Revisionist history tells us that the Japanese made two major mistakes that day after the attack was over. The first was Admiral Nagumo's decision not to search for the missing American aircraft carriers. The second was his decision not to continue to the West Coast and attack our military bases and ship building facilities there. That same revisionist history states had either been successful the United States probably could not have entered the war for months, or years.
However, this article is not about military history, or the history of World War 2 as it actually happened. This is a look at a few select motion pictures made about that attack as produced by both the United States and Japan. Films that have lost interest to many Millennials and younger as World War 2 fades from memory.
Should I mention the name "Godzilla" to my readers. Most would agree that name is easily recognized around the world. His first appearance was in the 1954 film "Gojira", "Godzilla's" actual name, made in Japan by Toho Studio's. This giant monster, in Japanese the world is "Kaiju", was conceived and produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka and "Godzilla's" first motion picture was directed by Ishiro Honda, but it was Special Effects Genius Eiji Tsuburaya who brought one of the most famous motion picture monsters to life. Tsuburaya also recreated the events of December 7, 1941 in the first motion picture version of the attack on Pearl Harbor ever made.
Hawai Mare Okikaisen (The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya) (1942)
Below is a shot of Eiji Tsuburaya's staff creating the realistic model of Pearl Harbor as it looked on December 7, 1941. According to historian August Ragone in his excellent biography:
Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, page 28:
On Toho's back lot, Tsuburaya and his team painstakingly re-created Pearl Harbor in meticulous miniature, working from photographs supplied by the Navy. This enormous outdoor set was the most elaborate ever built in Japan, and allowed for a very realistic reenactment of the attack on Battleship Row.
Eiji Tsuburaya's Special Effects would bring to life other Japanese victories the followed Pearl Harbor into the Maylaya Campaign for the motion picture. Toho Studio's had been given a budget of $380,000 to make the propaganda movie. The average Japanese motion picture at the time was budgeted at $40,000, or less.
Propaganda has always been a means of increasing morale on the Home Front and at times the troops on the Front Lines. What the Japanese High Command, who commissioned the motion picture from Toho Studio, could not of imagined was the reaction by the American's to a copy of Eiji Tsuburaya's work.
August Ragone wrote on page 30 of his biography that after Japan surrendered:
Occupation officers believed that to have gained access to such detailed information about the U.S. Naval base, Tsuburaya must have been part of an espionage ring.
However, it was Tsuburaya's commitment to the smallest detail, as the above photograph indicates, that would actually fool "The Office of Strategic Services (OSS)" and Photographic Intelligence Officer Commander John Ford. As Eiji Tsuburaya was not a member of any espionage ring, but was a dedicated film maker.
According to Ford and members of his Unit. The picture was initially discovered on a downed aircraft probably on it's way to a carrier, or Naval base. John Ford reviewed the movie and determined that the motion picture was using actual combat footage of the attack on Battleship Row. Being such a revered Hollywood Director it was presumed he knew what he was talking about. After the war according to Ford biographers this became a touchy subject with the director.
All known copies of "The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya" would be completely confiscated by the Supreme Allied Command Powers from Toho and other locations. After Japan's surrender the Navy Department would give a copy of "The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya" to the newsreel company Movietone for release to movie houses throughout the United States for the purpose of showing how terrible the actual attack had looked .
The website "Samurai Movie Store" has this description of the picture:
Released to mark the first anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malay was one of the most notable. The straightforward narrative focuses upon two brothers, Tomoda and Tadaaki. As the film opens, Tadaaki, the older sibling, returns to his countryside home during a short break from his duties in the navy. Deeply impressed by his brother's dedication to his life as a soldier, Tomoda announces that he wishes to join the service. The film then details his training and subsequent life as a naval man, all of which leads to him playing a key role in the attacks of December 7th, 1941.
It is important to remember when watching The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malay that, unlike the vast majority of films made about the Second World War, it was produced while hostilities were ongoing. Japanese audiences would not have viewed the movie with the historical perspective we look at it now,.They were living day-to-day with the economic hardship wrought by the conflict and Pearl Harbor itself was a very recent event. It was never designed as entertainment. It was there to assuage doubts, to inspire loyalty and to convince young men to join the military. And it continued to do so for the next four years until the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the tradition of Japanese cinematic propaganda in one history-defining week.
Secret Agent of Japan (1942)
Rushed into production by 20th Century Fox and released on March 21, 1942 to cash in on the Pearl Harbor attack was the first of what would become many Hollywood anti-Japanese war films "Secret Agent of Japan".
Preston Foster starred as a nightclub owner in Shanghai, China who becomes involved with Japanese spy's and Lynn Bari. According to the New York Times review on March 23, 1942:
Miss Lynn Bari, in a gown that clings like adhesive tape, slinks about as if wearing a sandwich sign labeled "Don't look now, but I'm a spy."That quote should give my reader the "depth" of the screenplay by John Larkin. Who had been writing screenplays for Charlie Chan movies prior to this assignment.
In the above picture Preston Foster's James Carmichael, hiding his past by being known as Roy Bonnell, has become aware of the Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor and Lynn Bari's spy status.
The New York Times review describes the entire picture this way:
To be sure, a Nazi refers to the hero as an "American swine" and at another point the hero himself mutters at a Japanese secret agent "You son of a rising son." Once, a little desultory torture is suggested. But on the whole, the film is hardly more intemperate than many of Charlie Chan's sorties against enemy agents—the difference being that this time the producers have called a Jap a Jap.
The entire review can be read at:
The point here was suddenly being Japanese in the United States, no matter who you were, put you under suspicion of being a Japanese agent. Somewhere between 110,000 and 120,000 American's of Japanese ancestry living along the Pacific Coast were moved under forced relocation to internment camps by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Of this group 62 percent were American born citizens. At the time this wasn't called racism, or discrimination, but "National Security".
In Hollywood Japanese characters were changed from Peter Lorre's highly respected International Detective "Mr. Moto" seen directly below. Which the German/American actor had played in eight movies from 1937 through 1939 to the now sinister agents of the Japanese government.
Released on July 31, 1942 audiences found Peter Lorre's Baron Ikito fighting John Hall, as the grandson of Claude Rains' 1932 "The Invisible Man", in "Invisible Agent", but still looking exactly like the kindly "Mr. Moto".
In another version of a Japanese agent at work within the United States. Character actor J. Carrol Naish played "Dr. Tito Daka" hiding in a Gotham City Board Walk Fun House in the first ever screen appearance of "Batman". Chapter One of this 15 part serial was released on July 16, 1943. "Prince" Daka was turning American scientists into electronic Zombies to do the work of Emperor Hirohito.
During the period between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the end of the Second World War Hollywood converted many Chinese and Korean actors into Japanese. Probably the most recognized was Phillip Ahn. Below is a 1942 picture of Ahn in the Army with his brother Ralph to his left and his sister Susan to his right.
Philip Ahn would return to making motion pictures after an accident forced him out of the Army. Below is Ahn as a very evil Japanese officer in the John Wayne movie "Back to Bataan" from 1945. The picture was released just three months prior to Japan's formal surrender on the Battleship Missouri.
Many American's at the time believed Philip Ahn was actually Japanese and he received death threats.
However, this article is not about World War 2 anti-Japanese propaganda films of the period, Which could be a complete book in itself, The next major film released that looked at the events of December 7, 1941 was from director John Ford.
December 7th (1943)
Propaganda film making can work from both sides of a war. Director and Naval Commander John Ford working with the Department of the Navy and co-director/cinematographer Gregg Toland created "December 7th". A picture released in the United States in 1943.
The Ford/Toland film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject at a running time of 32 minutes. The problem here was the film that the two men had originally made with an on going script by Budd Schulberg ran 82 minutes in length.
A little bit of information on each of these three men.
Commander John Ford by this date had made such films as 1936's controversial picture about the doctor who treated John Wilkes Booth "The Prisoner of Shark Island". 1939 saw three Ford classics "Stagecoach", "Drums Along the Mohawk" and "Young Mr. Lincoln", "The Grapes of Wrath" came out in 1940 and three months prior to the Pearl Harbor attack was the release of "How Green Was My Valley".
Now he was in charge of one of the main "Office of Strategic Services (OSS)" Photographic Intelligence Units and would be wounded filming remarkable footage of the Japanese attack on Midway Island. It should be noted that there were other Intelligence Photographic Units at the time. One was run by Columbia Pictures director Frank Capra for example. Capra, according to the biographies I have read, was one of those who raised doubt over Ford's authentication of the footage created by Eiji Tsuburaya for "The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya", but the Department of the Navy had already committed itself to the former's beliefs.
Gregg Toland had worked as a cinematographer on such films as 1935's "Les Miscerables",1938's "Kidnapped", 1939's "Wuthering Heights" and 1941's "Citizen Kane". Toland had been recruited prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor by what was at the time "The Office of the Coordinator of Information" as a film director. Gregg Toland was commissioned a Naval Lieutenant and this predated John Ford's recruitment as Commander of the Unit. .
