From World War II battlefields to freezing Bering Sea research to Pan Am World Airways glamor, Don Mittelstaedt has shot it all.
His life reads like a movie, and now, at age 92, he’s made one, despite the interference of capricious computer hobgoblins.
I first profiled Don, a WWII photographer, for Veteran’s Day. If you can’t read that post, here’s the quick version:
Don and I became friends through The Pacific War Photographs of Pfc Glenn W. Eve, my tribute to my father. Imagine my excitement when someone who might have known my dad back then contacted me!
Alas, Don and my dad just missed each other, but Don told me many brave and horrific stories about life as a combat photographer. He helped me understand things my father could never talk about.
Don’s blind in one eye and finds walking difficult, but he has never lost his zest and sense of humor. One day he wrote, excited about a new project.
He got himself a 32-inch monitor so he could raise the font to 24 point, then taught himself to scan and edit his photographs in high resolution.
Then, on November 16, just two days after my Veteran’s Day tribute to him, this arrived:
“Technicians building my producer, Mercedes Maharis Productions, new three terabyte water-cooled computer, messed up. They lost three years of memory, including the finished, edited version of our WW2 documentary with its narration, background music, sound and 1000 photos.
“Que sera, sera. You pick yourself up, shake off the dust, and put your first foot forward on the new journey. It will be easier to re-do than the first editing was, but still a huge project. I hope I will be able to see it through, especially the narration. I still have all the HD pictures safe on my computer, for a new start.”
Is your heart breaking for this man like mine did? It was so unfair. Don mastered all this new technology only to have the computer hobgoblins strike! I could only admire his attitude and try to emulate it.
The New Year Dawns
On January 3, I found this in my inbox:
“Happy New Year. May all your activities, and especially Late Bloomers, flourish in 2012. My WW2 doc is saved and ready to market. I will keep you informed as things develop. Keep on growing. I am very impressed with your accomplishments!”
Can you believe it? His life’s work almost lost, and he’s encouraging me. And so, it’s my great joy and honor to announce to the Interwebs:
Defeating Bishamon (Trailer)
A new social documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Mercedes Maharis (Cries from the Border) celebrating the unsung heros who photographed it all on their South Pacific tour of duty during World War 2.
We follow Lt. Donald E. Mittelstaedt and his men in Combat Photo Unit 10 on their photo odyssey through islands and jungles… 91-year-old veteran Mittelstaedt demonstrates the painstaking difficulty of shooting each photo and shares his thoughts on war.
You are invited to attend a sneak peek screening at:
The Cochise Theater
Fort Huachuca, Arizona
Sunday 18 Mar 2012 at 5 PM
I can’t attend since I’m too far away, but I wanted to extend that invitation to you.
Because it’s not just an invitation to a documentary screening, it’s an invitation to live your best life and never give up on your dreams, no matter what obstacles come your way.
It’s a reminder to “pick yourself up, shake off the dust, and put your first foot forward on the new journey.”
Please join me in congratulating Don in the comments, if you feel so moved. I’ll make sure he sees them, even if I have to cut and paste them into an email!
(Update: I’m so heartbroken to report that Don passed away on his 94th birthday — August 3, 2013.)