On June 7, 1942 Japan Invaded Alaska.
It is the only invasion of American soil in nearly 200 years.
4,000 People died.
Now, 60 years later, one man has come to take it back.
Bill Jones and Andy Petrus are the two toughest 85-year-olds you've ever met.
Together, these life-long friends fought 3,000 Japanese in a secret Alaskan invasion during World War II. Now, 60 years later, these two forgotten heroes embark on an intense and emotional journey back to the remote Aleutian island of Attu, where they relive the brutal 19-day battle that the American government kept secret.
As Bill and Andy retrace their steps over this desolate, untouched battlefield - a living museum littered with crashed airplanes, collapsing buildings, and unexploded bombs - the line between past and present begins to blur and long-forgotten memories resurface with moving force.
Red White Black & Blue isn't just one soldier's story - it is the story of every solider who faces an enemy he does not understand and returns home with scars that are slow to heal.
Walk through one of the bloodiest battles of World War II with the soldiers who lived it. Through their eyes you'll experience the complicated, and sometimes contradictory, mindset of a nation at war and what it really means to be an American hero.
Red White Black & Blue is the first feature-length documentary to tell the story of the Battle of Attu, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II and the only invasion of the United States since the War of 1812.
DVD includes the award-winning feature-length film plus over 35 minutes of extras including:
The theatrical trailer for the film
Unedited combat footage from the battle of Attu
The 1945 animated short Private Snafu in the Aleutians directed by Chuck Jones and written by Theodor Dr. Seuss Geisel
Additional footage of the island today
And much more
Attu is considerably closer to Russian than mainland Alaska, making it an obvious choice for a Japanese invasion during World War II. When Hirohito's forces landed, the U.S. government kept the info under wraps for fear the news would demoralize the country.
Convinced the army would take back the island quickly, the Pentagon didn't bother to equip the men with necessary gear: gloves, rubber boots, winter coats or decent maps. Frostbite and trench foot soon decimated the infantry, and the battle, according to vet Andy Petrus, was worse than Okinawa; the number of U.S. casualties (as opposed to fatalities) was only rivaled by Iwo Jima.
Putnam doesn't address the question of why the battle has been forgotten (though the decreasing emphasis on teaching history surely deserves part of the blame). What he and his team are more interested in is the rocky psychological territory left behind when soldiers are placed in a kill or be killed situation. They found an ideal man to focus on in veteran Bill Jones.
Jones, a farm boy from southern New Jersey, wound up as squad leader during the 19-day fight. Putnam interviews Jones on multiple occasions, on and off Attu: He comes off as intelligent, fiercely patriotic, jingoisitc in the way of his generation (the Japanese are still Japs), and still struggling with the memories that will not die. When you use a flamethrower on somebody and they're on fire and they scream... he recalls before tears prevent him from continuing.
One of Putnam's strengths is his ability to capture the conflicting forces that still tear Jones apart: unswerving loyalty to his country, unquestioning obedience to the army, and yet a deep humanity.
Impeccably researched and supplemented with excellent historical footage, the documentary is the perfect riposte to the current fad for reconstructions, proving that such jarring gimmicks are unnecessary when subjects are tackled with creativity and sensitivity.
Terrific editing by Jeff Malmberg (also a producer) juxtaposes interviews in a way that subtly reveals the conflicting nature of Jones' attitudes without undermining the veteran's integrity.
Thanks to the island's unchanged landscape and harrowing photographs of the battle's aftermath, Putnam and his team seamlessly duplicate shots, displaying B&W images of mangled bodies in the barren tundra that fade into the exact locations today.
(Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival Critics' Week, August 4, 2006 --Jay Weissberg, Variety
A wrenching look at a forgotten battle. --Ethan Gilsdorf, The Boston Globe
A warning to human stupidity and to those who think that war can change the world. --La Regione