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The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It

The story of conscientious objectors in World War II.

A printer-friendly version of this page 57 minutes
Produced by Judith Ehrlich & Rick Tejada-Flores
Narrated by Ed Asner
Editor: Ken Schneider
Associate Producer: Laurie Coyle
Camera: Vicente Franco
Sound: Nick Bertoni
Original Score: Barney Jones
Produced by Paradigm Productions Inc. in association with the Independent Television Service with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

"Highly recommended. Editor's Choice." Video Librarian
Millions of Americans fought for the liberation of Europe from Hitler's grip during World War II.

Yet 40,000 Americans refused to shoulder weapons in "the good war" because their conscience would not allow them to kill another human being.

In the face of criticism and scorn, the men challenged the limits of democracy in wartime. Many participated in the social movements that transformed America in the generations that followed. This is their story.

Those featured are:

DAVE DELLINGER, a well-known anti-war activist from World War II until his recent death in 2004. He was a member of the Chicago Seven. At the trial Dave and his co-defendants turned the tables on their accusers and put the government on trial.

STEPHEN CARY became commissioner for European Relief for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) after the war. This work resulted in the Nobel Peace Prize for the Quaker group. He later became President of Haverford College. He died in 2002.

BILL SUTHERLAND has lived in Africa for the past five decades. A co-founder of Americans for South African Resistance, The American Committee on Africa, and World Peace Brigades, he has been fostering Pan-African relations for all of his adult life.

CARLOS CORTEZ has been a construction laborer, factory worker, janitor, journalist, salesman, curator, printmaker and poet. He is actively involved in Chicago's Mexican community, and his art work includes homages to Cesar Chavez.

ASA WATKINS worked in a mental hospital and became a reformer of the Virginia mental health system. Watkins was a lifetime activist and artist who taught special education for decades. He died in 2001.

GEORGE HOUSER was a founder of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) with James Farmer and Bayard Rustin during the war. In 1947 he and Rustin organized the first Freedom Ride for integration of interstate buses, the Journey of Reconciliation. Houser served as President of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2002     Copyright Date: 2000
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-325-0     VHS ISBN: 1-56029-920-7

"For its skill in uncovering a long-forgotten history, its effectiveness in tracing continuities from World War II to the sixties, its skill in using history to raise moral questions, this is a superb example of film history."
Organization of American Historians' citation for the Erik Barnouw Film of the Year Award

"Fascinating...It is a story of personal courage, idealism, and nonconformity based on both ethical and religious beliefs--about men whose love of country could not extend to killing their fellow man."
The Objector

"In a time when it's again easy to endorse any military response to the savagery of terrorists, The Good War provides a necessary reminder that pacifists also can be heroic and patriotic."
Christianity Today

"Highly recommended for public, school, and academic libraries."
Library Journal

"This high quality program will be useful in media collections which support courses in contemporary issues and history."
School Library Journal

"A fascinating compelling look at WWII conscientious objectors...Highly Recommended. Editor's Choice."
* * * * Video Librarian

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DVD Features
Includes interviews with 4 Iraq War COs, Daniel Ellsberg, Studs Terkel, James Farmer, Ambassador Max Kampelman, plus poetry by William Stafford read by his son, Kim, and his widow, Dorothy, and a WWII film "The Story of America's Conscientious Objectors." Also included, on the DVD-ROM portion of the disc, are the teacher's guide and National Curriculum Standards correlations.

Teacher's Guide
PBS broadcast web site (The producers' web site)
Study guide

Awards and Festivals
John E. O'Connor Film of the Year Award, American Historical Association
Erik Barnouw Film of the Year Award, Organization of American Historians
Best Documentary, Ojai Film Festival
Special Judges' Award, Moab Film Festival
Honorable Mention, Ann Arbor Film Festival
Honorable Mention, Columbus International Film Festival
Double Take Documentary Film Festival
Vermont International Film Festival
Seattle International Film Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival, Stanford
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
Santa Fe Film Festival
Tahoe International Film Festival
Port Townsend Film Festival
Sonoma Valley Film Festival
Berkeley Arts Film Festival
Solstice Film Festival, Philo, CA
Religion the Cinematic View, Trento, Italy
7 Islands International Film Festival, Mumbai

American Studies
Citizenship and Civics
Conflict Resolution
Human Rights
Social Justice
Social Psychology
War and Peace
World War II

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