‘The Great War’ explored in new, multi-part 'American Experience' documentary

Posted by Chip Chandler on
Participants in a women’s peace parade march in 1914 in New York.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

"The Great War: American Experience" trailer

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

See how the nation came of age in a new three-part documentary exploring America’s involvement in World War I.

American Experience: The Great War debuts at 8 p.m. Monday, with additional episodes airing at 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

The six-hour documentary, scheduled in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into the war, will feature the voices of Campbell Scott, Blythe Danner, Courtney Vance and others.

Drawing on the latest scholarship, including unpublished diaries, memoirs and letters, “The Great War” tells the rich and complex story of World War I through the voices of nurses, journalists, aviators and the American troops who came to be known as “doughboys.” The series explores the experiences of African-American and Latino soldiers, suffragists, Native-American “code talkers” and others whose participation in the war to “make the world safe for democracy” has been largely forgotten.

“World War I was the soil from which so many things today really grew, starting with America’s place in the world,” said American Experience Executive Producer Mark Samels. “Before the war, America was isolated and uninvolved in world affairs. After the war, America stepped onto the world stage, and that continues today with our troops becoming involved in conflicts around the world.”

Critics also see parallels to today's atmosphere.

"Perhaps what struck me most about the three-part, six-hour series was the familiarity of so many of its themes—a sense of déjà vu that left me feeling like even those of us who know our history are doomed to repeat it," writes Mother Jones' Michael Mechanic.

"As the filmmakers and their interview subjects tell it, the fault lines that shake America's foundations today can be traced back to a global conflict that, rather than bringing peace, launched a new era of world disorder," writes The Oregonian's Kristi Turnquist.




Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.


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