“Reel Stuff Salute to Heroes” paired films and veterans for celebration in Air Force Museum Theatre
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Museum got the jump on celebrating Veterans Day, hosting the first ever “Reel Stuff Salute to Heroes” in its state-of-the-art giant screen theatre on Saturday, November 8th. The all-day event featured screenings of four documentaries, each presented by one of three decorated veterans (and the producer of one of the films). The event benefited the non-profit Air Force Museum Foundation and its work to support the Air Force Museum’s current expansion.
The event launched with Reel Stuff Aviation Resources founder, Ron Kaplan, introducing an episode of The Restorers titled Living History. The as yet un-broadcast show is a production of Hemlock Films and features a segment on a WWII fantasy camp for paratrooper training using vintage C-47 jump planes. Afterwards, 82nd Airborne Division veteran Donald Jakeway of Johnstown, Ohio, provided his perspective on the real training that took place after his volunteering during WWII.
Kaplan then introduced D-Day: Normandy 1944 as 3D glasses were distributed to the several hundred in the audience. Produced specifically for giant screen theatres by the France-based N3D Land Films, D-Day 3D offers a unique 43-minute perspective on the battle that saved civilization. The film, narrated by Tom Brokaw, is among those regularly screened at the theatre for museum visitors. Afterward, Jakeway shared his personal, often harrowing experiences of jumping from a C-47 into the dark of battle near St. Mere Eglise on June 6, 1944, and the fierce combat across France and Belgium that followed.
Jakeway later jumped into Holland with lead elements of Operation Market Garden and was severely wounded on day five, recovering just in time to rejoin the 82nd at the Battle of Bulge. It was there that a German sniper shot him through the lung. While being evacuated to medical attention, the ambulance rolled off the side of a mountain, killing everyone in it but Jakeway. The museum bookstore quickly sold out of signed copies of his memoirs, Paratroopers: Do or Die. Jakeway is a member of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
Next up was filmmaker Jon Tennyson of Sleeping Dog Productions, introducing the first episode of a new documentary series, Voices of Valor. Titled To Fly and Fight: An American Life, the one-hour show is the story of WWII P-51 Mustang triple-ace, retired Air Force Colonel C.E. “Bud” Anderson, as told entirely in Anderson’s voice. The project earned Sleeping Dog the prestigious National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) Combs Gates Award, a juried competition with a $20,000 cash prize for exemplary work in preserving America’s aviation heritage. Anderson is a 2008 enshrinee of the NAHF.
The biopic was the perfect lead-in for the audience to meet and hear from the man himself, Col. Anderson, who then regaled the crowd with additional stories from his colorful aviation career, one that included post-war assignment as a test pilot at Dayton’s Wright Field, where the museum is now based, and commanding an F-105 Wing in Vietnam. The Q&A session that followed allowed several among the audience of nearly 300 to thank Anderson for his 30-years of military service, and for coming to share his time with them. Copies of his memoir, also titled To Fly and Fight, which he signed in the lobby afterward, also sold out.