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Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II (1992)

An account of Black American soldiers in World War II who combated racism in the segregated military and on the home front. In April 1945, some Black American soldiers were among the first ... See full summary »

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John Crowley
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Denzel Washington ... Narrator (voice)
Louis Gossett Jr. ... Reader (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Leon Bass Leon Bass ... Himself
Benjamin Bender Benjamin Bender ... Himself
Lena Horne ... Herself (archive footage)
Israel Lau Israel Lau ... Himself (as Rabbi Israel Lau)
Joe Louis ... Himself (archive footage)
E.G. McConnell E.G. McConnell ... Himself
Doris 'Dorie' Miller Doris 'Dorie' Miller ... Himself (archive footage)
Paul Parks Paul Parks ... Himself
Leonard 'Smitty' Smith Leonard 'Smitty' Smith ... Himself
David Yager David Yager ... Himself
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Storyline

An account of Black American soldiers in World War II who combated racism in the segregated military and on the home front. In April 1945, some Black American soldiers were among the first 'liberators' to enter Nazi death camps, encountering the survivors described by one GI as "walking skeletons." Written by Phil Boroff <pdboroff@#cs.com>

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Genres:

Documentary | War

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

11 November 1992 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Did You Know?

Connections

Referenced in The Last Days of the Big Lie (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Shines a little light on some overlooked history
5 February 1999 | by VarlaamSee all my reviews

"My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of bigotry", E.G. McConnell puts it wryly. He's just one of the veterans in this documentary about the black soldier in combat in World War II.

If there is any individual more neglected in the coverage of the campaign in North-Western Europe than the Canadian soldier, it would have to be the black American soldier.

As we saw in "Glory", the black in the military had had to prove himself each time the U.S. had gone to war. The Second World War was no different. The soldiers had to put up with some humiliating experiences. Being ordered to wait on German POWs while training in the South was one of many.

This documentary presents the stories of quite a number of veterans, but there are two main strands. In one, Dr. Leon Bass, retired high school principal and former combat engineer, gives his story to a congregation at a synagogue in New Rochelle, New York. The other strand follows a group from the 761st Tank Battalion, the "Black Panthers", as they retrace their steps from France through Belgium to the death camp at Buchenwald which they liberated.

To me, the weakest portions of the documentary are the segments involving Dr. Bass. He is clearly giving a presentation which he has given many times before, so he tends to be melodramatic when he pauses for effect. The other vets in the story sound the way vets normally sound. They have rarely been asked their stories in detail before, so they come across as fresh and spontaneous. The tankers, in fact, are a really appealing bunch in general.

The tankers have a warm reunion dinner with Belgians they had known in 1945. They visit the Sherman tank parked in Place McAuliffe in Bastogne. They meet a Jewish camp survivor at Buchenwald. Several survivors recall gruesome stories of imprisonment and inspiring ones of liberation. An important theme in the film is to contrast the racial animosities in the States with the far worse events in Europe.

As a bonus, the film contains some great archival footage early on: Lena Horne singing with the USO, Joe Louis training with his cavalry unit, and Messman Doris Miller, awarded the Navy Cross for shooting down a couple of Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor. At one time, there was even an all-black newsreel called "All-American News".

All in all, a thoughtful and informative documentary. The narration is provided by Denzel Washington (completely recovered from his dramatic death in "Glory") with occasional assistance from Lou Gossett, Jr.


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