Above and Beyond

The story of Cpl William T Perkins Jr

Listen to the filmmaker interviewed for NPR's "The Story".

Read article about the making of "ABOVE AND BEYOND" from the Society of Camera Operators magazine, Summer 2006.

For Craig Ingraham, Bill’s death in 1967 in Vietnam was like a bad dream that wouldn’t go away. The last time he saw Bill, they had a terrible fight over a girl named Denise. She was only a friend and the first girl that Craig ever made love to. But he didn’t know that Bill had deep feelings for her. Tragically, the last time Craig looked into Bill’s eyes, he saw tears, rage, sorrow and betrayal. They would never speak again. These events would haunt Craig for the next 25 years.

Then in the early 1990’s, Craig had a conversation with his friend Jim Priddy who went into the Marines with Bill on the “buddy” system. Jim expressed doubts about the events surrounding Bill’s death. He wasn’t specific but it was troubling. Sometimes truth is the first casualty of war. Craig resolved to learn the truth.

In 1995, Craig’s journey began in earnest. He contacted Camp Pendleton, Norton Air Force Base and the National Archives. He found among other things, Bill’s service record, the command chronology for Operation Medina and all of the paperwork involved in his recommendations for the Medal of Honor, including the hand-written eyewitness accounts of his heroism. He discovered that there really was confusion regarding the events of October 12, 1967. In fact, he was first recommended for the Navy Cross but upon re-examination of the facts, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor. Then he received a phone call from the National Archives telling him that indeed they did have approximately 2 hours 30 minutes of 16mm motion picture footage shot by Bill during his three months in Vietnam, including Operation Medina which Bill filmed hours before his death. He was also loaned 55 letters and approximately 175 35mm slides and memorabilia from Bill’s mother and father.

In 2003, Craig was invited to the 1st Marines’ Reunion in Washington D.C. A documentary was taking shape, so Craig took a film crew to interview the survivors of Operation Medina. While in D.C., Craig filmed at the Vietnam Memorial Wall and the Marine Corps Historical Museum which had on permanent display the motion picture camera that Bill was holding when he threw himself on the enemy hand grenade. He was joined by partner Debora Masterson who introduced him to Editor John Gilbert, A.C.E. who would eventually edit the documentary.

When Craig was asked what he hopes his film will accomplish, he said, “I hope that this film will help people understand that war and killing in the 21st century is obsolete; there is no reason for it. People around the world can instantaneously communicate with each other. We have the opportunity to learn about and appreciate each other instead of living in fear of one another. And finally, I hope people will see that this is my way of telling Bill how proud I am to have known him and how much we all wish he were here”.