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Huron man recounts WWII land grab

Andy Ouriel • May 9, 2014 at 8:53 AM

A Huron man has captured the difficult transition dozens of Erie County families made in the early 1940s when federal officials forced them off their land.

Bill Lucht’s documentary “LAND of the Free? Home of the BRAVE!” spotlights people whose ancestors once lived on private land where the NASA Plum Brook Station is situated today.

Lucht — who produced, directed, narrated and interviewed about 30 people for the documentary — gauged how descendants felt about the War Department displacing people from their farms and homes to build a factory producing TNT and other explosives in preparing for World War II.

The documentary, which took almost four years to make, examines a period between December 1940 to March 1941.

In total, the federal government took over land belonging to about 150 people and a couple of businesses after compensatingproperty owners. Many of these people moved from Connecticut as a result of their New Englandbased homes being destroyed by British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War in the late 1700s.

The inspiration for Lucht’s 57-minute retrospective project derives from attending services at St. John Lutheran Church on Milan and Scheid roads.

“I started talking to people, parents and grandparents, whose families were displaced, and it got me to think that there is asignificant group of people here that never had a chance to tell their stories” Lucht said. “I wanted to provide a voice to these people that we interviewed to show how people who are no longer with us to try and understand how this impacted their lives and their families’ lives”

Lucht also used family records, pictures, journals, letters, maps, past newspaper articles and other materials to fully encapsulate all the information available.

He credits NASA officials for letting him come on the grounds to shoot footage. When the war ended in 1945, federal officials basically abandoned the factory, called Plum Brook Ordnance Works, until about 10 years later, when NASA moved in and created a station for testing space equipment.

Lucht has produced a couple of documentaries in the past. He obtained a master’s degree in radio, TV and film from The Ohio State University and worked in video production with the CBS affiliate in Columbus from 1959 to 1963.

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