On the morning of April 4, 1943, ten American prisoners-of-war and two Filipino convicts commenced perhaps the most impossible mission of World War II – they broke out of the Davao Penal Colony, an allegedly escape-proof Imperial Japanese Army prison plantation in the Philippines. Called “the Greatest Story of the War in the Pacific” by the U.S. War Department in 1944, the account of the escape and the atrocities they endured at the hands of their fanatic captors – including the most monstrous war crime in American military history, the infamous Bataan Death March – has been all but lost to history due to wartime censorship, politically-driven policy and other circumstances. Until now.
As seen through the eyes of Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess, one of the war’s most extraordinary, yet little-known heroes, this astonishing, true action adventure tale is finally told in full in a groundbreaking new documentary film titled “4-4-43.”
Known as the “One-Man Scourge of the Japanese,” Dyess, a swashbuckling fighter pilot from Albany, Texas with recruiting poster good looks, dueled with enemy planes in aerial combat, launched an audacious air raid on enemy ships and shore installations, led America’s first amphibious landing of the war, survived the Death March and nearly a year of hellish torture, disease, starvation and slave labor in enemy captivity before helping lead the only successful, large-scale Allied POW escape of the Pacific War. In what would be his last mission, Dyess partnered with the Chicago Tribune in a top secret fight against the U.S. Government and wartime censorship restrictions to break the news of Japanese atrocities to the world before his tragic death in a stateside plane crash at the young age of 27.
Dyess and his comrades, through their escape and the revelations that followed, changed the course of the war. Strategic military operations were altered in the Pacific Theater, while on the homefront, news of the Death March and other atrocities awoke America from a little-known mid-war complacency slumber. The revelations slashed absenteeism in war industry, skyrocketed stagnant war bond sales, shamed the Japanese before the global community, galvanized the American public for a greater prosecution of the Pacific war and, most notably, fundamentally altered U.S. Government wartime censorship policies, returning the Constitutionally-protected First Amendment right of a free press to the Fourth Estate.
Shot in HD in the U.S., Hawaii and the Philippines, “4-4-43” features vintage WWII media, captured enemy combat footage, stunning aerial photography and special effects, intimate interviews with surviving veterans and the narrative talents of Hollywood actor and decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran Dale Dye (“Platoon, “Saving Private Ryan,” “Band of Brothers”) as well as “The Voice of the Oscars,” voice actor Tom Kane, as Col. Dyess.
Based upon the book, Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War by John D. Lukacs, “4-4-43” was funded by the Dian Graves Owen Foundation of Abilene, Texas, with assistance from Judge Ed and Bettye Denman and the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor. The film was produced by the World War II Foundation, Tim Gray Media and Ocean State Video. The film is presented by The Albany Foundation of Albany, Texas. Cover artwork and the “Mission of Honor” logo is by Christopher Ruane Photography and Fine Art.
An educational and entertaining epic documentary film, “4-4-43” is a quintessential American tale of fate, faith, sacrifice, heroism, teamwork and inspirational triumph over long odds – without a doubt the most significant POW story in American history, perhaps the true great escape of World War II, and most certainly the “Greatest Story of the War in the Pacific.”