QUAD CITIES— The true story of Pvt. William Sandoval’s involvement in the largest air assault in history is featured in a new film by award-winning documentary filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Fourth Wall Films. “A Bridge Too Far From Hero Street” premieres on the Putnam Giant Screen on the eve of Veterans Day, Sunday, November 10th at 3:00 p.m. The double-feature premiere will also include Riding the Rails to Hero Street and a Q&A with film participants and the filmmakers.
William Sandoval‘s young years were spent surviving the great depression in Silvis, Illinois. His family lived in a boxcar while his father worked for the Rock Island Railroad. When the railroad drifted into bankruptcy in 1933, Willie joined his parents and siblings in the sugar beet and onion fields of Iowa and Minnesota where they sometimes slept in horse stalls in a barn. Willie’s sister, Rufina Guerrero said that $900 saved from two seasons of migrant farm work made it possible for their father Joseph to buy a small four-room house for the family of eleven on 2nd Street, now known as Hero Street, in Silvis, Illinois.
It was the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 that motivated Willie and many others to enlist in the military. At age 20, Willie completed his training and was assigned to Co. F, 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. After initial and extended combat action in Italy, Willie’s unit reformed in England. In September 1944, he became part of the ill-fated Operation Market Garden. In the wake of the successful D-Day operation, and with an opportunity to take advantage of weakened German forces, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s plan was for British and allied forces to capture several strategically important bridges in the Netherlands, creating a path to strike at the heart of Germany. The hope was that the war would be over by Christmas. The largest air assault in history launched 2,023 troop transport planes and 478 gliders from 24 airfields carrying a total of 45,000 men. The day after his 21st birthday, Willie was one of 20,000 paratroopers who leaped into the sky over German occupied Holland.
Willie’s Co. F secured the Grave Bridge and then assisted in taking the bridge at Nijmegan.
Willie wrote to his sister Rufina, “You will never know, sis, how happy I will be when I step onto the doorstep and say, “I’m home, Dad.” That will be the happiest day of my life.”
The Operation Market Garden story was told in the Cornelius Ryan book “A Bridge too Far”, and the 1977 Richard Attenborough directed Hollywood film based on that book.
The phrase “a bridge too far” was an alleged quote from Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning in describing the sprawling military endeavor’s failure to take the final bridge at Arnhem, the last means of escape for German forces in the Netherlands.
The death toll was staggering, with 17,000 killed, wounded or missing. William Sandoval was among them. He died on October 6, 1944 near the border of Holland and Germany. His body was never recovered.
“A Bridge Too Far From Hero Street” features commentary by historian John C. McManus, the author of “September Hope: The American Side of A Bridge Too Far”.
“You’re dropping in full daylight where the Germans can see you, the Allies hadn’t really done that quite yet in the European Theater,” said McManus. “It didn’t take the Germans very long to piece together what the objective was. They react and counter attack pretty well.”
The film also includes interviews with Willie’s family members, friends, and author Marc Wilson, “Hero Street, U.S.A: The Story of Little Mexico’s Fallen Soldiers”. The film will feature original art by Bruce Walters, and acoustic guitar music performed by Joe Soliz.
The Rundles’ Hero Street proposed ten-part documentary series, will explore the personal and family sagas behind each of the eight heroes from Silvis, Illinois and tell the compelling true story of an ongoing struggle to memorialize them. Only a block and a half long, the street lost six young men in World War II and two in the Korean War, more than any other street in America. Hero Street, as it is now known, has provided nearly 200 American military service members since World War II. The Rundles’ Mid-America Emmy-nominated “Letters Home to Hero Street” (co-produced with WQPT) was the first film created for the series.
“Riding the Rails to Hero Street” will also premiere at the event. The film explores the immigrants’ journey from Mexico to the Quad Cities in segregated communities known as Cook’s Point in Davenport, Holy City in Bettendorf, and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad train yard in Silvis, Illinois.
Each film is designed to be viewed on its own or with the other films in the series. Together they will tell an unforgettable story of American courage, character and perseverance.
The double-feature Hero Street premiere event is sponsored by the Beiderbeck Inn, Jennie’s Boxcar Mexican Restaurant, the Quad Cities Network of Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity. The Putnam Museum is located at 1717 W. 12th Street, Davenport, Iowa. Advance tickets are available at Putnam.org or at the Putnam box office. The program begins at 3:00 p.m and ends at 5:00 p.m. If the event sells out, a second show will be added at 6:00 p.m.
Through its fiscal sponsor the Moline Foundation, the Hero Street documentary film series received partial funding from the Regional Development Authority (RDA), Illinois Arts Council, the Illinois Humanities, Humanities Iowa, National Endowment for the Humanities, Quad City Arts, the Quad Cities Community Foundation, LULAC Iowa, Mexican American Veterans Association, the City of Silvis, and individual contributors. The project also received a production grant from the Moline Foundation. The views and opinions expressed by these films do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.
Fourth Wall Films is an award-winning independent film production company formerly located in Los Angeles, and now based in Moline, Illinois.