You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

'The French American' - He Flew 35 Missions for Honor, Then the Last One for Love

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 20/10/2015 Dorian de Wind

2015-10-20-1445303106-6489150-JohnSchirhartB17.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-10-20-1445303106-6489150-JohnSchirhartB17.jpg

When I visit World War II veteran and dear friend John Tschirhart at his assisted living community in Austin, Texas, the one thing he invariably asks me is if I have heard from Darla Rae recently. Rae is a Denver, Colorado, "Film It Productions" producer and director who has been working long and hard to tell the incredible life story of Tschirhart in a full length narrative. It is a story of idyllic young love, the harsh realities of war and the bravery and hardships of the men who experience it all.
The movie Rae has been working on, "The French American," is the true World War II story of a young U.S. Army Air Corps B-17 bombardier who flew 35 combat missions out of England to "bomb the heck" out of the Nazis.
But Tschirhart's personal "side mission" was to re-establish contact with a beautiful, young French girl named Malou, the love of his life, whom he had to suddenly and heartbreakingly leave behind in France when the Germans invaded and occupied that country in 1942.
You see, Tschirhart is a U.S.-born, 20-year old youngster, living in a small village southeast of Paris with his parents when World War II breaks out. Because of his citizenship, young Tschirhart has to make a sudden and daring escape to the United States when it becomes clear that the Nazis are about to capture him and most likely deport him to some forced labor camp in Germany -- or worse.
As he says his goodbyes, an inconsolable Tschirhart promises his young love and himself that he will never abandon or forget her.
"The French American" depicts the daring and creative efforts the young B-17 "Flying Fortress" bombardier made to re-establish contact with Malou both by air during his bombing runs over Nazi-occupied Europe and, later, by land after rolling out onto the beaches of Normandy just two days after D-Day.
To find out what happens next, the reader will have to wait for the movie!
Tschirhart's meritorious military achievements have been recognized with many high decorations from not only the U.S. military but also, more recently, from the French government through the award of France's most prestigious decoration, the Medal of Chevalier (Knight) in the French Order of the Legion of Honor (below).
2015-10-20-1445303196-7326566-AprilJune2014068.JPG © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-10-20-1445303196-7326566-AprilJune2014068.JPG The Consul General of France in Houston pins the Medal of the French Order of the Legion of Honor, on John Tschirhart's chest during ceremonies aboard the Battleship USS Texas. (Photo by author)
Tschirhart, now a very frail 95, has had several serious health setbacks in recent months.
However, although his memory is beginning to fade, Tschirhart has not forgotten his promise to Malou or the fact that Rae and others have promised to do everything possible to see "The French American" become reality while Tschirhart is still with us.
About one year ago, "FilmIt Productions" producer and director Rae wrote:

John has carried this story for 70 years, and during the past 20 years, several filmmakers have promised to help bring his story to the big screen. They took his money but never delivered. Once I heard all of the beautiful components of his life I wanted to help make it right. We should pay respect to our veterans, not take advantage of them. I have great admiration and respect for our soldiers and you can't deny working with a World War II veteran is a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity for a filmmaker.

Since then, Rae has faithfully worked on the script, put together a full and fabulous cast and started pre-production of "The French American," all while continuing to work with financiers to raise the remaining funds.
I recently showed John Tschirhart a progress report on the filming.
The report mentions the filming in Colorado of some poignant scenes of "The French American" aboard one of the few remaining airworthy B-17s in the world, the famous "Aluminum Overcast," courtesy of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and Wings over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. 2015-10-20-1445303306-7732281-TheFrenchAmericanDarlaplustwo.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-10-20-1445303306-7732281-TheFrenchAmericanDarlaplustwo.jpg Producer Darla Rae (center), actors Julien Oblette (left) and Greg Kyle (right) on location with "Aluminum Overcast" B-17 in background. (Courtesy FilmIt Productions)
Tschirhart, who still has excellent eyesight, devoured the report and for the first time in many weeks I saw a twinkle in his eyes. He had a big smile on his lips when he looked up from reading and re-reading the piece of paper in his hands. In a strong baritone voice reminiscent of yesteryears Tschirhart said, "I'll be darned. I may still see my movie. When the day comes, I'll be there for the showing even if I have to crawl out of here."
On a subsequent visit, I showed him some photos of the filming, including a photo of the young actor, Julien Oblette, who will portray lieutenant Tschirhart in the movie (below). Beautiful Gabrielle Stone will portray Malou.
2015-10-20-1445303388-3977927-TheFrenchAmericanJulien.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-10-20-1445303388-3977927-TheFrenchAmericanJulien.jpg Actor Julien Oblette (Courtesy FilmIt Productions)
Decked out in authentic World War II combat aircraft crewmember uniform, Oblette displays an uncanny resemblance to Tschirhart during his bombardier days.
2015-10-20-1445303491-7752398-TheFrenchAmericanJohnandJulien.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-10-20-1445303491-7752398-TheFrenchAmericanJohnandJulien.jpg John Tschirhart (left) and Julien Oblette (right). Courtesy FilmIt Productions.
Tschirhart was quick to note the resemblance and, reverting to his native French, exclaimed "Mon Dieu, ├ža c'est moi!"
Tschirhart, the battle-hardened veteran, was moved to tears when he read another e-mail in which Rae describes her experience flying aboard an authentic B-17 and re-enacting Tschirhart's missions:
As a Director, getting to direct in-flight on an authentic B17 was something I will not ever forget. To think John walked those tiny spaces above the bomb doors and then flew in the very front of the aircraft for 35 combat missions leaves me speechless.

She concludes:
I am so grateful and appreciative of all veterans but I must say WWII veterans like John have my heart forever.
This movie has always been important to me but now we have a new fire that burns and we want to pull out all the stops to get John's story to the big screen.

Retired Major John Tschirhart is scheduled to have some critical medical tests in the coming days. The results may very well determine whether he will finally get to see the love of his life, the story of his life, on the "silver screen."
Please read more about the fascinating story of The French American here and here and please visit TheFrenchAmerican.com to support the making of what promises to be a spellbinding "honor and love" movie.
To learn about advertising or sponsorship opportunities for The French American, contact FilmIt Productions at filmitproductions7@gmail.com.
Also, visit "The French American" on Facebook.Lead photo: John Tschirhart, bottom row, left, and his B-17 crew (Courtesy John Tschirhart)

DEFAULT © The Huffington Post DEFAULT

More from Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon