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Oliver Stone on the Untold U.S. History from the Atomic Age to Vietnam to Obama’s Drone Wars

In a new series, Stone explores the disconnect in U.S. history between what's officially reported and what actually happened.

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PETER KUZNICK: What most Americans don’t know about the war—most Americans think that the United States won the war. But the reality is that through most of the war, the American and British combined were fighting 10 German divisions; the Russians alone were fighting 200 German divisions. That’s why Churchill says it was the Russians who tore the guts out of the Nazi army.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to another clip from your series, The Untold History of the United States. This one is about Henry Wallace, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vice president and agriculture and commerce secretary. It suggests that the Midwestern statesman would have put America on a radically different trajectory had his path to the presidency not been blocked by the Democratic Party leaders in 1944.

OLIVER STONE: Seeing the war clouds gathering clearly on the horizon, Roosevelt decided to break with precedent and run for a third term in 1940 against the strongly antiwar Republican candidate Wendell Willkie, a corporate attorney from Indiana. The stakes were high. The nation might soon be at war. Roosevelt weighed his options and chose his controversial secretary of agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, as his running mate. Wallace had overseen an extraordinary return to agricultural prosperity during the Great Depression. These policies had been at the heart of the New Deal. For the urban poor, Wallace also had provided food stamps and school lunches. He instituted programs for land-use planning and soil conservation. He carved out his credentials in the New Deal years as an outspoken anti-fascist. Instead of the scientific community’s best ally, Wallace spoke out strongly against the building up of false racial theories in rebuke of the Hitler policies in Germany.

HENRY WALLACE: "George Carver, born into slavery, now a chemist at Tuskegee University specializing in botany, first introduced me to the mysteries of plant fertilization. I spent a good many years breeding corn, because this scientist deepened my appreciation of plants in a way I could never forget. Superior ability is not the exclusive possession of any one race or any one class, provided men are given the right opportunities."

OLIVER STONE: But Democratic Party bosses feared Wallace’s views, mistrusting his devotion to principle over politics. It looked like the Wallace nomination would go up in flames, when Roosevelt, angry and frustrated, wrote a remarkable letter to the assembled delegates in which he flatly turned down the presidential nomination.

PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: "The [Democratic] party has failed ... when ... it has fallen into the control of those [who] think in terms of dollars instead of ... human values. ... Until the Democratic Party ... shakes off all the shackles of control fastened upon it by the forces of conservatism, reaction and appeasement, ... it will not continue its march to victory. ... The [party] ... cannot face in both directions at the same time. [Therefore, I] declin[e] the honor of the nomination for the Presidency."

OLIVER STONE: His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, saved the day. The first president’s wife ever to address a convention, she told disgruntled delegates that "we face now a grave situation."

*ELEANOR ROOSEVELT: * You cannot treat it as you would treat an ordinary nomination in an ordinary time.

OLIVER STONE: The party bosses buckled and put Wallace on the ticket. They would, however, come back for their vengeance.

HENRY WALLACE: I’ve just heard the news of my nomination, and there is just one thing I want to say. I am confident that under the leadership of President Roosevelt we shall have a united Democratic Party, victory in November, and security for the American people.