Lost Airmen of Buchenwald

Like a lot of vets, I’m fascinated by World War II. I could sit for hours listening to stories of heroism, survival, and camaraderie, often told in humble, matter of fact tones, by men who are disappearing from this earth quicker every day. Thankfully, there are some historians, authors, and filmmakers who have taken it upon themselves to record their incredible stories before they are lost to us forever. Stories like Lost Airmen of Buchenwald.

Directed by Mike Dorsey and named “Best Documentary Feature” at the 2012 GI Film Festival, Lost Airmen of Buchenwald tells the story of 168 airmen shot down over Europe and interned, not in a POW camp, but in one of the infamous concentration camps. It is a harrowing story of the French resistance, betrayal by a double agent, lost chances at liberation by Allied troops, rebellion, and all of the horrors that have come to symbolize that war: crematories, Gestapo, forced marches, and cattle cars.

The story is told through photographs and film reels from the time, combined with interviews of seven of the men – American, Canadian, British, and New Zealander – who survived. These men – Chasten Bowen, Ed Carter-Edwards, E.C. “Easy” Freeman, Phil Lamason, Joe Moser, Don Shearer, and James Stewart – tell their stories with humor and anecdotes that will make you laugh and hurt your heart.

Beside their candidness and humility, what is most striking about their story, in my opinion, is that they credit their military training for their survival. Specifically, the camaraderie that inspired them to work together, rather than operating as a single entity, and protect each other, and maintaining a chain of command led by Phil Lamason. Lamason, a Kiwi who passed away in 2012 at the age of 93, was a feisty one who took control of the large group of airmen and refused to cave to the Gestapo and SS. Instead, he argued for his men, stood up for them (despite the threat of execution), and even pummeled several German officers. He also had to make some hard choices, such as denying his protection to a group of British Special Forces servicemembers who hadn’t been marked for execution, in order not to endanger the rest of the men under his protection.

Overall, well made and interesting. If you enjoy history, especially WWII history, then you’ll love the story these men tell.

You can find out more about the film and watch the official trailer here.

© 2014, Sarah Maples. All rights reserved.

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