Be Home Soon: Letters from My Grandfather is an intimate personal documentary based on cards and letters my family received from my grandfather during WWII. An Episcopal priest, my grandfather volunteered to be a Chaplain with the 200th Coast Artillery National Guard Unit in the Philippines. The unit left on a train from Ft. Bliss, Texas on the last day of August 1941. He left behind, his wife and three young sons (my father who was eight at the time, and his two brothers Alfred and John ages 6 and one month old).
I use my grandfather’s letters as the film's structure, retracing his steps from his departure in Ft. Bliss, Texas to the Philippines. Combining my own documentary footage, and archival footage from WWII with letters, found footage and animations; the film is also a chronicle of my own journey of understanding family legacy, my pilgrimage — retracing his steps.
This documentary is a story not just of my grandfather, but a story of the collective memory of this generation of Americans at war - and the inherited grief of their families. Documenting one of the cornerstones of modern American (indeed World) history through the experience of one man and his family. The process of making this film was based on extensive research, including research trips to the Bataan Memorial War Museum, the National Archives, family papers, and first person narratives of those who were with my grandfather in one case from the day he left to his burial and numerous locations in the Philippines
Historically much attention has been paid to the events in Europe during World War II, and also Pearl Harbor and subsequently the dropping of the atomic bombs. What is rarely known is the state of New Mexico lost more men per capita than any state in the Union. The men who went to the Philippines were left to fight the Japanese with leftover WWI artillery and supplies. For better or for worse, the United States government left them to fend for themselves while the government focused all of its resources on the European theater. For the most part, the men in the Philippines did not die in battle. Rather after the surrender (on April 6, 1948 — the largest army to surrender in U.S. History) they died on what has come to be known as The Bataan Death March and in prison camps thereafter.
My grandfather who was 40 years old at the time, survived the death march and died a year later in prison camp of diseases associated with malnutrition. His actions during this time lead the Southwest Diocese of the Episcopal Church to Canonize him noting the day of his death — December 11th as his day on the church calendar.
The film explores my grandfather's actions, traces his steps and explores his sacrifices and the familial sediment as a result. While my grandfather is the heart of the story he is not the entire story. The story is about a family, a culture, a war, and what remains in the end. It is about war, faith and sacrifice. However, sacrifice comes at a cost. In the end, who does a saint betray?
This project is fiscally sponsored by the non-profit organization World Trust. This means that your contributions to Be Home Soon will be tax deductible to the full extent of the law. Up to now this film has been funded by significant grant from the Pacific Pioneer Fund, a home equity line of credit. my other production work, giving up $2.75 cent lattes and other austerities and the generous donation of time, creative skill and talent of many film professionals and artists.
This is the last haul. Two hundred and fifty people at $100 a person brings us home. Or a few less at a hundred mixed in with a couple larger. It will all work out in the end with your support and willingness to spread the word.
In advance I Thank You!
- (40 days)