Morgan Freeman reveals “surprising” family revelation in 761st Tank Battalion doc
The legendary actor speaks exclusively to RadioTimes.com.
As we enter Black History Month this October, actor Morgan Freeman is looking into the powerful story of the first all-Black tank unit to serve in combat in US military. Under General George S Patton's command, the 761st battalion fought heroically throughout WWII.
Ahead of the Sky History launch on Sunday 1st October, RadioTimes.com caught up with the legendary actor who revealed a surprising family revelation he discovered during filming.
In the docuseries, Freeman talks of how Black soldiers were seldom recorded, however, he was aware that his biological father and two brothers were called to war. His father was sent home, as the army didn't usually take multiple siblings, however, his two uncles went on to fight.
Freeman's uncle Jesse later returned from combat and the family always believed that his other uncle was missing in action. That is, until research in the documentary proved otherwise.
"I had thought that I heard when I was a little boy that he was MIA - missing in action - and in the Pacific somewhere," he told RadioTimes.com exclusively.
He continued: "So you know my imagination went to work and I thought, 'Okay, so he was probably one of those construction battalions that worked under fire sometimes and that's what happened'. So I was very surprised.
"It was a big surprise! All my life I thought one thing and then research proves that something else was true - back then [that] he was murdered in France. I'd like to know what he was doing in France and what happened there. We're still looking around to see if we can find any more information."
While the docuseries will premiere this weekend, the Shawshank Redemption star tell us that it's been almost 20 years in the making: "A long time ago, 20 something years now, a writer came to us with a project about 761st tank battalion and, of course, I've always been fascinated about what went on with Black people in history, particularly in the wars and so we latched on to it.
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"That writer ultimately died and we carried it around for a while and couldn't get any traction with it. And then, recently, we just decided, 'Okay, we won't try to make the movie. We'll do a documentary. We have a documentary section at revelations. So we got started and we had some really good research people and came up with that documentary."
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Now, the 89-year-old is hoping that the docuseries will fill in the gap when it comes to American history, stating in the doc that army films such as Private Ryan don't feature any Black people when in fact, there were Black soldiers during WWII.
"It just fills in the gaps of American history as far as I'm concerned. One of the major gaps in all of American history is Black people's involvement in the history, not just being killed and murdered or whatever, but contribution," he said.
761st Battalion: The Original Black Panthers premieres on Sunday 1st October at 9pm on Sky HISTORY.
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