|SPECIAL FEATURE - JEFFERSON, GA|
The War Journal of Major Damon ''Rocky''
Jefferson Man's WWII Escape
to be Major Motion Picture
Stories: May 13, 1998
/ February 17, 1999 / October
20, 1999 / November 11, 1999 (column)
Photos: Gause-Military / Gause/Osborne-Boat / Gause-Phillipines / Gause-Flight Suit
Other Links: Hyperion Books / Local Damon Gause Site / Amazon Books / Air Force Magazine
The Jackson Herald
May 13, 1998
Bidding battle Gause's war journal sought by publishers
By Jana Adams
Major Damon J. Gause's World War II story sounds like a movie plot - in fact, it may become one. To publishers worldwide, it sounds like a tale worth fighting for in an all-out bidding battle.
Within the next few weeks, the publishing rights to the Jefferson native's war-time journal is expected to be purchased for what some speculate will top $1 million. Movie rights are also being discussed for the hero's amazing story of escape and survival in the opening days of WWII.
For Gause's Jefferson family, it's been a whirlwind as months of research and dealing with the publishing world near fruition.
"My father wrote the journal prior to going back to Europe," said Damon Gause Jr., who was only 3 months old when his father died in a training accident in England.
"His journal, flags and personal effects were shipped in a trunk to my mother after his death. I was the only son, so my mother let me open the trunk from time to time and read the journal. It was loose-leaf, so I had to be careful."
After more than 50 years, Gause Jr. and his family decided to offer the journal for publication.
"I wanted to get it out to the world, to get it published as a tribute to World War II veterans and to honor the memory of my father," he said. "About 18 months ago, I started getting contacts and searching the government archives to get background information to accompany the journal, as well as my father's crash report of 1944. I have a New York City agent to represent my publishing rights and we've been getting numerous inquiries."
And getting the story out to the world has apparently been effective. A major news article about the journal and likely book appeared in the New York Post last week and the Atlanta Journal/Constitution this week. In addition, media outlets all over the world have been calling Gause Jr. about the story.
"We've had a lot of foreign interest," he said. "I've been contacted by the BBC and various news media from the different countries...My father speaks (in the journal) highly of the Filipinos who helped him escape, and the Australians are proud that he was able to make it to safety with them.
"The English tie is that he is buried at the Cambridge American cemetery about 40 miles from London. He fought on English soil and died on English soil. I wasn't sure about the Japanese interest, but the Japanese code of honor was never to surrender. In escaping them, my father lived up to their code. He is a hero to them even though he was a foe of them."
Lt. Damon Gause (R) and Capt. Lloyd Osborne stand by the "Ruth Lee," named for their wives, in the Philippines before taking off on their long, daring journey to Australia during World War II. Since motor oil was rarely available, they often used coconut oil for the boat's motor.
"By the Grace of God and the Filipinos"
Lt. Gause and Philippine natives in 1942
A 'POLISHED' JOURNAL
Were it not for the interest of the younger Gause, his father's story might have been just another footnote to the century's greatest cataclysm. It was early in the war when the elder Gause escaped the Philippines and made his way to Australia in what some call a "modern day Odyssey." The escape made headlines at the time and Gause and a companion traveled around the country in an effort to boost moral.
Gause escaped his Japanese captors in the Philippines by killing a sentry and swimming three miles toward safety, only to be re-captured. He escaped again, this time into the jungle with another prisoner, and sailed in a native boat 3,200 miles to safe harbor in Australia.
The details of that flight make up what is being currently called "The War Journal," although that is a temporary title that may change when the publisher is decided. Maj. Gause had titled the journal "By the Grace of God and the Filipinos."
"My father left this in a very polished form," Gause Jr. said. "I think he left it as a way of saying 'I've got this ready, but I was unable to get it done.' I think I am following on my father's wishes...My father must have had great writer potential. I'm amazed at how descriptive it was. The publisher will decide, but I want the journal to be by Major Damon J. Gause with Damon L. Gause. I may do an introduction and a tail end, but the journal will be the heart."
Not only is the journal a historical record, it is also a personal history for Gause Jr.
"I would have been old enough to read when I first saw the journal, but I didn't fully comprehend it until later, when I was a teenager and had learned more about the war," he said. "I learned more about the strength of what one man had done. I've been told it was the most successful escape in American warfare history.
