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The film follows the WWII exploits of the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10) (unidentified in the film), in its first major operations following its commissioning in 1943. The life of the crew is documented from July 1943 to June 1944, from its passage through the Panama Canal through assaults on Marcus, Kwajalein, Truk and Tinian Islands, and culminating with the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Spectacular 16mm Kodachrome footage of combat operations and naval aviation is prominent throughout. Written by
In the scene of a strafing mission against the Japanese-held island of Truk, one of the figures seen running for cover is an American POW. According to his autobiography, that prisoner was Maj. Gregory H. 'Pappy' Boyington, the highest-scoring U.S. Marine pilot of the war, who had been shot down a few months before in the Solomon Islands. See more »
[commenting on the Japanese pilots]
These little monkeys are fancy fliers.
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Most of the credits appear as if they had been typed out on a teletype machine. See more »
A fitting tribute to the men that go down to the sea in ships....in harm's way
Security being an important wartime measure, this aircraft carrier's name was classified as a result. However, most of the footage, above and below decks, about life aboard a carrier was filmed aboard the newly commissioned ESSEX class carrier, YORKTOWN. She was named and sponsored by Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt January 1943 after the "OLD YORKY" which was lost during the The Battle of Midway
The Navy Department reported that at least 75 percent of the documentary footage was shot aboard YORKTOWN, with the remaining footage shared between HORNET and TICONDEROGA. And one scene filmed aboard BUNKER HILL.
Before shaping a course for Panama and transit through the canal, and while still on her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean Sea Frontier Area, Commander Frank "Spig" Wead, the crippled naval aviator turned screenwriter was instrumental in getting YORKTOWN's captain, J.J. "Jocko" Clark to allow Twentieth Century Fox to film some background shots for the new war movie, "Wing and a Prayer", starring Dana Andrews, Don Ameche, and Charles Bickford.
The carrier transits and clears the Panama Canal and shapes a course out into the Pacific. So YORKTOWN along with her ESSEX class sisters would become, before Japan surrendered, the champions of the Pacific naval campaign. They were to carry the ball, the Sunday punch, all the way to Tokyo Bay.
Of all the combat photography recorded it was the aerial footage that was impressive for its time. With the strafing and bombing of ground targets on Marcus Island YORKTOWN's aviators receive their baptism of fire. They could now call themselves combat veterans. Then there is the strike against the large Japanese naval anchorage at Truk Lagoon in the Carolines.
Appearing on the film with members of his staff is Vice Admiral Marc A. "Pete" Mitscher. Also present with Mitscher but not named was Rear Admiral John S. "Slew" McCain. His grandson being Lt Commander John S. McCain III. The Viet Nam war veteran. Now serving as the Senator for Arizona.
There is a fine aerial shot of the carrier task force resting at anchor at Majuro Atoll in the Marshal Islands early in 1944. Three of YORKTOWN's sister ships are present along with the older battle-hardened veteran the venerable ENTERPRISE. Also at anchor the battleships INDIANA, and a NEW Mexico class battleship along with cruisers, destroyers and other support ships. Standing out and conspicuously painted white overall, BOUNTIFUL AH-9, a naval hospital ship.
During the assault on the Marianas Islands June 1944 the Japanese Mobile Fleet launched 373 aircraft to attack the U.S. Fleet. The combined squadrons of YORKTOWN and her sister carriers of Vice Admiral Mitscher's Task Force 58 intercepted the attack, with the loss to the enemy of more than 300 aircraft destroyed. So the Battle of the Phillipine Sea was to become just as famously known as, The Great Marianas Turkey shoot.
Plaudits then are well deserved for Edward Steichen but certainly no less to Dwight Long and other photographers who presided over the job of shooting thousands of feet of 16mm Kodachrome film stock. The film actor Robert Taylor was the narrator. His voice was crisp and clear and easy recognisable.
Twentieth Century Fox's Darryl F. Zanuck was not known to be very interested about releasing the documentary under the Fox logo. That's until he was persuaded to view it. He was impressed by what he saw. The story goes that he suggested giving it the title, "The Fighting Wench"! Who would not have cringed at such a brain dead title as that! An ungracious suggestion. Yorktown was indeed a great lady, as were her other sisters of the Essex class. So, recorded for posterity was a fine 60 minute documentary. The 1944 Oscar it received was well and truly deserved.
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