Do Savannnah

Mighty Eighth Museum hosts big-screen viewing of war documentary at Lucas Theatre

  • Donald Miller
  • Still from “He Has Seen War”
  • Still from “He Has Seen War”

Mighty Eighth Museum hosts big-screen viewing of war documentary at Lucas Theatre

20 Jun 2017

Here in Savannah, our community is lucky indeed to have several very different museums at our disposal. One of the most unique of these institutions is the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, located in nearby Pooler.

Created to salute the character, valor, patriotism and courage of those who defended our country as members of the Eighth Air Force — and to educate others about that largest air armada in history — the museum covers the period just after WWI through the U.S. entry into WWII, and its grounds and facilities boast numerous exhibits (including a fully restored B-17 “Flying Fortress”) as well as a chapel and Memorial Garden. Plus, its research center contains more than 10,000 books, 38,000 documents, 12,000 objects and 85,000 photographs for academics, journalists and authors to examine.

June 23 finds the museum partnering with Gulfstream Aerospace to present a rare big-screen showing of the acclaimed 2011 documentary “He Has Seen War” at the historic Lucas Theatre. Co-produced by award-winning actor, filmmaker and military history enthusiast Tom Hanks, this 53-minute film features exclusive interviews with several surviving members of the Mighty Eighth who served during that time period, and was designed as a non-fiction companion piece to the acclaimed TV miniseries “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific,” both of which were executive produced by Hanks.

Noted author and historian Donald Miller served as both on-screen narrator and associate producer on “He Has Seen War” and much of the documentary was based around research Miller did over a several-year period — a good portion of it right here at the Mighty Eighth Museum.

For this Lucas Theatre event (which is free and open to the public), Miller returns to Savannah to introduce and discuss his film and the legacy of those soldiers and their service. According to Maria Center, the museum’s director of development, the purpose of this showing is to draw attention to the work they do “preserving history.”

Center says the museum specifically chose to host this event in the summer, when there was the potential to interest tourists to attend, as well as locals. She also admits it was not that difficult to talk Miller into making the trip, as he is a longtime member of the museum’s board (in fact, he’s now an emeritus member). He also serves as the John Henry MacCracken professor of history at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

“Dr. Miller has done extensive work in our Research Center and is an active supporter of the work of the museum,” Center says. “He is pleased to be back in Savannah and this will be a great opportunity for people in our community to hear from a New York Times bestselling author of nine books and a world-renowned scholar on WWII and U.S. history.”

Formed on Jan. 28, 1942, right here in Chatham County (just 53 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), at its peak the Mighty Eighth was able to dispatch a stunning 2,000 four-engine bombers and 20,000 airmen in a single mission. In total, its members earned 17 Medals of Honor, 220 Distinguished Service Crosses, 850 Silver Stars, 7,000 Purple Hearts and 46,000 Air Medals. More than 56,000 Eighth Air Force crewmen were shot down during the war, with 26,000 servicemen killed in action.

That’s more soldiers than were lost by the entire U.S. Marine Corp in all of WWII.

Center says the film will resonate with viewers across an unusually broad age range.

“It features veterans of Easy Company and the 1st Marine Division. From their initial steps at reintegration into civilian life to the lasting impact the war had on each of their lives, ‘He Has Seen War’ features veterans and their families relaying their own unique stories,” she says. “It features rarely seen archival and documentary footage and captures the struggle and ultimate triumph of a generation who, after helping rescue the world from unprecedented calamity, reclaimed their lives and re-forged a country.

“It’s a sobering documentary,” she adds. “The film describes the difficulties men had coming back to civilian life, not unlike what many veterans experience today. The subject matter is suitable for teens and over, and realistically, it’s a historical documentary, not a Hollywood movie with special effects.

“This is a chance for viewers to get insight from the creator of the film, thereby giving people a deeper understanding of the content. Kids interested in history will love it.”


What: “He Has Seen War” documentary screening

When: 8 p.m. June 23

Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.

Cost: Free