With the support of the Embassy of the United States of America, in France, a Walters State Community College professor will continue filming a documentary about the U.S. 7th Army and its heroic actions in World War II.
Dr. Marc McClure, professor of history, has been working on “Sword of Freedom: The Unsung Heroes of the Liberation of France” for the past two years. This support will allow McClure to produce filmed reenactments of U.S. 7th Army combat actions that led to the awarding of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, to several individuals.
“I congratulate Dr. McClure on the support and recognition that his project has received from this very prestigious source,” said Dr. Tony Miksa, president of Walters State. “He is not only documenting an historical world event, but through this project, he is exposing our students to the importance of research and scholarship.”
The documentary film series will follow the 7th Army’s successful battles in the little-known Riviera to the Rhine Campaign of 1944-45.
“While researching work for my previous film, I learned that this was an important yet neglected part of the history of World War II,” McClure said.
As D-Day soldiers liberated northern France, the soldiers of the 7th Army liberated southern France with nine months of intense fighting up the Rhone River Valley, through the Vosges Mountains, and into Germany, capturing Nuremberg and Munich. There, the unit liberated the prisoners of the Dachau Concentration Camp.
McClure’s film also highlights the enduring legacy the war produced between French and American families through the American Military Cemetery in Epinal, France, where more than 5,000 soldiers of the U.S. 7th Army are buried.
“After reading extensively about the campaign and hearing the moving testimonials of children visiting their fathers’ graves for the first time, I decided to make this story my next film project,” McClure said. McClure stressed that he is fortunate to partner with a French filmmaker, Pascal Ferrari. The two spent two weeks filming interviews in France in August 2019.
“We were also able to film a number of World War II 75th anniversary ceremonies, including the anniversary of Operation DRAGOON, which launched the campaign on August 15, 1944. We filmed from Provence to Alsace. Since then, I have been able to interview many veterans of the 7th Army and military historians, and have worked extensively in the Signal Corps film collection at the National Archives in Washington,” McClure said.
He expects to present “Sword of Freedom” as a series of 10 episodes, with the first episode possibly debuting at the end of 2020. McClure is partnering with Ferrari and other French filmmakers to produce the reenactments in France. The filming will take place beginning in October and will span from Provence in the south to Alsace in the north. The reenactments will be based on eyewitness accounts that McClure located in the U.S. 7th Army records at the National Archives.
McClure received regional recognition for his first film, “Valor: The Kiffin Rockwell Story.” Rockwell was a Cocke County native who fought for France prior to the U.S. entry into World War I, during which he served as a combat aviator in the famous Lafayette Escadrille. The movie is available on Amazon.
His documentary, “Dr. Dennis Branch: An Extrodinary Man” also received praise. That film focused on Dr. Dennis Branch, a successful African-American doctor who had a mostly white clientele in his southern Appalachia practice (Cocke County) during the height of the Jim Crow era.
In keeping with his previous works, McClure will screen episodes of “Sword of Freedom” at Walters State. Dates will be announced in local media and on the college’s social media platforms.
The film’s production process can be followed on the facebook page, “Sword of Freedom Film.”