Civil War doctors called it hysteria, melancholia and insanity. During the First World War it was known as shell-shock. By World War II, it became combat fatigue. Today, it is clinically known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a crippling anxiety that results from exposure to life-threatening situations such as combat.
With suicide rates among active military servicemen and veterans currently on the rise, the HBO special WARTORN 1861-2010 brings urgent attention to the invisible wounds of war. Drawing on personal stories of American soldiers whose lives and psyches were torn asunder by the horrors of battle and PTSD, the documentary chronicles the lingering effects of combat stress and post-traumatic stress on military personnel and their families throughout American history, from the Civil War through today’s conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Executive produced by James Gandolfini (HBO’s “Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq”), WARTORN 1861-2010 is directed by Jon Alpert and Ellen Goosenberg Kent and produced by Alpert, Goosenberg Kent and Matthew O’Neill, the award-winning producers behind the HBO documentary “Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.” Alpert and O’Neill also produced and directed the HBO documentaries “Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery” and the Emmy®-winning “Baghdad ER.” The documentary is co-produced by Lori Shinseki.
The documentary shares stories through soldiers’ revealing letters and journals; photographs and combat footage; first-person interviews with veterans of WWII (who are speaking about their PTSD for the first time), the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom; and interviews with family members of soldiers with PTSD. Also included are insightful conversations between Gandolfini and top U.S. military personnel (General Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, and General Peter Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army), enlisted men in Iraq, and medical experts working at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Gen. Chiarelli, who is working to reduce the rising suicide rate in the Army comments, “You’re fighting a culture that doesn’t believe that injuries you can’t see can be as serious as injuries that you can see.”
Bookended by haunting montages of emotionally battered American soldiers through the years, WARTORN 1861-2010 explores the very real wounds that occur as a result of combat stress, or PTSD.
HBO Documentary Films in association with Attaboy Films presents WARTORN 1861-2010. Directed by Jon Alpert and Ellen Goosenberg Kent; produced by Jon Alpert, Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Matthew O’Neill; co-producer, Lori Shinseki; co-producer, archival segments, Caroline Waterlow; edited by Geof Bartz, A.C.E., Andrew Morreale, and Jay Sterrenberg; supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; executive produced by James Gandolfini and Sheila Nevins.