Novelist, Play write and Screenplay writer Bud Schulberg would reach his peak during the 1950's, but right after "Victory in Europe (VE) Day". He would be part of the first American troops to liberate Nazi concentration camps and write about the horrors he saw. Schulberg was also part of the team that arrested German film maker Leni Riefensthal. Riefensthal filmed the 1932 Berlin Olympics and made the propaganda film "Triumph of the Will". You can read her story as well as that of German film maker Fritz Lang in my blog article at this link:
So why would an American propaganda film made by so distinguished a group of film makers be cut by 50 minutes? The answer was one word "Censorship" by the Department of the Navy and the Administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for morale.
This censorship was based upon questions posed by Ford, Toland and Schulberg in their film. Questions that are still be asked today. Such as about the warnings sent just days prior to the attack to both Army Lieutenant General Walter Campbell Short in charge of the defense of all military installations in Hawaii and Four Star Admiral Husband Edward Kimmel the Commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Questions such as why there were no long range Navy patrols and short range Army Air Corps patrols on the days prior to the attack? Why the Army aircraft were arranged in tight groups making them easy targets for total destruction by the Japanese pilots?
Another problem with John Ford's original cut of the film concerned the amount of time he and his crew spent on documenting the lives of the 160,000 Japanese-American's living in Hawaii prior to and after December 7th. In some cases Ford had to recreate events and this "Fictional" aspect of the depiction of Japanese life on the Islands was thought misleading by some. Like showing Japanese spy's at work prior to the attack with Nazi spies. When there had been no such incidents.
A further problem not for the Naval Censors, but the filmmakers was that there was only approximately four minutes of actual film footage of the Pearl Harbor air attack, So Ford had to recreate it with miniature battleships on the 20th Century Fox back lot. Passing off his recreations as actual captured combat footage. Problem here were among other things the very visible wires on the miniature Japanese aircraft and the fact that Ford was using recognizable American planes for Japanese Zero's.
The complete uncut version of "John Ford's December 7th" was kept from view for decades and only released in 1991, but is now available on line at many sites>
I Bombed Pearl Harbor (1961)
"I Bombed Pearl Harbor" is a provocative title for the American re-edit by producer/director Hugo Grimaldi of a 1960 Toho Studio's picture about Pearl Harbor and the battle of Midway Island. Below is the also provocative poster for this American re-edit purposely designed by Grimaldi.
Hugo Grimaldi's re-edit was twenty-minutes shorter than that original Toho Studio's feature and was released on Wednesday December 6, 1961 to cash in on the 20th Anniversary of the Japanese attack on Hawaii.
The question posed on the poster about where you were on that date went directly to the fact that a majority of American's had lived through World War 2. The provocative nature of the "Tag Line" about the Japanese airman was designed to stir the emotions of that potential audience and as I said get them to the box office.
It should be noted that "I Bombed Pearl Harbor" at the re-edited length of 107 minutes was released in Japan in Japanese with English subtitles as "Storm Over the Pacific". This causes confusion when looking up the Toho production. As "Storm Over the Pacific" became the shorten English language name also associated with the original 118 minute long feature.
I was 15 at the time of the release of "I Bombed Pearl Harbor" and like many of my generation was very familiar with the events of December 7, 1941. I had heard of them from my father who fought in the Army, my High School history classes and of course those World War 2 Hollywood movies. This film got my interest, because the point of view was from the Japanese and not American as those films starring John Wayne and others had been.
In the early 1950's we lived near the La Brea movie theater. Prior to the release of this picture, in it's original form, the La Brea had been purchased by Toho Studio's. This purchase was part of a plan to have a distribution arm of their own in major markets in the United States. At the time of the release of "I Bombed Pearl Harbor" the original 1960 motion picture, in Japanese with English subtitles, was playing there. I saw it the following day.
The actual title of the original 1960 Japanese production was:
Hawai Middouei Daikaikusen: Taiheiyo-no Arashi (Tempest Over the Pacific: The Air Battles of Hawaii and Midway)
The above English title translation was authorized by both Tsuburaya Productions and the Tsuburaya family in conjunction with August Ragone's biography of the man once more behind the picture's excellent special effects: Eiji Tsuburaya.
Tsuburaya is seen below with Japanese actor Akihiko Hirata in full Naval Officer's uniform standing on one of the models he had constructed for the motion picture. This still also returns my reader to 1954's "Gojira" as Hirata played the tragic Dr. Serizawa in that movie.
Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka and directed by Shue Matsubayashi. "Tempest Over the Pacific: The Air Battles of Hawaii and Midway" was the first non-propaganda motion picture attempting to tell the story of Pearl Harbor and the follow up Naval Battle at Midway Island from the point of view of the Japanese. That specific subject would not be readdressed until exactly ten years later with "Tora, Tora, Tora".
