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America Supports You: 'The Great Raid' Preview Storms D.C.

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2005 – Servicemembers and veterans were among those who got a sneak peek of the film that promotional materials say tells the story of the "most spectacular rescue missions ever to take place in American history: 'the great raid on Cabanatuan.'"

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Actor Benjamin Bratt talks with reporters on the red carpet at the July 28 premiere of his movie "The Great Raid" in Washington. Bratt plays Lt. Col. Henry A. Mucci, who took action to free U.S. prisoners of war held by the Japanese in the Philippines. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley

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The raid was conducted to rescue the more than 500 U.S. prisoners of war who had survived the Bataan Death March through the jungles of the Philippines. Lt. Col. Henry A. Mucci, working from 6th Army Headquarters in Luzon in the Philippines, was charged with figuring out how to free the POWs before the Japanese army's "Kill All" policy was enforced.

Capt. Robert Prince and 121 Rangers and Alamo Scouts, aided by members of the Filipino resistance, were his answer.

Director John Dahl said he had more than one reason that compelled him to make the movie.

"When I first read about this story, I was sort of shocked at how little I knew about the war in Philippines and how little I knew about the Bataan Death March and the survivors," Dahl said. "My father served in the Philippines, and he had a very good friend of his who was a survivor of the death march."

Dahl added that he thinks everyone who worked on the film felt deeply honored to be part of an epic human drama that sheds a light on great American heroes.

The film that depicts the selfless heroism of a group of soldiers is more than just a feel-good war tale, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, said in an address to the audience before the viewing of the film. It's representative of a much larger picture, he said.

"There is perhaps no story which illustrates each and every tenet of the warrior ethos quite like "The Great Raid," he said. "While one cannot help but be inspired by the story ... and those depicted in this film, we must not forget that ... there are millions of examples (of such warrior ethos) from the Army's 230-year history."

Former Marine Capt. Dale Dye, who served as senior military technical adviser on the film, helped create that representation. He was responsible for training the "Rangers" of Charlie Company, 6th Ranger Battalion for the movie.

Learning the raid step-by-step was only one aspect of the training, Dye said. The other part was making the actors understand the gravity of what they were portraying.

"I said, 'Look, we are representing the real United States Rangers who went in and pulled off one of the most extraordinary raids the world has ever known, and I'm going to show you how to do it,'" he said. "And the extraordinary thing about it was, they got it. They understood that they were representing the real folks, folks who are still alive today. And I said, 'We are not going to let (them) down.' And they got it." Dye, who attended the Army's Ranger school during his 20-year military career, also had a role in the movie.

The movie adaptation of two books - "The Great Raid" by William B. Breuer and "Ghost Soldiers" by Hampton Sides -stars actors Benjamin Bratt, Joseph Fiennes, Mark Consuelos and James Franco.

Conseulos, who perhaps is best known for his role on the soap opera "All My Children," said it was an honor to have servicemembers and veterans at the premiere, and he said hoped that they felt the film did their story justice. He said his role in "The Great Raid" might have enlightened him a little, but really didn't alter his view of the military.

"I grew up with grandfathers in wars, and my dad was in the military, and I grew up around a lot of military," he said. "So I've always had a deep appreciation for the armed services and the sacrifices the men and women make."

The actor said the story is important because it hasn't really been told. It gives a good impression of what the men endured and what happened between Gen. Douglas MacArthur's famous "I shall return," and his actual return to the Philippines. Additionally, he said, it honors and gives credit to the Filipinos who aided the POWs and helped make the raid a success.

Benjamin Bratt, of "Law & Order" fame, said he thinks a lot of romantic nostalgia is attached to World War II and with good reason. "What this particular story is about and why it's significant and compelling to watch is that it's a perfect demonstration (that) war, regardless of the circumstances ... can bring out the worst in mankind, but quite often the best," he said.

Bratt added that it was a goal for the movie to honor the soldiers who lost their lives as well as those who survived Bataan in hopes that they would enjoy it and recognized themselves.

As for those military members serving today, Bratt offered a message of support: "Stay positive. Stay hopeful and all of us back home, no matter what you're reading or hearing, we do support the troops," he said. "We really feel for the young men and women who are putting their lives on the line."

The movie opens nationwide Aug. 12.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageActor Mark Conseulos attended the July 28 premiere of "The Great Raid," his first feature film, in Washington. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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