YORK — York University Professor Emeritus Dr. Tim McNeese participated with the history documentary “Running Towards the Fire: a War Correspondent’s Story,” which first aired on Nebraska Educational Television (PBS) on Thursday, May 23 at 8 p.m., to be rebroadcast on Sunday, May 26 at 5 p.m. and Tuesday, May 28 at 8 p.m.

The documentary depicts the important roles war correspondents performed during the Allied invasion known as D-Day, which took place 80 years ago on June 6, 1944. These war reporters were among the unsung heroes who risked their lives to inform a watching and anxious world concerning the progress — or failure — of the Western European theater invasion, a key element in the ultimate strategy to defeat Nazi Germany.

More specifically, the film focuses on the contributions made by Omaha-born war correspondent Robert Reuben, who parachuted — with a portable typewriter strapped to his back — into Normandy, France, hours before the D-Day invasion and became the first journalist on the ground.

Reuben survived the landing and then went on to chronicle the Allies’ liberation of France and Belgium and the fighting across Germany that culminated with the German surrender on May 7, 1945.

“It’s amazing what this small number of journalists risked during the D-Day invasion,” says Professor McNeese. “Those who parachuted in behind enemy lines the night before the June 6th invasion had gone through parachute training that only included five practice jumps. Their bravery in the name of freedom of the press was extraordinary.”

“My contribution to this documentary is limited to serving as a talking head for the film,” explains McNeese. “The film includes a half dozen or so historians, so I am honored to have been included among them.”

The film was directed by Barney McCoy, Gilbert and Martha Hitchcock Professor of Journalism at UNL and produced with support from UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications, and Humanities Nebraska.

This documentary represents the second time McCoy and McNeese have worked together on a historically-based documentary. McNeese also appeared as an on-screen historian for McCoy’s 2018 documentary on General John J. Pershing, AEF commander during World War I.

The documentary relies heavily on the previously unpublished memoirs of Robert Reuben. Excerpts from this source are utilized throughout the documentary, so viewers get to hear his own words to describe the scenes of war he experienced. The film also utilizes several battle reenactment scenes, some of which were produced through new AI technology programs.

Through his three decades as a history professor at York University, McNeese has appeared in other television documentary projects including those produced by the History Channel, the Military Channel, Discovery Channel’s CuriosityStream, and NET.

“I’ve enjoyed being utilized as a contributing historian on several programs over the past 20 years or so,” says McNeese. “It’s really been a value-added part of my career as a history professor.”

After 32 years as a professor at York University, Dr. McNeese retired from teaching in December, 2023. He now serves as the university’s author-in-residence.