IMDb > They Were Expendable (1945)
They Were Expendable
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They Were Expendable (1945) More at IMDbPro »

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Up 6% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
William L. White (book)
Frank Wead (screenplay)
View company contact information for They Were Expendable on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
20 December 1945 (USA) See more »
A Spine-Tingling Thundering Saga Of The Sea! See more »
A dramatized account of the role of the American PT Boats in the defense of the Philippines in World War II. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more »
User Reviews:
One of the Greatest War Films See more (74 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Robert Montgomery ... Lt. John Brickley (as Robert Montgomery Comdr. U.S.N.R. also)

John Wayne ... Lt. (j.g.) 'Rusty' Ryan

Donna Reed ... Lt. Sandy Davyss

Jack Holt ... Gen. Martin

Ward Bond ... 'Boats' Mulcahey C.B.M.

Marshall Thompson ... Ens. 'Snake' Gardner
Paul Langton ... Ens. 'Andy' Andrews

Leon Ames ... Maj. James Morton
Arthur Walsh ... Seaman Jones
Donald Curtis ... Lt. 'Shorty' Long - Radio Voice

Cameron Mitchell ... Ens. George Cross
Jeff York ... Ens. Tony 'Lefty' Aiken
Murray Alper ... 'Slug' Mahan T.M. 1c
Harry Tenbrook ... 'Squarehead' Larsen SC 2c
Jack Pennick ... 'Doc'
Alex Havier ... 'Benny' Lecoco ST 3c
Charles Trowbridge ... Adm. Blackwell
Robert Barrat ... Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Bruce Kellogg ... Elder Tompkins M.M. 2c
Tim Murdock ... Ens. Brant
Louis Jean Heydt ... 'Ohio'
Russell Simpson ... 'Dad' Knowland

Vernon Steele ... Army Doctor
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Pedro de Cordoba ... Priest (scenes deleted)
Philip Ahn ... Army Orderly (uncredited)
Steve Barclay ... Naval Officer (uncredited)
Bill Barnum ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)

Betty Blythe ... Officer's Wife (uncredited)
Danny Borzage ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
Al Bridge ... Lieutenant Colonel (uncredited)
George Bruggeman ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Charles Calhoun ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
James Carlisle ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
John Carlyle ... Lt. James (uncredited)
Jack Carrington ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Bruce Carruthers ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Tony Carson ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Jack Cheatham ... Commander (uncredited)
Fred Coby ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Roger Cole ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Jane Crowley ... Officer's Wife (uncredited)
Henry H. Daniels Jr. ... Sailor (uncredited)
William B. Davidson ... Hotel Manager (uncredited)
Marjorie Davies ... Nurse (uncredited)
Patrick Davis ... Pilot (uncredited)
Gary Delmar ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Larry Dods ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
Ernest Dominguez ... Filipino Boy (uncredited)
Frank Donahue ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
William 'Red' Donahue ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
George Economides ... Bartender's Child (uncredited)
Michael Economides ... Bartender's Child (uncredited)

