Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Airmen and the Headhunters - on TV, Veterans Day, 11th November.

When I'm not being idle with all things aluminium, my day job is as a cameraman, shooting documentaries for TV.  We shot the true story of The Airmen and the Headhunters earlier this year in Borneo, Australia, the UK and Texas - where Dan Illerich, the only surviving airman lives.  

A WW2, US Liberator crew, shot up over Brunei Bay, eventually crashes in the wild central highlands of Borneo. Captured by the local tribesmen the airmen fear for their lives. But since the local tribe, the Lun Dayeh, had suffered torture & killings at the hands of the occupying Japanese, they decide to side with the Allies and surprisingly enough, prove kind, welcoming and very generous with what provisions they have; meanwhile, the Japanese plunder the island's oil resources and subject any opposition to torture and worse, proving the terms "savage" and "civilized" to be quite subjective. 

With the help of a local District Official and Lun Dayeh tribesmen, the airmen survived for over 6 months in uncharted interior jungles, avoiding capture by occupying Japanese forces. With the help of a maverick British anthropologist, Major Tom Harrisson, who was parrachuted in,  with a small team of Australian commandos, to find them, they ran a very successful campaign of terror against the Japanese, which allowed the Lun Dayeh to return to their old headhunting ways, taking Japanese trophies back to their longhouses.

Its a great story of the meeting of two worlds, bravery, the resulting bonds of friendship and eventual escape thanks to an ingenious airstrip made of bamboo...

Hope you enjoy it.



  1. Chris,

    What a fantastic "day job" you have. I can't wait to see the show, sounds like quite a story! I really enjoy your blog, your cameraman's eye, and your camper's attitude.

  2. how do I see that? That sounds right up my alley...

  3. Same here, that sounds so cool, Chris. Thanks for sharing that bit of your day job with us. I, too, would love to see this when it's released.

    And now I know why your photos always look so fantastic!


  4. Steve, Frank & Marcus - Well you know we're all a bit behind you Statesiders in many things & TV is no exception; we've recently had the satellite & cable explosion but are still not used to having more channels than Airstream models.

    So I know this programme is coming out on TV in the US on your Veterans Day, Nov 11th. But whether its on PBS, Channel 13 or WNET, I'm not sure... but I'll call the production company & get back to you because it is a great story.

    Watch this space...


  5. 8 PM on November 11 on our local PBS, KCTS in Seattle. I'll be watching.

    Thanks for the heads up, Chris!


  6. Great documentary! I loved it when the old vets went practicing shooting poison darts...they seemed to have picked up some skills during their stay!

  7. Oh, one other thing for the US readers--this documentary is up for viewing on the website, at least for a while. I don't think you can see it if you are outside the US (unless you can figure out something crafty to fool them the computer gods).

  8. Hi Fireflyinva (Mary ?)...
    Many thanks for the comments & very glad you liked the documentary - I really enjoyed shooting it. Dan Illerich (in Texas - the only surviving airman) is a quiet hero & a lovely man. Good to hear you can still see it on PBS www. We don't have a UK broadcast date yet, so that's why it probably can't be viewed here before then.

    Enjoyed reading your Toaster blog (being a 61 vintage myself) - I'm a little way off enjoying a trip in the 53FC - but hopefully this spring.

    Best wishes,