Category Archives: Documentaries

Five Came Back – Film Directors in WW II

With perspectives from Steven Spielberg,  Francis Ford Coppola, Lawrence Kasdan, and other filmmakers.

Directors Frank Capra, John Huston, John Ford, William Wyler and George Stevens…

All five of them were willing to turn away from a very comfortable life, and serve their country and in the best way they thought they could.

At 43:33, Director John Ford films the battle on Midway Island; manages to get his uncut footage sent home where, at the last minute, for a Whitehouse showing, he has footage of FDR’s son inserted.

Dogtags image is a live link to Five Came Back:


BBC Documentary – Building Burma’s Death Railway

2-15-1942 “the unthinkable did happen”.  General Percival surrendered Singapore to the Japanese. This documentary is the horrific reality, not the reprehensible Hollywood fantasy called The Bridge On The River Kwai.  Over 100,000 troops died building this monster.  Winston Churchill described it as “The worst moment of the war”.  Image at left is link to Wikipedia.

The Germans diabolical design of “labor” camps, literal assembly lines of death, killed thousands of people per day; but the Japanese made up for this with sheer inhuman brutality.  The China Burma India [ CBI ] theater was a slow, grueling struggle. The Japanese weren’t driven out of Burma until months before Japan finally surrendered in 1945.


De Havilland’s “wooden wonder” – The Mosquito

This is the definitive history, development and use of DeHaviland’s “wooden wonder”.  The Mosquito was also known affectionately as the “Mossie” to its crews.  It was in fact, the first multi role fighter, though it was first used as a high speed photo-reconnaissance aircraft.

The mystery to me is why the U.S. didn’t get a license to produce these en mass, and use them instead of the B-17’s.  The Mosquito had all the requirements needed; speed, maneuverability, bomb capacity (4,000 lbs) and range.  Only on short missions could the B-17 carry more bombs, a typical mission against targets in Germany was 4,000 lbs.

“Dedicated to those who served” P-38 A Personal story / Some Days are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stone

End credits reveal this documentary was released in 1991; it’s gratifying, but with a sense of sadness, noting that these men almost certainly have all passed on.  Included is a walk around an existing P-38, which finally explains the intakes on the P-38’s tail booms behind their engines, as well as other little known facts in its development.  The aircraft performed a multitude of tasks in both the Pacific, and European theaters.

This is titled Part II; couldn’t locate Part I:

ABOVE AND BEYOND – The ’48 Arab-Israeli War

Would you risk everything – your future, your citizen ship, even your life – to help a brother in need? In 1948, just three years after the liberation of Nazi death camps, a group of Jewish American pilots answered a call for help.

In secret and at great personal risk, they smuggled planes out of the U.S., trained behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia and flew for Israel in its War of Independence.

As members of Machal – “volunteers from abroad” – this ragtag band of brothers not only turned the tide of the war; they also embarked on personal journeys of discovery and renewed Jewish pride.  ABOVE AND BEYOND is their story.

The first major feature-length documentary about the foreign airmen in the ’48 War, ABOVE AND BEYOND brings together new interviews with the pilots, as well as stunning aerial footage, to present a fascinating, little-known tale filled with heart, heroism and high-flying chutzpah.

The film follows the pilots on their circuitous route from the United States – where they met and trained in secret and struggled to stay two steps ahead of the FBI – to Panama, Italy and Czechoslovakia, where they flew versions of the very Nazi planes they had tried to shoot down in World War II.

More than a retelling of the ’48 Arab-Israeli War, ABOVE AND BEYOND examines the motivations of the foreign volunteers – both Jews and non-Jews.  It mines the tensions between the Israelis and Machal soldiers.  Would the foreign pilots stay in Israel after the war?  Were they Americans first or Jews first?

The film recounts the personal stories of the young pilots, whose experiences in Israel were life altering.  And through their stories, ABOVE AND BEYOND reveals how under-equipped and isolated the Israelis were, how desperately they needed planes and pilots and how critical the actions of these young American men were for the country’s survival.

anti-Semitism has always existed; the U.S. was no different from other countries…

Britain was unwilling to lose Arab favor; turned the issue of partitioning the area over to the U.N.  While a two thirds majority vote was reached, bear in mind that it only passed by three votes.  David Ben-Gurion “Well, today they dance, tomorrow their blood will be spilled”.

“From the time of the partition, through the spring of 1948, a kind of civil war between Jews and Palestinian Arabs; this is when Jerusalem was besieged, it’s when the state of Israel looked like it might never emerge”



The 504th- “Devils In Baggy Pants”

 We follow 94 year old 82nd Airborne veteran James “Maggie” Megellas from Wisconsin to Europe where he fought in some of the most savage battles of World War II. “Maggie” is the most decorated officer in the history of the famed 82nd Airborne Division.


Maggie being interviewed for this documentary:

This provides a perspective which can’t be adequately described by Hollywood movies such as “A Bridge Too Far” about operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge.  If Maggie were alive today, he’d be 101.

Above photo is live link to the documentary.

Image is of him and Roy Hanna at the grave of Lt. Harold Busby; one of his men, who told Maggie “I don’t think I’m going to make it today”.


Legend of the American Sniper

“These aren’t individuals out there against the enemy anymore, they’re groups of soldiers fighting as a cohesive, coordinated military unit against the enemy; we’ve raised sniping to a precise art form, and it doesn’t tolerate individuals that can’t operate well within the group”

Phil Schreier – Senior Curator  The National Firearms  Museum

This gritty true story focuses on the value of snipers during wartime, who fearlessly hunt their enemy with a rifle, their weapon of choice.