Friday, March 10, 2006

Nagasaki Video Wins Telly Award

UPDATE: The video launch on eDefense Online has been rescheduled to March 29. We're hoping to find a sponsor for it.

UPDATE 2: It's up! We discovered that there was very little liklihood of finding a sponsor for the piece. This response to our enquiries was typical:

I watched the video, and found it was very interesting, and well-done. Even so, I'm not sure that I'd want to attach [XYZ's] name to it. The bombing of Japan--conventional or otherwise--is still a very sensitive topic with our Japanese business partners, and while I personally like the film, I'm afraid that from a business standpoint, it's a non-starter for us.

Fair enough. Well, in any event, the video is up and now you can go see for yourselves. --MP 3/20/06

UPDATE 3: Now that eDefense Online is defunct, I have changed to links to where I have posted the video on my own website.

I am happy to report that my freshman video documentary effort, "Nagasaki: The Commander's Voice," was selected for a Bronze award at the 27th Annual Telly Awards, which is an industry competition for film and video. You will be able to see the half-hour documentary on eDefense Online beginning on March 15. We're going to break it down into chapters so it won't choke people's Internet connections.

Here's the obligatory press release.

In January 2002, I had the privilege of interviewing Maj. Gen. Charles Sweeney, USAF (ret.), commander of the Nagasaki atom bomb mission on August 9, 1945. General Sweeney, who passed away in 2004, was the father-in-law of JED and eDefense publisher Charles Boyd, who arranged what was for me a historic opportunity. JED has a section called "First Person...Singular" where veterans describe their experiences in their own words. My job was to get General Sweeney's recollections from almost 60 years pervious, when he was a 25-year-old major leading one of the most important missions in US history. From the roughly hour-and-a-half of audio tape, I assembled a narrative of the preparations for and conduct of the atomic bomb attacks on Japan that contributed greatly, if not definitively, to the end of the Pacific War. The article was published in JED in March 2002, and I posted it here to open this blog on August 9, 2005.

Some time later, it occurred to me that an audio recording of General Sweeney, the last made before his death, would be of historical interest. At the time, I had been dabbling in home video editing, as many new fathers are wont to do, and had really taken a shine to it. I thought that I might be able to integrate selections of General Sweeney's account with appropriate imagery to produce a short documentary feature on the Nagasaki mission. I contacted Los Alamos National Labs (LANL), and Broadcast Media Specialist John Bass of LANL public affairs provided me with footage of the Nagasaki attack as well as footage of flight tests of the modified Boeing B-29 Superfortresses that would be used on the atomic bomb missions. I also collected digital photographs from the US National Archives, US Air Force, Boeing, and other sources. Since I wasn't able to get out to the US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, to film "Bock's Car," the B-29 that flew the Nagasaki mission, I used the opportunity of a trip to Washington, DC, to shoot some video at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Annex of the "Enola Gay," which flew the Hiroshima mission.

The sound track bears mentioning, particularly the choral pieces "Coventry Carol" and "Agnus Dei" performed by the Santa Barbara Quire of Voices. I have to admit that I became acquainted with the Quire while playing the computer space strategy game "Homeworld," published by Sierra Entertainment in 1999. One of the game's chapters featured the survivors a world-destroying attack coming to grips with their plight, and the background score was the sad/beautiful "Agnus Dei," which is a choral arrangement of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings." I could think of no better piece of music for the coda of my documentary, and Nathan J. Kreitzer, founder and artistic director of the Santa Barbara Quire of Voyces, graciously gave me permission to use the piece, as well as "Coventry Carol." The latter is a beautiful work in its own right, a mournful lullaby about the slaughter of the innocents by Herod, and in my mind it evoked the bombing of that English city by the German Luftwaffe in November 1940, the first time a city was devastated by incendiaries.

Both "Agnus Dei" and "Coventry Carol" are from the album "Illuminations." You can buy the album here, as well as read the liner notes. You can find out more about the Santa Barbara Quire of Voices here.

I had wanted to have the documentary finished for the 60th anniversary of the Nagasaki mission, but alas, the learning curve was steeper than I had imagined. I finally took a rough cut of my film down to my public-access TV station in Franklin, MA, which aired it throughout the month of November 2005. Steve Russo, the station's coordinator, suggested I submit the work for the 27th Telly Awards. Thanks, Steve!

For more information on the Nagasaki mission and the situation at the time, I recommend the following sources:


Manhattan Project Heritage Preservation Association, Inc. (MPHPA)

The 509th Composite Group


War's End
Maj. Gen. Charles W. Sweeney, USAF (ret.), with James A. Antonucci and Marion K. Antonucci
Avon Books, 1997

Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire
Richard Frank
Random House, 1999


At 1:57 PM, Blogger Eric Blair said...

Good work.

People need to be reminded from time to time. I'm glad you got Gen. Sweeney's rememerances on tape.

Thanks for making this available.

At 2:13 PM, Blogger Michael Puttre said...

Thanks, Eric. It was my good fortune to have the opportunity to meet General Sweeney and to discuss the Nagasaki mission at length. I learned a lot both about the specifics of the mission, and about the attitudes of the men who flew it. It's amazing how much responsibility and trust are invessted in people so young.


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