They Were Expendable (1945)

Approved  |   |  Drama, War  |  20 December 1945 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 5,448 users  
Reviews: 78 user | 26 critic

A dramatized account of the role of the American PT Boats in the defense of the Philippines in World War II.


(as John Ford Captain U.S.N.R.) , (uncredited)


(book), (screenplay) (as Frank Wead Comdr. U.S.N. {Ret}) , 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lt. John Brickley (as Robert Montgomery Comdr. U.S.N.R.)
Lt. (J.G.) 'Rusty' Ryan
Ens. 'Snake' Gardner
Ens. 'Andy' Andrews
Major James Morton
Arthur Walsh ...
Seaman Jones
Lt. (J.G.) 'Shorty' Long / Radio Announcer
Ens. George Cross
Jeff York ...
Ens. Tony Aiken
Murray Alper ...
'Slug' Mahan T.M. 1c
Harry Tenbrook ...
'Squarehead' Larsen SC 2c
Jack Pennick ...


Shortly after Pearl Harbor, a squadron of PT-boat crews in the Philipines must battle the Navy brass between skirmishes with the Japanese. The title says it all about the Navy's attitude towards the PT-boats and their crews. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Book That Thrilled Millions See more »


Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

20 December 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Schnellboote vor Bataan  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (cut)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The Navy supplied actual PT boats to the company and Navy officers would stop by occasionally to watch the filming. See more »


When Brick is briefing his officers on the route they are to take in evacuating McArthur, he draws the route on the map in a thick, heavy line. Seconds later, when the map is picked up to be folded, the lines are gone. See more »


Lt. 'Rusty' Ryan: Listen sister, I don't dance!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: Manila Bay In the Year of Our Lord Nineteen hundred and Forty-one See more »


Referenced in Hollywood Hist-o-Rama: John Wayne (1961) See more »


The Monkeys Have No Tails in Zamboanga
Music adapted from the official march of the Philippine Constabulary
Written by by G. Savoca (lyrics)
[Sung in the officer's club at the beginning of the movie.]
See more »

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User Reviews

29 May 2005 | by (Arizona) – See all my reviews

The best war films pull no punches. They also make the point that -- irrespective of natural sentiment and political bias -- war is by nature an aberration, lacking any rational basis for justifying its recurrence through the centuries. War is essentially uncivilized, and can be excused only when a disputant being attacked can define a clear and present danger against which no alternative obtains.

Lesser war films tend to extol the virtues of war, glamorize heroism in battle, play on the viewer's emotions, blow things up for the sake of thrills, exaggerate false sentiment, betray a jingoist point of view, and most reprehensible of all cloak themselves in Orwellian speeches that seek to manipulate an unwitting audience into action.

This film is simply one of the best of the best. Except for one or two sequences it relies on believable, non-heroic characters involved in acts of concentrated heroism under the most stressful and suspenseful conditions imaginable. Its tone is that of having been filmed in actual wartime using many actors who themselves were recent combatants. Yet it covers a full range of cinematic possibilities, from a sensitive script to an excellent musical score.

I will not dwell on all the aspects of authentic, almost documentary, elements in this film. I spent the war on the home front, and thus do not know of all the technically correct parts that others here have commented on. My own recollection was that most of the ordinary joes were always referring to Douglas MacArthur as "Dugout Doug," a derogatory swipe at his flight to Australia and reluctance to go on the offensive for some time thereafter.

Like other great war films such as All Quiet on the Western Front and Paths of Glory, this one takes its place right up there.

34 of 41 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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