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Arts & Culture

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Boys Of '36

The 1936 University of Washington’s varsity crew team. Left to right standing: Don Hume, Stroke; Joe Rantz, 7; George Hunt, 6; Jim McMillin, 5; John White, 4; Gordon Adams, 3; Charles Day, 2; and Roger Morris, 1. Kneeling: Bob Moch, Coxwain.
Courtesy of University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW37304
The 1936 University of Washington’s varsity crew team. Left to right standing: Don Hume, Stroke; Joe Rantz, 7; George Hunt, 6; Jim McMillin, 5; John White, 4; Gordon Adams, 3; Charles Day, 2; and Roger Morris, 1. Kneeling: Bob Moch, Coxwain.

Airs Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, March 22 at 8 p.m. on KPBS 2

Explore the thrilling story of the American rowing team that triumphed at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.

Inspired by Daniel James Brown’s critically acclaimed nonfiction book, “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “The Boys of ’36” is the thrilling story of the American Olympic rowing team that triumphed against all odds in Nazi Germany.

It explores how nine working-class young men from the University of Washington took the rowing world and the nation by storm when they captured the gold medal at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.

These sons of loggers, shipyard workers and farmers overcame tremendous hardships — psychological, physical and economic — to beat not only the Ivy League teams of the East Coast but Adolf Hitler’s elite German rowers.

The University of Washington's varsity crew team at the Poughkeepsie Regatta Races in June 1936. From right to left: Bob Moch, Coxwain; Don Hume, Stroke; Joe Rantz, 7; George Hunt, 6; Jim McMillin, 5; John White, 4; Gordon Adams, 3; Charles Day, 2; and Roger Morris, 1.
Courtesy of University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW37304
The University of Washington's varsity crew team at the Poughkeepsie Regatta Races in June 1936. From right to left: Bob Moch, Coxwain; Don Hume, Stroke; Joe Rantz, 7; George Hunt, 6; Jim McMillin, 5; John White, 4; Gordon Adams, 3; Charles Day, 2; and Roger Morris, 1.

Their unexpected victory, and the obstacles they overcame to achieve it, gave hope to a nation struggling to emerge from the depths of the Depression.

Featuring interviews with author Daniel James Brown, historians and surviving children of the 1936 Washington team, “The Boys Of ’36” premiered in conjunction with the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the 80th anniversary of the miracle crew’s triumph.

The University of Washington's varsity crew team at the Poughkeepsie Regatta Races in June 1936. From left to right: Bob Moch, Coxwain; Don Hume, Stroke; Joe Rantz, 7; George Hunt, 6; Jim McMillin, 5; John White, 4; Gordon Adams, 3; Charles Day, 2; and Roger Morris, 1.
Courtesy of © Corbis
The University of Washington's varsity crew team at the Poughkeepsie Regatta Races in June 1936. From left to right: Bob Moch, Coxwain; Don Hume, Stroke; Joe Rantz, 7; George Hunt, 6; Jim McMillin, 5; John White, 4; Gordon Adams, 3; Charles Day, 2; and Roger Morris, 1.

Related Articles

"Racing Shells" - Rowing, commonly known as crew, has been a part of American sport since the early 19th century.

"Lucy Pocock and Women's Rowing" - Lucy Pocock was a masterful oarswoman who once rowed so hard to win a race that she fainted when she crossed the finish line. Here, her granddaughter shares Lucy's story.

"The Perfect Eight" - Rowing is a sport where no individuals are crowned the MVP. See the seat assignments of the eight boys who won gold in 1936.

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Olympian Profile: Caryn Davies

"Caryn Davies is the most decorated female rower in U.S. history. Now she's retired and is trying to adjust to "real life.""

Olympian Profile: Bryan Volpenhein

Olympian Bryan Volpenhein won gold in the Men's eight in 2004. Now he's preparing the U.S. Men's four for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

CREDITS:

Executive produced by Mark Samels and produced by Margaret Grossi and Mary Carillo. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is a production of WGBH Boston.