A made-for-TV movie airing on Fox today is based on a book by Charles C. Thompson II, the veteran journalist who, along with Tennessee reporter Tony Hays, authored a three-months-long series of articles in WorldNetDaily exposing alleged corruption on the part of then-Vice President Al Gore.
The book and film concern a disastrous explosion on a Navy warship:
On April 19, 1989, Gun Turret Two on the U.S.S. Iowa exploded, killing 47 sailors. Initially, the Navy claimed the explosion resulted from sabotage by one of the ship’s sailors. The top Navy brass blamed Gunnersmate Clay Hartwig, a center gun captain who died in the explosion, citing an alleged homosexual affair with crewman Kendall Truitt. But that explanation didn’t satisfy everybody.
Iowa officer Lt. (j.g.) Dan Meyer and 60 Minutes producer Charles C. Thompson II were skeptical of the Navy’s story. With Meyer’s assistance, Thompson’s investigation for 60 Minutes led to proof that poor maintenance, weaknesses in the gunnery system and supply shortages were actually at fault. The resulting story prompted a Navy apology to Hartwig’s family and a book by Thompson, “A Glimpse of Hell,” published by W.W. Norton in 1999.
Tonight, Thompson’s book comes to life in an FX movie starring James Caan and Robert Sean Leonard. FX is the movie production company of Fox Television, and “A Glimpse of Hell” marks its third film.
Thompson, an Emmy-winning producer for both 60 Minutes and ABC’s 20/20, has spent the last year co-authoring a series of articles on Al Gore and corruption within the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for WorldNetDaily.com with journalist Tony Hays. A long-time newspaper reporter, Thompson turned to television in the early 1970s, serving as a bureau chief and field producer for CBS before moving on to become a founding producer of 20/20 and then Mike Wallace’s executive producer. He left CBS in 1998 to write “A Glimpse of Hell.”
Thompson’s resume was tailor-made for investigating the Iowa tragedy. A former president of Investigative Reporters and Editors, Thompson is also a Navy veteran, having served two tours of duty in Vietnam. “A Glimpse of Hell” is the culmination of a 10-year probe that began as a segment for Mike Wallace at 60 Minutes. Among Thompson’s awards are the Outstanding Individual Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the National Headliner Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting, the First Amendment Award from Washington and Lee University, and 1993’s Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Memphis.
Directed by Mikael Salomon, a two-time Academy Award nominee, much of the movie was filmed at sea, off the coast of Nova Scotia last fall. “I’m very pleased with FX’s work on ‘A Glimpse of Hell,'” Thompson told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s a great story, and I believe they did it justice.” The production team also had the luxury of two highly qualified technical advisers — Dan Meyer, now an attorney for a Washington-based non-profit, and former Iowa commander Larry Seaquist.
Robert Sean Leonard, who plays Meyer, is perhaps best known for his role in “Dead Poet’s Society” with Robin Williams. Caan, an Academy Award nominee whose film credits include “The Godfather” and “Brian’s Song,” stars as Iowa captain Fred Mousally.
The film premieres on Fox tonight at 8 pm Eastern and Pacific, 7 p.m. Central and 6 p.m. Mountain.
Editor’s note: A book based on Thompson and Hays’ comprehensive WorldNetDaily investigative series on Gore is now in production, and will soon be available at WorldNetDaily’s online store.