As with Toho Studio's 1942 "Hawai Mare Okikaisen (The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malay)" this feature focuses the audience's attention to specific characters. The main one being Lieutenant Koji Kitami and his experiences at both Pearl Harbor, at home in Japan, other engagements and at the battle of Midway Island.
Here is how Turner Classic Movies describes the story.
On December 1, 1941, a Japanese fleet of 30 warships sails for Hawaii; when diplomatic negotiations in Washington fail, the task force commander, Adm. Isoroku Yamaguchi, receives orders to attack Pearl Harbor. Following the devastating aerial assault on December 7, flight navigator Koji Kitami returns to Japan and Keiko, his childhood sweetheart. Although deeply in love with the young woman, Koji fears that marriage will make him less worthy as a naval officer. During the next few months, he participates in many successful raids on U. S. and British ships and planes, but during the battle at Midway he becomes less certain of the invincibility of the Japanese fleet. While he is aboard the carrier Hiryu , the vessel is attacked by U. S. dive bombers and badly damaged. Officers order the ship abandoned, but rather than leave it as a prize of war, a Japanese destroyer is given instructions to sink the carrier. As the Hiryu goes down, Koji and others give a final salute.
IN HARM'S WAY (1965)
Between 1960's "Tempest Over the Pacific: The Air Battles of Hawaii and Midway" and 1970's "Tora, Tora, Tora" producer/director Otto Preminger made 1965's "In Harm's Way". A star studded World War 2 motion picture with John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal and others. This movie basically focuses on the people and not the events of the first year of the Second World War. In that respect it does paint an unsympathetic and at times realistic look at he lives of the Naval personal involved.
However, Preminger still only creates a typical World War 2 Hollywood movie based upon James Bassett's 1962 novel of the same name. As with the novel the film revolves around John Wayne's fictional "Captain Rockwell Torrey". Who seems to be the only Naval officer during the Pearl Harbor attack thinking straight and as a result of "throwing away the book". He does not "Zig Zag" his cruiser when looking for a Japanese mini-submarine is demoted in rank. Eventually the Navy reconsiders and Torrey goes on to formulate the American response to the Japanese occupation of several islands.
The way the story is constructed reminds me more of both the 1951 novel by James Jones and the 1953 motion picture directed by Fred Zimmerman "From Here to Eternity". Although they end with the Pearl Harbor attack and "In Harm's Way" starts with it.
This poster for the movie gives my reader the idea of where Otto Preminger concentrates:
Look at the model work for Toho by Eiji Tsuburaya attempting to recreate accurate looking naval vessels and this still from "In Harm's Way". Most of the model shots are from distance to cover up the lack of detail. This works, because Otto Preminger chose to shoot the film in black and white and the models at a distance.
Tora, Tora, Tora (1970)
"Tora, Tora, Tora" was a major motion picture production designed to tell both sides of the Pearl Harbor attack and has not been equaled to date. The feature was made by 20th Century Fox and at the time the chief executive of the studio was Darryl F. Zanuck. In 1962 he had personally made the all star feature version of Cornelius Ryan's "The Longest Day" about the D-Day landings in Normandy, France. Now Zanuck decided to make a film explaining what really led up too and occurred on December 7, 1941. John Ford would have been proud of his old producer, of all the movies mentioned above under Ford's name except "Stagecoach", because this was to be a "Revisionist" look at Pearl Harbor and answer the questions censored in 1943.
The screenplay written by Larry Forester, Hideo Oguni, Ryuzo Kikushima and an non-screen credited Akira Kurosawa was based upon two non-fiction works. "The Broken Seal: 'Operation Magic' and the Secret Road to Pearl Harbor" by Ladislas Farago in 1967 and Gordon W. Prange's 1969 "Tora, Tora, Tora".
To be the main producer, American director and coordinator of the entire project Darryl F. Zanuck chose Richard Fleischer. Although Zanuck had the billing of "Executive Producer". Fleischer's background made him an excellent choice. His father was Max Fleischer the creator of such animated characters as Betty Boop, Popeye the Sailor and the first Superman cartoons. There had been a decades long animation feud between Max and Walt Disney which contributed to the demise of the Fleischer Studio's. However, Walt picked Richard to direct his 1954 motion picture "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", because of his experience with animation and models. Walt Disney recognized, feud aside, that Richard Fleischer understood best how to work with actors and animated model sequences. Zanuck would reference "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" in his consideration of Richard Fleischer. You can read about the Disney/Fleischer feud on my blog at:
James Elmo Williams was the co-producer specifically on the American sequences. Williams was originally a film editor. To his credit was his Academy Award for the very tense editing for 1952's "High Noon". Williams had previously worked with Richard Fleischer as editor on Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and with Kirk Douglas on his feature "The Vikings". Elmo Williams. as he was known in the industry, also had worked on the editing team for Darryl F. Zanucks' "The Longest Day" and the Elizabeth Taylor/ Richard Burton "Cleopatra".
