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Exclusive premiere: National Geographic honors WWII’s ‘erased’ heroes

"ERASED: WW2'S HEROES OF COLOR" sheds light on the immense contributions of over eight million individuals who fought heroically for the Allied forces and whose stories have largely gone untold.
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Desare' Allen holds a portrait of her great uncle Doris Miller at Flosetta Miller's home in Arlington, Texas. "Erased: WW2's Heroes of Color" tells the stories of three Black heroes who miraculously survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. One of these men, mess attendant Doris Miller, defied racial stereotypes when he shot down enemy planes during the attack. (National Geographic/Nelson Adeosun)

Continuing National Geographic’s 136-year record of giving viewers access to pivotal historical moments with new breadth and insight, the network will honor the contributions and sacrifices of overlooked Allied soldiers of color with two new specials on Monday, June 3. At 9/8c, ERASED: WW2’S HEROES OF COLOR, a four-part docuseries executive produced and narrated by Idris Elba (“Hijack”), will premiere, and THE REAL RED TAILS, a one-hour documentary narrated by Sheryl Lee Ralph (“Abbott Elementary”) will kick off the evening at 8/7c. Both specials will stream the next day on Disney+ and Hulu.

Produced by October Films and Elba’s 22Summers, ERASED: WW2’S HEROES OF COLOR uncovers the long-lost legacies of soldiers of color during World War II. This landmark series sheds light on the immense contributions of over eight million individuals who fought heroically for the Allied forces and whose stories have largely gone untold.
The four-part series weaves a blend of historical dramatizations with curated archival footage, bridging the past with the present to highlight new perspectives on established histories. The series showcases the personal narratives of soldiers through their never-before-aired oral testimonies and journal writings, along with powerful accounts from their descendants — stories passed down the generations. These gripping and emotional testimonies transport viewers back
in time to witness bravery unfold in WWII’s iconic theatres of war.

Each episode focuses on at least three extraordinary heroes, from a 16-year-old New Yorker to
an aristocrat from India:


“PEARL HARBOR”

Mess attendant Doris Miller (played by Abdul Sulaiman) boxes with an opponent (played by actor Sean-Marco Msipha) in a WW2 historic reenactment scene for “Erased: WW2’s Heroes of Color. The series tells the stories of three Black heroes who miraculously survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. Miller served as mess attendant on the USS West Virginia, where he pursued boxing as a sport. He defied racial stereotypes when he shot down enemy planes during the attack. (National Geographic/Seye Isikalu)

Premieres June 3 at 9/8c on Nat Geo, Streams June 4 on Disney+ and Hulu

This episode tells the unsung story of three African American sailors who not only miraculously survived the attack on Pearl Harbor but saved countless lives. Working as messmen below deck on segregated American ships, hundreds of Black sailors fought for their lives as Japanese bombs hit. Some performed incredible acts of heroism, but on returning to America, their acts weren’t honored, and they were erased.

“D-DAY”

Vinnie and Beulah Dabney, son and wife of William Dabney, respectively, are pictured holding a framed portrait of Dabney Sr. while
at their home in Roanoke, Va. Corporal William Dabney served with the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion on D-Day. (National Geographic/Shianne Brown)

Premieres June 3 at 10/9c on Nat Geo, Streams June 4 on Disney+ and Hulu

In this episode, we unearth the hidden heroes of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion who helped liberate Europe on D-Day. These American soldiers were the only all-Black combat unit to fight on the Normandy beaches. After valiantly serving their country, they returned home, hoping for the Civil Rights Movement to secure change but finding a
country where their heroics in France were quickly forgotten.

“DUNKIRK”


(L to R) Actors Shammi Aulakh, Jack Gill, Rishi Rian and Ali Afzal, portraying Captain Anis Khan, Major Akbar Khan, Medic Saddiq Khan, and Corporal Chaudry Wali Mohammed, respectively, pose for a group portrait outdoors while filming a WW2 historic reenactment production for “Erased: WW2’s Heroes of Color.” They were members of Force K6, a little-known Indian regiment of mule handlers in WW2. Amidst the chaos of Dunkirk and the advancing German Army, the Indian regiment fought for victory and independence. (National Geographic/Harriet
Laws Herd)

Premieres June 10 at 10/9c on Nat Geo Streams June 4 on Disney+ and Hulu

This episode reveals the gripping story of Force K6, a little-known Indian regiment of mule handlers in WW2, destined to play a pivotal role in the life-saving evacuation of British forces at Dunkirk. Stranded in Nazi-occupied France, the unit looked for ways to escape to safety. When some were taken captive by the German Army, they staged a daring breakout from a POW camp. Later, their wartime experiences fed into the fight to end over 200 years of colonial rule in India.

