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Tora! Tora! Tora!

imageWas a 1970 American-Japanese war film that dramatized the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Directed by Richard Fleischer and featuring an ensemble cast including Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten, Sō Yamamura, E.G. Marshall, James Whitmore and Jason Robards.

Much of the TORA fx footage would reappear over the years in films such as MIDWAY (1976) and others, such was the quality of the footage. +

original poster above


the Movie title stills collection

Recognizing that a balanced and objective recounting of events was necessary, 20th Century Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck, developed an American-Japanese co-production, allowing for “a point of view from both nations.” +

It took three years to plan and prepare for the eight months of principal photography.

imageThe  film was created in two separate productions, one based in the United States, directed by Richard Fleischer, and one based in Japan; initially to have been directed by Akira Kurosawa, (right) who had worked on script development and pre-production for two years.

After two weeks of shooting, he was replaced by Japanese director Toshio Masuda and screenwriter/filmmaker Kinji Fukasaku, who co-directed the Japanese sections.

Richard Fleischer said of renowned director Akira Kurosawa’s role in the project:

“…He (was used to having) complete autonomy, and nobody would dare make a suggestion to Kurosawa about the budget, or a shooting schedule, or anything like that…  He wasn’t used to that kind of pressure.”


advertising artwork

Fleischer, son of animator/producer Max Fleischer, was a good choice to head up the American aspect of Tora! Tora! Tora! since he had previously compiled a documentary of Japanese war footage for the 1948 Academy Award winning documentary, Design for Death (imdb). +

imageThe film opens with a notice that…”Exhibition of confiscated Japanese film material authorized by permission of the Alien Property Custodian in the public interest under License No. LM 979…” and was assembled from hundreds of captured newsreels, historical dramas and propaganda films. +

Originally based on a shorter U.S. Army training film, Our Job in Japan, (companion to the more famous Your Job In Germany) produced in 1945-1946 as a training primer for soldiers occupying Japan after the surrender. Both films dealt with Japanese culture and the origins of the war.

In 1954, he was chosen by Walt Disney (his father’s former rival as a cartoon producer) to direct 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea starring Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas, and Peter Lorre. It was a great success with both the critics and the public. +

image right


Instructiefilm voor Amerikaanse soldaten

Peter Rathvon, (an exec at RKO) who had seen Our Job in Japan during his own military service, decided to produce a commercial version of the film. He hired the original writer and editor to work on the new project. Theodor S. Geisel, who is better known by his pen name Dr. Seuss, co-authored Design for Death with his wife Helen Palmer Geisel. +

At the time, the film was considered sympathetic to the Japanese, and its distribution was apparently suppressed by Douglas MacArthur in his capacity as the overall commander of the Allied Occupation Forces.

Our Job in Japan is now in the public domain.
The short film is available for free download at the Internet Archive.


In 1942, Geisel turned his energies to direct support of the U.S. war effort. First, he worked drawing posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board. Then, in 1943, he joined the Army and was commander of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces where he wrote films , including the Private Snafu series of adult army training vehicles.

Dr. Suess Fun Facts


Dr. Seuss Takes on Hitler

Private Snafu is the title character of a series of black-and-white American instructional cartoon shorts produced between 1943 and 1945.

The goal was to help enlisted men with weak literacy skills learn through animated cartoons (and also supplementary comic books). They featured simple language, racy illustrations, mild profanity, and subtle moralizing.

snafu2Private Snafu did everything wrong, so that his negative example taught basic lessons about secrecy, disease prevention, and proper military protocols. The depictions of Japanese and Germans are quite stereotypical by today’s standards, but were par for the course in wartime U.S.

The Snafu shorts are notable because they were produced during the Golden Age of Warner Bros. animation. Directors such as Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, and Frank Tashlin worked on them, and their characteristic styles are in top form.

above rt: Private Snafu – Volume 1 & 2 Bosko Video


Private Snafu on Animation Blog

Voice characterizations were provided by the celebrated Mel Blanc (Private Snafu’s voice was similar to Blanc’s Bugs Bunny’s, and Bugs himself actually made cameos in the several Snafu episodes.

In 1946, a series of cartoons for the Navy featuring Private Snafu’s brother “Seaman Tarfu” (for “Things Are Really Fucked Up”) was planned, but the war came to a close and the project never materialized, save for a single cartoon entitled Private Snafu Presents Seaman Tarfu in the Navy.

After the war, the Snafu cartoons went largely forgotten. Prints eventually wound up in the hands of collectors.

keep reading

Private Snafu videos on You Tube

See also US Navy Pilot Dilbert


Dr. Suess Fun Facts

The lost script. Introductory voice-over by Dr Seuss:

seussWhy all the despair and gloom-o,
Why! Oh Why! Adrmiral Nagumo?

Are the Yankees making quips
Inside their shiny battleships?

Are they calling us all all losers,
In their big fat battle cruisers?

