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Newburyport in WWII: A Documentary by Jean Foley Doyle

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October 06, 2017
Newburyport in WWII: A Documentary by Jean Foley Doyle

Newburyport, MA – October 3, 2017: As the number of living WWII veterans dwindles, Jean Foley Doyle has made it her mission to ensure their stories are not forgotten.  The author and historian’s latest documentary examines WWII history as experienced by Newburyporters, both on the battlefield and the home front.  Written by Doyle and produced by Caterina Masia of Port Media, the program centers on a collection of oral history interviews with local people.  Talented local singers lend their voices to the production and provide some of the background music, recorded live at Port Media.   
The Museum of Old Newbury is sponsoring the premiere screening of “Newburyport in World War II,” scheduled for Wednesday, October 18.  The film will be shown at the Newburyport Senior Community Center, located at 331 High Street, beginning at 7:00pm with a reception following.  Doors will open at 6:15, and seating will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Arrive early to ensure admission.
The documentary’s origins date back to 1995, when Doyle, then a teacher at Newburyport High School, organized an oral history project through which dozens of local veterans were interviewed about their wartime experiences.  These interviews serve as the basis for the new film, which features the stories of twenty Newburyport soldiers, along with accounts from the city’s home front. 
In the film, these first-hand accounts are brought to life by contemporary voices, but the stories remain unchanged.  The soldiers’ own words offer raw and intimate perspectives on experiences at Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and Iwo Jima. 
The program also shows how music and movies played a part in keeping morale up, both on the front lines and the home front.  As in cities around the country, Newburyporters rallied together during difficult times to further the war effort and support one another.
After the war, many soldiers returned to Newburyport to take part in city affairs.  Some were involved in politics, such as Ed Molin.  Others, like Donald Zabriskie, Leonard Knox, and Norman Doyle, were involved in the school system, and some, like Michael Twomey, were in the Police Department. 
Three of Doyle’s interviewees remain today: Jeremiah Doyle III, William Plante, and Percy Purington.  All three live in the Newburyport area and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Through her film, Doyle has striven to honor those who served and survived, and those who never came home.  She notes that “it is estimated that 40 million people died worldwide in World War II.  The mind cannot comprehend such a figure, or a cataclysm of such dimensions.  The mind and the heart are, however, capable of understanding forty-three, the number of Newburyporters lost in the war.  They died a long way from the North End and the South End, from Three Roads and Joppa, from March’s Hill and Break O’Day Hill, from Chain Bridge and Bummer’s Rock, from Mt. Rural and Old Town Hill – a terrible distance from home.”
Jean Doyle is a lifelong Newburyport resident and respected local historian.  After raising seven children, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, and taught at Newburyport High School for nearly thirty years.  In 2007 and 2010, she authored a two-volume 20th century history of Newburyport.  “Newburyport in WWII” is her third local history film, following the highly successful “Girls of Joppa” documentary in 2016 and “Newburyport’s Irish Community” in 2017.
For more information about the October 18 program, contact the Museum of Old Newbury at 978-462-2681 or visit

Interviewees Included:
Herbert Bean
Hazen Boyd
Margaret Cary
Constant Christuk
Vin Clancy
William Dickie
Jean Doyle
Jeremiah William Doyle III
Joseph Doyle
Norman Doyle
George Duffy
Robert Fuller
Zar Garfi
John Kalkow
Judith Packer Kennedy
Leonard Knox
Milton MacFarlane
Henry Martin
Marty Martin
Edward Molin
Natalie Canepa Morris
Gene Palumbo
William Plante
Percy Purington
Harold Reader
Frank Shepardson
Mike Twomey
Donald Zabriskie
James Zafris

1995 Student Participants:
Melissa Boulay
Samantha Castro
Devan Chase
Karen Chase
Elizabeth Cheverie
Angela Ciprari
Gaylen Cragin
Shayna Douby
Erin Foley
Hannah Gold
Valerie Goodspeed
Nicki Grossi
Mark Hathaway
Sarah Herzig
Alicia Hussey
Joe Manning
Nate Meloon
Maria Mensching
Kristin Mercer
Caitlin Moody
Meredith Mulcahy
Katie O’Brien
Matthew Olney
Emily Sarkissian
Nate Suda
Ben Swilling
Luke Teel
Scott Wolkowich
Caitlin Zabriskie
Kerry Zabriskie

Assistant Director
Museum of Old Newbury
98 High Street
Newburyport, MA 01950