Project Overview



Program Overview

It’s clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission of defending the nation. Everyone is committed to doing the job, men and women alike. They’re fighting and they’re dying together. And the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality.

Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta
January 24, 2013

Every woman that has ever served in the American military has volunteered to do so.

Today more women serve in the armed forces of the United States than at any other time in our nations history, in ways never before possible.

This courageous heritage can be traced back to the Revolution where women donned men’s clothes and took up arms against the British. And though none had the right to vote, hundreds of women participated in the Civil War as nurses, spies and soldiers. Of the 33,000 women who served their country during the Great War, some 300 lost their lives. More than 700,000 women defended America in WW II, Korea and Vietnam. As of 2014, over 150 female patriots have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The service of these women has been heroic, their sacrifices profound and their enormous accomplishments largely ignored.

Unsung Heroes: The Story of America’s Female Patriots finally, and for the first time, sets the record straight.

This 2 hour, 2-part documentary is executive produced by Academy Award winning filmmaker Ron Howard and written and directed by Sundance, Emmy and Image Award winning filmmaker Frank Martin, creator of the acclaimed public television special For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots.

At the heart of Unsung Heroes are the powerful first-hand accounts of women who have lived the story. They include Admiral Michelle Howard and General Ann Dunwoody, the two highest ranking women in the history of the American military, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester who is the first woman to earn the Silver Star for heroism in combat, Mildred Manning who is the last surviving female POW from WWII, the first female Thunderbird pilot, Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski, Captain Beverly Kelly who is the first woman to command an American warship, Deanie Parish who is one of the last surviving WWII era WASP pilots, and Wounded Warrior and recently elected member of Congress, Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth. Others in the film include Steve Ellis whose daughter was killed in Afghanistan, Sgt. Latianna Wilson who was a victim of sexual assault and suicide survivor, and Vietnam era nurse, 1st Lt. Marsha Four who still suffers the effects of PTSD.

These are stories of perseverance and triumph that reveal the unheralded achievements of this valiant legion of female patriots. The special also calls attention to the unique challenges faced by today’s women veterans, such as sexual assault, homelessness and the loss of children.

Rare photographs, archival materials and personal memorabilia illustrate this eclectic mix of on-camera interviews. The program is formatted thematically and the segments include Heroes, Called to Duty, Healers, In The Line of Fire, Freedom Is Not Free, Flyers, Leadership, POW’s, Killed in Action and Against all Odds.

Unsung Heroes: The Story of America’s Female Patriots is an inspirational saga of unrecognized courage and sacrifice that touches every community in the nation. These are women, who despite the hardships of military service are proud of their long-standing commitment to the patriotic ideals of the United States. It is a story of all guts and no glory and it’s theme, the price of liberty, is relevant to all Americans.

Episodic Overview

Part I

Margaret Corbin sheds her blood fighting in the Revolution. Years later, in Afghanistan, Leigh Ann Hester becomes the first woman to receive the Silver Star for combat heroism. Nurses have been in harm’s way since the Civil War and during WW I thousands of women volunteer for service as Navy Yeomanettes and Army Signal Corp “Hello Girls.” In a world where front lines no longer exist, America’s female patriots confront the horrors of war as never before and more suffer the effects of combat stress than at any time in the Nation’s history.

Part 2

Women take to the skies in combat aircraft and change the rules of flight. On the high seas, a female Admiral charts the capture of ruthless pirates, while on land, America’s first female 4-star general guides the military’s transition from Iraq to Afghanistan. In the jungles of the Philippines and in the deserts of the Middle East women are held as Prisoners of War. Freedom is not free and America’s female patriots also pay the price, as they shatter the brass ceiling one valiant deed at a time.