Archive for the ‘history’ category

Uncommon Courage: Breakout At Chosin set to air on Memorial Day, May 31

April 27, 2010

The Korean War may be considered “The Forgotten War,” but it brought us an unforgettable hero. During the war, Lieutenant Chew-Een Lee, the first commissioned U.S. Marine regular officer of Chinese descent, battled communism, injuries, hypothermia and racism to help 8,000 U.S. Marines stave off certain capture at the hands of the enemy. Lt. Lee’s remarkable story is told in a Smithsonian Channel original special, UNCOMMON COURAGE: BREAKOUT AT CHOSIN, premiering this Memorial Day, Monday, May 31 at 8pm ET/PT.

Prior to the Korean War, the idea of an Asian American leading a U.S. Marine platoon on the battlefield would have been unthinkable. Just a few years earlier in World War II, Japanese Americans had been placed in internment camps and racial segregation was still the rule in most of the United States. Lt. Lee, who would eventually rise to the rank of Major, ushered in a new era in American military history. His story is more than one of breaking barriers; it is a story of courage, grit and dogged determination. Through rare archival footage of the war and exclusive interviews with Lt. Lee and the men who served with him, Uncommon Courage recounts the extraordinary story of one of the key moments of the Korean War, the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.

“The heroism of the Marines at the Chosin Reservoir is one of the legendary moments in U.S. military history,” said David Royle, Executive Vice President, Programming and Production, for Smithsonian Channel. “But the story of Major Lee is not only one of outstanding bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, it is also about his courage in overcoming racial discrimination. He is a true American hero from a largely forgotten war, a Chinese American whose significance transcends his military heroism and is even greater than he might realize.”

The one-hour special also looks at the Chinese experience in America, examining typical American attitudes toward Asians at the time, through the eyes of Lt. Lee and his men. Their stories all come together when they meet for the first time at Camp Pendleton, California, just two weeks before shipping out to Korea. Lt. Lee was the untested Marine officer and his green recruits had never spoken with a Chinese man, much less taken orders from one.
Joe Owen, one of the Marines who served under Lt. Lee, offered this tribute: “We started out a company full of untrained reservists and misfits and at the end… we considered ourselves to be the best God-damned rifle company in the Marine Corps. And we attribute it to the example, the ideals, set by Chew-Een Lee.”

After the Korean War, Lt. Lee would rise to the rank of Major and draw on his experiences to train a new generation of Marine Corps officers.


October 13, 2009

Area 51 - sat photo

Tikaboo Peak rises several thousand feet above Area 51 in southern Nevada. Yes–“ground zero” for UFO theorists. We’re here at 5 AM for a purely recreational hike, of course. It would be about 2 hours with a daypack, but we’ve decided to take a 200-pound lens with us, along with the rest of our gear.
Very slow-going up the mtn. There’s no clear trail and it’s straight uphill on slippery rock and gravel. We hired 4 locals to help carry extra weight, but the lens can only be carried about 30 feet before they have to put it down to rest. We should have hired three more.
About a third of the way up, an F-16 zooms right past us. Holy sh*t. Our guides are excited that he’s this
close, but, hey, could be just a coincidence.
Then the jet circles back again and then a third time, doing crazy turns and maneuvers. Our guys are starting to wonder if the military knows we’re here.
Suddenly a helicopter appears from the other side of the mtn–starts circling overhead as the F-16 continues to buzz us.
Now our guides are sure: This show is all for us. Area 51 knows we’re out here, climbing up this mtn with a box that looks suspiciously like a missile.
Our guys speculate about how they knew we were coming. One is very concerned about getting arrested and contemplates bailing out. We’re concerned we’ll get down the mtn and the local cops will be waiting for us to confiscate our tapes and gear.
The air show goes on for about 30 minutes. Our DP sees thru the viewfinder a guy in the helicopter, perched on the edge, staring straight down on us.
We finally make it to the peak around noon… More than 6 hours after we started. It’s 95 degrees. Everyone is tired and dehydrated, but we get to work. Below us is the U.S. Air Force military base known as Area 51, aka Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, Extraterrestial Highway. We have a great view of the base, but we see no aliens tap dancing on the runway. Why would they in this heat?

Area 51 from Peak

MYSTERYQUEST: ALIEN COVER-UP airs Wednesday October 14, 10PM/9c on HISTORY.

