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On the day of his retirement, Rear Admiral Jonathan L. Scott reflects on his role in introducing aircraft carriers to the U.S. Navy. After World War I, there was a general downsizing of the military. There were only limited opportunities to create a carrier-bound air capability. The aircraft were not designed specifically for landing on a flat top and several death occur during training. Over the years however, Scott is one of several men who pursue their dream of aircraft carriers and aircraft specifically designed for that purpose. Their worth is proved in World War II at the Battle of Midway and throughout the war. Written by
The technical advisor, Capt. S.G. Mitchell, was commanding officer of the fighter squadron aboard USS Hornet (CV-8) at the Battle of Midway, which is portrayed in the movie. He ran his planes out of fuel, resulting in all ten aircraft lost and two pilots drowned. The Hornet does not appear in this film because the point of view is largely from the Yorktown (CV-5), which was sunk in the battle. However, one of the senior aviators, McCluskey, (played by Bruce Bennett), is a clear reference to the Enterprise (CV-6) air group commander, Clarence Wade McClusky. See more »
The same shot of the F4F on which the number is 43 painted is used twice just minutes apart. The plane is making a diving turn to port. See more »
If you have Turner Classic Movies, it would behoove you to take the time to watch Task Force, a fine, passionate, and patriotic film about the advent of the aircraft carrier as the principal weapon of the US Navy in World War II. Although it is a product of the times--and the Production Code--TF delivers the story of how "flat-tops" superseded the battleship as the principal tool for, in Navyspeak, "projecting power." With the skillful use of lots of film footage (which helped tremendously in avoiding the use of cheesy ship models), TF tells the story of a young naval officer played believably here by a much older Gary Cooper. As Cooper advances in his skill as an aviator, he runs afoul of bureaucrats and bullies, both outside the navy and in. This results in his being disciplined and scolded for speaking his mind about naval aviation, and his frustration with a lack of personal advancement and the navy not being prepared for future conflict. Cooper is a lanky metaphor for the advent of the carrier as the Queen of the Seas.
With Pearl Harbor, Cooper's "Scottie" Scott is thrown into battle against an enemy that is much better prepared for air combat, and with the aid and leadership of his father figure, Walter Brennan, he (as metaphor) gains the recognition and ultimate victory he deserves.
I read somewhere that Gary Cooper surrendered his chance at ultra-stardom when he made certain decisions about parts that robbed his film persona of the sort of sex appeal that would have guaranteed his place as a film star/sex symbol. The reviewer said something about Cooper being more of a big brother than a lover.
I don't know if all this is true, but Cooper's image of being a friendly, decent, human hero is clearly seen in Task Force. He--and Brennan--carry this movie. The chemistry Coop has with his audience and his on-screen friend and C.O., Brennan, puts real blood and muscle into a movie that at times gets a bit too documentarian. Add in a sweet, loving performance by Jane Wyatt as the graceful and gracious military wife and you have a really human movie that works as history lesson, war film, political essay, and love story.
Finally, what I love about this film is its innate patriotism. There simply is no questioning of America's place and motive in the years leading up to and during the Second World War. We were a democracy threatened by tyranny. We were unprepared for war because we despised it so very much; once confronted, we prevailed. The stock footage of Cooper's carrier (in real life, the badly damaged USS Franklin) arriving at New York with her flight deck and upper hull twisted into scrap metal by Japanese explosives is startling, a metaphor for the cost of not being prepared with the sort of cutting-edge technology, training, and will that might have reduced the bloodiness of the war or prevented it all together.
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