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Warplanes, an aircraft carrier in Statesboro?
No worries, all part of filming for Korean War movie ‘Devotion’
A battleship/aircraft carrier set at Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport is part of the upcoming filming of "Devotion," a movie based on a Korean War story that will be shot in the area over the next 45 days. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Area residents who see Corsair, Bearcat and MiG fighter planes in the skies over Statesboro in the next few weeks don’t need to worry about an imminent attack. The classic military aircraft from the Korean War-era will be part of “Devotion,” a major-motion picture that will include filming of action scenes in Statesboro during the next 45 days or so.

“The classic planes are real, but I want to assure everyone the missiles and bombs that are attached to the aircraft are props. They are in no way real,” a media source with the production said in a phone interview Friday. “They are props used solely for the movie-making process. No one in Statesboro needs to be concerned.”

Devotion is based on true life events surrounding the story of Jesse L. Brown and Thomas Hudner.

Brown, born in rural Mississippi, was the first African American to complete the Navy’s basic flight training program for pilot qualification and to be designated a naval aviator. Hudner was a white New Englander who decided to become a Navy pilot rather than attend Harvard University.

The two became friends and wingmen in the same fighter squadron.

In December 1950, Ensign Brown took off from the aircraft carrier USS Leyte in a Vought F4U-4 Corsair for a mission the Chosin Reservoir area of North Korea. Antiaircraft fire struck the Corsair and Brown crash-landed his plane on the side of a mountain in the snow.

Flying over the crash site, then Lieutenant Hudner saw Brown had not gotten out of the cockpit and decided to emergency crash land his plane next to Brown to see if he could help his friend.

The movie, which is based on a book of the same name by Adam Makos that was published in 2014, tells the story of Brown and Hudner that, while tragic, is ultimately uplifting, the source said.

“The Korean War and the battles do not drive the story,” he said. “It is about courage and survival. Brotherhood and sacrifice. It is about the shared humanity of these two men.”

Devotion is being produced by Black Label Media, which, among other movies, has produced the well-known films “La La Land” and “Sicario.” It will star Jonathan Majors, who is known for the HBO series “Lovecraft Country, as Brown, and Glen Powell, who was in the films “Hidden Figures” and the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick,” as Hudner. Also, pop star Joe Jonas will be part of the supporting cast in his first feature role.

Filming for Devotion, which, according to the “Deadline” web site, has a $90 million budget, began in Savannah last month and has filmed in the Bloomingdale area, as well.

But, prior to the start of any filming, a massive replica of the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Leyte was constructed on a back runway at the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport to serve as a backdrop for various action sequences.

Producers chose the Statesboro airport over several other possible locations around the country and one in Mexico. Bulloch County Commission Chairman Roy Thompson said the county has received a “substantial” monthly rental fee for the use of the airport runway.

Filming will take place in Statesboro during March and April and that’s when the vintage military aircraft probably will be seen in the skies over the area. Residents may notice more production personnel and film extras at hotels, restaurants and stores around the area.

“It is a truly remarkable story of two men from different worlds that is aptly titled ‘Devotion,’” the source said.

Although Brown perished in the incident, Hudner survived the war and retired from the Navy after 26 years of service, passing away in 2017 at 93.

The two men even have ships named for them. The USS Jesse L. Brown was launched in 1972, while the USS Thomas Hudner was commissioned in 2018.

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