ABC7 Salutes: Filmmakers complete mission to make documentary honoring WWII heroes

Two filmmakers salute heroes of World War II by making the documentary, "Journey to Royal: A WWI Rescue Mission."
"Journey to Royal: A WWII Rescue Mission" is a documentary that begins with film writer-director Christopher Johnson wondering what happened to his great uncle, Lt. Royal Stratton, a pilot with the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron who never made it home.

"Where these people journey to is incomprehensible to most of us," said Johnson.

To tell this story more visually, the filmmakers decided to have actors recreate moments from those dangerous days in the South Pacific where unarmed rescuers fought hard to save the lives of nine downed airmen, floating in war-torn waters.

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Sergeant Charles Jim Shaw II broke barriers and made history during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps, but his story was largely glossed over, until now.

"It was a rarefied experience to be in the presence of these people and to get these stories firsthand from them," said producer Mariana Tosca. "They entrusted us with their personal stories, and we became the custodians of that and that's a responsibility that we've taken very, very seriously."

For the film's historical value, the Palm Springs Air Museum, and March Field Air Museum in Riverside both let them shoot there. Saving even more money they didn't have, Johnson, a former Disney Imagineer, recreated whatever they needed!.

"(We) recreated rafts and Mae West life vests, and we hand-sewed costumes and made props," said Tosca. "Everything in this film is historically accurate."

They saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on the model planes Johnson made, which would take months to complete.

"As you're rolling the rivets into these pieces of styrene and gluing them on these model planes, you're thinking this is another component to upholding their legacy," said Johnson. "This picture is our love letter to servicemen and women who stand between us and tyranny."

"Journey to Royal" is available now on demand, DVD and Blu-Ray.

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Family, friends and fellow veterans saluted D-Day Normandy Navy veteran Martin Copenhafer with an appropriate, physically distanced 100th birthday celebration in his Malibu driveway.

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