Archie Sweeney of Saranac Lake is one of a dozen veterans featured in WWII in HD, a 10-hour series that tells the story of the war using rare, color footage restored in high definition. Chris Knight reports.
"World War II in HD" follows the experiences of Archie Sweeney and 11 other Americans based on the letters they sent home, their memoirs and interviews with their family members.
Larry Miller, a researcher from the History Channel, has been gathering information from Sweeney's relatives since February. He said Archie Sweeney was actually the last one to be included in the series, "The producer called me and said they wanted to add a guy who dies early [in the war]. They were looking for a human interest story in the beginning of the series."
Sweeney was one of eight children raised on a farm in Lawrenceville, outside of Malone. He moved to Saranac Lake when he was a teenager and worked two jobs while attending high school to support his family.
Mary Wheeler, Sweeney's niece, remembers her Uncle Archie well, "He would leave his house on Algonquin Avenue, come to our house and walk us to school every morning, home for lunch, back after lunch and home after school," she said. "He would stay until 10 o'clock at night. We were all very close."
As war spread across Europe in 1940, Archie was drafted into the Army. He was sent to basic training in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Mary Wheeler says, the night he left, "He only wanted my father to take him to the train station. He told my father 'I have a feeling I won't be coming back.'"
Sweeney was killed in action on April 1, 1943 while serving in North Africa in the Army's 9th Infantry Division. He was 25. In his last letter to his father, written between patrols, he wrote, "I think the war may be coming to an end soon. Well, time to turn in. I sure do miss everyone."
Like many other young, small-town men sent into battle half-way around the world, researcher Larry Miller said, Archie Sweeney didn't know much about the war he was sent to fight. But he had a strong sense of duty and he was devoted to his family, "They were really not well schooled in what was going on or the grand strategy of things, but they didn't care," Miller said. "They were fighting for their friends and their fellow soldiers. That's what kept these men going. They were just there doing a job."Archie Sweeney's story is among those featured during the first two episodes of WWII in HD, which are scheduled to air Sunday night. The series is narrated by actor Gary Sinise.