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VPM Presents "The Silent Soldier and the Portrait" for Veterans Day

Silent Soldier and the Portrait

For 75 years, John Waller held tightly to two dark secrets.

The first was surviving one of the worst military naval disasters of World War II:  the sinking of the SS Leopoldville by a German U-Boat on Christmas Eve. More than 800 young men died in the icy waters of the English Channel that night. Those who survived the harrowing experience were charged by the U.S. Military to keep silent. Waller told no one, not even his family.

Waller’s second secret is a souvenir from the war—an antique portrait of a lady. As he and his army buddies, had fought their way across Europe, they blew up a safe in a ransacked French chateau. Each soldier took a share. Waller’s share was the portrait. As the years passed, possessing the small painting began to weigh on Waller’s conscience.

Now 96 years-old, Waller is one of the last living survivors of the SS Leopoldville and he wants to share the story of his survival. He also hopes to right a wrong by returning the stolen portrait to the family to whom it belongs. He embarks on a journey from his home in Virginia Beach across the ocean, once again, to make things right.

The Silent Soldier and the Portrait retraces Waller’s steps through Europe as he relives his experience as a young man serving in WWII. Produced by his daughter (the award-winning documentarian, Garland Waller) and presented by VPM, the documentary is a deeply personal conversation between father and daughter that brings life-affirming closure and the understanding that when life gives you a second chance, you should take it.

In honor of Veterans Day, The Silent Soldier and the Portrait will air on VPM PBS, VPM Plus, and VPM World throughout November, beginning November 5th with broadcasts at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. In addition to local broadcasts, this documentary will be airing at other PBS affiliates across the United States.

For local listings of The Silent Soldier and the Portrait, review the VPM television schedule.

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