Ice Scrapers vs. the Frost Giant

October 11, 2009

The final episode of season one of CLASH OF THE GODS is THOR.
Monday October 12, 10PM/9c on HISTORY.
Sweden runestone

Hundreds of runestones can be found scattered across the countryside in Scandinavia. Many are memorial stones erected after the death of a family member to honor them, but there are some that are clear depictions of the myths and stories that filled the lives of the Norse centuries ago.
In February I traveled to Sweden with my Director of Photography Bo Randulff, and set out on a cross-country treasure hunt trying to track down a few specific runestones that told the myth of Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. It seems that no one has ever drawn a runestone map of Scandinavia, and there is no handy iPhone app, so we were relying on some long distance research and a little luck to find them. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack that was covered in snow!
As we arrived in a little clearing in the forest we were pretty sure that we had found the site of the large rock carving we were looking for, but it was nowhere to be seen. It suddenly occurred to us that it was most likely lying under a foot of snow. Armed with only our rental car’s ice and snow scrapers we started digging, much to the amusement of some local kids. Finally we found it, and it was worth the effort.
The evil Frost Giants of the Norse myths are certainly alive and kicking, and I would have loved a helping hand from the brave Thor and his magical hammer in defeating them. But this particular battle was between the Frost Giant’s snow and me, armed only with an ice scraper.
Thor runestone
–Sarah Hodgson
Associate producer, Clash of the Gods


October 2, 2009


Why Middle-earth Matters

October 1, 2009

GandalfIf you’re a history and military buff like me, The Lord of the Rings is a story tailor made for you: two massive armies facing each other on the battlefield about to be locked in combat. Now…just substitute Patton for a wizard in flowing white robes, the Nazis for a hideous race of creatures called Orcs, and Europe for Middle-earth.

Okay, that’s a wee bit simplistic (and not actually accurate…although written in spurts between 1937 and 1952, Tolkien always said that Lord of the Rings should never be read as an allegory for World War II.)

But what is it that has caused The Lord of the Rings to have sold over 150 million copies and to be translated into almost 40 languages? For me, it’s that feeling of real history, which gives Lord of the Rings its life. JRR Tolkien was obsessive about documenting his universe with dates, family trees, maps and indexes….hell, he even threw in a creation story. If it wasn’t for the fact that the characters are elves, dwarves, hobbits and wizards you’d think you were submersed in a history textbook.

So in Clash of the Gods, the goal was to figure out where all this inspiration came from. Much of The Lord of the Rings is about good overcoming evil, and Tolkien’s devout Catholicism provides the backbone. Comparisons of Frodo’s quest to Christ are plainly seen, but I think the most interesting tidbits are the ones found in Beowulf and other Norse myths. Tolkien doesn’t really hide in lifting almost exactly scenes from classic tales. The transformation of Smeagol into the creature Gollum almost exactly mirrors a tale in the Norse Volsunga Saga; and scenes like Bilbo stealing a cup in The Hobbit are directly lifted from Beowulf.
But more than any gods or monsters from ancient myth, I think it’s the personal pain that Tolkien suffered which gives The Lord of the Rings its foothold in reality. As a soldier in World War I, Tolkien was right in the middle of the action, watching friends killed and mutilated right in front of his eyes. When Tolkien writes about the same kind of suffering for Frodo there is a ring of truth that isn’t found in any other kind of fantasy writing.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to me that Tolkien stole stuff from tales of the past…that’s pretty what all writers do. But what he did was to make it his own and transform it into something new. A feat which many writers attempt, but few do successfully.

So I’m off to re-read The Lord of the Rings…150 million people can’t be wrong.

– Ted Poole, KPI Writer and Producer


DNA Casts Doubt on Hitler Suicide

September 29, 2009

Hitler skullKPI photo
From AOL News September 29
New DNA tests show that a skull long thought to be Adolf Hitler’s is not his after all. Scientists at the University of Connecticut conducted tests on the bullet-pierced skull — which had been secretly preserved for decades by Soviet intelligence — and discovered that it belonged to an unidentified woman under 40, the British newspaper The Guardian reported Sunday.
The results cast doubt on the long-held account that the Nazi dictator swallowed a cyanide pill and then committed suicide in his Berlin bunker as Allied forces were closing in on him in 1945. The story of the testing was also reported in a History Channel documentary, Hitler’s Escape.

[Note: the DNA testing was initiated by the KPI producing team and History Channel]

Click here to read the full story at AOL News


September 28, 2009

Beneath the surface of a frozen lake, armed with a magic sword, Beowulf fights past a supernatural serpent to reach the lair of his most seductive and deadly nemesis of all.

CLASH OF THE GODS: BEOWULF airs Monday September 28 10PM/9c on HISTORY