Just wrapped another project about African American soldiers I am very proud of. I was asked by Art Collins and Steve Jones of The Ebony Doughboys and the 5th Platoon reenacting unit to write and direct, Serving for Justice.
Synopsis: Amidst the horrors and indignities of Jim Crow America, one million African Americans served their country to protect democracy abroad and expand it at home during World War II. The new documentary tells a unit struggling to succeed in battle, proving their full-citizenship when their lives seemed to matter less. Serving for Justice: The Story of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion is a story of fortitude, brotherhood, and faith in America’s ideals.
I hope you can check out the new film, which should be available on all the major streaming platforms in November. I will add a link to this post and on the website when it becomes available.
This project was originally produced for the American Embassy in Belgium but has grown from that original mission and now we are preparing a version for television. To say this project is timely would be quite an understatement but it goes to show that racial inequality has been with us a long while and has not been addressed properly. Perhaps now more voices are speaking up and positive change will come about. Time will tell. I am pleased, however that the work I have done in this area has continued to be noticed.
THE LOST ELEVEN was selected as a Memorial Day Pick by the Baltimore Public Library System alongside such notable works like UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand. My coauthor, Denise George and I were very honored to have been selected. You can read about the selection HERE.
"This nearly forgotten story of eleven young African American GIs captured and massacred by the Nazis in 1944 is an important piece of our World War II history. Gripping, graphic and tragic, the story of the Wereth 11 is as fast paced as it is compelling and thought provoking."
I hope you will pick up a copy of the book if you have not done so already. It is an eye opening read and provides great context for what we are seeing unfold in America right now. Purchase HERE.
|Military History Must Have|
A compelling collection of nonfiction military history titles by Robert Child. several full books in all with photographs and detailed maps. This is a keepsake multi-volume set you want to have on your digital bookshelf.
#1) Washington's Crossing: America's First D-Day
A ragged Continental army has now put an icy river between themselves and the pursing British army. The men in blue and buff uniforms have known nothing but defeat and had once again made a narrow escape while the Congress at Philadelphia reflecting no confidence in their troops prepare to evacuate to Baltimore.
Washington’s besieged men reflect the state of a nation weary of war and a cause on the brink of extinction. They are an army in waiting - waiting for ammunition, blankets and reinforcements. But others, nearly half, are simply waiting for their enlistments to be up on January 1, 1777. Within days Washington would have no men with which to fight and the cause and the dream of independence would be over. Against this backdrop George Washington decides to go on the offensive.
#2) Rush On Boys: Hamilton at War
As the story opens, young Alexander Hamilton marches with the Continentals at Fort Lee, New Jersey. He is frustrated by being relegated to the end of the line and missing out on the action. He desperately wants to make a name for himself. His fortunes soon change at the Raritan River when the vanguard of British infantry catches up to Washington's army.
Hamilton, and his cannons are the only defense line available to prevent the army from being destroyed. Successfully protecting the Continental army and allowing their escape with his rear-guard action, Hamilton catches the attention of George Washington.
The future President asks the twenty-year-old Hamilton to join his staff. Sent on one daring mission after another Hamilton s stature grows, creating great political mistrust among his rivals. When ambition overtakes Hamilton, he threatens to overthrow Congress, which he sees as corrupt. Challenging a Congressman to a duel who views Hamilton as treasonous immigrant his world nearly self-destructs.
With the end of the American Revolution looming and his visions of his own glory fading, Hamilton becomes determined to leave Washington s staff and return to the battlefield. Washington, the only man who can help him, does all in his power to deny him. One daring assignment remains, however, that will determine the outcome of the final battle and the entire war. It is at a place called Yorktown.
#3) Gettysburg: Voices from the Front
A stirring collection of first-hand accounts from Privates on up to the commanding Generals at the Battle of Gettysburg woven into a dramatic and compelling narrative. The reader is transported back to the chaos and uncertainty of the sweltering first three days of July 1863 when Lee's Army of Northern Virginia invaded the North threatening Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington itself. Soldiers on both sides gave everything they had believing that Gettysburg would be the final epic battle in an already long and terrible war.
#4) How Canada Won the Great War
For nearly 100 years Canada's role in ending WWI sooner than anyone thought possible has gone largely unrecognized. The Canadian Corp led by citizen soldier, Arthur Currie, became the premiere fighting force on the Western Front. The fact that Canada was not yet a formalized nation but a Dominion at the close of the war may be the reason for the absence of recognition yet the record of the Canadian WWI military accomplishments is irrefutable.
The Amazon deal starts tomorrow at 8AM.
|September 11, 2001 New York|
I almost did not write this post as I had second thoughts but I felt I wanted to share my memories before they faded. On 9/11/2001 I was right in the thick of it in a production studio in Manhattan. It was a beautiful cloudless Tuesday which on occasion I can recall as vividly as if it were yesterday.
