Film Treatment

HONOR TO YOU

The miraculous and inspirational true story of Hollywood’s great hero…
and his heroic repayment of America’s greatest debt.

Opening Scene:
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…”

 

New Scene:
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.

 

New Scene:
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.

 

New Scene:
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.

 

New Scene:
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

 

New Scene:
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:

  • The heroic American pilots and their “Kosciusko Squadron” played a major role in the eventual defeat of the Bolsheviks during the Russo – Polish War of 1919-1920.
  • When the American pilots entered the battle in the spring of 1920, the hostilities between Poland and the Soviets were intensifying with the Bolsheviks making advances against the Polish forces. Poles and the rest of Europe feared that a Bolshevik victory would threaten the West, especially after a Russian general order was issued that read ‘ The fate of World Revolution is being decided in the West; over the corpse of White Poland lies the road to world-wide conflagration. On Wilno, Minsk, Warsaw… forward march!’
  • The arrival of the gallant American pilots and their inspirational “Kosciusko Squadron” electrified the Polish forces and dramatically improved morale and hope for the future.
  • The Americans flew over 200 combat missions during their year of service, which culminated with the end of the war.
  • The Americans consistently attacked and caused havoc, delay and confusion among the major Bolshevik infantry and cavalry units.
  • Three of the American heroes were killed in action. They were immediately replaced by new American volunteer pilots from the States where the exploits of Cooper and the squadron, captivated and enthralled the fighter pilot alumni of WWI.
  • The American pilots had remarkable experiences and gained deep friendships with Polish soldiers, airmen and civilians throughout their campaign in Poland and Ukraine. There were romances with local girls and friendships with others, which they all took to their graves.
  • The Americans dramatically affected the outcome of the war. The war ended by Poland smashing the massive Soviet Army on the outskirts of Warsaw in August 1920. The Soviets outnumbered the Poles by 3 to 1 in the Battle of Warsaw. The whole world expected a Soviet victory thus increasing the danger to the rest of Europe. All foreign diplomats had left Warsaw in fear, before the battle even began, anticipating a Bolshevik victory
  • The Soviet battle plan was two pronged. One million Soviet infantry were marching from the east directly west towards Warsaw under Soviet General Tukhachevsky. A fighting force of 250,000 cavalry, including the feared Cossacks of the steppes under the infamous General Budienny, was approaching from the southeast from Ukraine and planned to strike Warsaw directly from the south to coincide with Tukhachevsky’s infantry onslaught from the east.
  • The heroic defense of Warsaw by the Poles became known as “The Miracle on the Vistula”. One historian, rating all of the battles fought down through history, ranked the “Miracle on the Vistula” as the 17th most important of all time, because, had the Poles not triumphed, the Soviets had a pretty good chance of taking over all of Europe.
  • The mission of the American pilots was to disrupt Budienny’s cavalry and to delay its assault on Warsaw. The Americans succeeded. They raided, strafed and dispersed the Soviet cavalry so effectively that it was delayed by a few days from reaching Warsaw in time to join Tukhachevsky’s Soviet infantry attack, and thus contributing to the Soviet defeat.
  • Cooper was shot down, captured and imprisoned in a Soviet prison outside of Moscow during this successful assault on the Bolshevik cavalry. He escaped from the Soviet camp in April of 1921, many months after the war had ended, and made his way to Latvia, 500 miles away in just 14 days. During his harrowing escape, the Russian Army chased him all the way to Latvia. He reached Warsaw a few days later where General Pilsudski awarded him the Virtuti Militari Cross and the Cross of the Brave, Poland’s highest honors.
  • The Polish people erected a monument to the American pilots in Lwow, Ukraine (in 1920 Lwow was part of Poland). The monument honored the three American pilots who lost their lives in the air campaign and were buried there. The inscription read, “They died so that we can live free.
  • The American pilots were honored as heroes, at the conclusion of the war in the fall of 1920, with a grand and glorious ceremony in Warsaw, where they were awarded Poland’s highest military honor in a ceremony at the Belvedere Palace, attended by the Polish Parliament and thousands of thankful citizens. Sadly, Cooper, at that time, was thought by all to be dead or left to rot and die in a Soviet jail.
  • After Marshall Pilsudski awarded the American pilots their medals, he saluted them in front of the thousands of their admirers and proclaimed…”Honor to You Brave Americans. Honor to You.
  • After Cooper’s astonishing escape from sure death in the Soviet jail in April of 1921 (8 months after war ended), he received a hero’s welcome in Warsaw where Marshall Pilsudski personally presented Cooper with his Polish medals and the Polish Parliament awarded him a landed gentry estate. Being aware that Kosciusko graciously declined a similar offer from the American Continental Congress during America’s fight for its independence, Cooper also turned down the grant of the estate by saying that “the fight for liberty was award enough.”

 

Closing Scenes:

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.

Final Scene:

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:

  • The Kosciusko Squadron, founded by Cooper is, to this day, still considered to be Poland’s most prized fighter squadron. In the Battle of Britain in 1940 and 1941, it distinguished itself as the most effective and highly decorated squadron in the Royal Air Force (RAF), which had many Polish pilots in its service. Cooper flew to London in 1941 and personally met with the Polish pilots of the Kosciusko Squadron to thank and inspire them.
  • In 1941, Cooper left a very successful career in Hollywood and reenlisted to join the fight for freedom. In 1942 he served as General Chennault’s Chief of Staff and flew the famous Flying Tigers in China and later became the Chief of Staff of the Far East Air Forces in Asia, finishing the war at the Japanese surrender aboard the Battleship Missouri in August 1945.
  • When the Soviet Union annexed Eastern Poland during WWII, the communists destroyed the monument to the American pilots. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, the monument was rebuilt and rededicated. Since then many, including families of the American pilots of the Kosciusko Squadron, have visited the site to honor these heroes who repaid America’s greatest debt to the foreign heroes who joined America’s fight for freedom in its War for Independence.
  • Cooper died in 1973
  • Today… Cooper looks down from the sky and sees his Kosciusko Squadron flying F-16′s in a free Poland. (F-16′s fill the screen …flying by…as the final film credits begin to roll).