Greetings again from the darkness. Sometimes it feels pointless to write about a film, while sometimes it seems that the right words escape me. I don’t have the right words for this documentary from Chris Woods, yet I do know that it should be seen by as many folks as possible. As the divisiveness of our country continues to fester, this story about real people takes us to a time when heroes fought for freedom against real enemies, while so many families sacrificed for the benefit of all. Millions lost their lives in World War II, and Woods focuses on one small organization doing everything possible to bring closure to the especially brutal Battle of Peleliu.
Today, the island Peleliu is a breathtaking tropical paradise. However, the beauty hides many secrets of the past. More than 200 aircraft were shot down over Palau, and Dr. Pat Scannon founded Project Recover with the mission of locating and recovering as many aircraft and soldier remains as possible. We go along on some of the expeditions, and witness remarkable underwater footage. We see the crew successfully locate remains, and we also get a sense of disappointment when they don’t … a very frequent occurrence, as explained by Dr. Scannon himself.
Included here are interviews with WWII veterans and their family members. These are emotional moments, and we especially feel for those families who have only a photo of their loved ones. This is what inspires Dr. Scannon to continue his search. Repatriating those who have been MIA for 75 years provides a much-appreciated closure for the families, and for the country. There is even a segment where a veteran of the Battle of Peleliu returns to Orange Beach, and we feel his strength as he recalls his many lost cohorts. Of course other veterans prefer to keep this in the past, and we certainly understand that preference.
Director Woods includes many photographs and archival war footage, but it’s the people who make the impact. Seeing a family find closure when their loved one’s remains are returned to U.S. soil is a unique emotion that’s difficult to describe. We even hear about the ship sunk by a pilot named George Herbert Walker Bush, the future President of the United States. The film premiered at AFI Fest, and leaves us with the faces of those who fought, and the mind-boggling statistic that 80,000 American war veterans are still Missing in Action. For more information on Dr. Scannon’s organization, go to www.ProjectRecover.org
The film opens in select theaters on December 10, 2021