A couple of weeks ago my 90 year old fighter pilot friend, Joe Moser, and I were at a sold-out screening of the film in Tacoma. Afterwards, Carla Seaquist came up and introduced herself as a reporter with the Huffington Post. She did a fabulous job with this review and I really like the suggestion that PBS pay attention. This is a story that deserves to be told far and wide, in part to give honor to these brave wonderful men, all near or above 90 years of age, but also to honor all those who served with them who are no longer here to hear our expressions of admiration and appreciation.
I’ve had many delightful, meaningful experiences in my 29 years in professional communications, but nothing compares to the experience Saturday, July 16. This isn’t about a crisis–at least not a current one–so I’m diverging from crisisblogger fare for a moment.
As some of you know, I wrote a book on a WWII fighter pilot who, along with 81 other Americans and 167 other Allied flyers were designated “terrorists” by Hitler and sent to Buchenwald, the infamously brutal concentration camp for execution. The book was called “A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald: the Joe Moser Story.” The book has sold very well and I’ve had the privilege of speaking with Joe Moser at countless events–he is turning 90 soon and still doing very well.
A couple of years ago I was contacted by a filmmaker in California who was starting a documentary on his grandfather. Col. E.C. Freeman, who happened to be one of those American flyers in Buchenwald. Mike Dorsey, the filmmaker, agreed to expand the scope of the film and I would help find investors for the film–hence my title Executive Producer. The world premiere of “Lost Airmen of Buchenwald” was held at Bellingham’s historic Mount Baker Theatre, to a sold-out crowd of 1500.
Joe Moser, the 89 year old P-38 pilot, and Mike Dorsey were joined on stage by Ed Carter-Edwards from Ontario, Canada, a fellow airman/survivor of Buchenwald. I cannot begin to tell you what it meant to me to have the packed audience of 1500 give these men a standing ovation. Nor to have Ed tell us the next day at brunch that this was the best day of his life–a man who holds many prestigious medals including the French Legion Medal of Honor–the highest honor given by the French government. I do not think there were many dry eyes in the house and mine are not dry now as I write this.
The pictures below can help you get a sense of the joy and meaning of this occasion. We have received a number of wonderful comments on the film’s Facebook page from those who were at the premiere. By what means the most to me is to know that the incredible story of what these brave men endured in the name of our freedom is becoming known. That these humble, old gentlemen are finally receiving the honor, recognition and appreciation for all they did for us–even while knowing that they are accepting this recognition on behalf of so many who never had this opportunity to share their story.
We hope to have DVD’s available for sale soon and perhaps some theatrical screenings. If you get a chance to see the film, don’t miss it.
I know the news right now is consumed with the tragedy in Tucson. That’s one of the things about living in the global village–everyone is focused on and discussing the same things. But the rest of the world does go on and I just want to note the passing of Dick Winters, the WWII company commander and major made famous by the 1992 Stephen Ambrose book “Band of Brothers” and the subsequent HBO mini-series of the same name.
It’s well known that we are losing these great men and women everyday. These are the people who created the future we now enjoy. I know that Winters was one that was truly inspiring to me and may very well have contributed to my inclination to get involved in capturing the story of some of these great men. The book I wrote “A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald” about P-38 pilot Joe Moser has been very well received and based on the number of notes and letters Joe and I continue to receive, we know it has also served as an inspiration for many.
Because of that book I have gotten involved in producing a documentary about the 168 Allied flyers sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Last night I watched the rough edit of Jump Into Hell and was just so grateful that we were able to do in-depth video interviews with about six of these survivors including, of course Joe, and Colonel Phil Lamason, the New Zealand bomber pilot who served as the men’s commanding officer during their horrible time at the hands of the Gestapo and SS. Lamason and Winters were definitely cut from the same cloth–as were so many others.
It is easy, through the mist of time, to overly romanticize and glamorize these men and their exploits. Yet, their character and courage in a time of great fear and stress, when in a sense the whole world hung in the balance, is worthy of our most profound gratitude. Thank you Dick, Phil, Joe, Easy, Ed, Don, Chat, Jim and all the rest.
This is off-topic for crisisblogger readers but wanted to share with you a very special day yesterday. As some of you know, I am a history buff, particularly WWII history and I was privileged to write the biography of a P-38 fighter pilot. What makes his story unique is that after he was shot down he, along with 167 other Allied flyers caught with the French Underground, were sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. Hitler had declared them “terrorfliegers” and sentenced them to a cruel death. After two months and near starvation they were rescued by the German Air Force and sent to POW camp. Writing this book and going with the now 89-year old hero, Joe Moser, on numerous speaking engagements has been a great joy to me. But yesterday was something special.
We were invited to Joint Base Lewis McChord to address the 62nd Medical Brigade. It was unforgettable to stand in front of about 600 soldiers in battle fatigue and tell them Joe’s story and then have Joe speak to them and answer their numerous questions. This was their last meeting for many of them before two weeks leave and then deployment to Iraq–many for the second time. What meant the most to me was what a young soldier named Pangborn who came up to me after the presentation and said he knew that if and when times got tough for the soldiers in theater they would remember Joe and his story and take strength from it. It meant a lot for Joe as well, realizing that over 70 years after he joined the Army Air Corps he could be an inspiration for today’s young soldiers.
Some days are just worth the living and yesterday was certainly one of them. By the way, Joe’s book is called “A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald,” available at most bookstores or on Amazon.
God speed to all you brave men and women. And a special thanks to Frank Cisneros for inviting us and making this happen.
If you’ve been reading crisisblogger a very long time–like over two years–you may remember that I have been working on a book about a WWII fighter pilot who was shot down over France and ended up as a “terrorist” political prisoner in Hitler’s nightmare concentration camp–Buchenwald. He was rescued after 2 months and nearly starving to death, four days before his scheduled execution. But he was also a great pilot and a great contributor to the war effort.
In fact, while researching his book I discovered that he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions on a dive bombing mission, but he never received it. SNAFU, as they say. I thought how great to be able to arrange a special presentation by someone important–and how much greater if it coincided with the release of his book. Well, “A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald: The Joe Moser Story” has just been released. And tomorrow (Thursday, Jan 29) the Air Force will recognize Joe and the Wing Commander of McChord Air Force Base near Seattle will present Joe his medal 65 years late. It’s a great day for the Air Force and I have been blown away by how important it is to them that one of their own receive his long lost recognition. We have invited two of Joe’s squadron mates, Bob Milliken (the 429th Squadron’s only ace with five enemy kills) and Alfred Mills, also a DFC winner, to be with Joe when this award is presented.
I am absolutely thrilled by this and the honor that Joe is receiving. He is an exceptionally quiet and humble man and would never do anything to call attention to himself so it has been one of the great experiences in my life to play a part in getting a true American hero the recognition he deserves. But the PR person in me is also thrilled to see that the story is quickly spreading. Two live radio interviews scheduled. Numerous newspaper mentions, a rapidly cascading blog and online presence–all focused on the belated honor given to an 86 year old (yes, the news reports are wrong) veteran.