quaacombimin´s article

The Okinawa

Category: Movies
Submitted by quaacombimin
651 day(s) ago (Server time: 19.09.2018 23:20:21)

The Okinawa

Basically the story of the sea battle for Okinawa between the ships of the U.S. Navy and the Japanese suicide planes---the Kamaikazes---and, as such, is filled with stock footage from official U.S. war-department films and newsreels and from Japanese newsreels..and even a movie-within-a-movie where 1948's "Ladies of the Chorus" is shown to a crew of a ship in 1944. The factual story is interlaced with a fictional one dealing with the crew of an American destroyer which is assigned to an ocean picket line around Okinawa to protect the supply ships and the forces on the island. As such, it has the usual battle-weary skipper, the Latino wise-guy, the "Kid" and the "Old Veteran", and the brash, cigar-chewing "operator" on the ship who has cornered the entire supply of the ship's beer rations. Captain Hale takes over command of a U.S. Naval vessel as it prepares to take part in the invasion of Okinawa in the Second World War. His crew includes a rowdy gun crew who punctuate fire missions with banter and antics. The battle for Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands just south of Japan, trailing off Kyushu like a jet stream was the final battle of World War II in the Pacific. Commanding the Navy Task Force was Raymond Spruance the victor at Midway and it was the largest flotilla ever put together, over 1500 ships. Not to mention the Army and Marine forces who did the fighting on land. As this was Japan's back door so to speak they fought with ferocious intensity with full use of the Kamikaze suicide planes.

The story of Okinawa needed an epic film like The Longest Day. Instead we got a hastily put together film with a lot of cliché stock characters from war films of the era. Pat O'Brien stars as the skipper of the destroyer on which this film's story is told and Richard Denning is his executive officer.

They may be top billed but O'Brien and Denning take second place in screen time to the crew of one of the naval guns on the destroyer. The crew consists of Rhys Williams, Richard Benedict, James Dobson and Cameron Mitchell who dumbed down his command of the English language to the level of Leo Gorcey. The crew is mostly sitting around waiting for the Kamikaze attacks which they know will come.

Okinawa is not a horribly bad film, but with an epic title like that it sure falls short of the mark. The Army, Navy, and Marines who fought there deserved something much better. I don't want to carry on too long about this shoddy film because it isn't worth it. Okinawa was an important objective towards the end of the Pacific War, a sizable island intended for use as a staging area for the invasion of Japan. It was a terrible battle fought under terrible conditions. Mud was everywhere, and civilians died by the thousands. It was one of the few battles in which the Navy suffered greater casualties than the Army and Marines ashore. The main reason for the difference lay in the first massive use of suicide airplanes, loaded with explosives, called Kamikazes. They managed to sink or put out of action more than 33 American ships as well as some others belonging to Allied forces. And they inflicted damage on still more. About 6,000 naval officers and men were casualties.

This movie exploits the Battle of Okinawa. We watch a destroyer attacked by flights of Kamikazes every once in a while, in between long sessions of the usual minor conflicts and bantering of the crew. The bantering sounds more desperate than funny. The overall impression is that someone realized that a good deal of footage of the attacks had recently been released but not yet used in a feature film. So a few dumb clichés were slapped together to build a framing story in which the newsreel footage could be interpolated.

I was disappointed -- almost ashamed -- when I saw this the first time, about twenty years ago. I've watched it again since then and it hasn't improved. It's an insult to the men, women, and children who were involved.


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