The Fighting Lady (1944)

Approved  |   |  Documentary, War  |  15 August 1945 (France)
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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. ... See full summary »


(as Commander Edward J Steichen USNR) , (uncredited)


(narration written by) (as John Stuart Martin) , (narration written by)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins. See more awards »
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Credited cast:
Narrator (voice) (as Lieut Robert Taylor USNR)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Récitant / Narrator (French version) (voice)
Joseph J. Clark ...
Himself (as Jocko)
Dixie Kiefer ...
Himself (as Dixie)
G.E. Lowe ...
John S. McCain ...
John Meehan ...
E.T. Stover ...


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 scgary66

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Photographed in Zones of Combat by Men of U.S. Navy See more »


Documentary | War


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

15 August 1945 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Le combattant  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Some scenes were shot on carriers other than the Yorktown. Early in the film, as the carrier's air group is shown landing on the ship, one can see a blacked-out number "14" on the aft flight deck. This indicates those shots were taken aboard the U.S.S. Ticonderoga (CV-14) - another Essex-class carrier similar to the U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-10). The scene where the plane is dripping burning thermite on the deck after landing was shot on the U.S.S. Bunker Hill (CV-17). Aircraft from the Yorktown can be identified by the diagonal white strip on their tail's vertical stabilizer. See more »


Narrator: [commenting on the Japanese pilots] These little monkeys are fancy fliers.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Most of the credits appear as if they had been typed out on a teletype machine. See more »


Edited into They Filmed the War in Color (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

A fitting tribute to the men that go down to the sea in harm's way
20 February 2004 | by (Liverpool England) – See all my reviews

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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