The Japanese sequences were "Associate Produced" by Keinosuke Kubo, Otto Lang and Masayuki Takagi. Lang had worked for Zanuck as far back as 1941 for the skiing sequences to "Sun Valley Serenade" starring Olympic Skating Gold Medalist Sonja Henie, because he was a skier. He also produced two classic 20th Century Fox films: 1947's "Call Northside 777" starring James Stewart and the 1952 true World War 2 espionage thriller "5 Fingers" starring James Mason. I could locate little information on the two Japanese associate producers who worked with Lang.
The two Japanese directors that worked with Richard Fleischer were not Zanuck's first choices. Initially the Japanese sequences were to be directed by Akira Kurosawa. From an interview with Stewart Galbraith for the 2001 release of the motion picture DVD. Richard Fleischer stated:
Well, I always thought that even though Kurosawa was a genius at film making and indeed he was, I sincerely believe that he was miscast for this film, this was not his type of film to make, he never made anything like it and it just wasn't his style. I felt he was not only uncomfortable directing this kind of movie but also he wasn't used to having somebody tell him how he should make his film. He always had complete autonomy, and nobody would dare make a suggestion to Kurosawa about the budget, or shooting schedule, or anything like that. And then here he was, with Darryl Zanuck on his deck and Richard Zanuck on him and Elmo Williams and the production managers, and it was all stuff that he never had run into before, because he was always untouchable. I think he was getting more and more nervous and more insecure about how he was going to work on this film. And of course, the press got a hold of a lot of this unrest on the set and they made a lot out of that in Japan, and it was more pressure on him, and he wasn't used to that kind of pressure.The two Japanese directors were Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku. Masuda is mostly unknown outside of Japan and Asia. However, he was a perfect choice for the Japanese sequences because of his anime background which would include the "Space Battleship Yamato" series. Richard Fleischer specifically hired Toshio Masuda to oversee the Japanese sequences. Masuda in turn hired Kinji Fukasaku to co-direct them with him. Fukasaku eventually would direct the movie version of Koushun Takami's novel "Battle Royale" in 2000 among other pictures seen outside of Japan.
These were the men responsible for bringing this American and Japanese co-production to the big screen. The screen credited technical crew totaled an additional 73 names.
Fellow blogger Peter Cook, from New Zealand, wrote an interesting article on one of the American Second Unit director's Edgar Ray Kellogg. Kellogg was originally a Visual Effects artist on such motion pictures as 1951's "The Day the Earth Stood Still", the 1953 production of "Titantic", the first CinemaScope motion picture 1953's "The Robe", the musicals "The King and I" and "Carousel". Along with the following other World War 2 pictures: 1951's "The Desert Fox: the Story of Rommel", 1953's "The Desert Rats", 1956's "The Revolt of Mamie Stover" and "D-Day the Sixth of June". All giving him a very good working knowledge of what this motion picture would require.
Peter's article also speaks to Visual Effects Specialist Lenwood Ballard "Bill" Abbott know as L.B. Abbott. Abbott won four Special Effects Academy Awards starting in 1968 with "Doctor Doolittle". Then in 1971 for this motion picture, in 1972 for "The Poseidon Adventure" and in 1976 for "Logan's Run". His other work included the 1958 musical "South Pacific", the 1958 original version of "The Fly", 1959's "Journey to the Center of the Earth", 1960's "The Lost World", 1968's "Planet of the Apes" and the other films in that series, 1969's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". Three of the World War 2 films L.B. Abbott worked on were 1957's outstanding "The Enemy Below", 1958's "The Young Lions" and 1970's "Patton".
Here is a link to Peter Cook's article from his blog "Matte Shot":
The main cast of 76 American and Japanese actors were not what was considered major stars. American's would recognizes faces such as Martin Balsam as Admiral Husband Kimmel, Jason Robards as Lieutenant General Walter Short, George Macready as Secretary of State Cordell Hall, Richard Anderson as Captain John B. Earle and JamesWhitmore as Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, but could not provide a name for these actors. On the Japanese side some of the actors had never even appeared in a motion picture. There was So Yamamura as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Tatsuya Minhasi as Commander Minoru Genda, Eijiro Tono portrayed Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. Tono's career would span 50 years, consisting of 250 motion pictures and 400 television shows, and might be considered the exception having been seen internationally in such pictures as "The Seven Samurai" and "Yojimbo", but again even the Japanese could not put a name to his face.
