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The Fighting Seabees (1944)

Approved | | Drama, Romance, War | 10 July 1944 (UK)
During WW2, the U.S. Navy implements a new idea of forming construction battalions that also are fighting units, in case of Japanese attack.


Edward Ludwig


Borden Chase (screenplay), Æneas MacKenzie (screenplay) (as Aeneas MacKenzie) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
John Wayne ... Lt. Cmdr. Wedge Donovan
Susan Hayward ... Constance Chesley
Dennis O'Keefe ... Lt. Cmdr. Robert Yarrow
William Frawley ... Eddie Powers
Leonid Kinskey ... Johnny Novasky
J.M. Kerrigan ... Sawyer Collins
Grant Withers ... Whanger Spreckles
Paul Fix ... Ding Jacobs
Ben Welden ... Yump Lumkin
William Forrest ... Lt. Tom Kerrick
Addison Richards ... Capt. Joyce
Jay Norris Jay Norris ... Joe Brick
Duncan Renaldo ... Construction Worker at Party


Construction workers in World War II in the Pacific are needed to build military sites, but the work is dangerous and they doubt the ability of the Navy to protect them. After a series of attacks by the Japanese, something new is tried, Construction Battalions (CBs=Seabees). The new CBs have to both build and be ready to fight. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


HARD HITTING MEN WHO BOWED TO NO MASTER (Print Ad-Philadelphia Inquirer, ((Philadelphia, Penna.)) 2 April 1944) See more »


Drama | Romance | War


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The production received extensive cooperation from the US Navy. See more »


When the Seabees are first deployed to the island, they embark in Higgins boats (no bow ramps). When they reach the shore, the Higgins boats are now LCVPs. See more »


Eddie Powers: I'm Eddie Powers, Donovan's factotum, meaning, "Man Friday". That's Latin.
Lt. Cmdr. Robert Yarrow: Well, I'm glad to know you Friday even if it's only Thursday.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film's opening credits dedication states: "Proudly and gratefully we dedicate this picture to the Civil Engineer Corps and the Construction Battalions - the Seabees of the United States Navy who have fired the imagination of the world with their colorful exploits throughout the Seven Seas." See more »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »


Referenced in Trumbo (2015) See more »


Ireland Must Be Heaven, for My Mother Came from There
Music by Fred Fisher
Lyrics by Howard Johnson and Joseph McCarthy
Sung by William Frawley
See more »

User Reviews

Why did you shoot him for? I was afraid that the fall might kill em!
12 February 2006 | by sol1218See all my reviews

***SOME SPOILERS*** One of John Wayne's best WWII movies has him in charge of the first Seebee construction battalion in the Pacific building airfields and port facilities for the US Navy and Air Force as well as fighting off hundreds of wild eyed and charging Japanese soldiers.

Things at first didn't go too well from the men of the Wayde Donovan, John Wayne, Corps. Construction Company. Searving the US military in the Pacific their easy marks for Japanese snipers who pick off the unarmed construction workers. while the US Army and Marine Corps. are busy fighting the main Japanese forces on the many islands contested by in that theater of war.

Demanding to be armed and part of the US military, not contract workers, has Donovan's men incorporated into the Army. Donovan's Seebees are then sent fully armed to island X-214 to build a base for the US Navy to refuel it's war-ships. Right from the start Donovan doesn't have the discipline thats demanded of him and is men by engaging the enemy. When told by his superior Lt. Cmdr. Yarrow,Dennis O'Keefe, to stay in the barracks and, in what looks like an American version of a Bonzai charge, Donovan has almost his entire construction company wiped out by the invading Japanese forces! Donavon, now a Lt. Commander, also screws up an ambush that the US Army had set up to stop the Japanese. That resulted in his, and Yarrow's, girlfriend war corespondent Constence Chesley, Susan Hayward,to be gunned down but not killed by a wounded Japanese soldier.

Back in the states Donovan tries to make amends with the US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Yarrow and Constance over his bullheadedness on the battlefield that cost scores of US military and Seebee's lives. His relationship with Constance is handicapped by her also being in love with Wayde's commander Lt. Cmdr. Yarrow who, unlike Wayde,is a handsome and refined spit and polish Annapolis Navy man. Given a second chance to show his, and his Seebees, worth on the field of battle Wayde Donovan's construction battalion is sent ashore on island X-371. Not only to build a fuel depot and airfield but to defend if against a possible Japanese invasion of the island.

Rip roaring battle scenes, some of the best ever put on film without the benefit of computer enhancement, makes "The Fighting Seebees" stand out among the score of war movies released during WWII by the major Hollywood studios. In fact the film was released by Republic Pictures which only specialized in low budget B and C movies up until then.

Taking heavy casualties from Japanese fire Donovan decides, against orders, to take it, the fight, to em' and organizes another Banzai-like charge on the Japanese forces, which seems like a full division, that are invading island X-371. The US forces, Army & Marines, deafening the island are badly chopped up with Lt. Cmdr. Yarrow seriously wounded in the fighting and Donovan's Seebees are on the verge of being overrun by the fanatical Japanese troops.

Having nothing but earth-moving and construction equipment to fight off the hoards of highly motivated and heavily armed Japanese troops supported by tanks the Seebees still hold on to the fuel tanks that's desperately needed for the US Navy Task Force in the area. Donavan told by the wounded Lt. Cmdr. Yarrow that he'll see to it that's he's court-martial-ed if he survives this action takes matters into his own hands. With a steam shovel loaded with explosives Donovan drives it into one of the fuel tanks causing it to explode and smoke out and drive into the open the attacking Japanese troops, their then mowed down by the Seebees and US Army and Marines.

Donovan for his bravery got a medal, posthumously, not a court-martial at the end of the film, Let. Cmdr Yarrow gets the girl that both he and Donovan left behind Constance Chesely.

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Release Date:

10 July 1944 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Donovan's Army See more »


Box Office


$1,500,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Republic Pictures (I) See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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