Filed under: Production
As the Corsairs come round and line up on the USS Lexington for a close pass, the survivors of VMF-451, sitting on the deck of an aircraft carrier for the first time in decades, are transform from a group of dignified veterans into ecstatic school boys. They point and talk, almost jumping up and down. They are connected once again to the machine they love, and remember the time when they were behind the controls.
“They came to attention, and time seemed to be forgotten,” said Terry Dodge, CEO of TLD-Productions. “Their love of flying and of these planes was palpable. You could feel it.”
The shoot was for the film, The Blue Devils: The Story of VMF-451 during WWII. The documentary is a labor of love for one of the films makers, director & producer, Terry Dodge. A pilot himself, Dodge has a deep love for vintage WWII aircraft and particularly the F4U Corsair.
Michigan based filmmakers, Terry Dodge and Leonard Brown, CEO of Lighthouse Productions, have been personally funding the project with the help of others who share Terry’s vision of seeing the story of VMF-451 told. Reenactment groups, including Texas’ own Lone Star Flight Museum, Commemorative Air Force and Tora Tora Tora were involved in the project. The USS Lexington Museum and staff generously allowed Terry Dodge and his crew to film aboard the ship. Dodge has trouble summing up the day’s shooting in Corpus Christi into a few words. His plan began simply enough.
“When I planned this shoot, I really had in mind four things. I wanted to have a shot of the surviving veterans standing on the deck of the USS Lexington that matched a photo they had had taken on the USS Bunker Hill in Pearl Harbor 61 years ago—showing the survivors of the kamikaze strike. I wanted a group shot on the fantail of the carrier, near sundown, with the late afternoon sun on them. I wanted to get them in front of a Corsair for a group shot. I had also hoped to see their reaction to a Corsair fly by.”
What he actually ended up with, was more than anyone could have imagined. “I was overwhelmed,” said Dodge, “It not only was all that I planned, but so, so much more.”
Dodge grows silent; there are too many things to say. But after some thought, he says, “I never could have dreamed this up. The way it turned out, with so many people stepping forward and helping out, and the joy these veterans had at seeing their beloved plane again, and being together, and being honored…”
Dodge grows silent again, and “A special thank-you to all the veterans and their families for putting up with me and my crew interrupting their lives and changing their plans, and for allowing us to probe into their personal lives and hear their stories.”
“I am very thankful and humbled by how people have responded to the story of these men, and how people have given their time, effort and talents to honor these men and the machines they flew.”
Production continues on the documentary with plans to release it in 2008.