Film commemorates World War II prisoners of war

By Heather Cachola, @HCachola_DE

Though 70 years have passed since the end of World War II, the remnants of those six years live on in history. 

People have the opportunity to view first-hand accounts of World War II through Never The Same: The Prisoner of War Experience. 

Created by three-time Emmy winner Jan Thompson, a professor in the radio, television and digital media department, the documentary focuses on the lives of American prisoners of Imperial Japan during World War II. 

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The film premieres at 7 p.m. on Sept. 14 in the Student Center Auditorium.

Thompson was inspired to create this film by her father, a prisoner of war held by the Japanese. 

“My inspiration was my dad, he was a prisoner of war and he wouldn’t talk about it,” Thompson said. “This is very common with a lot of veterans. They don’t have to be a POW. Being a POW causes a different trauma, a different type of war, so my dad wouldn’t discuss it, or talk about it. But I was curious.”

Of the 27,000 Americans taken prisoner by the Japanese, approximately 40 percent died in captivity, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service. 

As Thompson aged, she accompanied her father to prisoner of war reunions. During these visits, she asked other men about their experiences.

“I wasn’t their kid. And I think my dad wouldn’t talk to me because fathers try to protect their children from the horrors of war,” Thompson said. 

She interviewed more than 60 men, and about 25 of them are in the film, including her father who is on camera twice. 

This 22-year-long project was self-financed by Thompson. One of the challenges she faced while working on the film was finding money to pay for it; She received one grant in that time for $5,000.

“I would call this my opus, this is my child,” she said.

Thompson has spent more than $250,000 out-of-pocket to make this project successful.

“If you are a kid of a POW, you don’t give up,” she said. “If the POW gave up, they died.”

This film features the voice talents of Alec Baldwin, with narration by two-time Emmy winning actress, Loretta Swit — who plans to attend the premier — in addition to 12 other stars. 

The film includes more than 140 original drawings and cartoons created by POWs, describing traps for catching animals for food, to recipes and cookbooks.

The event is sponsored by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and is free to the public.

“This is a way to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II,” David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said in an email. “It’s also a way for the institute to honor all our veterans.” 

Heather Cachola can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @HCachola_DE

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