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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the better historical WWII movies, May 29 2004
This review is from: Midway (VHS Tape)
A good friend of mine (and a contemporary) rode in the backseat of a dive bomber at the battle of midway. He's dead now, like three quarters of the men who fought in World War Two. Can you imagine riding backwards in a dive while the people below are doing their best to kill you? Unless you've been there, probably not.

This is, historically, one of the most accurate portrayals of the war. One critic complained that "the writing was weak. There was no suspense at all in the film." Perhaps there'd have been enough suspense if he'd been there, like Bill. But Bill survived the battle and died of old age, so I can't ask him about whether he felt any suspense, although we talked a lot about the battle of Midway.

In the film, they used top notch actors. For "Bull" Halsey they used Mitchum. Not a look alike, but of course Bull's dead, too, and Mitchum did a good job. Heston, of course, represented a fictional character (Matt Garth), but virtually all of the names of people in the film were real men who fought a real battle, and it was the turning point of the war. After Midway, we took a lot of lumps, but they were on the run from that point on.

Of course Hollywood took some liberties, and since they used a lot of actual combat shots, some of the aircraft used were out of place (F6F "Hellcats" for F4F "Wildcats" several times, and the ditching scene where Ensign George Gay went in showed a "Hellcat" instead of the TBD Douglas torpedo bomber that he actually flew. And the shot of the "Hellcat" being torn apart on the carrier's island was well-known footage from the technicolor documentary, The Fighting Lady, which was shot on the old Enterprise during battle, with narration by Lt. Robert Montgomery (qv). Garth's (Heston's) fictional son was supposed to be flying it in the film, but it was an actual crash on board the "Big E", in an actual battle. "Hellcats" (F6F) were Grumman fighter planes (the big brother of the "Wildcat" (F4F) which was obsolescent when the war started, but in use at the Battle of Midway--as was the old Brewster "Buffalo") and the F6F never saw combat until late 1943 (on my birthday, as a matter of fact.) The battle of Midway was in June of 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor.

It helps when you know a little history. For instance, Ensign George Gay actually did ride out the battle in the water, after he ditched, and was debriefed personally by the commander-in-chief, pacific fleet (CINCPAC), Admiral Chester Nimitz. He was the only survivor of his torpedo squadron, VT-8 (torpedo squadron 8).

Altogether, when you see this picture, you are watching history (as near as Hollywood will ever get to it), and many of the people who died to entertain today's movie audiences are named in the movie.

So, try to overlook the lack of a plot, at least in the battle sequences. History wrote them, not Hollywood script writers.

Joseph (Joe) Pierre, USN (Ret)

author of Handguns and Freedom...their care and maintenance
and other books
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