As part of the community-wide celebration of Veterans Day, UAB will premiere a film made by award-winning filmmaker and UAB Associate Professor of Communication Studies June Morgan Mack, M.F.A. The film, a personal documentary about the filmmaker’s family, “Lest We Forget: A French Village Recalls 1944,” is the true story of the journey of the Smith-Morgan family of Springville, Ala., in response to an invitation to be honored by the small French village of Vibraye.
In 2009, the Smith-Morgan family was privileged to participate in the final chapter of a story that began 65 years earlier, on May 21, 1944. On that day, the brother of Marianne Smith Morgan was lost in a World War II air battle. Captain Malcolm A. Smith, of the 395th Fighter Squadron, 368th Fighter Group, was buried as an unknown soldier in the graveyard of Vibraye by the local villagers. He was listed by the United States government as “missing in action” for the next two years. Smith was Mack’s uncle.
In 2004, the family of Marianne Morgan began receiving inquiries about her brother from a French citizen. Five years later, the family accepted an invitation to visit Vibraye, where Captain Smith had died. The family was treated to three days of unprecedented welcoming, with newspaper coverage, ceremonies, tours, parades and speeches by embassy and government dignitaries, all culminating in a ribbon cutting to dedicate a new street named Rue Malcolm A. Smith.
“For 65 years the village of Vibraye, France, had remembered a young pilot who died in their midst on a Sunday afternoon,” Mack says. “He became their symbol of freedom and escape from bondage, and to this day, they have never forgotten.”
Mack directs the individually designed major in film and interdisciplinary film minor at UAB.