MADRID (AP) - “Gone With the Wind” actor Leslie Howard will be honored as a war hero with a monument in Spain near where his plane was shot down by Nazi fighter pilots during World War II, a historical association said Saturday.
The propeller-shaped sculpture will be unveiled in July near Cedeira bearing the names of those who died aboard the commercial flight from Portugal to Britain in 1943, said the Royal Green Jackets association and author Jose Rey Ximena.
Association President Manuel Santiago Arenas Roca said the London-born Howard joined the Allies and campaigned hard against the Axis powers. Ximena said Germany’s government at the time apparently was worried about the negative impact the high-profile actor-director’s anti-Nazi publicity was having on its cause.
Many books have been written about KLM flight 777 which was downed by a squadron of Junkers 88 fighter planes, said Ximena, who believes the star of the 1939 Academy-Award-winning “Gone with the Wind” and the 1934 movie “The Scarlet Pimpernel” had been on “a secret mission” to stop Spain joining Germany and Italy in combat.
Spain, under the power of fascist dictator Gen. Francisco Franco, had formed an alliance with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government, which based German Luftwaffe warplanes on its soil.
The author said Howard’s contribution to winning the war is in danger of being forgotten.
Most of the books relating to his untimely death were published in the 1950s, and the association wants to pay tribute to a man who put his fame and communication skills to work combatting Nazi propaganda.
The monument will be simple: a partially damaged Douglas DC-3 propeller similar to those that were on the plane on which Howard died. It will contain the names of all the crash victims.
Ximena said there was considerable evidence that Howard was targeted specifically, thus becoming a war hero.