As I mentioned I was at a TV studio preparing to do The People's Court television show before all hell broke loose. In the control room we watched the mayhem unfold. In fact I vividly recall watching Channel 4 News in a live report from the World Trade Center area when during the actual live report the second plane hit the second tower. The shocked reporter just took off running and so did the cameraman.
Cell phones did not work. Neither did landlines for that matter. The only way I got word to my wife about my situation was sending an email via AOL. Does anyone have AOL anymore? I had no idea if the email would reach her.
In the studio we simply did not know if we should stay or go. What was safer choice? After the plane hit the Pentagon the director turned to me and waved goodbye adding, "Good luck, get home safe." Home for me at the time was Bucks County, PA, 90 minutes to the south via Penn Station. So I headed in that direction. The studio was at 37th Street and 5th Ave. and I could look south and see the brown smoke rising above the towers. As I walked toward Penn Station I passed by several churches with hastily posted signs on which someone scrawled with a sharpie, "Come in and Pray." At one church I saw people actually kneeling on the sidewalk praying.
As I got to Penn Station it was bedlam but I saw a line of people going down an escalator onto a train. I joined them. I didn't care where the train was going - just out of Manhattan. As I got on and actually got a seat before the aisles filled up there came an announcement, "Attention all passengers by order of the NYPD, Penn Station is now closed. All must exit to street level and exit the building."
A collective groan was heard on the train as we all made our way out. My next thought was - water. There must be a boat I could get on. So I headed up 8th Ave. then onto 10th. Coming toward me down the avenue were thousands of people headed to Penn Station. As I made my way up 10th my next thought was cash. I was going to take as much cash out of an ATM as I could before they too were shut down. I dashed in a deli and took out as much as I could and then continued north.
Once I got to 12th Ave. I saw a line of about 500 people waiting to get on a Circle Line boat. I jumped right in behind them. We all boarded. The stuffed to the gills ship slowly pulled away from the dock. At that moment there was almost an audible sigh of relief. The boat was headed over to Weehawken, NJ and you could turn and look across the Hudson and see the Towers engulfed in brown smoke. You could also smell it. It smelled like an electrical fire. People on the boat were actually joking around trying to mask their fears. No one knew what the hell was going to happen next but at least we were off Manhattan.
When we docked at Weehawken I ran to a payphone to see if it had a dial tone. It did. I dialed my voicemail and heard a message from my now ex-wife that I will never forget. I will not detail it just to say it was filled with tears. I was able to call her back, tell her I was safe and would try to grab a train from Hoboken.
I headed down there with thousands of others and the trains were going nowhere. At the station they had set up hundreds of gurneys with IV poles awaiting trains from the Trade Center. Trains that would never come. It was an image I'll never forget. But that was not the final enduring image I would remember from that day....the one that still gives me chills and I will never forget.
After leaving the train station I headed up to a Cuban bar / restaurant. I thought a beer was just what I needed at that point. There were actually only a few people in the place and at the bar. After a few moments a near hysterical woman who had to be 8 months pregnant ran in with someone who had to be her mother. Through her tears I overheard her say to her mother, "his last words were he'd meet us here." I turned to the bartender and he looked back at me, we were both speechless. The pregnant woman then headed into the Ladies room as the Mom stood by the bar.
As I turned to continue watching Peter Jennings anchor the coverage on the TV behind the bar a man bolted in who was covered with the dust. It was the same dust which had covered people who were seen on TV running from the towers. As the man came in the Mom started crying and they embraced. The bar fell silent. Then the pregnant woman emerged from the bathroom, saw her husband and ran towards him crying, overjoyed. No one in the place moved and many including myself teared up. It was a scene I will remember till I die.
Several hours later the trains began to operate and I was able to get one to Montclair where my wife met me. I don't remember what we said to each other we just held each other tight for a long moment before heading back to Pennsylvania.
Did the world change that day? Without a doubt. Did it change for the better? For a short while it did in the aftermath. In New York City in the days following it was as silent as the grave. The city din of honking taxi cabs and sirens was gone. The streets were nearly empty. The people who were out went about their business in somber reflection. Upon meeting another person's gaze on the street a warm nod was often exchanged; an acknowledgement of our shared humanity. As a nation we seemed to unite as one people who were wounded and hurting.
Can we look back from today and say that we have have remained united or grown or are safer as a nation? I am not certain we can. In many ways the world is much less certain and certainly much less innocent than before 9/11/2001. And the political divisiveness of today is a scourge that cuts deeply in one's heart.
But it remains up to us to make it the world in which we all want to live. And by live I mean live in peace. I am a spiritual person and I believe that the dark forces in this world have increased the level of terror and violence that they spread because they know their days are numbered.
