An Interview with the Producer
Joe Prokop has worked in KUED Media Solutions for 6 years.
A native of Connecticut, Prokop settled in Utah for the powdery
snow-skiing and red-rock desert and has since become fascinated
with local history. "The Spirit of Fort Douglas" is
his first documentary. Click
here for more.
Q. Why is Fort Douglas the subject
of your first documentary?
A. The history of Fort Douglas is not just the story of
a place near the University of Utah, nor the simple tale of an
abandoned fort. Fort Douglas is stationed at the crossroads of
several major historical events-the federal surveillance of early
Mormon pioneers; the joining of the transcontinental railroad;
the internment of aliens during WWI and WWII; and the lodging
of Olympic athletes from around the world. The Fort has always
had a way of redefining itself and adapting to the modern world.
It's a historic landmark that has remained vital to the community
and to the country.
Q. Why should viewers care about
A. The history and development of Fort Douglas mirrors
that of the nation. When it comes to Native American issues, military
training and war internment, the fort's past plays an integral
role in understanding U.S. history. Few people know that it was
a training ground for African-American soldiers leaving for the
Spanish-American War. Additionally, it served as the central base
of operations for soldiers leaving to fight in the most significant
battles with Native Americans. Prisoners of war and aliens from
Germany, Italy, Japan and other countries that inspired xenophobic
response after WWI were interred there at different times during
the two World Wars.
Q. What about soldiers who fought
in World Wars?
A. After WWI, the fort was garrisoned with the 38th infantry,
an outfit whose efforts to stop the Germans at the Second battle
of the Marne became the turning point in the war. It was quite
an honor to have such a celebrated regiment stationed at the fort.
During WWII the fort became an important base of operations-and
an induction center for the western U.S.-as the military installations
were moved inland from the coast. Thousands of men passed through
the fort as they went off to fight in that war, many of whom are
buried in the Fort Douglas Cemetery.
Q. How is the fort relevant today?
A. Thanks to renovation and reconstruction, Heritage Commons
at Fort Douglas is now home to diverse students from around the
world who come to study at the University of Utah. And, of course,
the fort is playing host to the international athletes gathering
for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. A portion of the Fort still
operates as a recruitment center for all branches of the military.
Q. What do you hope viewers will
take away from this film?
A. I hope viewers have an "a-ha" moment, when
they learn something interesting they didn't know before. This
collection of buildings has a rich past and a bright future. While
the events that have unfolded at Fort Douglas over the last century
live on in the hearts of veterans, I hope my film will bring these
details to light for generations to come. With the renovations
and recent changes in ownership, new life has been breathed into
the fort. My film is a reminder of the rich and colorful stories
that comprise its foundation.