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Letter from the filmmaker

Manchu: A Brotherhood of Sacrifice

Directed by Matt Wilcox,

My name is Matt Wilcox and I was born in Brooksville, FL. Both my parents were school teachers with my father teaching history and other social sciences. This is where I gained my interest in history. While attending Springstead High School in Spring Hill, FL, I signed up to take video production classes as I was so fascinated with the video storytelling that film could bring to an audience.

While in high school, I had a shop teacher named Steve Knowlton. He was always a quiet guy but did everything to help his students. My father taught at the high school I attended and he told me that a few years before I started going to the school, he asked Mr. Knowlton to share his experiences with a history class as he was deployed to Vietnam in 1969. I started making a short film my senior year of school about Mr. Knowlton’s experience, named DAY 333. This is where I learned of a man who was killed named Merle Higgins and while on my senior trip to Washington D.C., I made a rubbing on the Vietnam Wall of Mr. Higgin’s name. All this said, I never thought that someday, I would be creating a film where I would be able to share the history of Steve Knowlton, Merle Higgins, and all of the other soldiers who fought in Vietnam.

After high school, I started attending college. I double majored as an undergraduate student in History and Religious Studies. Then I continued into Graduate school to earn a Master of Arts in World War II Studies from Arizona State University. Today, I am working on a second masters in History. In 2015, I was hired as a school teacher in Pasco County, FL where I taught adult students everything necessary to earn a high school diploma. In February 2017, I joined the U.S. Army Reserve as a 31B, Military police, and was sent to Ft. Leonard, Missouri for training. I spent nearly 7 years with the 320th Military Police Company in St. Petersburg, FL.

In 2016, I also opened a video production / film preservation company where I would transfer older media into digital formats. During Covid in 2020, I was tired of sitting around and decided to make a film about the Vietnam conflict and was able to reconnect with Steve Knowlton who had several hundred feet of 8mm film that he took while deployed. I interviewed him and transferred his film to High Definition. This was the beginning of the documentary Manchu: A Brotherhood of Sacrifice. I wished to expand Steve Knowlton’s story so I did a google search and discovered Stan and Rita Adams on Facebook. I discovered that Stan Adams had written a book about his experiences in Vietnam and that he and Steve Knowlton had served in the same company at essentially the same time in Vietnam. Once contacting Stan and Rita, I was invited to stay with them and interview several veterans in the unit. This was the beginning of a powerful film as we were able to interview scores of veterans who served with the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry in Vietnam (the Manchus). Due to the kindness and contacts of Stan and Rita Adams, I was able to secure a great number of interviews from men who served together in Vietnam; men who were next to Steve Knowlton and Merle Higgins in 1969.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Rita Adams, this film exists. If not for her, I would not have been able to gather so many stories and primary source materials. In effect, we would not have a film today. I thank her and Stan Adams as well as all the veterans I have interviewed for their time and their stories and giving me the ability to share my passion for history storytelling.

Manchu: A Brotherhood of Sacrifice

Join us for the special pre-release viewing event on May 18, 2024, at William Woods University.