"When Heroes Were Everywhere"

 

Virginia Multimedia is filming a documentary about Danville 's extraordinary patriotism during World War Two; a story that is began with a mystery WWll B-17 Bomber with "City of Danville, Va" emblazoned on the nose. Five years of research by David Hutcheson of Virginia Multimedia finally identified how we connected to that airplane, and it wasn't because of a crew member who was from Danville .

The journey of solving the riddle included the discovery of amazing stories from bomber crew vets here in Southside , Virginia . Stories of Danville native and B-17 navigator Bob Floyd trying to avoid frostbite at 35,000 feet . Of an American prisoner of war escaping the POW camp and sneaking in to German-occupied Belgium , where he found a sympathetic family who hid him in their basement--during which time he fell in love with their daughter and wound up living his life with them.

Stories from Danville native Andy Waggoner, who flew bombing missions over Japanese islands at tree-top level to keep the enemy fighters from going under him as they shot at him while he was dodging anti-aircraft gunfire and concentrating on his target. Of Danville native (and B-17 waist-gunner) James Rich getting shot down over Berlin, trying to limp to Poland on only two of the four engines still working, then wondering if they would crash land in a Russian or German-held part of that country. Of having the crew's nice cotton underwear switched with rough wool Russian underwear when some enterprising Russian allies noticed the Americans all taking a bath in a large wooden tub.

The stories create a world of intensity, humor, romance and the ultimate in camaraderie--all lived under an umbrella of danger. These crews did something that was so dangerous that they were only asked to do it 24 times. After 24 missions, if they survived, they were removed from combat. But they were unaware of the heroic support they were getting from their loved ones in Danville --represented by the "mystery" B-17. An airplane that was a result of Danville 's response to America 's wartime sale of War Bonds to pay for the fight for freedom. Deficit spending was unconstitutional in the 1940s, so the government raised money selling bonds. And the "Buy a Bomber:" program would get a city its own bomber if it raised at least $200,000. (about $1.5 million in today's money). Danville raised that and more. An astounding amount for a small textile town.

"When Heroes Were Everywhere" will look at Southside's extraordinary support of freedom from here and abroad, and capture for future generations the spirit of cooperation and courage that lived here.

Attached are pictures of the Danville veterans interviewed so far for the documentary. The company that made the B-17 (now Boeing Aerospace) is supporting the documentary by providing valuable WWll film of these men in the air and on the ground. the documentary is still being filmed and is slated for release in mid-spring