Searching For And Finding MIA’s

When I first saw the title I had visions of this being a remake of a Rambo movie. I could not have been more off the mark. This documentary is one of the most moving DVD’s I have ever watched. I noticed that on several occasions my wife had tears in her eyes, and was having trouble answering my questions.

There are still some 88,000 men and women listed as MIA from the Second World War. This is a staggering number. Six decades have past, where are these people? It is almost inconceivable that any remain alive, but all have families that seek some sort of closure for their missing parent, grandparent, brother, or whatever.

There is one man who has dedicated his life to help answer those questions. Last Flight Home follows Dr. Patrick Scannon and his team of volunteers as they try to bring closure to at least a few cases.

The battle for the Pacific Ocean was without question the most brutal aspect of the Second World War. Japan was an adversary that played by a very different set of rules. Historians have tended to focus on the battles of Iwo Jima, Kwajlein, and Okinawa, all of which have been portrayed in many books and Hollywood productions. There is however a set of islands in the far western Pacific Ocean known as Palau that people seem to have forgotten.

Remote and heavily fortified the only option to win Palau were assaults from the air. More than 200 US planes never made the journey back B-24 bombers with crew of 11 men.

Dr. Scannon has spent considerable time in this area, unlike the fastidious record keeping Germans, there are no records to be found from the Japanese. For the most part he and his team were running blind.

He searched in the dense jungles, and also in the tropical waters, but what he found was astounding.

Over the years his BentProp Project has located many aircraft, from the lumbering B-24 bombers, to smaller and more agile planes such as Corsairs, Avengers, and Hellcats. But his quest does not stop there. Each piece of wreckage is examined for any identifying marks, serial numbers, etc. Armed with something like an engine serial number the plane, and more importantly the crew flying it can be named.

In his many days and months in Palau he has managed to gain the respect of the local community, the elders no longer view him as a westerner on a prolonged vacation, rather a serious researcher. A man trying to answer some 60 year old questions. The result has been a huge amount of co-operation from the elders.

A story told to him leads to a very disturbing discovery, three people survived from a B-24 that was shot down, the elders remember seeing the parachutes. Captured by the Japanese they were summarily executed! Dr. Scannon even manages to find that location.

The BentProp Project is not some ‘off the wall’ one man zealot, but rather a volunteer operation that works closely with the US JPAC (Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command).

There is a particularly heart wrenching scene, the remains of a fallen airman are returned to the US for a full military burial. Watching the US flag be folded and presented to the family brought a lump to my throat.

These people are not out for fame or glory, they are doing it on their own dime and time, and I admire them greatly for it.

This DVD is released through Janson Media, who, I might add, have the absolute best catalog of documentary DVD’s I have ever encountered.

Last Flight Home was created by Jennifer Powers and Daniel T. O’Brien, they deserve great credit for this work. It is all too easy to sensationalize a story like this, but they do not. They treat it with the respect our fallen airmen deserve.

This DVD is part of the Minutes Of History series, and so far I have enjoyed every single one.

You can order you copy direct from Janson Media, or by clicking on the Amazon link above.

Simon Barrett

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