New WTTW documentary features Chicago efforts in World War II

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In 1942, Chicago Mayor Ed Kelly, left, meets with U.S. fliers who shot down Japanese plans in an image seen in “A City at War: Chicago.” | PROVIDED PHOTO

In honor of Veterans Day, WTTW-Channel 11 will broadcast the premiere of “A City at War: Chicago,” a new hourlong documentary focusing on the city’s war effort during World War II — as well as the relationship between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Chicago mayor Ed Kelly.

The program will premiere at 8 p.m. Thursday on WTTW-Channel 11 and repeat on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. In addition, it will be offered to other public television stations around the country to be broadcast around Memorial Day 2018, via American Public Television.

After American went to war against the Axis Powers, Roosevelt called on the nation to become “an arsenal of democracy.” A big part of that included producing the military armaments to defeat Germany, Italy and Japan.

The documentary showcases how the Chicago area was turned into an important production center — mobilizing the entire populace into the effort.

“A City at War: Chicago,” created by former WTTW producers John Davies and Brian Kallies, is narrated by Bill Kurtis and utilizes a combination of personal reminiscences, de-classified and vintage propaganda films, and period posters and images.

Highlights include FDR’s 1937 “Quarantine Speech,” delivered in Chicago and warning of the coming conflict, plus footage of the first self-sustaining chain reaction, made possible by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi and his University of Chicago team. That led to the development of the atom bomb.

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