HONOR TO YOU
The miraculous and inspirational true story of Hollywood’s great hero…
and his heroic repayment of America’s greatest debt.
Film opens at the Academy Awards Presentation Ceremony in Hollywood in 1953.
Fifty eight year old Hollywood producer and director, Merian C. Cooper, is receiving an honorary Oscar “for his many innovations and contributions to the art of motion pictures”. A narrator is presenting a list of his greatest films as a montage of scenes from these films appears on a screen. As scenes roll from the original “King Kong”, “Fort Apache”, “The Lost Patrol”, “The Quiet Man”, “Fugitive”, etc., they finally come to an end, and Merian Cooper walks on stage to the awards podium.
As members of the Academy break out into a spontaneous standing ovation with shouts of Bravo…Honor… Honor to You.. Honor to You! The camera zooms in on a close-up of Cooper’s contemplative face. We hear his thoughts: “This is a wonderful moment…but…true honor is reserved for the real men and women throughout the world who face evil … stand up to it…and risk their lives so that others might live free. I know. I have seen it. I have been there. I remember. If only they who are applauding now knew…”
Flashback to an outdoor café on a busy street in Paris in July 1919.
Captain Merian C. Cooper is sitting together with Major Cedric E. Fauntleroy renewing their friendship in the military service as American Air Service squadron pilots. Dressed sharply in their military officers uniforms, they are enjoying their camaraderie, as they dine, drink and reminisce about their days as fighter pilots in the just completed WWI. They are recounting stories and memories of lost friends, near misses with death, and heroic sorties including campaigns with their fellow American fighter pilot and WWI ace, Eddie Rickenbacker. Fauntleroy reminds Cooper how lucky he is to be alive today, after being severely burned when he was shot down behind enemy lines in Germany to spend the conclusion of WWI in a German prisoner of war camp.
Their WWI service is finished and Cooper has just returned from Poland where he was dispatched after the war on behalf of Herbert Hoover’s American Relief Administration on a mission of mercy to deliver much needed supplies. They talk about heading home to America. After continually living on the edge of death, they wonder how they would ever be able to adjust to the peace and tranquility of home life. Cooper reminds Fauntleroy how blessed and privileged they are. They both have come from good southern families of long standing. They have been well educated and have a bright and prosperous future to look forward to. Cooper’s family had a great tradition of military service going back over 200 years and Cooper attended the US Naval Academy. He tells Fauntleroy that his great-grandfather was a colonel in the Revolutionary war. He served under the command of the famous Polish General, Casimir Pulaski, who, impressed with the ideals of a new nation struggling to be free, volunteered his service to America. When General Pulaski was mortally wounded in the battle of Savannah in 1779, Cooper’s grandfather was at his side. Cooper recounts to Fauntleroy that his family never forgot the great self-sacrifice of foreign heroes like Pulaski, who stepped up and helped America in its obvious time of need.
Cooper sees a newspaper boy walking by the café, runs up to him, buys a paper, comes back and lays it out on the café table.
“Look” he says, “The Bolshevik’s, who have taken over Russia, are continuing their march on Poland to the West. I have just come from there and have seen them struggling in their fight against communism. If Poland falls…Lenin will try to sweep through all of Europe. Our old friend Poland, who sent us Pulaski and Kosciusko during our fight for freedom, needs help now.
They talk passionately and conceive the idea that becomes the genesis of the Kosciusko Squadron – a coterie of American pilots who would repay a long-standing Revolutionary War debt to Poland and fight for the preservation of Poland’s newly restored freedom following World War I.
Polish Embassy in Paris.
Cooper and Fauntleroy meet with General Tadeusz Rozwadowski, the chief of the Polish Military Mission to France and offer to recruit and form a volunteer fighter pilot squadron that would be attached to the Polish Air Force to serve in its war with the Soviet Bolsheviks. He is extremely excited at the possibility of having highly decorated, skilled, and experienced American pilots join the Polish cause against the Soviet invasion. General Rozwadowski immediately wires a message to Marshall Josef Pilsudski, commander in chief of the Polish armed forces, with the news of this offer. Pilsudski wires back accepting the offer and makes the embassy in Paris available for the necessary recruiting campaign and extends the invitation to bring the Americans, as soon as possible, by train to Warsaw for a personal meeting with him.
Four weeks later in a café on Place de L’Alma in Paris.
After spending four weeks visiting favored Parisian haunts of American officers, Cooper and Fauntleroy sit down at café on Place de L’Alma with six recruits, all brash and self- confident and, as it turned out, men of great honor and courage.
Cooper now makes a final pitch to them to join Cooper and Fauntleroy in an unforeseeable adventure in an unfamiliar setting. “Friends,” Cooper says, “We are young and we are strong. We have been given much by others. We can get on with our lives back home later. There are friends and causes that need our help now… just like we needed the help of friends like Lafayette, Kosciusko, Pulaski, Von Steuben and others in America’s time of need. If not us …who? If not now…when? All eight shout, “Hear… Hear…” and clink their glasses in a toast.
Hotel Ritz, Paris, August 1919.
Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the famed pianist and the Premier of Poland who is in Paris attending a conference, is present at the farewell reception for the Americans ready to depart to Poland. Fauntleroy, on behalf of the newly formed volunteer squadron, tells the audience that the departing volunteer pilots are all Americans, none of Polish blood, who come willingly to fight in the armies of the new sister republic of the United States against all enemies of Poland. Paderewski, visibly moved, says “Nothing has ever touched me so much as the offer of you young men to fight and, if necessary, to die for my country” and then bids them farewell
Belvedere Palace, Warsaw, Poland (The official residence of Poland’s chief of state, Marshall Josef Pilsudski)
The eight Americans present themselves to Poland’s leader, Marshall Josef Pilsudski. He is an aristocratic, and commanding figure with a large walrus mustache dressed in the full military regalia of Poland’s commander in chief. With the help of an interpreter, they detail their reasons for volunteering to fight on behalf of Poland, as they had discussed in Paris. After listening intently, the commanding figure of Marshall Pilsudski rises from his chair to the position of full attention. He snaps off a full military salute to the Americans and says, “Show what you can do.” “Yes… I accept your offer. You shall have your own squadron of our finest planes attached to our Air Force command.”
“With your experience, capabilities and cohesion as a unit, you will be sent to the front lines to attack and strafe the Bolshevik cavalry and infantry that are seeking to attack us in battle. Your action should disperse and delay them. If you can accomplish this, you will give us a chance to prevail and you would more than repay the self-sacrifice of my countrymen to your country in your war for independence.”
“What will you name your squadron?” Pilsudski asks. “The choice is yours.” Cooper replies, “We shall call it the ‘Kosciusko Squadron’ in honor and gratitude to your greatest countryman who came to America to offer his services in the defense of our freedom.”
Scenes and stories from the Russian – Polish war front:
As a montage of photographs of the American pilots (one by one) is portrayed on the screen, a rolling script shows what they went on to do with the rest of their lives. Cooper is saved for last.
Returns to the opening scene where Cooper is standing at the podium at the Academy Awards Ceremony. The audience is standing and shouting Bravo…Honor… Honor to You.. Honor to You!
As Final Scene Stays on Screen… Rolling Script Tells The Following: