Earlier this week, when I signed onto my computer to check email and social media, I saw "The Last Signal" had won a regional Emmy.
Cheryl Young, the daughter of Raymond "DeVere" Johnson (deceased) had posted that "The Last Signal," a 2017 documentary about Johnson, a World War II veteran, and his reunion with the last known living member of the LST-218, John Heimsoth of Missouri, had won a 2019 Emmy from the Mid-America chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences,
I included "The Last Signal" in a larger story about veterans in 2017 and I wrote "An Extraordinary Life story about Johnson in April. But I had never watched "The Last Signal."
When I realized the documentary was only 30 minutes, I made the time on Tuesday. What a powerful 30 minutes! The story setup is superb.
The film opens with Young sharing how her father never discussed his military days and why finding some of his former shipmates was important to her. So Young put the question to Facebook.
Los Angeles filmmaker Kyle Olson saw the post and contacted Young, expressing his interest in making a documentary if she did find another former shipmate.
Until Raymond and Heimsoth reconnected, Heimsoth, too, thought he was the last surviving shipmate of the LST-218.
The film documents how the men find each other after 70 years, how Young schedules a road trip for DeVere and Heimsoth to meet, the setback that almost canceled the trip and the very poignant meeting between the two veterans.
Although there's moments of humor (both men joined the ship's choir so they could get out of guard duty and other chores), including the quality of the coffee (which Raymond said could take the paint off the deck), Viewers see a very human, very stark depiction of the men's duties while aboard the ship.
The men kept in touch by phone until DeVere's death on April 19.
Watch a pre-interview with the creative team of "The Last Signal" on the Mid-America EMMY Awards/NATAS Facebook page at bit.ly/33bDysL. Go to the 30:33 mark.
Watch Olson's acceptance speech at.bit.ly/2AWcFwV. He also introduces Heimsoth, 95, who is sitting in the audience.
For more information, visit lastsignalmovie.com.