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October 14, 2015

Burns' WWII doc upsets Latino veterans

by Adam Finley, posted Apr 10th 2007 2:01PM

ken burnsKen Burns' upcoming PBS documentary about World War II has angered some veterans and leaders in the Latino community.

The protest was sparked by Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, who runs an oral history project about Latino veterans for the University of Texas.

Burns points out that not every story could be told in The War, his 14-hour documentary slated to air on PBS this September, but the documentary contains no interviews with Latino soldiers whatsoever. Unfortunately, going back and splicing in stories from Latino veterans is easier said than done, and satisfying Rivas-Rodriguez's desire to have at least an additional two hours dedicated to Latino veterans is a rather tall order, considering the documentary focuses on four specific communities and Latino veterans from each of those communities would have to be found and their stories spliced in to fit the overall narrative.

It's a sticky situation, to say the least, and an oversight that, according to this article, Burns seems sensitive to. Still, the documentary, which took six years to complete, is by all accounts finished and already being promoted, so it seems unlikely any changes will be made. I can understand Latinos wanting fair representation for the sacrifices they made during the war, but I also imagine it's impossible to tackle a subject as vast as World War II and not have to leave some things out.

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To the first poster, yes, Americans of Mexican descent fought in WWII, as well as in every US military conflict.

To the poster who says that Latinos should make their own documentary about their experiences in the military, I both agree and disagree. On the one hand, we need to set the record straight, but on the other hand, why should our history be segregated?

Mexican-American soldiers fighting WWII were not segregated from anybody else, yet the telling of history should be segregated? That makes no sense. All of it is American history.

If Burns is going to call himself a historian or a documentarian, and use our tax dollars to fund his work, then the information he presents needs to be accurate.

And Burns is not alone. Tom Brokaw's book The Greatest Generation, as well as a book by Mike Wallace on Congressional Medal of Honor winners also omit anybody with a Spanish surname. And these men call themselves journalists. What a joke. I'm glad they have retired.

Several Mexican-Americans have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, thirteen for WWII alone. The awards were presented by FDR and later Truman. There is even a Navy destroyer, the USS Gonzalez, named after a Mexican-American Vietnam vet.

Yet thanks to the media who routinely ignore Latino vetrans every Memorial Day, and in every Hollywood movie, most people think that we haven't fought in any of the country's wars. Look up Guy Gabaldon. Hollywood made a movie about him called Hell to Eternity, but rewrote him as Italian.

The media is trying to erase us from American history, but we are finally putting a stop to it. The Burns documentary is just the beginning.




April 14 2007 at 1:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have a History degree. I have NEVER found a single professor that has anything good to say about Burns.

April 10 2007 at 9:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Instead of complaining about it, they should enlist someone to make a documentary that focuses exclusively on the role of Latinos in WWII. I'm sure that a lot of people aren't familiar with the role they played, including myself who has studied a bit of WWII. It seems to be one of those things that is left out of the history books. Rather than getting angry at Mr. Burns (because yes, a lot of things will be left out in a 14-hour documentary about WWII), they should focus on educating the people.

April 10 2007 at 7:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had no idea mexicans fought in WWII.

April 10 2007 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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