“[The B-29] was a beautiful airplane, flew beautifully. One problem: the engines, they overheated readily.”
With a roaring fire ablaze in the engine room of a B-29 bomber flying above the neighboring waters of Japan, a splash landing was put in order. The squadron of ten performed the ditch exceptionally well, strategically switching the power on and off to prevent the fire from engulfing the aircraft while the pilot teetered the fine line between absolute freefall and necessary control of the plane. Nine soldiers would gather on two life crafts, the lone casualty being the tail gunner, unable to escape the flames.
With one miracle granted, it would take another to rescue the stranded men, now a mere speck surrounded by seemingly endless blue water.
Enter Lt. Royal Stratton.
JOURNEY TO ROYAL Demonstrates Bravery and a Willingness to Sacrifice
Journey To Royal: A WWII Rescue Mission details the story of Lt. Royal A. Stratton and the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron’s embarkation to recover the stragglers remaining from the ditched B-29 bomber. Through a combination of interviews, filmed reenactments, and sporadic war footage, the movie is an admirable remembrance of Stratton’s seldom-known heroics near the conclusion of the second World War.
“I’m here today, my family is here, several generations of family are here because of the efforts of Stratton and his crew, so words escape me as to the gratitude I have for the gentleman.
In reenactments, Stratton is portrayed as a tall, dignified figure beholding an air of mystery, in a way adding to his respectable demeanor. The film weaves conversations with remaining military men a part of the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron and others familiar with Stratton into the acted portrayals of the events transpiring on that fateful night. The edge-of-your-seat reenacted scenes, peppered throughout, give life to what would otherwise be a visually drab 90 minutes and guide the viewer through the spoken stories with emotionally evocative representations.
The tirelessly hard-working portrayal of engine mechanic Samuel Zuck displays him hammering away at the exterior of the rescue plane, much to the chagrin of Edgar E. “Doc” Holladay, whose beauty sleep has evidently been rudely interrupted, pressing a pillow to his ears and hollering for Sam to cut it out. From his bed across from Holladay, radar operator John Logan peers over with a look of amusement, clearly enjoying this display of aggravation from his crewmate.
Moments later, the crew would be called to action at the orders of Stratton.
Accompanied by the present dialogue of the squad’s members, a reenactment of Stratton’s fearlessness and unwavering leadership brings timely fervor to the film. The stories told of the rescue are bursting with detail, thanks to anecdotes from countless interviewees that either lived through the moment or are related to those involved. The scene portraying the rescue is also racked with emotion and intensity, with Logan using himself as a ladder to assist those climbing from the raft onto the running aircraft. The final man left on the raft, Edwin A. Weaver, was severely injured, unable to move.
“You have never seen a more pitiful look on a guy’s face in your life. He thought we were gonna go off and leave him.”
Logan, displaying courage and grit, managed to hoist the helpless Weaver out of the raft and onto the aircraft. All the men were on board, nobody left dawdling out at sea.
War and history buffs would have trouble disliking Journey to Royal, especially those always on the hunt for a new story. Most don’t know the tale of Lt. Royal A. Stratton and the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron, so the film doesn’t contain the recycled information so prevalent in war stories. Additionally, the merging of acted-out portrayals and informative interviews caters to the casual documentary viewer, and all movie-goers would leave this film 90 minutes later having learned something new about World War II.
James Patitucci: Mauri Montebello
A. Larson: Damon Agapiou
Samuel James: Nicholas Neubrand
Walter Lloyd: Beau Brians
Clyde Allen West: William McKinney
Arthur L. Cody: Constantine Trakas
Roderick Gale Wilcoxon: P.J. Megaw
Charles E. Gibbs: Shawn Hawkins
Anthony L. Verdeschi: Andrew Tippie
Viturbo Vargas: Andre Datyelian
John Logan: Triever Sherwood
Ralph C. Zalkan: Bret Grantham
Edgar E. Holliday: Andrew Bonds
Royal A. Stratton: Nick Molari
Walter Scheuch: Daniel VanHart
Samuel Zuck: Harry Farmer
Miss May: Mariana Tosca
Director: Christopher Johnson
Producer: Mariana Tosca
Associate Producers: Nicholas Neubrand and Glenn Rossney