Faculty member, Retro Report release short doc about secret operation

August 29, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A Penn State assistant professor and New York-based Retro Report produced a documentary short about a 1948 secret, illegal operation to save newborn Israel.

The documentary, “Israel Survived an Early Challenge With War Planes Smuggled by U.S. Vets,” is published on Apple News, as well as RetroReport.org.

Boaz Dvir, an award-winning filmmaker who teaches journalism at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, directed and produced an hourlong PBS documentary on the clandestine 1948 operation. That film, "A Wing and a Prayer," which won Best Documentary at the 2016 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, now streams on such sites as Google Play and Amazon Prime.

The collaboration with Retro Report features interviews with some of the operation members, including their leader, Al Schwimmer. They paint a vivid picture of a band of brothers — mostly Americans, Jews and non-Jews — who played a major role in the late-1940s reshaping of the Middle East.

In the months after the United Nations voted to split Palestine between the Arabs and the Jews in 1947, Schwimmer persuaded his men to risk their lives to help create a haven for Holocaust survivors by smuggling weapons and military planes into the new Jewish state.

Retro Report, which “arms the public with a more complete picture of today’s most important stories,” has partnered with numerous outlets, including the Guardian, NBC, The New York Times, the New Yorker, PBS, Politico, Quartz and Univision.

In 2017, Dvir and Retro Report produced a New York Times documentary short about America increasingly using special forces to fight global terrorism. In “How Special Ops Became Central to the War On Terror” they explored how several historical acts of counterterrorism influence the Trump administration’s approach. 

The Retro Report team that co-produced “Israel Survived an Early Challenge” included executive producer Kyra Darnton, senior producer Karen Sughrue, columnist Clyde Haberman, former producer Barbara Dury, associate producer Victor Couto, fact checker Joseph Hogan, and engagement editor Sianne Garlick. Couto narrated the documentary. Haberman, who also writes for The New York Times, penned an accompanying essay.

“It was wonderful teaming with Kyra, Karen and their amazing colleagues on ‘Israel Survived an Early Challenge,’” said Dvir, director of "Jessie’s Dad" and "Discovering Gloria." “They challenged me to tell this complex story in a way that’s engaging to a wide audience yet also retains its accuracy and authenticity.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 29, 2019