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Grantee: Dr. Robert Bartlett

Project Title: Jumping Into Fire
Year awarded: 2018, Round 1

SAGA support will open a path for Jumping Into Fire to educate viewers while providing a voice for the voiceless, and contribute to ongoing discussions on race and history.

Jumping Into Fire will be a feature length documentary that uncovers the hidden story of the first and only all African-American paratrooper unit in military history, the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. Nicknamed the Triple Nickles, these men broke color lines during a time of hostile segregation to become the first African-Americans trained as army paratroopers. Once trained they were then sent on a top-secret mission code-named “Operation Firefly” to fight a highly classified Japanese threat in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Yet, despite their historic accomplishments and contributions to the war effort, their tale is largely unknown.

Hidden stories like this one are part of a larger narrative about race and racism in this country, many of which have tragically been left out of the history books. These accounts need to be shared, just as the voiceless among them need to be heard. This particular story is about more than war; it is also about race, patriotism, service and sacrifice.

This project began four years ago when Dr. Robert L. Bartlett, a local professor, public sociologist, and researcher, discovered a short article in the Spokesman Review about this unit. The story immediately appealed to him on a personal level since he is an African-American with a long-standing history of military service in his family. Dr Bartlett is, himself, an ex-Army and Vietnam War combat veteran. He has been researching this group for the past four years, and has spent two years as an official speaker for Humanities Washington where he traveled the state sharing their story. Besides educating viewers, Dr. Bartlett also hopes that Jumping Into Fire will create opportunities for local artists, storyboard artists, motion graphic designers, sound designers, and other post production personnel.