This was all done by Richard Fleischer to stop the recognition game by the audience of major actors and have them concentrate on the story itself.
Basically "Tora, Tora, Tora" attempted to tell the political events leading up to the attack and the confusion that was caused over them on both sides. Along with as accurate as possible recreation of the actual attack.
The screenplay quickly shows the establishment of a trade embargo on raw goods to Japan by the United States in 1939. The thinking was this would stop the Japanese from expanding their empire into China and French Indochina. Next the screenplay shows that during the following year there was a sharp rise in overall power by the Japanese Army. Apparently even over the Emperor that leads to an alliance in September 1940 with both Germany and Italy. The seeds of war have been sowed.
An example of the "revisionist" tone of Darryl F. Zanuck's motion picture involved both Admiral Kimmel and General Short posing. The screenplay looks at the questions posed by director John Ford in 1943.
Both Commanding Officers begin receiving conflicting and changing orders about a possible Japanese attack. In the picture these orders come from two of those "face's only" actors. Keith Andes as Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall and Edward Andrews as Admiral Harold R. Stark Chief of Naval Operations.
Based solely upon those constantly changing orders neither Hawaii commanding officer is sure if the Hawaiian Islands are even a possible target of the Japanese and if there is even a clear chance of an attack. The communiques also do not give what either Chief of Staff considers to be specific defense operations needed to be put into affect at Pearl Harbor, or its surrounding Army military installations. As the instructions being issued are general to all commands rather than to a specific Pacific area.
One major point illustrated happens when General Short, who from a previous instruction has dispersed his aircraft, receives a new order. The concern of General Marshall is sabotage and this causes Short to put all his aircraft next to each other in tight formations to be easily guarded. The result when the attack occurs is the destruction of most of his air force.
While in Washington D.C. E.G. Marshall as Colonel Rufus S. Bratton of Military Intelligence is given pages from a translation of a larger coded communication to the Japanese Embassy. The American's are still translating the rest of this document. To Bratton it appears the Japanese plan to attack somewhere in the Pacific on December 6th, if negotiations with the United States breaks down after being presented the complete document hours before the attack time. As shown in the movie Bratton could not find one official to agree with him on his interpretation of the communique. It was all wait until we have the entire document.
The flip side shows the Japanese Ambassador, because of Security Directives having to use a Japanese non-typist embassy employee. That employee is hunting and pecking with two fingers on a typewriter translating the coded document. The embassy had secretarial help from American's fluent in Japanese who normally translated and typed up communique's received. However, as a result of his specific orders about this document's translation. Shogo Shimada portraying Japanese Ambassador Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura will arrive at Cornell Hull's office one hour after the Pearl Harbor attack had ended.
While these events are transpiring "Tora, Tora, Tora" switches back and forth to the Japanese fleet and discussions about having to attack Pearl Harbor, if the negotiations break down after the American's receive the above mentioned ultimatum. Like Colonel Bratton and other American Intelligence personnel. Admiral Yamamoto and his staff do not know the document is taking slow hours to decode at the Japanese Embassy.
The climax of "Tora, Tora, Tora" is the attack on Pearl Harbor and having read both works the screenplay is based upon. I saw specific historical incidents from both sides shown in the motion picture.
In comparison to the model work in the two Toho Studio productions by Eiji Tsuburaya. There were some errors made in "Tora, Tora, Tora" from a historical point of view. Below is a shot of some of the effects crew working on a carrier model.
One of the errors occurred with the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi's bridge. Normally all carrier bridges are located on the right hand side of the deck, but the Akagi's was actually on the left. In "Tora, Tora, Tora" the model of the Akagi had a right side bridge as in this photo.
Actual photo of the Akagi and note the placement of the bridge is on the left side.
Another error was also not really the fault of the model builders. The studio needed an aircraft carrier to be used for shots of planes taking off. The World War 2 aircraft carrier the "Yorktown" was due for decommissioning and destruction. The Navy lent the ship to 20th Century Fox. The problem with using the carrier in some shots was the fact her deck had been changed to an angled one after the war ended. This caused problems, sometimes noticeable to alert viewers, with the inter-cutting of the models of the Japanese carriers, Another related problem with using the "Yorktown" was it's large bridge as compared to the Japanese carriers became noticeable in some scenes.