“BATTLE OF THE BULGE”

761st Tank Battalion Private First Class E.G McConnell is pictured in a tank. (The Family of E.G. McConnell/Carole Johnson)

Premieres June 10 at 10/9c on Nat Geo Streams June 4 on Disney+ and Hulu

This episode explores the untold story of the Black Panthers, an elite African American tank battalion who endured years of discrimination. Unseen diaries and rare interviews chart the unit’s participation in conflicts throughout France, ending in the bloodiest battle of WWII: the Battle of the Bulge. Their experiences inspire not just the fight for civil rights
in the U.S. but also battles for freedom around the globe.

Looking beyond the battlefield, ERASED reveals the profound link between the soldiers’ wartime struggles and the rise of post-war-inspired movements for freedom that swept the globe. Both shows are a poignant testament to the soldiers’ courage, a tribute to their sacrifices, and a powerful reminder that the fight for equality and recognition continues to this day.

WATCH the exclusive trailer here:

ERASED: WW2’S HEROES OF COLOR is produced by October Films and 22Summers. For October Films, Johanna Woolford Gibbon, Jos Cushing, Matt Robins and Chris Muckle are executive producers. Sam Pollard is consulting exec producer; Annabel Hobley is co-executive producer. For 22Summers, Idris Elba, Jamilla Dumbuya and Khaled Gad are executive producers. For National Geographic, Sean D. Johnson and Simon Raikes are executive producers. Charlie Parsons is Senior Vice President, Development, and Tom McDonald is Executive Vice President, Global Factual and Unscripted Content.

Preceding ERASED: WW2’S HEROES OF COLOR at 8/7c, THE REAL RED TAILS tells of the astonishing discovery of a P-39 airplane in Lake Huron, Michigan, reigniting a story lost to time and triggering one of the most important World War II archeological missions in the Great Lakes. On the morning of April 11, 1944, Tuskegee pilot 22-year-old Second Lieutenant Frank Moody perished in what should have been a routine training mission when his plane malfunctioned and took a nosedive into the chilly waters. With unprecedented access, the one-hour special, narrated by Ralph, will take viewers on a journey to uncover the 80-year-old mystery of how and why Moody’s plane ultimately went down. The special enlists teams of underwater archaeologists to recover parts of the downed plane for the first time and weaves in
firsthand accounts from fellow airmen along with underwater footage from the wreck to give a final answer to the mystery.

THE REAL RED TAILS is produced by National Geographic’s Yellow Border Production Services with Erin M. Reuss as producer, Jeanine I. Butler as executive producer, and Anna Derryberry as director of production. Melanie Sams is Vice President of Production and Development for National Geographic.

The Real Red Tails. Photo/Public Domain

About National Geographic Content
Award-winning and critically acclaimed National Geographic Content, part of a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and the National Geographic Society, creates and delivers riveting stories and experiences in natural history, science, adventure and exploration. The brand is the largest on social media with over three quarters of a billion followers across all major platforms that generate over one billion impressions each month. Inspiring a deeper connection to the world, National Geographic Content reaches 300 million people worldwide in 180 countries and 33 languages as a digital, social and print publisher and across the global National Geographic channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO), National Geographic Documentary Films, and direct-to-consumer platforms Disney+ and Hulu. Its diverse content includes Emmy® Award-winning franchise Genius, series Life
Below Zero and Secrets of the Whales, and Oscar®- and BAFTA award-winning film Free Solo. In 2022, National Geographic Content was awarded eight News and Documentary Emmys, in addition to Life Below Zero’s Emmy win for Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program, its sixth Emmy overall. For more information, visit natgeotv.com or nationalgeographic.com, or follow Nat Geo on Facebook, X, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.