Sometimes it’s a long road getting a “never-before-told” documentary on a World War II event to the television screen, finds Grumpy Editor, in the airing Sunday of “The Flintlock Disaster” involving the loss of 22 Navy aircraft in the Pacific when bad weather was encountered.
How difficult was it?
Los Angeles-based Leon Furgatch 15 years ago started work on the true story involving the Marine squadron in which he served as an aviation mechanic on F4U gull-winged Corsairs.
Furgatch, an executive producer of the documentary, says he didn’t learn about the Jan. 25, 1944 tragedy until he attended a reunion of VMF-422 squadron mates in the early 1990s.
“I was smitten with it and decided to break it to the American public because it was the greatest disaster in Marine Corps aviation history, where not a shot was fired in anger, and it also involved a cover-up by the general in charge of the Marine Air Wing," he relates.
The planes were lost on a flight from Tarawa to a safe haven. The central Pacific atoll had been taken two months prior by Marines.
Six pilots, including the squadron commander, died in the disaster, with remaining fliers rescued after several days at sea in one-man life rafts, notes Furgatch. One pilot managed to get his aircraft through to the final destination 750 miles away.
Narrated by veteran NBC newsman Tom Brokaw, the one-hour documentary airs at 5 p.m. on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, on KOCE, the Public Broadcasting Service TV station that covers Los Angeles and Southern California.
Hopefully, the full PBS network, or others, will get around to airing the program produced by Triple Threat Television.
Furgatch says in an attempt to go the motion picture route, he ran into roadblocks “because producers or their reps informed me that WWII was out of style with the 18-to-49 age group who were the principal moviegoers.”
He adds, “Another excuse was that it was a ‘period’ piece and it would be too costly to film.”