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Veteran’s Initiative


StandingTogetherWebModern wars take place on such a large scale that one person’s experiences can seem lost in the numbers: 750,000 Union and Confederate dead in the Civil War; 85 million in uniform worldwide during World War II.

Each returning veteran, however, comes home with his or her own memories—individual, often unique stories that may be told often or almost never, sometimes understandable only to others who fought.

The Standing Together initiative is a National Endowment for the Humanities program designed to help support our veterans and promote an understanding of the war experience.


The Wyoming Humanities Council presents 4-4-43, a documentary from author and filmmaker John Lukacs. The film is based on Lukacs’ book Escape from Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War, which examines the World War II story of American soldiers and civilian prisoners of war who broke out of the Davao Penal Colony, an allegedly escape-proof Imperial Japanese Army prison plantation in the Philippines. The escape revealed to the world the truth about atrocities committed by the Japanese on the Bataan Death March and against prisoners in the camps.  One member of the escape team was Lieutenant Leo Boelens from Basin Wyoming.  Johnny Winterholler of Lovell, Wyoming also assisted with but did not escape.

Screenings are scheduled:

  • Laramie at the Gryphon Theatre on Thursday, October 9
  • Gillette at the Campbell County Library on Friday, October 10
  • Sheridan in the Whitney Presentation Hall at Sheridan College on Saturday, October 11
  • Basin at the Basin City Arts Center on Monday, October 13
  • Jackson at the Pink Garter Theater on Tuesday, October 14
  • Rock Springs at the Broadway Theater on Wednesday, October 15
  • Casper at the Wold Physical Science building room 103 at Casper College on Thursday October 16
  • Cheyenne in room 120/121 of the Training Center at Laramie County Community College on Friday, October 16.

All screenings are free and open to the public and begin at 7 p.m.  Lukacs will be on hand following each screening to lead discussions with audience members.

Narrated by decorated Vietnam veteran/Hollywood actor Dale Dye, the film is an epic, educational and entertaining true adventure tale of the only large-scale escape of U.S. prisoners-of-war in the Pacific Theater during World War II and their fight to tell the story of the infamous Bataan Death March and other Japanese atrocities to the world, as well as the remarkable unknown hero – Lt. Col. Dyess, a flying legend of the Pacific War  –  that was largely responsible for it all.   The story of the Davao escape is undoubtedly the most important POW/MIA story in our nation’s history.  One of the 12 escapees was a Wyoming native and former UW student Leo Boelens of Basin.  Boelens, tragically, was the only member of the legendary “Davao Dozen” that did not return home after the war; Boelens was recaptured, tortured and executed by the Japanese in the Philippines.  The soft-spoken, gifted Army Air Corps mechanic was 29.

4-4-43 was an official selection of the prestigious 2014 GI Film Festival held over Memorial Day weekend in Washington, DC, and will be airing nationally on hundreds of PBS stations around the country later this year, globally on Armed Forces Network and the Pentagon Channel, as well as in screening events at museums, military bases, film festivals and schools.  The film is currently available on DVD and will soon be available on iTunes,, Amazon Instant Video and Netflix.

The film tour is part of the Wyoming Humanities Council’s veterans programming initiative and partially supported with funds from the Wyoming State Legislature and special grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War initiative, designed to support humanities programs that focus on the history, experience, or meaning of war and military service.



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