There is a scene of Admiral Halsey on the USS Enterprise with the hull number of 14 showing. Only Naval and Military historians would catch that the hull number would be assigned to the USS Ticonderoga which was not commissioned until 1943. These and other small mistakes really did not cause problems with the audience's enjoyment of the picture, or the narrative.
One last point about "Tora, Tora, Tora" it concludes with Admiral Yamamoto giving the famous statement to his staff:
I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolveAs of the writing of this article there is no proven documentation that Admiral Yamamoto ever said such a thing. The legend about the statement can be compared to the line "Play it again Sam" which never was said in the 1942 movie "Casablanca", but their are viewers who claim it's there. Admiral Yamamoto's statement would also be used in the last film I will discuss 2001's "Pearl Harbor".
I have just two more motion pictures on Pearl Harbor to mention in my article. The first is unusual because it comes under the heading of Science Fiction.
The Final Countdown (1980)
I admit to really liking this movie and it's premise. Kirk Douglas stars as Captain Matthew Yelland, Commanding Officer of the nuclear powered USS Nimitz that leaves Pearl Harbor on a routine shakedown cruise. Martin Sheen plays Warren Lasky a representative of Tideman Industries. A major Naval contractor who was requested by his boss to be on the Nimitz on this particular shakedown cruise as his representative. James Farentino portrays Commander Richard T. "Dick" Owen the Commander of Carrier Wing 8.
For these three men everything is normal as the Nimitz leaves Pearl Harbor. However, and here is where the minimal science fiction kicks in. As the carrier is conducting Air Ops in clear weather in the distance an electrical storm within a vortex appears and is heading directly toward the USS Nimitz. There is no way around and Captain Yelland is forced to enter. When they emerge on the other side it is still December 6th, but the year is not 1980 anymore, but 1941.
The screenplay by the combined writing skills of Thomas Hunter, Peter Powell, David Ambrose and Gerry Davis next poses one of those "What If" questions associated with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
What if you could have stopped the Japanese carrier force from ever launching even one scout plane? Would Pearl Harbor have ever been attacked and the United States enter World War 2? The three men go into a debate over the issue pro and con and during that debate the Japanese attack is covered in detail.
After their debate that "What If" question now facing Captain Yelland is he knows exactly were the Japanese task force will be the following morning and he has the full power of a 1980's nuclear powered aircraft carrier. So do you destroy the Japanese fleet and possibly change history, or ignore it and knowing plunge the United States into World War?
Adding a second twist to this tale is that the Nimitz rescues 1941 U.S. Senator Samuel S. Chapman played by Charles During and his Secretary Laurel Scott played by Katherine Ross. Their yacht was attacked by a Japanese plane and sunk. The Japanese pilot was shot down by jet aircraft from the Nimitz. The pilot played by Soon-tek-oh is also brought on board. So now Captain Yelland has three people that should never have seen his carrier and must somehow keep them in the dark. Adding another factor to the overall "What if" scenario.
The implausibility of this story is handled by a very well written and acted script. I will not say more about the picture as I recommend it highly to my reader to find "The Final Countdown" and discover what comes next.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
There are many problems with this Michael Bey and Jerry Bruckheimer motion picture. The title and the trailers give the potential audience the idea this film will be an accurate film about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but as with the Doolittle raid on Tokyo later in the picture. Pearl Harbor is just a backdrop in what is described as an:
American epic historical romantic war film
The three leads, Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnell and Kate Beckinsale, were the "romantic" aspect of Bey's picture and if that triangle can be considered "historical romantic" in nature is up to the audience. Both the movie critics and military historians panned the picture and that is what I will be looking at.
However, to be fair back in 1956 there was a similar mixture of World War 2 and a love triangle called "D-Day the Sixth of June". That film is described as a:
1956 romantic CinemaScope war filmRather than "historical" it was the new "CinemaScope" process that was more important at the time. However, with the backdrop of the Normandy Landings producer Charles Brackett had Robert Taylor and Richard Todd both in love with Dana Wynter.
Note the tag line:
The Greatest Love Story of the War
So what about those "historical" aspects of both films. In "D-Day the Sixth of June" the raid on June 6, 1944 involving Robert Taylor and Richard Todd was entirely fictional, but was based on several such real actions on that date. In the attack Todd's character is killed and Taylor's wounded. Taylor and Wynter are reunited while he is recovering in hospital from injuries during the raid. The film ends with the two saying good-bye as Taylor is about to be returned to the United States. Wynter never tells his character that Todd was killed by a land mine during the D-Day operation.
