Veterans Day: Reflections on Service

The Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Andy Rooney, Sid Caesar, Hugh O'Brian, Sonny Fox, Chuck Jones, Del Reisman, Delbert Mann, Pat Sajak, and Steve Kroft share stories of their military service


Since 1997, the Television Academy Foundation’s The Interviews: An Oral History of Television (formerly the Archive of American Television) has been conducting in-depth, videotaped oral history interviews with television professionals, including actors, writers, editors, and journalists. These interviews explore the lives and careers of the interviewees, and often touch on important historical moments and movements.

Gathered here are stories from interviewees reflecting on their military service.

Writer/Producer/Commentator Andy Rooney shares his experiences writing for “Stars and Stripes” while serving in World War II. He covered the Eighth Air Force and he describes the experience of the men as they went from flying dangerous missions to taking leave in London:

“They got back, they were relieved, they were joyous, they had good food, they could go into London, usually find a girl to spend some time with. So, they lived a relatively civilized life, and in a way, it made it more difficult for them, because they never got inured to this battle condition. They broke away and lived a normal life for a day or two and then they had to go do it again. Whereas the, the GIs were out there, day after day, slogging away and there was no relief for them but neither was there this emotional high and low.”

Watch Andy Rooney's full interview to hear the stories behind his legendary career.

Performer Sid Caesar shares his experiences being in a band during his service in World War II. The band and the dances where they played boosted troop morale:

"It picked up the base, one, two, three, because all the guys were washing and cleaning, taking care of themselves, shaving. And nobody had to get a demerit because if you got a demerit, no dance.”

Watch Sid Caesar's full interview to hear the stories behind his legendary career.

Actor Hugh O’Brian describes serving in the Marine Corps during World War II, including how he joined up in the first place:

"I tried to enlist when I was sixteen but you had to have your parents' permission; my dad wouldn't sign the papers. When I was seventeen he couldn't stop me, so I enlisted and then spent four years in the Marine Corps.”

Watch Hugh O'Brian's full interview where he discusses his most famous role on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and more.

Host/Executive Sonny Fox describes being held as a POW in Germany during World War II. It was a harrowing, life-changing experience, which he survived, though he notes:

"I came home, but I came home changed. I had left a skinny, uncertain kid from Brooklyn. And I came home a much different person.”

Watch Sonny Fox's full interview, which chronicles his career from Candid Camera to his time as Vice President of Children’s Programming at NBC.

Animator Chuck Jones tells the story of animating training films during World War II with Dr. Seuss, and why animation was a good medium for the cause:

"Here was the problem they had: if you took live action and you had a bunch of soldiers trying to act, they couldn't act, and they were unbelievable. If you took an actor and put him in and pretended like he was a soldier, the soldier audience knew they weren't soldiers, and and they didn't trust the film.”

Watch Chuck Jones' full interview, where he tells the stories behind his legendary career, including creating the Looney Tunes characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and more.

Writer/Associate Producer Del Reisman describes his service as a bombardier during World War II:

"We started out, the tour was twenty-five missions and when I was flying my tenth or twelfth or something I came back and I was told, well the tour has been extended so you're going to fly thirty-five missions. I was not cheering about that, 'cause they were rough. But I found out later what the problem was: we were losing people, so they wanted to keep people a longer period of time.”

Watch Del Reisman's full interview, which spans his career from classic anthology series to Little House on the Prairie.

Director Delbert Mann shares the story of an experience in World War II that altered the course of his life. It started with a conversation between him and a fellow airman:

"We got to talking about what do you want to do after the war is over, if we survive this war. And he said, 'I think I'd like to be a poet.' I said, 'I think that's fascinating.' He said, 'What do you want to do?' And I said, 'Well I don't know. I like theater best. I really would like to do that. But I just don't know whether I can.’”

Watch Delbert Mann's full interview to hear stories of his career in theater, the early days of "live" television, and more.

Host Pat Sajak describes his experience serving in the Armed Forces Radio Station in Vietnam:

"The signature of that show is you would yell, as Robin Williams apparently did in the movie, 'Good Morning, Vietnam!' every morning. So, at 6 AM that's what I did for about a year and a half.”

Watch Pat Sajak's full interview to hear stories of Wheel of Fortune and more.

Journalist Steve Kroft tells the story of being drafted into the Vietnam War and how his experiences reporting on the war shaped his career:

"I feel much the same way that Andy Rooney felt about his experience at 'Stars and Stripes' during the war. It was a horrible situation. You saw people killed. I lost a number of friends. But I was doing what I loved and covering really exciting things and being in the middle of the action.”

Watch Steve Kroft’s full interview, where he discusses his career from his early days in local news to his 60 Minutes interviews with world leaders.

Credits: Story

The Television Academy Foundation's The Interviews: An Oral History of Television

Jenni Matz, Director
Adrienne Faillace, Producer
Jenna Hymes, Manager & Exhibit curator
Nora Bates, Production Coordinator
John Dalton, Cataloguer

Video editing by the Pop Culture Passionistas, sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington, who have made a career based on their love of pop culture.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google