The harrowing tale of how a U.S. Army Air Force B-24 top turret gunner evaded Nazis for six months after his plane was shot down in 1943 is now heading to the silver screen.
According to a story in The Hollywood Reporter, actor Jake Gyllenhaal's production company Nine Stories has acquired the rights to make a film adaptation of "The Lost Airman," a book about the odyssey that Staff Sgt. Arthur Meyerowitz faced in evading Nazis after the B-24 he was in was shot down.
The film is being produced for Amazon Studios.
Turret assembly of B-24D Liberator bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
According to a March 2016 review of the book, Meyerowitz suffered a serious back injury when he bailed out from the Liberator, which kept him from getting across the Pyrenees Mountains right away. This meant that Meyerowitz was in serious trouble — not only was he an Allied airman, he was also Jewish.
So, the French Resistance hid Meyerowitz in plain sight as an Algerian named Georges Lambert, a deaf-mute who had been injured in an accident who had been hired to work in a store in the city of Toulouse. Meyerowitz was joined by a Royal Air Force pilot named Richard Cleaver.
Captain Jack Ilfrey, an ace who ended the war with eight victories, twice escaped capture during WWII. Like Meyerowitz, he posed as a deaf-mute to successfully evade capture by the Nazis. (U.S. Air Force Photo)
At great cost, the French Resistance eventually got Meyerowitz over the Pyrenees, but even then, there was still risk from Spanish officials who were perfectly willing to return "escaped criminals" to the Nazis (usually after the payment of a bribe).
Thus, the two pilots were not truly safe until they arrived in Gibraltar via a fishing boat.
Meyerowitz would receive the Purple Heart for the injury he suffered while escaping from the stricken B-24. He also would spend over a year in hospitals recovering from the untreated injury.
French Resistance fighters. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Gyllenhaal is best known for starring in the movies "Nightcrawler," 'The Day After Tomorrow," and "Jarhead." The film is being produced by Academy Award-winning producer John Lesher, best known for "Birdman." No release date has been set.