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“The children of fighter pilots tell different stories than other kids do. None of our fathers can write a will or sell a life insurance policy...We tell of fathers who land on aircraft carriers at pitch-black night with the wind howling out of the China Sea. Our fathers wiped out aircraft batteries in the Philippines and set Japanese soldiers on fire when they made the mistake of trying to overwhelm our troops on the ground. Your fathers made communities like Beaufort decent and prosperous and functional; our fathers made the world safe for democracy.”Pat Conroy, Eulogy for a Fighter Pilot

About the Film

Death Rattler is the story of one man’s journey into the heart of his Marine father’s legend and his ensuing struggle to free himself from that legend and become his own man.

Capt. James “Rabbit” Hare flew 307 combat missions in Vietnam with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 – The Death Rattlers. He routinely performed bold deeds in his F-4 Phantom jet and was shot down over Danang Harbor. To five-year old Brian, his father seemed more giant than mortal man.

From the first, the Marine Corps exuded a fatal glamour for Brian. And Jim Hare was the embodiment of that glamour; a fearless, handsome, strutting New York Irishman with a handlebar mustache and .45 strapped to his chest; like a swashbuckling hero exploded to life from the pages of a Marvel comic book. Brian idolized his father. But along with the brash charisma came an unspoken command: Semper Fidelis. For Brian, that command eventually became a curse from which he could not escape. He was faithful to the end.

As the Iraqi tanks rolled into Kuwait, Brian was dug into the Saudi desert, a first lieutenant of Marines by destiny as much as by choice. But just as his battalion hungered to prove themselves, Brian hungered as well - to be worthy enough to be called Jim’s son.

The war passes in a surreal blur of burning oil wells, phantom nerve gas and fatal accidents, as exhilarating as it is terrifying. Returning home, both father and son share the hard won bond of combat Marines. But it doesn't last. Brian leaves the Corps to become an actor and their relationship unravels. Despite risking his life to win his father’s love and acceptance, Jim regarded Brian’s departure as an unforgivable betrayal.

As if cursed by Brian’s disloyalty, Jim soon dies from Agent Orange cancer. It shocks Brian that a man seemingly impervious to death should die by sneaking poison. Unable to cope with his rejection and death, Jim’s ashes sit forgotten in a box in the basement.

Yet Jim’s legend continued to grow and dominate Brian’s life. The need to be free of his father’s power sets Brian off on his own hero’s journey to recover Jim’s ashes and legacy from the grip of childish memory and return them to the realm of mortal men.

The odyssey is terrifying, possibly even blasphemous. To venture into the heart of Jim Hare’s myth requires enormous risk, challenging every pretense and belief Brian’s ever held about his father and his own life. Fearlessness is a must. But even the greatest of heroes never knows for sure what the outcome of his actions would be.

Death Rattler is ultimately the story of all fathers and sons, one that explores the high price of heroism, self-sacrifice and faithfulness on a man’s soul and his life.

Uncommon Valor: Eyewitness Account of Action
at Special Forces Camp Gia Vuc

Death Rattler Memorial Tattoo