Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Industry Veterans Bill Rebane and Robert Wilhelm III in Superior to Shoot First Episode of Masters of Valor

The legendary Bill Rebane.
This past weekend motion picture industry veteran Bill Rebane and actor/screenwriter Robert Wilhelm III were in town to film the first episode of a new television series called Masters of Valor: Soldiers of Distinction. I joined them for an hour and a half at The Family Restaurant at the Androy Hotel in Superior to learn more about the project and their careers.

According to Wilhelm the show Masters of Valor will feature people from every nation who were part of all wars from the 7 Years War to the present, heroes famous and not famous, men and women, including Soviet female fighter pilots.

Their reason for being in Superior was to shoot a one-hour premiere episode featuring Richard Ira Bong at the Bong Museum here. Wilhelm is both the writer and host of the show.

Robert Wilhelm with his pal, Teddie.
I arrived a little before one as the two men were just finishing lunch at a table near the middle of the room, Wilhelm wearing a leather bomber jacket with an insignia in the middle of the back. They were easy to pick out. Rebane looked like the crusty veteran of life’s hard roads, Wilhelm warm and engaging with striking good looks, as if he personified the role of a master host.

After introductions the conversation proceeded over a circuitous route that covered numerous fascinating subjects which could easily have been explored in greater depth. At the center of this story you will find two fascinating men who connected by a singular project.

Bill Rebane’s life story itself could be a book. Born in Latvia, (his mother Latvian, his father Estonian) the story of his family’s escape from the Red Army is an amazing adventure, one that many refugees from Eastern Europe undertook in 1944-45. His family split, settling in two parts of “Free” Germany after the war. This Germany connection would ultimately lead to a significant development in the history of film, the 360-degree motion picture process.

Wilhelm studies a 1938 Life mag outside Bong Museum.
At age 15 Bill Rebane himself came to America in 1952. His path from floor sweeper to motion picture industry producer, director and consultant will be detailed in another blog post. As I noted above, his life could easily be a book.

(EdNote: Two books by Rebane can also be found on, one of them a novel about Roswell.)

I asked how the two came together for Masters of Valor and Wilhelm said they were working on a feature film called The Prussian. (In addition to being an actor, Wilhelm is a screenwriter.)

“I connected with Robert about The Prussian,” Rebane said. “As we brainstormed about a screenplay treatment we opted for Masters of Valor because it would be quicker to complete. It was initially designed to be a stand-alone show. It has now evolved. The aim of our visit here (to Superior’s Ira Bong Museum) is to get this opening episode in the can.”

Replica of Major Bong's P-38 Lightning fighter.
Masters of Valor is in sync with Wilhelm's lifelong passion for military history, which led to 2011 novel of historical fiction called All the Iron Men. The new series will focus on true history rather than a fictional creation.

Shot #15, take 3. Over a period of two days of shooting.
For those unfamiliar, Major Richard "Ira" Bong was a Medal of Honor recipient in World War II, one of the most decorated American fighter pilots and the country's top flying ace in the war. Other than the restaurant shots, the photos on this page were taken during Monday's shoot at the museum.

The museum features exhibits honoring those who served in defense of freedom...
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...and those who died.
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Aerial view of the set. 
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The museum is located at the entrance to Barker's Island just off highway 2.
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