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In 1941 the Japanese are at odds with the United States on a number of issues which they are attempting to resolve via their Washington embassy. In case this diplomacy fails, the military are hatching plans for a surprise early Sunday morning air attack on the U.S. base at Pearl Harbour. American intelligence is breaking the Japanese diplomatic messages but few high-ups are prepared to believe that an attack is likely, let alone where or how it might come. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The civilian pilots hired to fly the Japanese aircraft were a bunch of characters. One, never identified, was taken by a line of stage direction in the script which read, "Watanabe smiles". After each successful shot with the aerial coordinator announced his satisfaction, this pilot would anonymously announce on his aircraft radio, "Watanabe smiles". During the filming of one shot, a civilian general aviation aircraft inadvertently flew into their formation, forcing them to perform emergency evasive maneuvers. The aerial coordinator performed an immediate inventory of flying aircraft, announced his relief that disaster had been avoided. This same unknown pilot this time announced, "Watanabe shits!" See more »
Jeff Donnell was serving aboard the USS West Virginia during the attack. However, he is depicted as being aboard the USS Arizona when it was destroyed by a bomb in the film. See more »
But do you really think that this Kurusu can do any good?
Well, I doubt it, Frank. He's hardly the most tactful choice. When he was ambassador in Berlin, he signed the Axis Pact on behalf of Japan.
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The real story of Pearl Harbor may have begun in 1853 when a squadron of U.S. frigates under Matthew C. Perry forced open the isolationist Tokugawa shogunate that governed Japan to take a reality check and open trade with the outside world. In less than 100 years Japan became an industrial power, every bit as formidable as any western country and was able to attack the country that forced it open.
Our Far eastern foreign policy from then until 1941 was simply trading concessions with both Asian powers, Japan and China. When they became rivals in Asia we and other countries had to choose up sides. Alternately we favored China and Japan, but in 1941 U.S. sympathies in Washington and in public opinion was favoring China.
The island chain of Japan is notoriously lacking in natural resources. Even the United Kingdom which it is often compared to has deposits of coal and iron and that created the British steel industry. Japan has to import and in the age of imperialism, they became every bit as imperialistic as any of our western countries, maybe more so because their need was greater.
Note during the film of Tora Tora Tora it is remarked that the U.S. Fleet in Hawaii was like a dagger pointed at Japan. When the island country of Hawaii was formally annexed to the United States and the Phillipines acquired after the Spanish American War at the end of the 19th century we became rivals in the Pacific to the Japanese. And imagine if the Japanese who were most anxious to annex Hawaii themselves had done so. The dagger would have been at our West Coast. Of course the poor Hawaiians had little to say about any of this.
All that has to be factored into what you are seeing in Tora Tora Tora. That and more is what led up to the events that are meticulously recorded in documentary style. Unlike the later film Midway which spoiled a good account of the battle with a personal story, Tora Tora Tora does not waste any of the viewers time in that regard.
The participants are there in all their flaws. Admiral Husband Kimmel who made the fortunate choice of sending out the aircraft carriers which was an act that may have eventually won the Pacific War for America is played by Martin Balsam. Nevertheless he took the fall for the attack as did Chief of Naval Operations Harold Stark played by Edward Andrews.
One very luckless man was Army commander in Hawaii General Joseph Short played by Jason Robards, Jr. who was in real life in the Navy and at Pearl Harbor. Short made the fatal decision to put all the aircraft at Hickam field in the center of the field because he was afraid of saboteurs. The better to bomb them from the air.
Three members of FDR's cabinet are portrayed, George MacReady as Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Joseph Cotten as Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and Leon Ames as Frank Knox the Secretary of the Navy. Franklin Roosevelt being the wise leader he was and knowing that our eventual entry demanded bipartisan support chose a pair of Republicans in Stimson and Knox. Would that our current president had that kind of foresight.
George MacReady who usually portrayed polished villains is a good guy here and has one of his best screen moments as the Japanese envoys are ushered into his office AFTER the attack has begun to issue Japanese diplomatic demands.
Tora Tora Tora should be shown in schools as a great piece of well acted documentary film making if that's not a contradiction in terms. It won an Oscar for Special Effects which are out of date compared to the later Pearl Harbor movie, but still done well. Catch it if you can by all means.
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