have illustrious careers in art, design, and fashion – who tricked the enemy with rubber tanks, sound effects, and visual illusions during World War II. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops staged a traveling road show of deception designed to con the Germans right on the front lines. From Normandy to the Rhine, they conjured up phony convoys, phantom divisions, and make-believe headquarters to fool the enemy about the strength and location of American units. Every move they made was top secret and their story was hushed up for decades after the war's end. This documentary features interviews with 19 Ghost Army veterans, as well as retired general Wesley Clark and other military historians. Read our story about the Ghost Army.

Tuskegee Airmen: Return to Ramitelli

Sunday, May 26 at 9:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Tuskegee Airmen: Return to Ramitelli tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of Black military pilots who broke stereotypes and helped win World War II with their daring fighter escorts of American bombers. Narrated by country music star Darius Rucker, the film returns to Ramitelli airfield in Italy to share the history of the air squadron that helped shift the tides of the war. The legacy-themed documentary features interviews with many original Tuskegee Airmen, family members, and historians - both Italian and American.

A City at War: Chicago

Sunday, May 26 at 10:00 pm on WTTW and Sunday, May 26 at 11:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Just prior to America's involvement in World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) called on the country to become “an arsenal of democracy,” to start producing war materiel and defeat the Axis powers. Through firsthand accounts, declassified films, and period images, A City at War: Chicago  explores how the Windy City answered that call, and how a friendship between FDR and Chicago mayor Ed Kelly, a “Big City Boss,” helped to set everything in motion. The documentary reveals how Chicagoland was transformed into a well-oiled production machine; with every racial, ethnic, and religious group and every man, woman, and child mobilizing to support the war effort. And perhaps the most definitive and chilling contribution Chicago made to the war effort was the birth of the atomic bomb.

Her War, Her Story: WWII

Sunday, May 26 at 10:00 pm on WTTW Prime
Narrated by actress Jane Lynch, Her War, Her Story: WWII tells the stories of more than two dozen women's experiences during the war. From members of the U.S. Women's Army Corps to the civilian witnesses to the war in Europe, this hour-long film shows how women were equal to men in patriotism, service, and steadfastness in critical moments.

To Be of Service

Monday, May 27 at 10:00 am on WTTW Prime
The effect of war is profound for all the players engaged in the conflict. Veterans returning home may experience a disconnect from the world they once inhabited and struggle to function. Some veterans come home with a psychological injury called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In To Be of Service, viewers meet several veterans with PTSD and the service dogs helping them return to the world. Through these deeply bonded relationships, viewers experience the duality of violence and redemption through the lens of addressing recovery from the trauma of warfare.

Memorial Day Massacre

Monday, May 27 at 5:30 pm and 10:00 pm on WTTW
Josh Charles narrates the story of the 1937 police killing of ten Chicago labor activists and Paramount News' suppression of the only filmed evidence.