by Amy K. Lavender
University of West Georgia alumnus and entrepreneur Lance Toland, owner of Lance Toland Associates, is an avid supporter of his local community on Sea Island, Ga. As a pilot, he also advocates for pilots and aviation history. Now, all those interests have come together in a new project that has added the title of producer to his resume.
That project is “The Golden Isles at War,” a documentary that tells the story of Georgia's Golden Isles immediately before, during and after World War II, highlighting the actions of theLance Toland Civil Air Patrol, the building of liberty ships and blimps, U-boat attacks and the hard work and patriotism of the residents of the Golden Isles, all told by those who lived through it.
Toland recently visited UWG and gave a behind-the-scenes, on-campus screening to history and sociology students.
“I know some of you are about to begin studying World War II,” Toland said. “But some of you may not know that the Germans were literally at our doorstep very early in the war off the East Coast. In the first six months of the war, between the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 1, 1941, and June of 1942, more than 500 ships were sunk and more than 5,000 lives lost right off the coast. And for the most part, the public didn’t know about it.”
This hidden history came to Toland’s attention when a fellow pilot told him about his own father’s flying exploits during the war. His job was to fly up and down the Georgia coast looking for German submarines. At first, Toland said he didn’t believe him.
“It sounded like a yarn. I kind of thought he was telling me a story,” Toland laughed. “But it was true.”
Shortly after, Toland began talking to some of his neighbors and other people in his local community about their experiences.
“One person led to another, who led to another, who led to another,” Toland said. “I soon realized I wanted to get their stories down on video. Then I started thinking about a documentary.”
But Toland says his project isn’t just about preserving local history.
“This was a real story about the resolve of the people of the state of Georgia and how we collectively came together and participated in World War II. It truly transformed the area.”
While the story Toland is telling isn’t one from the front lines, he said it is no less compelling and no less important.
“What really inspired me was for every soldier we had on the front, there was a thousand people at home working to make sure soldiers could fight the war,” Toland told the students. “That’s what this is about: the people who made our nation great. And they were people just like you, your age and younger.”
After sharing the film with students, Toland said he hoped they found it valuable and reminded them what ordinary people could do under extraordinary circumstances.
“There are three phases to your life,” Toland said. “Right now you’re learning. Next you’ll be earning. Then you’ll return. Return things to the community. That’s what I’m doing now. I hope you learn from it, and I wish you all the best.”
Toland serves on the U.S. Air Force Museum of Aviation Foundation board and is chairman of the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame. He is a published author, sharing his expertise in publications such as Business and Commercial Aviation, Forbes and Falcon Owners Newsletter. His regular aviation insurance column, "Ask Lance Toland," appears in the Pilatus Owners and Pilots Association quarterly newsletter.