"I had no other way of knowing my father, other than what my family and Jefferson people told me. My father saw me one time when I was two days old at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens. His officer, Col. Lance Call (hence the L. in Gause Jr.'s name) allowed him to slip off and visit. I was three months old when my father died."
Gause Jr. has a few photographs of the new family taken at the hospital, as well as some 30 pictures his father took during his escape with a camera given to him by a missionary. The photographs will likely be included in the journal's publication.
"The possibility of a movie is really strong, according to my agent," Gause Jr. said. "I would like to see someone with a similar mind-frame play my father. The actor Matt Damon has some similar characteristics to my father and I like his style of acting."
And although Gause Jr. was unable to say more about the contents of the journal and its possible future uses, he did say a more complete story would be available once the publisher is determined. "Things are moving quickly," he said.
The Jackson Herald
February 17, 1999
Gause's 'War Journal'
headed for the silver screen
Disney's Miramax buys rights to movie version of WWII hero's
BY ANGELA GARY
A Jefferson man's heroic tale of escape during World War II is coming to life on the big screen.
Miramax Films, a Disney-owned company, has finalized a deal with the family of Major Damon Gause to produce the film version of his World War II escape and adventure in the Pacific. The family earlier inked a book deal with Hyperion Publishing, Disney's publishing company, to publish the book, "The War Journal," based on Gause's diary. The book is expected to be released around Veterans' Day this year.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who recently wrote and starred in "Good Will Hunting" in which they received Academy Awards, will serve as the executive producers of the film. The producers will be Chris Moore and Craig Anderson.
Gause's son, Damon L. Gause, Jefferson, said location of the filming has not yet been selected. He named two area men, Howard Berk, who works with the creative development department at the University of Georgia, and Herman Buffington, publisher of MainStreet Newspapers, as having helped him in his quest to get his father's story out to a larger audience.
"I'm more thrilled with Walt Disney making this a tribute to the American fighting men of World War II than anything," Gause said. "That's what sold me."
Major Gause wrote of escaping Bataan and Corregidor in the Philippine Island after their surrender to the forces of Japan during early 1942. Gause's escape and survival is thought to be the longest in American military history.
A tattered and worn diary, along with a first-person draft of a manuscript, details how a small-town rural Southern boy, Lt. Damon "Rocky" Gause of Jefferson, and his fellow American soldier, Capt. William Lloyd Osborne, managed the harrowing saga of navigating over 3,000 miles of enemy-controlled ocean in an old, worn 20-foot native sailboat to finally reach safety and their freedom in Australia on Oct. 11, 1942.
"Through their own iron will and determination and clearly showing the comradeship that exists in American soldiers, their love of country and families, they came through and both were awarded Distinguished Service Crosses by General Douglas MacArthur at his headquarters in Australia," said Gause.
Miramax Films holds first place in Academy Award nominations with 33.
Gause said he believes his father planned to publish the manuscript. That didn't happen because after returning from the Pacific, the Jefferson native headed for the European theater of war where he died in a military training accident in England. The journal, along with photographs and other memorabilia, lay in a family trunk for years before the younger Gause decided to pursue a publishing deal.
When the book is released later this year, Gause will be traveling to promote it. The Jefferson man wrote the introduction to the book.
Gause will also be traveling to the Philippines in May as part of the General Wainwright Memorial Tour. A new memorial will be dedicated in honor of Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, who commanded the American forces on the island of Corregidor at the time of the Japanese assault in 1942. General Wainwright visited the Gause family in Jefferson after the war.
The literary agent rights were handled by Mary Tahan of the New York literary agency of Clausen, Mays and Tahan. The film rights were arranged by Bill Contardi of the William Morris Agency, also of New York.
The Jackson Herald
October 20, 1999
Gause's book to be available Veteran's Day
BY ANGELA GARY
After months of anticipation, a book on the World War II adventure of Jefferson's Major Damon "Rocky" Gause is set to hit the bookstores. The book will first be available on Veteran's Day, Thursday, Nov. 11.
Jefferson's Damon L. Gause Jr., son of the World War II pilot and hero, will tour with the book compiled from his father's memoirs. He has been working for three years to get the book published.
