Sequel To Award-Winning Documentary “Return To Tarawa” Chronicles JPAC Mission To Recover MIA’s from World War II’s Bloody Battle of Tarawa;

Country Music Sensation Clint Black’s Original Song “She Won’t Let Go” Featured in Film

One of Battle’s Few Remaining Survivors Leon Cooper Leads Online Movement to Bring Home

All MIAs Still Buried At Red Beach

LOS ANGELES (April 12, 2012) –  Kelsey Grammer narrates a new documentary from Filmmaker Steven C. Barber – “Until They Are Home” – chronicling the search for the remains of missing U.S. Marines of World War II killed in the Battle of Tarawa in November of 1943.  Featuring country music superstar Clint Black’s original song "She Won't Let Go," the film premieres on Memorial Day, May 28, 2012 at 6 p.m. at the Directors Guild of America Theater Complex (7920 Sunset Blvd.) in Los Angeles.

Directed by Barber, produced by Matthew Hausle and Tamara Henry and executive produced by Tim Shelton, “Until They Are Home” brings to light the extraordinary dedication of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) team members, largely unsung heroes who, until now, have been unrecognized while working in the shadows.  These young men and women returned in 2010 to the site of one of the most horrific battles of World War II in order to bring home fallen military heroes.  Their efforts on the island of Tarawa have provided some closure after 69 years, recovering the remains of a few U.S. servicemen and flying those remains back to American soil.

The Pentagon originally activated the JPAC on Oct. 1, 2003, to research and recover the remains of more than 83,000 unaccounted-for Americans from foreign wars in order to support the Department of Defense’s personnel accounting efforts.  The command is located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii and identifies an average of six missing servicemen each month while utilizing the largest and most diverse forensic skeletal laboratory in the world.  JPAC has more than a dozen teams that travel the globe on recovery missions, and “Until They Are Home” is the story of one of those missions.

Sequel To Award-Winner

“Until They Are Home” is the much awaited sequel to the award-winning “Return To Tarawa: The Leon Cooper Story,” narrated by Academy Award®-nominee Ed Harris, which won “Best Documentary” honors at the Staten Island Film Festival and was nominated for “Best Documentary” at the Milan International Film Festival. 

Cooper, 93, is one of the few remaining survivors of the battle of “Bloody Tarawa” and this first film tells the story of Cooper’s February 2008 return to the battlefield where he bravely fought 65 years earlier.  Cooper was a young U.S. Navy commander of a group of Higgins landing crafts that ferried U.S. 2nd Marine Division troops to Red Beach during the November 1943 invasion.  The battle was the U.S. military’s first major amphibious assault on Tarawa, a fortified Japanese stronghold, located in a series of coral reef atolls in the Pacific’s Gilbert island group.  It is approximately 2,500 miles southwest of the Hawaiian islands and currently within the Republic of Kiribati.

During Cooper’s stirring 2008 return visit to Tarawa, he was able to confirm firsthand many disturbing conditions about that site where the remains of several hundred Americans still lie neglected and forgotten on the island.  In addition, Cooper learned there is still live ammunition scattered everywhere on the densely populated island, and that huge piles of garbage lie on Red Beach, the hallowed ground where hundreds of Americans were killed and wounded by Japanese gunfire.

Deeply disturbed by what he saw while back on the island, Cooper dedicated his life to garner local support for his restoration plan to clean up the beach and the island, including the building of a modern incineration facility to relieve the island’s issues of refuse disposal.  He also targeted U.S. governmental support to repatriate the remains of his fallen comrades while it is still possible.

Through Cooper’s efforts and the impact of his story in “Return To Tarawa,” he gained the attention of Representative Henry A. Waxman, of California's 30th Congressional District, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, and ultimately Representative Dan Lipinski, of Illinois' Third Congressional District, who got involved in Cooper’s cause.  They were instrumental in presenting the issues to Congress in May and June of 2009, and having legislation written for a Congressional mandate to fund a JPAC mission to recover U.S. MIA remains.  The details of that important 2010 JPAC mission to Tarawa are documented in the sequel “Until They Are Home.”

Public Can Help

While Cooper is pleased with JPAC’s preliminary efforts in 2010 to recover the remains of a few American MIAs from Red Beach, Cooper will not rest in his efforts to bring massive public awareness to the hundreds of U.S. Marines and other members of the Armed Forces “still” buried at Tarawa in unmarked gravesites… until they are home.

To that end Cooper is encouraging Americans, who want ALL remaining U.S. MIAs buried at Tarawa to be returned home to their families, to join in his campaign to influence the U.S. government this action needs to be completed as once promised.  To participate, the public can learn about Cooper’s efforts and sign the online petition to bring the remains of these American MIAs home at www.UntilTheyAreHome.com/petition.  

About Vanilla Fire Productions:

Founded in 2006 by Steven C. Barber and Tamara Henry, Vanilla Fire Productions is a full service video and film production company that strives to create works that emotionally connect with audiences. Vanilla Fire specializes in servicing the entertainment and advertising industries in traditional and new media and also helps create projects by bringing content creators and advertisers together to develop sponsored and branded entertainment for distribution. Vanilla Fire is located in Santa Monica, Calif.  For more information on Vanilla Fire Productions and all its films, visit:  www.vanillafire.com and www.facebook.com/vanillafire. Vanilla Fire Productions would like to thank the following for their generous support of “Until They Are Home,” including: Kelsey Grammer, Clint Black, Cinemark Theatres and CEO Lee Roy Mitchell, Paul Mitchell Co-founder and CEO John Paul Dejoria, Larry King, John Savage, Joe Manganiello and Sean Patrick Flannery. Information on the documentary “Until They Are Home” can be found at the film’s official website -- www.untiltheyarehome.com – and at www.facebook.com/untiltheyarehome and www.twitter.com/untiltheyarehme.

In addition to the “Until They Are Home” world premiere in Los Angeles on Memorial Day, Vanilla Fire Productions will hold a screening of the film later this year at the Congressional Auditorium of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C.  It also will be premiering the upcoming documentary “The Carrier” on Veterans Day 2012.  Barber’s newest film chronicles 48 hours at sea with the crew of the Carrier Carl Vinson, and was shot exclusively during “The Carrier Classic” college basketball game held on the deck of the carrier Nov. 11, 2011, in San Diego.  More information is available at www.carrierclassicmovie.com.

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“I highly recommend the long-awaited sequel of ‘Return to Tarawa.’ Don’t miss the premiere of ‘Until They Are Home.’” LARRY KING

Don’t miss this important film… a remarkable journey of positive dedication and patriotism.”– JOHN SAVAGE (The Deer Hunter, The Onion Field, The God Father III)

“’Until They Are Home’ is a gripping film telling the story of men and women of JPAC and their efforts to fulfill America’s promise to bring home lost Marines who lost their lives in the legendary World War II Battle of Tarawa.  It’s a movie that touches all Americans.”


Don’t miss this 2012 Memorial Day spectacular.” – SEAN PATRICK FLANNERY (Powder, The Boondock Saints, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles)


SWPR Group

Barry Smith / Bonnie Winings

(818) 760-7131

[email protected] / [email protected]

Vanilla Fire Productions

Steven C. Barber

[email protected]