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Harold and Ingrid Linton of Oro Valley were featured in a Smithsonian documentary.

Courtesy Photo

An Oro Valley couple with close ties to World War II and the civil rights era has always had plenty of stories to tell, but they probably never thought they’d be purveying them on television.

Harold and Ingrid Linton, who have lived in Oro Valley for almost 20 years, were recently recruited to take part in a documentary called “Breath of Freedom,” put together by the Smithsonian Channel and German-based Broadview TV.

Harold, 73, and Ingrid, 79, met in Berlin after Harold was stationed there with the Air Force in 1960. Ingrid had grown up in Berlin and lived through World War II.

While the United States was entangled in civil rights tensions, post-World War II Germany gave many African-American soldiers opportunities they’d never had before, which included having relationships with white women.

It was during that time that Harold – an African-American stationed in Berlin, and Ingrid – a white German, married.

That, combined with the fact that Harold served side-by-side with white soldiers during a time of racial tension, made the couple a perfect choice for the documentary, which explores the largely untold story of how World War II and its aftermath set the stage for the civil rights movement.

A film crew spent two days at the Linton’s home filming a portion of the documentary, which was narrated by Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr.

Also included in the documentary are interviews with former Secretary of State General Colin Powell and Congressman John Lewis.

Harold and Ingrid attended the premiere screening in Washington D.C. on Feb. 17.

“They did a great job of telling the story. It turned out to be a very good experience for us,” said Harold.

Much of the story examines how African-Americans and whites interacted during times of war after President Truman in 1948 signed a bill integrating the military.

“There were some ugly things going on with civil rights in the United States at that time,” said Harold. “But the order came down from the top, and there was no whining. It was let’s do what we have to do. Even if guys had come into the military with backgrounds where they had seen or experienced segregation all their lives, that wasn’t going to work in the military.”

Ingrid recalls how marriage still proved somewhat challenging, as it was up to the military to approve the union. It took about four months for their marriage paperwork to be processed.

“The chaplain asked me, ‘Do you have to marry Harold?’ and I said,’ No sir, I don’t have to, I want to,’” Ingrid recalled.

Since that time, however, the couple said their marriage has rarely seen discrimination.

“The few ugly people we have met in all these years, they’re outnumbered like 100 to 1,” said Harold. “It’s not even close.”

Following the film premier, the Linton’s neighbor’s hosted a party on their behalf, where about 35 people showed up to celebrate and inquire about the documentary.

The documentary runs about an hour and a half in length. The film can be viewed at www.smithsonianchannel.com.

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