"It is very emotional," Gause said of the book's release. "It's exciting and it's tiring. It hasn't all sunk in yet."
One of the first local stops will be from noon to 2 p.m. on Veteran's Day at the Commerce Public Library. Copies of the book will be available for $21.95. Gause will then travel to Barrow County where he will be featured at the Veteran's Day program at the civic center in the former Duck Head building in downtown Winder. He will be in Winder from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 11 and copies of the book will be available there too.
During the book tour, Gause Jr. will visit bookstores in Washington D.C., Baltimore, Md., and Huntington, N.Y., Monday and Tuesday, November 8 and 9. He will be at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore at North Point Mall, Alpharetta, November 10.
"The War Journal of Major Damon "Rocky" Gause: The Firsthand Account of One of the Greatest Escapes of World War II" is being published by Hyperion Press and tells the story of Gause's escape from the Bataan Death March and journey to Australia in a small boat.
Gause's son has made a life-long quest of researching facts about his father's life. He has made an attempt to meet everyone who served in the war with his father and even attends reunions of the 27th Bombardment Group. He pulled the manuscript out of a footlocker where it had been safely kept for over 50 years.
Gause wrote an introduction and an epilogue to his father's journal. He dedicates the book to "all American defenders of freedom, both the living and the deceased." The book also includes a forward by Stephen E. Ambrose.
The book is available at amazon.com on the Internet. It will be available after Nov. 11 at Barnes and Noble, Athens, and Chapter 11 in Gainesville and Snellville. It can also be purchased by calling Gause at 367-1107.
Gause's story has already been optioned by film company Miramax and is expected to be made into a movie. Gause said he hasn't been given a time line for the project.
By Mike Buffington
November 10, 1999
Gause book is a Veterans Day tribute
It is altogether fitting that the official release of Major Damon "Rocky" Gause's war memoir is taking place on Veterans Day 1999. By now, just about everyone in Jackson County is aware of Gause's book, "The War Journal of Major Damon Rocky Gause." A native of Jackson County, Gause penned his journal after surviving an escape from the Philippines and making his way to Australia by boat during the early months of World War II.
Unfortunately, Major Gause didn't live to see his work published, having died in a flight training accident in England later in World War II. Although the basic story was widely known at the time, having been published in numerous newspapers and magazines, it soon fell into the shadows as the war dragged on.
But Gause's son, also named Damon, kept his father's memory alive, first by absorbing the stories as a child and now by seeing that the memoir is finally published as a book.
And what a book. Although I first read the raw journal about 15 years ago, I was still amazed when I read the book again last week. It is a story of courage and survival set against the backdrop of the century's greatest conflict. How could two men in a small, leaky boat travel through so much enemy territory and make it home alive?
On its face, the book is one man's story, but at a deeper level it also reflects much about this nation and its struggles during the last 100 years. Major Gause's journal reflects that which is good about the United States - courage in the face of adversity, ingenuity when the odds were long and the ability to survive even the toughest of trials.
It's true, of course, that many others also faced great odds in that war, and in other conflicts of this century. There are many who survived terrible conditions and struggled through long odds, both during battle and as prisoners of war.
But because of its rich detail that had been kept in a makeshift diary during the escape, Major Gause's journal stands out not just because he escaped, but also because he was a gifted writer. And in the end, he pays tribute to all those who helped along the way by acknowledging that his story is really the story of many people who risked their lives so that a "lone hunted American" might find his way to freedom.
That Major Gause later died in Europe was a tragedy, but his story doesn't end in some remote English graveyard. Through his son's commitment, the once-forgotten manuscript has again reached the public. That a son would wish to honor his father in such a way is understandable, but that's only one part of why this book was published. As Damon says when he speaks to various civic or veterans' groups, the publishing of his father's journal was also a way to honor all of those who fought for the idea of freedom.
In his closing comments, Damon salutes those veterans with words far better than I could write: "My undying thanks to the veterans of our military forces for forever standing tall in their beliefs that all the peoples of the world should live beneath a cloak of liberty and freedom."
And that is why Damon decided to release this book on Veterans Day - as a tribute not just to the father he never knew, but also as a way to say "Thanks" to thousands of veterans who fought so that we all might enjoy freedom.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
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