TagWorld War II
Spitfire 944 is a short documentary in which an 83-year-old World War II pilot views 16mm footage of his 1944 Spitfire crash-landing for the first time, sixty-one years after the event.
In October 2005, filmmaker William Lorton inherited two suitcases of 16mm home movies which his great uncle, James R. Savage, MD., shot while serving as a Flight Surgeon for the US Army Air Corps during World War II . The most compelling shot in the three hours of war footage was the crash landing of a Spitfire Mk XI fighter plane at Mount Farm Airbase in Great Britain. Being the flight surgeon at the base, Captain Savage was alerted to the impending accident and had the presence of mind to bring his movie camera to the landing strip.
Within 30 seconds of entering the Spitfire’s tail number into Google, the filmmaker was able to ascertain the date of the crash, the location of the crash and the name of the pilot: John S. Blyth.
The filmmaker sent a letter to the pilot requesting a general interview about World War II aviation and received a positive response. He did not reveal the existence of the 16mm footage until the interview took place about two weeks later near Tacoma, WA. At the end of a three-hour interview about the pilot’s World War II exploits, the filmmaker asked the pilot to review “about one minute” of footage. John S. Blyth was quite surprised to suddenly be watching his death-defying landing of 61 years earlier.