Actor Gary Sinise has joined with the World War II Foundation to narrate an upcoming documentary, Lifeline: Pearl Harbor’s Unknown Hero. The documentary will tell the amazing true story of Navy hero Joe George, a boatswain’s mate second class, who was stationed aboard the USS Vestal when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred in 1941. Disobeying orders from a superior officer, George saved the lives of the last six sailors aboard the USS Arizona to escape alive.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Sinise has teamed up for a military project. The award-winning actor, perhaps best known for his role as disabled Vietnam veteran Lt. Dan Taylor in Forest Gump, has been helping veterans for decades and now runs the Gary Sinise Foundation. His organization’s mission is to “serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. [They] do this by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.”
Sinie’s work for veterans includes the Lt. Dan Band — of which he is a member — to entertain the troops and their families both on USO tours and their own shows, as well as building and modifying homes for wounded veterans, providing mobility devices and adapted vehicles for veterans, and taking WWII veterans to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.
Now the actor and musician whose name is “synonymous with supporting the troops” is teaming up with the World War II Foundation for their newest documentary.
Lifeline: Pearl Harbor’s Unknown Hero, the newest documentary to come from the World War II Foundation, will tell the incredible story of how a Navy crewman saved six men from the bombed and sinking USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The USS Vestal, a repair vessel, was tied to the port side of the larger battleship, USS Arizona when the Japanese started bombing Pearl Harbor. Both vessels were struck by bombs and were on fire. Several of the Vestal’s crew members were thrown overboard by the explosion. Crewman Joe George was trying to put out fires when two things happened — his commanding officer ordered him to cut the lines tying the Vestal to the sinking Arizona, and George spotted several men injured and waving for help aboard the Arizona.
Despite the consequences of defying a direct order, Joe George refused to cut the ties. Instead he threw a heavy rope across to the Arizona. Injured and badly burned, the final six men aboard the Arizona were able to crawl hand-over-hand along the rope to the Vestal. Had it not been for George’s actions, they would have died aboard the sinking ship, which remains as a monument in the shallows at Pearl Harbor.
When the men were safely across, they had no one to thank for their lives. George had already returned to putting out fires and helping the ship get to safety.
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For decades, the identity of the man who saved the final six sailors aboard the USS Arizona was unknown, even to those six men. Eventually Joe George broke his years-long humility and admitted that he was the man who threw the rope from the Vestal to the Arizona for the men to climb across. It would take much longer for him to tell his whole story, which he did only in pieces before passing away in 1996. Now the five remaining survivors of the USS Arizona are fighting to get George recognized posthumously with the Medal of Honor.
“He saved six people’s lives,” said Donald Stratton, one of the six men who escaped death thanks to Joe George’s actions. “Joe saved six lives and he didn’t get crap. As far as he was concerned, he was saving lives. He refused to cut the line no matter what.”
The whole incredible story of this unsung World War II hero will be told in the documentary, Lifeline: Pearl Harbor’s Unknown Hero, which is set to come out around Veterans Day 2018. Veterans and military supporters will have the added bonus of having the story narrated by Gary Sinise, whose acting ability is remarkable and whose passion and support for the military is unparalleled.
Tim Gray, Chairman of the World War II Foundation, is also the writer, producer, and director of 19 films which focus on personal stories of WWII. Gray said, “Gary Sinise is absolutely the perfect person to narrate this important film. Gary has a tremendous voice, but most of all a deep passion for recognizing those generations who have done so much for us, both in the past and present day.”
Learn more about Gary Sinise’s work for veterans by clicking “Next” below!
Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.