A simple Hollywood love story set during the war. Such films were made prior to and during World War 2. Robert Taylor played an American Army Officer in 1940's "Waterloo Bridge". In that story set during the first World War he meets and falls in love with a dancer played by Vivian Lee.
So to Michael Bey's "Pearl Harbor".
Two boyhood friends fall in love with the same nurse during World War 2. She becomes pregnant by one of them, but he dies and the other must now raise the unborn baby and take care of the women they both loved. Around this Michael Bey built a three hour and three minute long motion picture, While "D-Day the Sixth of June" ran only one hour and forty-six minutes.
On May 25, 2001 in the Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert wrote:
Pearl Harbor is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle. Its centerpiece is 40 minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality. The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialogue, it will not be because you admire them.The historical accuracy of Michael Bey's feature film.
Viewing Otto Preminger's "In Harm's Way" you do not expect historical accuracy in an all star World War 2 fictional drama, but as I mentioned above. Michael Bey's "Pearl Harbor" was billed as an accurate depiction of the attack.
Not one of the films mentioned above, including "In Harm's Way" and "The Final Countdown", about the attack on Pearl Harbor caused as much controversy over historical accuracy as the 2001 "Pearl Harbor". In fact the National Geographic Channel took the unprecedented step of making a special documentary entitled "Beyond the Movie: Pearl Harbor" just dealing with those historical inaccuracies.
The above scene shows Japanese Zero's attacking Pearl Harbor. However, the planes were actually light colored like the one in the picture below.
Many World War 2 Veterans who survived Pearl Harbor, or were attached to the Jimmy Doolittle raids on Tokyo spoke out against the film. For example they pointed out that Ben Affleck's Rafe McCawley and Josh Hartnett's Daniel "Danny" Walker were shown doing what real life Air Force flyers George Welch and Kenneth M. Taylor actually did the morning of the attack on Pearl Harbor without acknowledging the two real flyers. Taylor before he passed away in November 2006 called the film distorted and sensationalized.
On October 4, 2001 the Journal of Military History's website wrote in an article that producer Jerry Bruckheimer said:
:We tried to be accurate, but it's certainly not meant to be a history lessonYet, the article also mentioned how the producers and screenwriters went to "extraordinary lengths" to attempt to recreate the events portrayed in extreme detail. A contradiction to Bruckheimer's quote. The entire review is at:
Some of the specific errors were:
Having Ben Affleck's character join the British Eagle Squadron. While non-military American flyers did join. It was against regulations on both sides of the Atlantic for active duty American airmen to become members.
Staying with Affleck in the Eagle Squadron. His spitfire had the insignia "RF" on it. The problem was those two letters identified a squadron of all Polish flyers who had escaped to England known as the "No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron".
In "Tora, Tora, Tora" Darryl F. Zanuck wanted to get the facts right as a defense for Admiral Husband Kimmel, In Michael Bey's film he rewrites history by having Kimmel receive a report that a Japanese mini-submarine had been spotted and shot at prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. In the real world Admiral Kimmel did not get a report of a possible mini-submarine until after the attack had begun and official confirmation of that mini-submarine until several hours after the Japanese had left.
Another rewritten scene for the film has the Japanese deliberately attacking the medical staff and base hospital killing several people. The Japanese airmen attempted to avoid hitting the hospital and although it was collaterally damaged. Only one member of the medical staff was killed.
Not monitoring the small details in the production goes with the man supposedly seen playing a Roman soldier in Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" wearing a wrist watch. In "Pearl Harbor" a sailor at Pearl Harbor prior to the attack has a pack of Marlboro "Lights" cigarettes in his pocket. Those cigarettes did not come out until 1972.
Two larger inaccuracies have to do with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the same scene. Immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack FDR demands an immediately retaliatory strike on Japan speaking to Admiral Nimitz and General George Marshall. Both officers deny the possibility of such an attack. In reality both military men wanted an immediate strike. In the same scene FDR stands up to make his point, but in reality at this time in his life the President was confined to a wheelchair from polio and could not have stood up on his own.
What is fact is that the movie had a budget of $132,2 million dollars and grossed worldwide $449.2 million dollars. Obviously a tribute to the star power of the three leads and not the historical accuracy of the picture and the apparent knowledge of the viewers about the actual events portrayed.
There were many other motion pictures revolving around the attack on Pearl Harbor that have been made such as the 1983 mini-series "The Winds of War" based upon Herman Wouk's powerful novel, 1942's "Wake Island" and 1949's "Task Force" are American examples. A fine Japanese film based upon a novel is 2013's "The Eternal Zero".
This article could have been much larger than it is, but I think I have covered the different styles of films made about the events President Roosevelt called "A Day of Infamy".