Blake Edwards ... Boat Crewman (uncredited)
Frank Eldredge ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
John Epper ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Jim Farley ... (uncredited)
Charles Ferguson ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Leonard Fisher ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Lee Tung Foo ... Asian Bartender (uncredited)
Wallace Ford ... (uncredited)
Art Foster ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
Almeda Fowler ... Officer's Wife (uncredited)
Mary Jane French ... Lost Nurse (uncredited)
Jon Gilbreath ... Submarine Commander (uncredited)
Duke Green ... PT-41 Boat Starboard Torpedoman (uncredited)
Sherry Hall ... Marine Major (uncredited)
Del Hill ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
Robert Homans ... Bartender at Manila Hotel (uncredited)
Vincent Isla ... Filipino Schoolteacher (uncredited)
Dick Karl ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Michael Kirby ... Boat Crewman (uncredited)
Michael Kostrick ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Paul Kruger ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Stubby Kruger ... Boat Crewman (uncredited)
Jack Lee ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Donald S. Lewis ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Jack Lorenz ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Leota Lorraine ... Officer's Wife (uncredited)
Trina Lowe ... Gardner's Girlfriend (uncredited)
Jack Luden ... Naval Air Captain (uncredited)
Ted Lundigan ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
James Magill ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
George Magrill ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Eve March ... Nurse (uncredited)
Kermit Maynard ... Airport Officer (uncredited)
Merrill McCormick ... Wounded Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Frank McGrath ... 'Slim' - Bearded CPO (uncredited)
Leonard Mellin ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Karl Miller ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Henry Mirelez ... Filipino Boy (uncredited)
Margaret Morton ... Bartender's Wife (uncredited)
Jack Mower ... Officer (uncredited)
Charles Murray Jr. ... Jeep Driver (uncredited)
Forbes Murray ... Navy Captain (uncredited)
Bill Neff ... Submarine Skipper / Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
Bill Nind ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Wedgwood Nowell ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Robert Emmett O'Connor ... Silver Dollar Bartender (uncredited)
Max Ong ... Mayor of Cebu (uncredited)
Franklin Parker ... Naval Officer (uncredited)
Frank Pershing ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
Nino Pipitone Jr. ... Bartender's Child (uncredited)
Dan Quigg ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Robert Shelby Randall ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
Clifford Rathjen ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Joey Ray ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
William McKeever Riley ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
Jack Ross ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
John Roy ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Harold Schlickenmayer ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Phil Schumacher ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
Ernest Seftig ... Naval Officer (uncredited)
Jack Semple ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Brent Shugar ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Sam Simone ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Reginald Simpson ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Leslie Sketchley ... Marine Orderly (uncredited)
Ralph Soncuya ... Filipino Orderly (uncredited)
Les Stanford ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Larry Steers ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Sammy Stein ... Sammy - Boat Crewman (uncredited)
Jack Stoney ... Boat Crew Member (uncredited)
Robert Strong ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Bob Thom ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Roy Thomas ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Richard Thorne ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Pacita Tod-Tod ... Nightclub Singer (uncredited)
Brad Towne ... Man in Admiral's Office (uncredited)
Jack Trent ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Tom Tyler ... Captain at Airport (uncredited)
Emmett Vogan ... Naval Doctor (uncredited)
Eleanore Vogel ... Officer's Wife (uncredited)
Hansel Warner ... Officer at Airport (uncredited)
Billy Wilkerson ... Sgt. Smith (uncredited)
Roque Ybarra Jr. ... Bartender's Child (uncredited)
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Directed by
John Ford  (as John Ford Captain U.S.N.R.)
Robert Montgomery (uncredited)
Writing credits
William L. White (book)

Frank Wead (screenplay) (as Frank Wead Comdr. U.S.N. {Ret})

Jan Lustig  screenplay (uncredited)

Produced by
Cliff Reid .... associate producer
John Ford .... producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
Herbert Stothart 
Cinematography by
Joseph H. August (director of photography) (as Joseph H. August Lt. Comdr. U.S.N.R.)
Film Editing by
Douglass Biggs 
Frank E. Hull 
Art Direction by
Malcolm Brown 
Cedric Gibbons 
Set Decoration by
Edwin B. Willis 
Costume Design by
Yvonne Wood (uncredited)
Makeup Department
Jack Dawn .... makeup creator
Sam Palo .... makeup artist (uncredited)
Production Management
Gilbert Kurland .... unit manager (uncredited)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
James Curtis Havens .... second unit director (as James C. Havens Captain U.S.M.C.R.)
Edward O'Fearna .... assistant director (uncredited)
Art Department
Ralph S. Hurst .... associate set decorator
Neil Wheeler .... props (uncredited)
Sound Department
Douglas Shearer .... recording director
James Z. Flaster .... re-recording and effects mixer (uncredited)
Lowell Kinsall .... unit mixer (uncredited)
Robert Shirley .... re-recording and effects mixer (uncredited)
Newell Sparks .... re-recording and effects mixer (uncredited)
William Steinkamp .... re-recording and effects mixer (uncredited)
Michael Steinore .... sound effects (uncredited)
John A. Williams .... re-recording and effects mixer (uncredited)
Special Effects by
A. Arnold Gillespie .... special effects
Donald Jahraus .... special effects (uncredited)
R.A. MacDonald .... special effects (uncredited)
Visual Effects by
Mark Davis .... matte paintings camera (uncredited)
Donald Jahraus .... miniatures assistant (uncredited)
Warren Newcombe .... matte paintings (uncredited)
Jack Stoney .... stunts (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
Emillo Calori .... assistant camera (uncredited)
Herbert Fischer .... second camera operator (uncredited)
Music Department
Harold Byrns .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Alberto Colombo .... composer: additional music (uncredited)
Murray Cutter .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Wally Heglin .... orchestrator (uncredited)
M.J. McLaughlin .... music mixer (uncredited)
Herbert Stahlberg .... music mixer (uncredited)
Eric Zeisl .... composer: stock music (uncredited)
Other crew
John Banse .... script clerk (uncredited)
Robert Montgomery .... director: rear projection plates (uncredited)
Gladys Norvell .... assistant research director (uncredited)
George Richelavie .... research director (uncredited)
Ernest Seftig .... technical advisor (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies
  • United States Navy, The  we hereby tender our deep appreciation to, whose splendid cooperation made this production possible (as the United States Navy)
  • U.S. Army  we hereby tender our deep appreciation to, whose splendid cooperation made this production possible (as the Army)
  • United States Coast Guard  we hereby tender our deep appreciation to, whose splendid cooperation made this production possible (as the Coast Guard)
  • Office of Strategic Services (OSS)  we hereby tender our deep appreciation to, whose splendid cooperation made this production possible (as the Office of Strategic Services)
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Additional Details

