Secrets of the Dead "Airmen and the Headhunters"

Secrets of the Dead "Airmen and the Headhunters"

Thu, 01/31/2013 - 9:00pm
Pictured: Dan Illerich with his B-24 Liberator bomber crew – “The Coberly Crew” – who were shot down over Borneo in 1944. The downed airmen were rescued and protected from the Japanese by members of the headhunting Dayak tribe. Photo was taken in July 1944 at March Field, California.

Credit: Courtesy of Dan Illerich

The survival story of a crew of airmen shot down over the jungles of Japanese-occupied Borneo during World War II.

Secrets of the Dead "Airmen and the Headhunters", airing Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 9 p.m. on WXXI World (DT21.2/cable 524), investigates the extraordinary survival story of a crew of airmen shot down over the jungles of Japanese-occupied Borneo during World War II. The film recounts the rescue of a U.S. bomber crew by Dayak tribesmen, known for taking the heads of their enemies. The Dayaks fed and protected the airmen before leading them to the base of the maverick British special ops officer, Major Tom Harrisson, who was fighting a guerrilla war against the Japanese with a band of Australian commandoes. The program features an exclusive interview with the sole surviving member of the U.S. crew, as well as interviews with a number of the Dayak tribespeople and Japanese and Australian veterans.

Watch Airmen and the Headhunters - Preview on PBS. See more from Secrets of the Dead.

Part detective story, part true-life drama, SECRETS OF THE DEAD explores some of the most iconic moments in history to debunk myths and shed new light on past events. Using the latest investigative techniques, forensic science and historical examination to unearth new evidence, the series shatters accepted wisdom, challenges prevailing ideas, overturns existing hypotheses, spotlights forgotten mysteries and ultimately rewrites history.

This program is offered with Descriptive Video (DVi), which provides concise descriptions of the sets, scenery, costumes, action, and other important visual elements between the dialogue of the program.

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