PBS film details local World War II hero’s exploits
By JEFF GILL
JEFFERSON — Jokes about red carpets and paparazzi aside, Ginger Gause of Jefferson knows what she wants to say to the audience before the film about her heroic grandfather starts.
“I want to stand up and tell everybody thank you for donating and helping with this project,” she said. “As family, I’m just grateful to everyone for fulfilling dreams. … It’s just God coming on through.”
Gause is an integral part of a group of people, including Garland Reynolds and Abit Massey of Gainesville, promoting a documentary about Army Maj. Damon J. “Rocky” Gause, a Jefferson native and World War II hero.
“It is one of the better individual stories on World War II that I’ve ever come across,” said Tim Gray, chairman of the World War II Foundation and the film’s producer.
“It’s got every element in it. It really should be a full-length movie and someday it will be, but I think we should at least get it into a documentary form.”
The 90-minute film is expected to get broadcast at some point on Public Broadcasting System stations. Before that happens, area residents can view the film at a world premiere set for Nov. 8 at the William Duncan Martin Performing Arts Center in Jefferson.
The documentary is a retelling of “The War Journal of Major Damon ‘Rocky’ Gause,” published in 1999 and based on Gause’s journal entries.
Gause, who became a P-40 fighter pilot after joining the Army Air Corps in 1938, was stationed in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He volunteered to drive a load of food to Bataan, where thousands of American and Filipino troops were being held by Japanese.
Gause had to abandon the truck, jumping into a river to escape, but was captured. He stole his Japanese guard’s bayonet, stabbed him and ran for a nearby beach.
He set out in an abandoned lifeboat for Corregidor, a small rocky island in the Philippines, but had to swim most of the 3 miles after it sank. Gause passed out, and when he woke up 36 hours later, a familiar face was looking down on him — a classmate from Martin Institute in Jefferson, Army Nurse Mildred “Millie” Dalton.