More and more common everyday people especially those in the Middle East simply want to live their lives and raise their families in peace. The time is coming soon when killing in the name of God or Allah will not be tolerated, promoted or accepted by people of any faith on the planet. When that day comes...and I truly believe I will see it in my lifetime then finally there will be lasting peace on earth.
|The Wereth Eleven - Docudrama|
On Dec 17th the 333rd were overrun with most killed or captured. The remnants of the unit were ordered to Bastogne and incorporated into its sister unit the 969th Field Artillery Battalion. Both units provided fire support for the 101st Airborne Division in the Siege of Bastogne, subsequently being awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
11 soldiers, however, from the 333rd were separated from the unit shortly after they were overrun by the Germans. These men wound up in the little Belgian hamlet of Wereth, just 25 kilometers southwest of Malmedy, Belgium, site of another much more well known WWII atrocity.
At about 3 pm on Dec 16, 1944, the 11 men approached the first house in the nine-house hamlet of Wereth, owned by Mathias Langer. A friend of the Langer's was also present. The men were cold, hungry, and exhausted after walking cross-country through the deep snow. They had two rifles between them. The Langer family welcomed them and gave them food. But this small part of Belgium did not necessarily welcome Americans as “Liberators.” This area had been part of Germany before the First World War and many of its citizens still saw themselves as Germans and not Belgians.
Word leaked out from a Nazi sympathizer in the area that the men had been sheltered and were hiding in the Langer home. When the SS troops approached the house about 4 pm that day, the eleven Americans surrendered quickly, without resistance. The Americans were made to sit on the road, in the cold, until dark. The Germans then marched them down the road and gunfire was heard in the night. In the morning, villagers saw the bodies of the men in a ditch at the corner of a cow pasture. Because they were afraid that the Germans might return, they did not touch the dead soldiers. The snow covered the bodies and they remained entombed in the snow until January when villagers directed members of the 99th Div. I&R platoon to the site.
In the official US Army report it was revealed that the men had been brutalized, with broken legs, bayonet wounds to the head, and fingers cut off. And It was apparent that one man was killed as he tried to bandage a comrade's wounds.
In 2001, three Belgium citizens embarked on the task of creating a fitting memorial to these men and additionally to honor all Black GI’s of World War II. With the help of Norman Lichtenfeld, whose father fought and was captured in the Battle of the Bulge, a grassroots publicity and fund-raising endeavor was begun. The land was purchased and a fitting memorial was created There are now road signs indicating the location of the memorial, and the Belgium Tourist Bureau lists it in the 60th Anniversary “Battle of the Bulge” brochures. The dedication of the memorial was held in 2004 in an impressive military ceremony.
It is believed that this is the only memorial to Black G.I.s, and their units, of World War II in Europe. Norman's goal is to make the Wereth 11 and all Black G.I.’s “visible” to all Americans and to history. They, like so many others, paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Please visit his site www.wereth.org where you can learn more about this dark and virtually unknown chapter from WWII.
I am completing the screenplay adaption this month of the Lost Eleven novel. It will soon be sent to major film studios for their consideration. It was always the dream of my co-executive producer, Joseph Small, that this story become a "movie: and the good Lord willing, it will.
Both the Wereth Eleven docudrama and the Lost Eleven novel are available everywhere around the world.
If you have a chance check out these new forthcoming projects.
(Status: Pitching, Preproduction)
10x1 Docu-Reality Series Produced by RSC Media Group, LLC
Chuck Bergman, Host, Robert Child Exec. Prod., Director
A former police officer uses his heightened psychic abilities and confessions from the dead to crack cold cases, locate missing persons and solve crimes in the critical first 48 hours.
Creators: Susan Sanderford, Milt Sanderford, Robert Child
Writers: Robert Child, Susan Sanderford
|The Canadian Expeditionary Force on the Western Front with Prime Minister Borden, Gen. Arther Currie and Gen. Byng|
Douglas Haig the British Commander put great faith and trust in General Arthur Currie's Canadians.
This is not opinion but fact but in no way lessens my respect and regard for what the French, British,
Australian and American armies accomplished in some of the most terrible fighting soldiers ever faced.
I spent a great deal of time in Europe at Vimy Ridge, at Arras, at Amiens and many other far off places including Jigsaw Wood, Burlon Wood and Castle Boves. I stood in now peaceful fields that
were once battlefields of the Hindenburg Line which Canadians shed blood to cross. And I said a silent prayer over the hallowed ground where many remain.
The evocative aspect of the location of WWI Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemeteries is the fact that they are the spots on which the soldiers drew their last breaths and almost all are situated
on ground that leads up hill. The fact that Canada was not yet a formalized nation but a Dominion at the close of the war may be the reason that the country has not been given the credit it is due.
I have a profound respect for guts, heroism and the tenacity expended to keep pushing forward when all before you is horror and darkness. There are few wars, which can match the carnage of WWI with perhaps the exception of the American Civil War. And that is why I believe people are so fascinated by these events. They illustrate the limit of human endurance as well as the depth of its depravity.
It is a story rich in triumph and human tragedy and if you would like to learn more I invite you to read or listen to my audio book, How Canada Won the Great War. It is an eye opening tale that will not soon be forgotten.
I salute all the men and women on this Veteran's Day 2018 who chose to fight for liberty and freedom. Next time you see a veteran thank them for their service. They all deserve our thanks and respect.