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Shrapnel Down
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Shrapnel Down: My Korean War Story
Korean War veteran, Bill Rector, who served as a Gunner’s Mate on the USS Los Angeles brings his story to public television audiences using the 8mm war footage he recorded, which has been unseen by the public. Chapters covered in the documentary include the Blockade of Wonsan, the longest blockade in modern naval history, and the Court of Neptune ritual.

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Bill Rector in uniform in front of a Navy vehicle
Bill Rector
Bill Rector in uniform

Shrapnel Down highlights public media’s role as a local storyteller,” says WSIU Public Broadcasting Executive Director Dr. Fred Martino.

“There are so many impactful stories WSIU proudly shares, and those of our brave U.S. veterans certainly deserve special attention,” says film producer/director Mark St. George. “In Shrapnel Down, I hope viewers will discover a personal story that lurks behind the great veil of war; of the humanity that was ever-present beyond the shots fired. Shrapnel Down is a documentary about war - true - but told through the camera lens of one extraordinary sailor who shares his story, documenting his experiences of war, friendship, and loss,” he adds.

“We strive to document local experiences to provide greater context and a rich understanding of the history we think we know. We’re honored to document Bill Rector’s harrowing story and proud to share it with viewers nationwide."
WSIU Executive Director, Dr. Fred Martino
"The documentary features original, 8mm war footage that has, until now, been locked away. Shrapnel Down breaks the seal on this time capsule and we’re happy to share it with viewers."
Film producer/Director Mark St. George

The film Shrapnel Down follows the 1952 journey of Gunner's Mate Bill Rector who served on the USS Los Angeles Heavy Battle Cruiser 135 during the height of the Korean War. Using an 8mm camera, Rector documented his war experiences, capturing this never-before-seen footage. The film includes an in-depth interview with Rector where he recounts key moments such as the battles during the Blockade of Wonsan, the longest battle in modern naval history, and the Court of Neptune ritual. Shrapnel Down - My Korean War Story highlights this never-before-seen war footage and offers a revealing glimpse into the story of one American war veteran, as seen through the lens of his camera.

Portrait photo of Bill Rector
Provided by Bill Rector
Portrait of Bill Rector, circa 1953

“The film is a time capsule that we are opening with viewers for the very first time,” says St. George. “The documentary features original, 8mm war footage that has, until now, been locked away. Shrapnel Down breaks the seal on this time capsule and we’re happy to share it with viewers,” he adds.

The film was made with support from the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum and the Grout Museum of History and Science in Waterloo, IA and is sponsored nationwide by Carbondale Tourism and NOTS Logistics. The film is sponsored locally by SIU University Communications, SIU Veterans Services and SIU Extended Campus Vets. Composer Joseph R. Maddock provided the original, feature-length score which is available to stream for free at Soundcloud. The film is a follow-up documentary to the APT distributed A Bad Deal - My Vietnam War Story, also directed by St. George. Learn more about A Bad Deal online at wsiu.org/a-bad-deal or stream the documentary online at pbs.org or via the PBS Video App.

“Each community we serve is full of unique people with unique experiences,” says Martino. “Sharing this history through a film like Shrapnel Down not only contributes to the larger story of the Korean War, but also speaks to how conflicts impact us at the local level,” he adds.

A Bad Deal - My Vietnam War Story and Shrapnel Down - My Korean War Story are examples of what public media does best – local storytelling. Not only do the films serve as a vehicle for US war veterans to share their stories, but they also provide an opportunity for historical preservation.

“In producing this documentary, WSIU digitally and historically preserved irreplaceable, national treasures. After gaining access to all six reels of Bill Rector's 8mm Korean War footage, WSIU began a process of careful digitization,” says St. George. “By this time, the 70-year-old 8mm war footage had already begun deteriorating. The film was converted into full-quality, digital videos that were created by the very same frame-by-frame process used by the Academy of Motion Pictures. UV LED backlight was used to keep the film cool and safe during the entire digitization process. WSIU now serves as a curator for nearly 2 hours of this historic Korean War footage,” he adds.


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