"Journey to Royal"
by writer/producer/director Christopher Johnson
“Journey to Royal” is a documentary about the resonating effects of losing a loved one in war. The story follows director Chris Johnson on an odyssey of discovery as he sets out to connect with his late Great Uncle, Royal A. Stratton, a 22 year old rescue pilot who died saving the lives of 9 airmen in the South Pacific during WWII.
Johnson’s journey leads him to the sole surviving member of Royal’s crew and the surviving members of the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron. It is from these heroic service men that he learns of the dangerous missions that carried them unarmed into the path of the enemy.
In an effort to understand his Great Uncle’s experience, Johnson reaches out to the proprietors of the New Castle, Pennsylvania airfield where Royal learned to fly. There he embarks upon his own flight training with the goal of piloting a restored WWII PBY. Along the way, he encounters a 100 year old pilot who recounts the history of the airfield, the evolution of aviation over the past century and the passion that lives in the hearts of “flyers.”
In the pursuit of connection to the Great Uncle lost generations before, the gravity of his absence becomes more pronounced which prompts Johnson to speak with other families who have lost loved ones in war. The result is a dialogue that inspires another goal: coming to terms with the loss and discovering a path to memorializing the honored dead by celebrating their lives.
In a final climactic undertaking, Johnson embarks upon a momentous journey with R.M.S. Titanic dive expert, David Concannon, to locate and visit his Great Uncle’s plane where it came to rest on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean nearly seven decades ago. What awaits at the end of this journey, beneath a mile of ocean, will be the defining moment for a family seeking to unravel the mystery of a loved one who never returned home from war.
© The Misty Falls Motion Picture Company