The LA City Council Chambers became a screening room for Spike Lee’s current release “Miracle at St. Anna” last Saturday, and the guest of honor was 92nd Infantry Division Sgt. William Perry who served as a Buffalo soldier in World War II, and who was a consultant on the film about four black American soldiers trapped in a Tuscan village.
The uncle of Council member Jan Perry spoke before the filled benches in chambers, and the 84-year –old Vet recounted what he said the day before after a presentation in council: “We thought if we fought, we could make a difference,” as African-American servicemen fought for freedom abroad while having very little of it at home. He was not allowed to take furlough in the nearby towns, only across the border.
Perry quietly added that only 15,000 African-Americans were allowed to be trained at the same time. “They didn’t want too many armed Negroes in the same state.”
Once stationed abroad, he, like many servicemen, experienced the small freedoms they were fighting for. Perry himself attended opera while stationed in Italy and shared tables with others at European cafes.
At the screening he noted that it wasn't just African-American servicemen who had a two-front battle. In the audience were veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed of Nisei (second-generation Americans born of Japanese parents) and wearing their motto “Go For Broke” as proudly as any medal.
Touchstone provided the Spike Lee film that has garnered solid reviews, and it was seen on the monitors in council chambers in front of what may be the toughest critics: the wives of veterans who spent a lifetime hearing the stories at home at the dinner table, perhaps more than anyone should have to.
"It was powerful," said one wife. “But don’t tell my husband. I’ll just have to hear more stories about the story.”
A moving moment was seen when a Buffalo solider met the members of the “Go For Broke” for the first time. “I remember your unit coming up the hill and helping us out on a battle,” said the Buffalo soldier.
Replied one Little Tokyo resident and World War II “Go For Broke” vet, “We were glad to get there on time. Sorry I’m late for the movie, I’m a little slower now.”