The Team Behind "Wake Island"
Today, Wake Island remains a lonely outpost and weather station frequented by Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force units on ASW training, semi-annual MSC supply visits, and continued USAF flights from Hickam Field, Oahu. Located in the Oceanic region at Lat. 19.2833 North and Long. -166.6536 East, temperatures rarely rise above 80 degrees Fahrenheit during December. But almost 60 years ago, it was pretty hot for those Warfighters in Dec 1941. Wake Island, a piece of U.S. territory, was practically seen on every USMC Recruiting Station poster and playing at local hometown theaters. Wake Island- the movie- was released to the general public in late Aug 1942 to help boost morale back at home. This epic war film was made as a factual film chronicle, an authentic picturization of America at war- the first of its kind since a Japanese "stab in the back", on 7 Dec 1941, had changed the course of American history. Over 7,000 military personnel and their dependents first saw it when it was premiered all day long at Camp Elliott's base theater (near San Diego, CA), on 24 Aug 1942. In the making of this film, the United State Marine Corps provided Lieutenant Colonel Francis E. Pierce, USMC (later downed 6 confirmed Japanese aircraft, and C.O. of MCAD Miramar, 24 Oct 44-1 Apr 45) as technical advisor, and Lieutenant Colonel W. G. Farrell, USMC, as liaison officer. Never too far away was the supervising officer of the Marine technical staff- Brigadier General Ross Erastus Rowell, USMC (CG 2d MAW; 1884-1947). Additionally, a special weapons detail comprising 60 Marines from Camp Elliott, under the command of Captain Nicholas Pesecans, USMC, manned and received valued training with the various heavy automatic weapons (.30 and .50 caliber machine guns, and a 37-milimeter anti-tank gun), including one 5-inch naval gun. Also, a squadron of eight F4F-3 Grumman fighters (assigned to 2d MAW) from NAS San Diego airfield, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John N. Hart (an old Annapolis classmate of Brian Donlevy, and later C.O. of VMO-251 at Espirito Santo) planned the USMC aerial combat against a group of Ryan SC low-wing monoplanes painted to duplicate the Japanese Nakajima- 96 fighters. They were flown by picture and test flyers led by Herbert L. White, and by Frank Clark- chief pilot of the film unit. Not being outdone, one PBY-5A was shown flown by a naval crew stationed at NAS San Diego. Then, there was the giant Pan American Airways "China Clipper" flying boat (a Martin M-130 with top speed 150 mph and 3,200 mile range), whose pilot dutifully took orders from Brian Donlevy. The three location sites for filming were: the Salton Sea, the Great Salt Lake, and the coastal firing range on Coronado Island's "Strand Beach." With Brian Donlevy (1901 - 1972) depicting Major James Patrick Sinnott Devereux (commander of the Wake Marine Detachment from 15 Oct 1941 - 23 Dec 1941; 1903-1988), there was Walter Abel (1898-1987; depicting island C.O., Commander Winfield S. Cunningham, USN); the comedy team of two USMC privates- Robert Preston Meservey (1918-1987) and William Bendix (this was William's second assignment under the Paramount banner; 1906-1964); Albert Dekker who played the tough civilian construction contractor (familiar to fans in two horror films of 1940- Dr. Cyclops and Strange Cargo); and, young Edward MacDonald Carey (1913-1994) playing the heroic role as in real-life comparison to Major Paul A. Putnam (C.O. of VMF-221 fighter squadron consisting of twelve F4F-3 Grumman fighters). His serious respect for the USMC "Flying Leathernecks" would later get him an assignment with Colonel Walter L. J. Bayler, USMC (then Major Bayler, communications officer of MAG-21, better known to USMC as "the last man off Wake Island"). Thus, the audience of 1942 at all home theaters laughed, cried, and howled as the Marines goofed-off, fought one another, and hit hard the enemy landing force in the final scenes. There was the patriotic Chinese- American, Richard Loo (1916-1975), who portrayed the Japanese special envoy- Saburo Kurusu, on his way to Washington for "peace" negotiations. Who can forget that out of the tomato and carrot fields of Imperial Valley, CA, during the hot summer of 1942, some 150 loyal Filipino- Americans did their patriotic part, too, as they volunteered to portray the invading Japanese forces (now known as the 1,000- strong Maizuru 2nd Special Naval Landing Force). Director John Villiers Farrow (1904-1963) brought more than Hollywood skill to this film. He also brought an intimate knowledge of war. He was a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Canadian Navy until invalided out of service December 1941 after contracting typhus while on duty as executive officer of a Canadian ASW vessel operating in the South Atlantic. Wake Island was his first directing assignment in two years (in 1940 he directed A Bill of Divorcement). And, who would have known that from this film lovely Barbara Britton who played just a brief moment as the wife of the young Marine "Flying Leatherneck" pilot, played by Carey, would shortly after assist a Marine Recruiting Station in Los Angeles, CA. Finally, E. MacDonald Carey soon enlisted into the United States Marine Corps. He was sent to Parris Island, NC, on 7 Dec 1942, for recruit training. Then he was sent to OCS Quantico, VA, for officer training- graduating in April 1943. Would you know it... his first assignment was as a Marine aviation maintenance officer for the Marine Air Group under the command of Colonel W. L. J. Bayler ("the last man off Wake Island") at newly established MCAS Cherry Point, NC. "What a Team!"
In The Days Following Pearl Harbor
Wake Island details the battle for the island in the days immediately following Pearl Harbor. Wake Island was a small, flat piece of nothing in the middle of the Pacific that had strategic importance. When Japanese bombers began attacking, there wasn't much the American Marines stationed there could do, although the battle they put up in the face of hopeless odds was remarkable. Needless to say, the emphasis is on the action here, as it should be, and it is efficiently and effectively played out. There's a number of familiar character actors that give the movie a comfortable feel. The film is competently made, and history lovers and war buffs will no doubt find it entertaining enough.
where is closed captioned?
why not you put on closed captioned and i would buy some of them if that have all of them closed captioned. that would be nice.
Better than remembered
Saw this long ago on TV. We had no Saturday morning cartoons then, only seemingly endlessly repeated WWII movies. This DVD isn't bad at all. Yes, we have all the cliché military and civilian types we're supposed to have in movies of this sort. Yes, we have some VERY well done camera work also. William Bendix and Brian Donlevy great. Worth a look, not "Zulu" but worth a look.
Marines Stand Tall
When you consider the timing of this movie and its propaganda value, then weigh it with the reality of what the Marines did on Wake, this is one of the finest and timeliest movies to come out of WW II.
Good acting, good action, but a few technical details missed (such as calling someone "soldier" - doesn't happen in the Marine Corps; also belt buckles, etc. Minor stuff, given the time). Overall, a solid movie and a good cast.
Well worth Seeing by Marines and those who love 'em.
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