BEHIND bayonets and barbedwirE









The Story of American POWs in World War II, who were surrendered after their heroic and hard fought defense of the Philippines.  They were sent to the city of Mukden (today called Shenyang) in Chinese Manchuria by the Japanese Army, where they were condemned to spend the rest of their lives working as slave laborers in factories to produce war materials for their enemy.  This is the story of men’s fight to survive the brutal winters, disease, and even more brutal guards, while secretly resisting in any way possible.  As General Jonathan Wainwright put it, they were “men locked away behind the bayonets and barbed wire of cruel jailers.”




by Director Richard L. Anderson

As a student in school, I always loved history.  It was never just dusty old dates to me, but rather, it was the story of people’s lives, often doing amazing feats—just like in the movies.  So when I was hired to write a script for a narrative film about the fascinating story of Allied POWs, who were imprisoned in Mukden, China by the Japanese during WWII, I jumped at the chance.

Since 2015 was the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, it was decided to first make a documentary version of this story to catch this historical date.  Though we did not have a long schedule, producer Liu Yangeng expertly put together a team of Chinese filmmakers, headed by veteran director, Shen Haofang, to capture the actual stories of some of the men, who lived through this difficult time.  We planned our project through email and Skype from both sides of the Pacific.  Then, with the help of Ao and Pat Wang’s Mukden Remembrance Society, we were put in contact with former POWs still living in the U.S.  I flew to Washington DC to see what film and photos I could find in the U.S. National Archives and there met Director Shen, face to face, along with his skilled team when they flew in from China.

What followed was a fascinating journey, as we all traveled a winding path across the U.S. to record the stories of this amazing group of men.  They are all in their nineties and varied in the quality of their health, but they all still had an indomitable spirit.  But our journey was not always a happy one.  Some men, who were scheduled to speak with us, became ill and canceled, after we had traveled a long distance to meet them, and one passed away not long after we interviewed him.  But this adversity only spurred me on that we must get their life stories on film since they are all disappearing quickly. 

Director Shen, who speaks Japanese, interviewed a number for people in Japan, including a former male army nurse, who had worked at the Mukden camp, to get the other side of the story.

Then, inspired by these men’s stories, we edited historical film from that period with filmed recreations of their stories—many shot in the actual camp and its buildings (now a museum)—to tell the extraordinary tales of men pushed to their limits by cruel jailers and how they fought back in any way possible. 

These men, often called “The Greatest Generation”, lived up to their reputation and revealed to us incredible stories of death, hardship, resistance, and their ultimate victory.  I am proud to have met them and only hope that they, and their families, will enjoy this film as much as I do. 


Richard L. Anderson


by Director Shen, Haofang

Opportunity, Perspective and Structure

The documentary film “Behind Bayonets and Barbed Wire” took the Mukden Allied POW Camp, established in Shenyang 70 years ago, as the entry point to develop the plot. The film told the stories of POWs by interviewing the former prisoners or their relatives, combining recreations of their experiences and historical records. This documentary also tried to structure a unique WWII panorama by presenting the little-known stories to the audience.  

With this precious opportunity and special perspective, the relevant structure is required to reflect the grand structure of World War II. Without such a grand structure, people could not be awakened by the meditation and suffering of the misery of the POWs. Without such a grand structure, people could not sense the changes of the world’s shape after the ending of the war over70 years ago.  The in-depth exploration of this subject has real significance. To show this story to the audience is the creating purport of the movie.

As a Chinese director, it’s a rare experience to tell this story by standing at the critical 70th anniversary of the ending of WW II.


9.24.2016 / Behind Bayonets and Barbed Wire




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Read more reviews from people who have watched the movie..
Definitely worth seeing.
Went to the premier last night in Hollywood. A great collaboration between the directors of the East and the West. It was a powerful movie, yet very heartbreaking. History is not always pretty, but to see and hear about the hardships and sacrifices that our military had to go through just makes you appreciate our veterans and our country even more. Go and see this movie, and remember to thank a veteran for their service.
— Tygerzmom Tygerzmom
I walked into the theater to see this movie without any expectations or preconceived notions, having experienced first hand the atrocities of wars and what they are all about. With tears rolling down my cheeks I followed the stories of these men and their tales of torment, trials and tribulations, their testaments as to what evil germinates in the human heart and how much darkness it harbors in its drumming. Yet little did I know that the human heart can also blossom and rise with forgiveness and kindness. Even in the darkest of places and the most horrific situations there are those who sparkle and shine. The story of the Chinese man who risked his life offering cucumbers to the prisoners played a tune of hope on the strings of my sobbing heart. Such humanity is miraculous. Alphonse De Lamartine, a french poet wrote: “TO LOVE FOR THE SAKE OF LOVING IN RETURN IS HUMAN. BUT TO LOVE FOR THE SAKE OF LOVING IS ANGELIC.” That selfless act of kindness has not left my thoughts. I pray this movie would be retold through the creativity of the directors. Their dedication and efforts to retell these historical events is equivalent to the POWs strive to survive injustice.
— ELijah Schkeiban
A wonderful learning experience.
A very touching film, which serves as a reminder to us the sacrifice and the price paid for freedom. It also is a reminder that we should never forget the actions of our grandfathers, whether they be good or bad. I hope that current and future generations of Americans will be able to face challenges with the same courage and spirit of forgiveness these brave soldiers did.
— Kirk Chang
Shines a Light on a Dark Period of History
This documentary is about a part of World War II that high school history textbooks gloss over. It discusses the US soldiers who were left behind in the Philippines after General MacArthur’s surrender following US defeat at the Battle of Bataan. These soldiers became prisoners of war, and the documentary outlines their experiences in great detail. Director Anderson sought the surviving POWs out for interviews, which I thought was the best part of the movie. Seeing these 90 year old men recount their experiences was extremely touching. Overall, a great film about a dark period of history!
— Angela Shen
I am impressed with directors, Richard Anderson and Shen Haofang, who were able to put this important part of history together. I especially liked hearing from those 92-98 years old POWs, who were interviewed. The former soldiers showed their spirit and dignity in telling their stories to the world, so we can learn the lessons of about their sacrifice, suffering, and more so, their loyalty to our country. This may be our last chance to hear these particular witnesses to history. These American POWs is a great generation people that we salute!
— Frank Nelson
I enjoyed the film very much. I learned so much about this part of history, which is usually glossed over in text books. “It was very touching and serves as a reminder to us about our veteran’s sacrifice and paid for freedom. I especially touched by their forgiving kind heart toward the Japanese after being tortured and abused. All of the 92-98 old soldiers who are still living said that after we won the war, they didn’t think of killing any of the Japanese soldiers. Brave, selfless and kindness- I learned that much! A wonderful touching film that we must see.
— Mellisa Johnson

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