SUMMER 2011 – A documentary film, In the Footsteps of ‘The Force,’ captures the final return of U.S. and Canadian veterans from The First Special Service Force to their World War II path in Italy.
In the Footsteps of ‘The Force’ follows veterans from “The Force” – the first and only joint unit of U.S. and Canadian soldiers and precursor to today’s special forces – over a nine days’ journey from May to June 2010 in central Italy. From the mountains, valleys and villages of the Gustav Line front once held by the Germans, to the now-picturesque Mediterranean beachhead of Anzio, to the hazy gates of Rome, In the Footsteps… both breathtakingly and intimately documents Force veterans’ return to key battle sites that were not only literally on the road to Rome, but that ultimately led to the liberation of Rome from Nazi occupation on 4 June 1944.
In the Footsteps of ‘The Force’ also journeys to the memorials and cemeteries emerging in post-war commemoration of those killed-in-action in the Italian Campaign. At both U.S. and Commonwealth cemeteries, Force veterans sought out fallen comrades while second and third generations stood before the gravestones of their fathers, uncles, brothers, grandfathers, and unknown soldiers – all humbled into staggering reflection. Memorials were also made during the course of the film from the vistas of Hill 720 and Monte La Defensa, sanctified by the efforts alone it took to bring six veterans – all in their 80s or older – and the 70-plus members of their U.S., Canadian, and Italian entourage to the summits.
This lovingly-shot film also captures the response local villagers have to the return of The Force – of colorful commemorative wreaths placed in Artena, of celebratory meals of local foods and wine spread out in the afternoon shadow of La Defensa, and of a younger generation of Italians guiding the veterans, awestruck, to where they once fought, and to museums commemorating their battle through archaeological preservation. “Thank you,” one man says as a Forceman signs his copy of the book, Supercomandos, after a Memorial Day ceremony at the Sicily-Rome U.S. War Cemetery and Memorial, “for what you did for our country.”
In the Footsteps of ‘The Force’, first-time director, Tamar Victoria Scoggin has a personal connection to her film’s subject: her grandfather was a 1st Lieutenant in The Force and was killed 2 February 1944 on Anzio beachhead. It would be another 99 days before The Force and Allied forces broke through the beachhead, and onto the liberation of Rome. “To have traveled with veterans who had not only survived the Italian Campaign but then The Force’s deployment and eventual disbandment in southern France was, quite simply, the closest I’d ever mortally felt to the grandfather I never knew,” Scoggin says about the experience filming In the Footsteps of ‘The Force’. “And I was not the only one on such a journey. By visiting the places The Force had been, everyone on that trip was searching for more memories of ‘the boys’ – and in doing so, powerfully bringing a few things in our own lives full-circle.”
In the Footsteps of ‘The Force’ thus comes to document the journey younger generations are on to understand the legacy of WWII while they still have veterans with them. For the vets, their re-discoveries meant the cessation of doubts, regrets, nightmares, and bringing things full circle too. Most powerfully, In the Footsteps… serves as critical documentation of the fading numbers of World War II veterans, and that of living First Special Service Force veterans in particular. Their return for reconciliation to the far away places symbolizing their greatest battles as brothers-in-arms transcends a close but unexpected national border.
More on the film and RiMo Productions:
RiMo (MountainGirl) Productions: https://whenrainandsunlighttouch.wordpress.com/
Tamar V. Scoggin, director and producer of In the Footsteps of The Force: http://www.anth.ubc.ca/graduates/student-profiles/tamar-v-scoggin.html & http://ubc.academia.edu/TamarVScoggin