Announces Documentary Film "Wartorn 1861-2010" to Debut November
HBO DOCUMENTARY WARTORN: 1861-2010, EXPLORING COMBAT AND POST-TRAUMATIC
STRESS, DEBUTS ON VETERANS DAY, NOV. 11
James Gandolfini Executive Produces
"Must you carry the bloody horror of combat in your heart
forever?" - Homer, "The Odyssey"
Civil War doctors called it hysteria, melancholia and insanity. During
the First World War it was known as shell-shock. By World War II, it
became combat fatigue. Today, it is clinically known as post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD), a crippling anxiety that results from exposure to
life-threatening situations such as combat.
With suicide rates among active military servicemen and veterans
currently on the rise, the HBO special WARTORN 1861-2010 brings urgent
attention to the invisible wounds of war. Drawing on personal stories of
American soldiers whose lives and psyches were torn asunder by the horrors
of battle and PTSD, the documentary chronicles the lingering effects of
combat stress and post-traumatic stress on military personnel and their
families throughout American history, from the Civil War through today's
conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The HBO Documentary Films presentation
debuts on Veterans Day, THURSDAY, NOV. 11 (9:00-10:15 p.m. ET/PT),
exclusively on HBO.
HBO2 playdates: Nov. 13 (7:45 a.m.) and 24 (8:00 p.m.)
Executive produced by James Gandolfini (HBO's "Alive Day Memories:
Home from Iraq"), WARTORN 1861-2010 is directed by Jon Alpert and
Ellen Goosenberg Kent and produced by Alpert, Goosenberg Kent and Matthew
O'Neill, the award-winning producers behind the HBO documentary
"Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq." Alpert and O'Neill also
produced and directed the HBO documentaries "Section 60: Arlington
National Cemetery" and the Emmy(R)-winning "Baghdad ER."
The documentary is co-produced by Lori Shinseki.
The documentary shares stories through soldiers' revealing letters and
journals; photographs and combat footage; first-person interviews with
veterans of WWII (who are speaking about their PTSD for the first time),
the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom; and
interviews with family members of soldiers with PTSD. Also included are
insightful conversations between Gandolfini and top U.S. military
personnel (General Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, and
General Peter Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army), enlisted
men in Iraq, and medical experts working at the Walter Reed Army Medical
Center in Washington. Gen. Chiarelli, who is working to reduce the rising
suicide rate in the Army comments, "You're fighting a culture that
doesn't believe that injuries you can't see can be as serious as injuries
that you can see."
Bookended by haunting montages of emotionally battered American
soldiers through the years, WARTORN 1861-2010 explores the very real
wounds that occur as a result of combat stress, or PTSD. Among the
segments of the film are:
Angelo Crapsey: In 1861, 18-year-old Angelo Crapsey enlisted in the
Union Army. His commanding officer called him the "ideal of a
youthful patriot." In letters sent over the course of two years,
Crapsey's attitude toward the Civil War darkened after he experienced
combat and witnessed the deaths of countless soldiers, including several
by suicide. By 1863, Crapsey, was hospitalized, feverish and delirious;
eventually he was sent home to Roulette, Pa. Becoming paranoid and
violent, he killed himself in 1864 at age 21. His father John wrote,
"If ever a man's mental disorder was caused by hardships endured in
the service of his country, this was the case with my son." A
postscript reveals, "After the Civil War, over half of the patients
in mental institutions were veterans."
Noah Pierce: More than a century after Crapsey's suicide, 23-year-old
Noah Pierce got in his truck, put a handgun to his head, placed his dog
tag next to his temple and shot himself. Pierce's mother Cheryl recalls
how her son changed following two tours of Iraq, showing a photo of him
"filled with hate and disillusionment." Cheryl Pierce says,
"The United States Army turned my son into a killer," adding,
"They forgot to un-train him." In a letter he left in the truck,
Pierce wrote, "I'm freeing myself from the desert once and for all?I
have taken lives, now it's time to take mine."
