SPOKANE, Wash. – The heroism of Spokane native and Gonzaga alumnus Sam Grashio unfolds in a new Public TV documentary “4-4-43: Escape in the Pacific,” which chronicles the only known successful group escape from a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II. The Gonzaga University Alumni Association and KSPS Public Television presented a special screening of the film including discussion with John D. Lukacs, whose book inspired the documentary, at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 29 in Gonzaga’s Cataldo Hall.
KSPS has aired the documentary twice (May 25 and May 28) and will air it again on KSPS World (Ch. 7.2 over the air / Comcast Ch. 313) on Thursday, June 5 at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.; Friday, June 6 at 1 p.m.; and Sunday, June 8 at 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Northwest Profiles presents the heroic story of Spokane veterans Grashio and Jack Donohoe who survived the Bataan Death March in World War II at 9:30 p.m., Friday, June 6 on KSPS. On the web: ksps.org/northwestprofiles. Also on ksps.org: watch full-length interviews with Grashio and Donohoe, recorded in 1995.
Based upon Lukacs’ book, “Escape from Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War” (2010, Simon & Schuster), the film chronicles events leading up to the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, and tells how 10 American POWs – survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March and the Fall of Corregidor – and two Filipino convicts planned and carried out the courageous escape from the Davao Penal Colony.
The tale unfolds through the story of its leaders, swashbuckling Texan, Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess, and Capt. Grashio, who becomes the group’s spiritual guide and eventual storyteller. Once returned home, Grashio’s emotional speeches galvanize the American public to greater prosecution of the Pacific war and lead to significant changes in U.S. government wartime censorship policies. The escape of the “Davao Dozen” and the revelations that followed, Lukacs asserts, changed the course of the war.
Grashio (’38) graduated from Gonzaga Prep in 1936, retired from the Air Force in 1965, and worked for nearly 20 years as special assistant to the president of Gonzaga University before his death in 1999. Grashio appears throughout the film in wartime newsreels, radio broadcasts and still photographs. His widow Devonia Grashio and squadron hero Jack Donohoe, also a Spokane native, appear in the film and have been invited to the May 29 event.
“We invite the community, especially members of Spokane’s military community and their families, to join us to experience together this powerful documentary and to take the opportunity to hear from the author of the story,” said Drew Rieder with Gonzaga’s Alumni Association. “KSPS and Gonzaga intend this evening to be a salute to all who serve our country.”
“Stories like these can’t be told often enough,” said Gary Stokes, general manager of KSPS. “KSPS is proud to provide a home for excellent documentaries like this one that help put a face on history.”
“Escape in the Pacific: 1943” is an official selection for the prestigious 2014 GI Film Festival in Washington, D.C., May 19-25.
Seating is limited and reservations are requested. To request reservations visit: www.ZagsOnline.org/Escape1943 or call (509) 313-5999.