To further appreciate Ken Burns’ The War as the second half of this PBS series unfolds, I recommend the reading of Selected Chaff: the Wartime Columns of Al McIntosh 1941-1945.
McIntosh’s work was a primary and powerful source for Ken Burns’ research into how The War affected the residents and soldiers of Laverne, Minnesota. Quickly reading Selected Chaff will provide profound insight as you view The War, or in the aftermath of the series.
Selected Chaff resurrects the words of a true journalistic legend, a tireless patriot whose chosen weapons were his typewriter, his uncanny ability to transport people with his words, and his unflinching love of community and country. McIntosh’s columns speak to the ebb and flow of one rural county during the most terrible war the world had ever seen.
“In some ways Al McIntosh might be the single greatest archival discovery that we have ever made.
“This man, who had the opportunity to work at other big city newspapers and turned them down — Al McIntosh, a native of North Dakota who found himself in southwestern Minnesota in this tiny town of three thousand folks, writing for the Rock County Star and the Rock County Star Herald on a front page column — just got it.”
— Ken Burns, filmmaker
Throughout our history, small towns have been asked to sacrifice every bit as much as the largest cities in times of need, in times of war. The citizens of Rock County, Minnesota, expected their fair share of suffering and tragedy during World war II and at times, the Rock County Star-Herald’s front page brimmied with headlins and stories of local boys missing or killed overseas, their smiling photos evidence of better times before war cut short their lives.
In a weekly column, More of Less Personal Chaff, McIntosh challenged, cajoled and otherwise spurred locals to do their part, buy war bonds, salvage, save and ration, give voluntarily, and stay personally engaged in the war effort. He raised their spirits with his own tireless examples.
Today, six decades later, McIntosh’s words resonate, helping a new generation understand the costs of war at home and abroad.