World War II vets: "Combat fatigue" was considered a
character flaw in World War II. In a famous story, Gen. George S. Patton
slapped a soldier hospitalized with nervous exhaustion, ordering
"that yellow SOB" back to the front. It took 50 years for WWII
vets to be diagnosed with PTSD. Today, in the documentary, a group opens
up publicly about their traumas for the first time. Al Maher, who was a
Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, laments the toll his war experience took
on his family life - he became abusive and took to drinking. As a result,
he has not spoken to his sons in 25 years. Abner Greenberg, a corporal in
the Marines who lost two best friends in Iwo Jima, kept his wartime
traumas pent up and never shared them with his children until he joined a
PTSD group and discovered what was wrong with him. Former Army sergeant
Bill Thomas remembers shooting four Germans, and being moved when the sole
survivor showed him a family photo. "How do you explain the
horrors?" Greenberg asks. "It consumes you."
Akinsanya Kambon: Marine combat illustrator Kambon served as a corporal
in Vietnam for nine months. "The Marine Corps teaches you to be like
an animal," he says, adding he turned into "a mad dog." One
of his nightmarish drawings is of a soldier, eyes still flickering, whose
lower torso is blown away. "It's one of the images that I wake up
screaming about," he says, "but it won't go away."
Gen. Ray Odierno: In Baghdad, James Gandolfini meets with Gen. Ray
Odierno, Commander of Allied Forces in Iraq, who says that 30% of service
men and women report symptoms of PTSD and explains how Vietnam helped
inform today's understanding of combat trauma. "Nobody is
immune," says Odierno, relating how his own enlisted son lost his
left arm when a rocket-propelled grenade ripped through his vehicle,
killing the driver. Later, at nearby Camp Slater, Gandolfini visits with
U.S. Army Sgt. John Wesley Matthews, who speaks candidly about his bouts
of depression, reliance on sleeping pills and contemplation of suicide.
Jason Scheuerman: A member of the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq,
Scheuerman grew up in a family of soldiers. His father Chris recalls how
Jason went to see an Army psychiatrist, and filled out a questionnaire
admitting that he had thought about killing himself. After a ten-minute
evaluation, he was told to "man up" and was ordered back to his
barracks to clean his weapon. Instead, he shot himself. "It's not
just the soldier that's in combat that comes down with PTSD," says
Chris Jr., who served in Afghanistan. "It's the entire family."
Nathan Damigo: In San Jose, Marine Lance Cpl. Nathan Damigo got a
hero's welcome when he returned home from Iraq. A month later, he was
arrested for attacking a Middle Eastern taxi driver at gunpoint. As his
mother Charilyn explains, Damigo was drunk and confused, and went into
"combat mode" as he assaulted the cabbie. After a final night of
freedom, Damigo makes a court appearance where he is sentenced to six
years in jail. "They took him when he was 18 and put him through a
paper shredder," says his heartbroken mother. "We get to try to
put all the pieces back together. Sometimes they don't go back
Herbert B. Hayden: In 1921, Col. Herbert Hayden's Atlantic Monthly
story "Shell-Shocked and After" described the "perfect
hell" of being sent to the front in WWI. His nightmare continued even
after he returned home six months later "back and yet not back at
all." Suicidal, Hayden checked into Walter Reed Hospital,
"searching for a spark in the emptiness," but found only
newspaper clippings of tormented ex-soldiers who were not being cared for.
"What was wrong with my country?" he asked.
William Fraas Jr.: Two years after his return from the current Iraq
conflict, Billy Fraas is trapped by memories, transfixed by computerized
photos taken over 29 months and three tours of duty. The leader of a
reconnaissance team, he was sent home after PTSD symptoms surfaced, and
his leg still shakes uncontrollably when he sits at the computer. Fraas'
wife Marie is frustrated by what's become of her husband. "Even
though he wasn't shot," she says, "he still died over
there." Adds Fraas, "I've seen humanity at its worst. And I
struggle with that on a daily basis."
HBO Documentary Films in association with Attaboy Films presents
WARTORN: 1861-2010. Directed by Jon Alpert and Ellen Goosenberg Kent;
produced by Jon Alpert, Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Matthew O'Neill;
co-producer, Lori Shinseki; co-producer, archival segments, Caroline
Waterlow; edited by Geof Bartz, A.C.E., Andrew Morreale, and Jay
Sterrenberg; supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; executive produced by
James Gandolfini and Sheila Nevins.