PBS NewsHour Features Hank Andersen’s WWII Christmas Story

Hank Andersen, Omaha Beach, France, Photo by Jessica Maxwell-Andersen

In a special report, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/religion/july-dec11/christmas_12-23.html on Dec 24, 2011, the PBS NewsHour featured Jessica’s 87-year-old father-in-law, Hank Andersen, star of the “The Christmas Soldier” chapter in  Roll Around Heaven.  Footage from a special interview with Hank is interspersed with compelling commentary by Jessica’s brother-in-law, Tim Hart-Andersen, minister at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis.  The NewsHour report is built around Tim’s  play based on his father’s 1944 Christmas Eve experience (Tom and Jessica are in the audience — you can spot Jessica, lower right, in the bright green sweater!)  In the middle of the night, the troop ship, the Leopoldville, that was carrying Hank and some 2,000 other soldiers across the English Channel, was torpedoed by a German U-boat.  Hank and some 150 others survived because he had just led them above decks to sing Christmas carols minutes before the torpedo hit.  The power-punch in “The Christmas Soldier” chapter, Tim’s Play, and the NewsHour report is the presence of Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist, Gail Rosenblum, whose father also survived the sinking of the Leopoldville.  “I’m a Jewish girl who has always loved Christmas carols,” she says.  “When I heard the story of Hank, I felt like I now understood why I love them.  They saved my father’s life.”  “The human spirit,” sums up Tim, “can sing its way through anything.”     Happy New Year !  

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