LOS ANGELES – The sufferings and struggle of some 1,500 American POWs during World War II in Shenyang, the Japanese occupied Northeastern city of China, seemed to have been forgotten even by historians, but American filmmaker Richard Anderson has “revived” this piece of history by shooting a feature documentary film “Behind Bayonets and Barbed Wire.”
“Last year was the 70th anniversary of the ending of World War II. My film will bring people back to the history where American POWs were detained,” said Anderson in any interview Thursday.
He said he first learned about the Shenyang prisoner camp from a short article, then he went to Washington D.C. to search the national archives but only found a very short movie that was actually shot about the POWs there. He tried to search for the survivors or their children and relatives in the United States.
“Through the help of the Veterans Association, I started to search for the survivors. We have a team to trace the survivors of the camp and their children or relatives in the U.S. We went to the little towns in different corners of the country and found seven of the actual people and we interviewed a couple of them or their children who had known a lot about them,” said Anderson.
Then he went to Shenyang where the actual prison camp was situated but now it is a museum.
Anderson said in China, he talked with some Chinese who worked in the factory where the American POWs were sent to do the slave labor.
He said he got some touching stories from those Chinese, some of them gave food or vegetables to the POWs, one of them even risked his life to steal a map for the POWs to help them escape.
Anderson said he was lucky that he found Mr. Gao who helped the POWs to get a map and interviewed him. Gao’s story is moving, and he suggested that people go watch the film to get the whole story.
Anderson said his documentary film focuses on the sufferings of the POWs in Shenyang and how they resisted. The survivors told him that they felt they were still fighting even in the camp.
BEHIND BAYONETS AND BARBED WIRE is the story of American POWs in World War II who were surrendered after their heroic and hard-fought defense of the Philippines. They were sent to the city of Mukden (today called Shenyang) in Chinese Manchuria by the Japanese Army, where they were condemned to spend the rest of their lives working as slave laborers in factories to produce war materials for their enemy.
This is the story of the men’s fight to survive the brutal winters, disease, and even more brutal guards, while secretly resisting in any way possible. As General Jonathan Wainwright put it, they were “men locked away behind the bayonets and barbed wire of cruel jailers.”
The film, codirected with Chinese director Shen Haofang, will have its premiere in the United States on November 11, which happened to be the Veteran’s Day. Anderson said veterans will have a special discount seeing the film.
The documentary has also been submitted to compete for Oscar award.
Anderson’s career in the Hollywood film industry has lasted for over 40 years, winning an Oscar (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK), an Emmy (AMAZING STORIES), and five Golden Reel Awards (RAIDERS, AMAZING STORIES, PREDATOR, THE LION KING, AND DAYLIGHT) for his achievements in sound design.
Now he concentrates on writing and directing. He has written several feature film scripts and directed a few films, including a giant screen, 3D film about Genghis Khan, Titled Temujin. He is currently developing a suspense/science fiction film and a TV series about a Chinese detective, while waiting to direct the Hollywood version of this story of American POWs in Mukden.
Here is the link to watch the trailer: