AMERICAN PRODUCTION OF THE MOVIE
(this article appeared in the souvenir book of the movie published by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation in 1970)
20th Century-Fox had chronicled, with great success, another signal date
in American history, the 6th of June, 1944, with Darryl F. Zanuck's "The Longest
Day," the story of "D Day," the Allied invasion of Europe. That outstanding
film appropriately set the stage for the production of "Tora! Tora! Tora!"
Producer Elmo Williams, Zanuck's associate on "The Longest Day" started preliminary work in 1966, but it was not until 1967 that the "possibles" and "impossibles" were sorted out. Key to the concept was the re-creation of the Japanese "air strike force," use of actual aircraft to attack Hawaii. Later, that led to the building or lease of full-sized warships. A second key was persuading Japan to make its own side of the story, with its own technicians and in its native tongue.
While three years of preparation is a considerable time for any motion picture, it took almost every day of those three years to "mount" the production on both sides of the ocean. Exhaustive research and writing; the marshalling of World War II props, vehicles, ships and aircraft, the search and authorization for use of authentic locations; the vast planning for the destruction of Pearl Harbor consumed days and months.
On the morning of Dec. 7th, 1941, Jason Robards, then a radio operator in the United States Navy witnessed the attack on "Battleship Row" from his ship, USS Honolulu, across Pearl Harbor's south channel. As Mr. Robards is now one of the finest actors of the American stage and screen, his casting as Lt. General Walter C. Short was not a publicity stunt. Yet it is appropriate to the entire nature of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" that he returned to the scene twenty-eight years later.
"Lots of people enjoy being where the action is but this was one day when I was where the action was that I did not enjoy at all," muses Robards.
From the beginning it was decided to ignore star power, and the usual cameo performances, in favor of realism and ability. Both were achieved in the casting of such actors as Martin Balsam as Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, E. G. Marshall as Lt. Col. Bratton, James Whitmore as Admiral "Bull" Halsey, Joseph Cotton as Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and Wesley Addy as Lt. Cdr. Kramer.
Studying old photographs of such historical figures as Cordell Hull, General George C. Marshall and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, some of the members of President Roosevelt's cabinet and staff, remarkable similarities can be noted in the faces of George Macready, Keith Andes, and Leon Ames. Macready's "Hull," white-haired and dignified, becomes a living replica of the gentleman from Tennessee.
Although preliminary work was begun in 1966, full preparation for the filming of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" got underway in early 1967. It is not unusual for a film of this size and scope to "be in preparation" for several years, although "Tora! Tora! Tora!" may have set a record in its time-stretch from 1966 to release in 1970.
Exhaustive research and writing, the marshalling of World War II vintage props, vehicles and aircraft; the search and authorizations for use of authentic events between mid-January, 1941, and the afternoon of December 7th, the cameras ranged over the official city from "Old Navy" and "State" and the Japanese Embassy to the White House.
They went into Rock Creek Park, strewn with autumn leaves, to glimpse ^General Marshall" riding "King Story," the Dalmatian "Fleet" trotting behind; to State as Ambassadors Kurusu and Nomura enter to deliver the famed Fourteen Part Memorandum to secretary of State Cordell Hull. Hour by hour of the face of that tense weekend was relived in two weeks of concentrated filming.
"Exterior, Sky, Japanese Air Armada, 1st Wave," was the initial day's work in Hawaii as the third American phase of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" began on January 20th, 1969, with thirty aircraft aloft from Barbers Point Naval Station at dawn. It was the start of weeks of aerial and ground second company photography with exact duplicates of the Japanese "Zeros," "Kates" and "Vals" that bombed Pearl.
The aircraft caused an understandable stir on the island of Oahu because "there they were again," same harsh drone, same propeller yowl as they pulled up from dive bombing or torpedo runs, same dazzling red "meatballs" on their sides. For some, as the Honolulu Star-Bulletin commented, "It was a bit too realistic for comfort."
The Hawaii "Studio"
It was somehow appropriate that "Tora! Tora! Tora!" should find a filming home in Hangar 79 on Ford Island. Leased from the U.S. Navy, the huge building, mostly vacant since the strip was de-activated, provided space for set building, make-up, wardrobe, special effects, property, staff, transportationall the intertwined departments of modern movie making.
Hangar 79 had a few scars from the original attack. It had mutely witnessed the screaming fighters and bombers; now it was host to the construction of such widely varied items as Japanese midget submarines, plaster bomb craters and fiberglass fuselages for P-40's as the clock turned backwards.
Upwards of three hundred technicians labored daily in Hangar 79 to keep pace with production. Fifty-odd cars and trucks, many hauled from junk heaps, were refurbished to vintage '41; set dressing for "USS Arizona" and the "Tennessee mast" moved through 79's machine shop; life-rings for "Nevada," name-plates for "West Virginia" and "California" came out of her sign shop.
Big 79 was, in all ways, a studio away from home. Stretching from her was the production web that reached nearby "Battleship Row," where the real "Arizona" still oozed oil and the more distant twenty-two Hawaiian locations that included Wheeler and Hickam Fields, Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter, all legendary names in the Pearl Harbor story.
"Battleship Row" was, of course, the main filming location for the Hawaii sequences. Save for the quiet and pristine Arizona Monument and the rusting remains beneath it, little has changed along the empty mooring quays since that December morning. One almost senses the ghosts of Oklahoma, Maryland, West Virginia, Nevada, Vestal, Neosho and California: the torpedo streaks across channel, the earth-shaking explosions and balls of flame; the oil-fed smoke and the cries of wounded. Over it, the enemy aircraft calmly and determinedly pushing triggers.
The re-creation of the attack along "Battleship Row" was probably the most complex operation in film industry annals. Certainly, by area and the size of the sets, one of the largest operations ever to go before cameras.
To achieve authenticity, a full-scale section of USS Arizona was built by the Maritime Services Division of the Dillingham Corporation, Honolulu. Mounted on two steel barges, the 309 foot steel super-structure, fully-fitted, was towed to Battleship Row to play her historic role. Her guns, .30 caliber up to five inch, functioned; her tower rose 144 feet into the air. Down to the last detail, this film set was a duplicate of the Arizona.
As Arizona, she was attacked and put under fire repeatedly and finally destroyed four days before the end of filming in Hawaii. She also served, for other scenes, as Nevada and West Virginia.
No less a landmark of that fateful morning was the mast of Tennessee, ways looming in the smoke-framed background of Arizona. The "Tennessee mast" was also constructed by Dillingham and erected on "Fox-Trot Five" dock, Ford Island, in an alignment with Arizona. The two unusual and massive structures on the Row's skyline were tourist attractions for several months. Each figured in four weeks of filming.
PEARL WATERS - cameras rolled in Aiea Bay to capture the attack on USS Helm, only warship underway at 0755 hours; in the Channel between Ford Island and the Navy Yard to record the vicious attacks on Nevada escaping toward open sea; in East Loch to focus on destroyer nests; off the harbor entrance to watch the USS Ward depth-charge a Japanese midget submarine.
FORD ISLAND - had the dubious distinction of receiving the first bomb hit in Pearl Harbor, a single bomb to the seaplane ramp at 0755; seconds later, parts of its PBY hangar hurtled through the air as other bomb hits registered. These scenes were re-created for "Tora! Tora! Tora!" on the exact site in late January. Subsequently, Ford, re-dressed as Hickam (which is completely changed and modernized) became that Army Air Corps base as the Japanese strafed and bombed during the famed incoming flight of Major Truman Landon's B-17 Flying Fortresses.
wheeler field - like Ford Island has been deactivated as an Air Force base, and looks almost the same as in 1941. Dressed with lines of P-40 aircraft, Wheeler fell under the attack of strafing and bombing aircraft in some of the most visually spectacular scenes of the film. It was from Wheeler that Lieutenants Taylor and Welch re-armed their aircraft to slug it out with "Zeros" and "Vals," the only aerial combat of the day. Each was credited with four enemy kills.
OTHER LOCATIONS, HAWAII - Downtown Honolulu; Kahili district, Honolulu; Koko Head, Oahu; Opana Point, Oahu; Navy Fire School, Aiea; Submarine School, Navy Yard; Schofield Barracks, Oahu; Fort Shafter, Oahu; Kolekole Pass and pineapple fields, Oahu; Chinaman's Hat, Oahu; Waikiki Beach, Oahu; RCA Office, Downtown Honolulu; Navy Ferry Landing; Aloha Tower.
washington, D.C.Exteriors, The White House; State Department; War Department; Old Navy Building; Japanese Embassy; Admiral Stark's residence; Arlington Farms; Rock Creek Park.
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA20th Century-Fox Studios Interior, The White House; Office of the Secretary of State; Japanese Embassy; Secretary of War's Office, General Miles' office; Naval Intelligence Center; Signal Corps' Intelligence; Secretary of Navy's office; Admiral Stark's office; General Marshall's office; General Marshall's residence, Ft. Myer.
Air Operations - The Fox Air Force
Air Operations for "Tora! Tora! Tora!" involved the most extensive use of operable aircraft ever employed in the making of a film and the Fox "air force" totaled more than seventy planes, ranging from types modified for Japanese military aircraft of World War II to Flying Fortresses, P-40's and PBY's.
The re-creation of a Japanese strike force for bombing, strafing and torpedo runs against Pearl Harbor posed a staggering problem. At first, it was hoped that authentic "Zeros," "Vals" and "Kates" could be found. Research and survey moved across the Pacific to the Solomons, the Yap group, and other far-flung islands. Some of these islands were by-passed by the U.S. fast carrier forces, and Japanese aircraft were known to exist on them. Still photographs revealed palm trees growing up through wings and other signs of deterioration.
The Fox survey team found it would take at least five authentic Japanese aircraft to make one, not counting the need for completely new engines. Further, harbors being non-existent on these islands, or at a distance from the rotting fields of aircraft, it would be necessary to lift each airframe by helicopter and then barge them either to Japan or the United States for rebuilding. The cost would have been prohibitive.
The decision was then made to modify existing airframes of AT-6 and BT-13 types. Steward-Davis, Inc., and Cal-Volair, both of Long Beach, California, began this work early August, 1968. In Japan, C. Itoh Company modified nineteen AT-6 aircraft, declared surplus by the United States Military Assistance and Advice Group, and made available to 20th Century-Fox.
The AT-6 was modified to duplicate the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2, type 21; the BT-13 was modified to duplicate the Aichi 99 "Val" dive bomber, and the Nakajima 97 "Kate" torpedo bomber was made from a combination of BT-13 and AT-6 fuselages.
Test flown first in California, the aircraft operated almost continuously from mid-December, 1968, to late April, 1969, burning about 3000 gallons of fuel daily, and were put through combat conditions identical to those of World War II excepting Panavision did the shooting rather than anti-aircraft batteries. Stationed at Barbers Point Naval Air Station, on leased facilities, the "Tora" air group brought back vivid memories of the days of Guadalcanal and "scrambles." Operating from a plywood hut, decorated whimsically with a Japanese flag, the forty-seven pilots of the "Tora" flying pool were on "war routine." Dawn briefings began the day. Forward air controllers "called in" strikes, and Fox armory experts kept the aircraft properly loaded with plaster bombs and torpedos.
The pilots were drawn from both military and civilian walks of life. More than half were off-duty or on-leave pilots from the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Some were pilots on commercial airlines and others were in the charter business. Ages ranged from late twenties to mid-fifties, and some of the "hottest" film pilots were over the half-century mark. Many were combat veterans, and one pilot had been shot down in three wars World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
For the pilots, it was more fun than work. They could legally "flat-hat" over deserted Ford Island; they were flying formation again, sweeping in "gaggles" over the length of Oahu. It was seat o' the pants flying once more in something other than a fancy jet; open cockpit flying where they could taste it and feel it.
Hawaii also got its first look at Flying Fortresses in more than twenty years. Five of the big birds on lease from Aviation Specialties Company of Mesa, Arizona, and hired away from their usual duties as insect sprayers and borate bombers, made the long hop from the West Coast to appear as Major Truman Landon's historic incoming flight at the time of the Japanese attack. They created a sensation in the skies over Oahu, painted again in Army Air Corps olive green.
Two P-40's also drew much attention. As the aircraft of Lieutenants Welch and Taylor, they engaged in dogfights with Zeros over the pineapple fields near Barbers Point. Other eye-stoppers were the PBY's (Navy flying boats) for Ford Island scenes, and a scouting seaplane on the deck of USS Arizona. Added to these old-timers was a Stearman biplane and a SBD bomber.
In reality, 20th Century-Fox was operating an "air force"
complete with maintenance facilities and a roster of mechanics. A staff of twelve
technicians from Aviation Specialties kept the birds in the air. It went far beyond minor
repairs. Seven engines were completely replaced, and all engines were overhauled at least
once during the filming. The "AvCo" mechanics set a remarkable record in keeping
an average of twenty-seven Japanese aircraft in readiness at all times.
Ray Kellogg - Second Company Director - veteran special effects and second unit director, coordinated action photography during second company filming, January 20th to March 10th. His 200 film credits include "The Alamo," "The Tall Men," and "The Big Trail."
Among the many other talented and knowledgable people who participated in the production of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" were:
Air Operations Chief - Lt. Col. Arthur Wildern, Jr., USAF, Retired, owner of Executive Aviation, Honolulu, Hawaii, an inter-island charter service; combat in European Theatre of Operations, World War II, 106 missions for 9th Army Air Force; Transport Command, Korean War.
Resident Historian - Konrad Schreier, Jr., recognized authority on military affairs and military equipment; author; research associate, Museum of Natural History.
Department of Defense Project Office and Technical Advisor - Cdr. Edward Stafford, USN, naval aviator, Pacific Fleet historian, author of "The Big E," story of the USS Enterprise.
Technical Advisor for Army Affairs, Hawaii- Col. B. H. Watson, USA.
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