A year ago, filmmaker Eddie Zajdel released his first documentary, Charles Kettles: A True American Hero, on Amazon Prime. Highlighting the life of the late Charles Kettles, a heroic Medal of Honor recipient credited with saving the lives of 44 men, this heart touching story has recently become more well known as a new documentary shines a light on Kettles’ success in Vietnam.
Filmmaker Eddie Zajdel, just an ambitious film student in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was proud to undertake the film project and share Charles Kettles’ story with the world, including his valiant efforts to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.
“In one of my film classes, the professor walked up to a group of students and me and said that they had close connections with a man named Charles Kettles,” recalled Zajdel. “They thought it would be a cool project to interview him and get to the bottom of what motivated him, against all the odds, to fly a tore up helicopter in Vietnam and save the lives of 44 men.”
“I immediately jumped on the story with a group of students, and within a week had Charles Kettles in the class studio for an interview,” added Zajdel. “His story was amazing, and I knew that it was our obligation to tell it to the world.”
When the short-feature documentary was complete, it earned rave reviews and secured a nomination for a Student Emmy Award. Zajdel had plans to extend it, but Charles Kettles passed away just two months later. The last living interview of Kettles, much of the footage was never used in the original film. But five months later, Zajdel announced a second documentary on Charles Kettles featuring unseen footage and stories of those personally affected by his bravery and heroic acts.
For viewers unaware of Kettles’ sacrifice, prepare to be shocked. During the early morning hours of May 15, 1967, Kettles and others of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division were ambushed in the Song Tra Cau River area by the North Vietnamese Army. Pinned down with damaged aircraft and wounded gunners, Kettles and his comrades were struck. But demonstrating heroism and courage, Kettles helped bring his plane back to base, even as fuel was leaking, to get his fellow men out of danger and to save 44 lives.
Today, his story of courage and bravery still captivates listeners and portrays the power of the human spirit to overcome insurmountable odds. In the latest documentary, viewers hear first-hand interviews with former Vietnam veterans and helicopter pilots, which bring unique perspectives to the story. Various family members and friends of Kettles are also included, as is a never-before-seen interview with Kettles himself right before his passing.
Charles Kettles: True American Hero is streaming now on Amazon Prime. Filmmaker Eddie Zajdel is looking to highlight this important story and reveal to the world the heroic efforts of one man to save his fellow soldiers in Vietnam.