Also Known As:
135 min | West Germany:107 min (cut version)
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Australia:PG | Canada:G (video rating) | Finland:K-12 (1964) | Sweden:15 | UK:A (original rating) | UK:U (video rating) (1995) | USA:Passed (National Board of Review) | USA:Approved (certificate #11113) | West Germany:12 (f)

Did You Know?

During production, John Ford had put John Wayne down every chance he got, because Wayne had not enlisted to fight in World War II. Ford commanded a naval photographic unit during the war, rising to the rank of captain and thought Wayne a coward for staying behind. After months of Ford heaping insults on Wayne's head, co-star Robert Montgomery finally approached the director and told him that if he was putting Wayne down for Montgomery's benefit (Montgomery had also served as a naval officer in the war), then he needed to stop immediately. This brought the tough-as-nails director to tears and he stopped abusing Wayne.See more »
Anachronisms: By the time this movie was made, the class of PT boat used in the Philippine Islands was not available. They substituted 80-foot ELCOs for the 77-foot ELCOs actually used in Manila Bay.See more »
'Slug' Mahan T.M. 1c:Mr. Ryan, this has gone far enough! That 41 boat is always hoggin' the good jobs, sir.
Seaman Jones:We'll get all the soaking we need on our way up to hit the Japs, sir.
'Squarehead' Larsen SC 2c:What are we gonna do, sit around on our duffs till they get back, sir?
Ens. 'Snake' Gardner:41 can't handle this job alone... sir.
Lt. 'Rusty' Ryan:How about it, sir?
Lt. John Brickley:Okay. But if she starts taking water, turn back. Sir.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Features Hell Divers (1931)See more »


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52 out of 63 people found the following review useful.
One of the Greatest War Films, 1 January 1999
Author: jacksflicks from Hollywood

I have very strong feelings about this film. As a baby boomer, I have always felt that mine and future generations owe an eternal debt to those who didn't come back.

One way of acknowledging this debt is the way we watch war films, not as bloody spectacles but as tributes and reminders.

And what kind of tribute and reminder is "They Were Expendable"? Consider the rueful irony of the title. Such a sentiment is quite uncharacteristic of director John Ford's other work, especially his westerns (possibly excepting "Fort Apache"), which border on jingoism. Yes, there's a scene that's pretty hard to take: When the boats are detailed to take MacArthur out of harm's way, Ford tries to make out like they're rescuing Lincoln, complete with "Battle Hymn of the Republic" soundtrack. Today we know MacArthur as an overrated blow-hard, but 1945 was too early to see past the hype. And yes, there's some of the usual Ford corn-ball and the familiar Ford players, with John Wayne and Ward Bond doing their thing. But then, there's the great Robert Montgomery, who did active duty (unlike Wayne), and I truly believe he was playing this film, both as actor and co-director, straight from the heart. You can see it in a scene in which he realizes his duty means his death. Much of that scene is shot in shadow, but paradoxically the darkness serves to enhance Montgomery's underplayed emotions. The emotions are similar when Montgomery and Wayne are later confronted with an order that saves their lives but dooms their men.

Implicit in the belief that war is sometimes necessary is the inevitability of some of the most excruciating moral dilemmas imaginable. And when I see these dilemmas imposed on men and women, boys and girls, demanding their lives in payment for their sacred honor, I'm humbled beyond words.

Life magazine used to do huge layouts of kids killed in World War II combat. When I look at these faces and think of the words "They Were Expendable," I . . .

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