Do they want to rule and run
O’er the empire of Rising Sun?

Show them, Show them,
Admiral Nagumo!
Show them who is really neat-o!!

Bomb them with your wooden planes!
Turn the sea to oil stains!

Lady Liberty – you abhor her.
Show her Tora! Tora! Tora!

image source


Japanese actor and film director Sô Yamamura (1910–2000) as
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief, Combined Fleet

imageIsoroku Yamamoto (1884 – 1943) was key in the development of Japanese naval aviation.

After graduating from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1904, Yamamoto served on the armored cruiser Nisshin during the Russo-Japanese War. He was wounded at the Battle of Tsushima, losing two fingers (index and middle) on his left hand. Promoted to Lieutenant Commander in 1916.

Yamamoto opposed war against the United States partly because of his studies at Harvard University (1919–1921) and his two postings as a naval attaché in Washington, D.C., where he learned to speak fluent English.

Isoroku Yamamoto
on wikipedia


Japanese film actor Takahiro Tamura (1928 – 2006) (image)
Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, Commander, Air Group, aircraft carrier Akagi

Mitsuo Fuchida (1902 – 1976) Captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, later a bomber aviator in the Imperial Japanese Navy. He is considered one of Japan’s most skillful aviators.

imageSpecializing in horizontal bombing, Fuchida gained such prowess that he was made an instructor the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima, Hiroshima in 1921.

By the time he joined the aircraft carrier Akagi in 1939 as the commander of the air group, he was an experienced combat aviator with over 3,000 flying hours.

Fuchida was responsible for coordination of the entire aerial attack on Pearl; working under the fleet commander Vice Admiral ChÅ«ichi Nagumo. Due to favorable atmospheric conditions, the transmission of the “Tora! Tora! Tora!” code words from the moderately powered onboard transmitter were heard by Admiral Yamamoto and his staff over the ship’s radio in Japan, where they had been sitting up all night waiting for word on the attack.


Signed book: From Pearl Harbor to Golgotha
First edition. San Jose: Sky Pilots Press, 1953

Signed in fountain pen on the front free end page,
Mitsuo Fuchida, Luke 23:34

Fuchida was wounded at the Battle of Midway. Unable to fly while recovering from an emergency shipboard appendectomy a few days before the battle, he was present on the ship’s bridge during the morning attacks.

After Akagi was hit by U.S. bombers, a chain reaction from burning fuel and live bombs destroyed the ship. While attempting to evacuate the burning bridge, an explosion blew him to the deck, breaking both his ankles.

After the Japanese surrender,  Fuchida became a Christian evangelist and traveled throughout the United States and Europe telling his story  as a member of the Worldwide Christian Missionary Army of Sky Pilots. He settled permanently in the U.S. but never became a citizen.

30 May 1976 – Fuchida died near Osaka from complications caused by diabetes. He was 73.

Mitsuo Fuchida on wikipedia


Akagi underway 6 weeks before her destruction at Midway

imageThe Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi; built 1920–27 by Kure Naval Arsenal, in service: 1927–42.  The second Japanese aircraft carrier to enter service, went on to become the flagship of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

rt:  stern view of Akagi off Osaka on 15 October 1934. On deck are Mitsubishi B1M and B2M bombers (2,151 × 2,451 pixels)

After participating in the attack on Pearl , she went on to the Battle of Midway in June 1942, and was severely damaged by dive bombers from USS Enterprise (CV-6).

When it became obvious she could not be saved, she was scuttled by Japanese destroyers to prevent her from falling into enemy hands.

The loss of Akagi and three other Japanese carriers at Midway was a crucial strategic defeat for Japan and contributed significantly to the Allies’ ultimate victory in the Pacific.

carrier Akagi
on wikipedia


The entire miniature effects shooting schedule was around 40 days

imageIn the movie’s opening scenes, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto meets his officers aboard a battleship. The ship was a full scale replica, complete from bow to stern, and had even a mock-up floatplane on a catapult.

It was built on a beach in Japan, next to the replica of the aircraft-carrier “Akagi.” The Akagi set consisted of about two-thirds of the deck and the island area.

Tora! Tora! Tora! trivia on IMDb


Artwork done for the movie’s release
by artist Robert McCall for Twentieth Century-Fox

This art was used for movie posters, theater lobbycards, and on the soundtrack album.

more examples on DavesWarBirds


Japanese actor Eijirō Tōno as Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo,
Commander-in-Chief, 1st Air Fleet (image)

image_thumb.pngChÅ«ichi Nagumo (1887 – 1944)  admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy who committed suicide during the Battle of Saipan.

Graduated eighth in his class of 191 cadets from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1908.

After attending torpedo and naval artillery schools, he was promoted to sub-lieutenant. Promoted to lieutenant in 1914 and and was assigned to the battlecruiser Kirishima.

Graduated from the Naval War College, and  promoted to lieutenant commander in 1920, with a specialty in torpedo and destroyer tactics. Promoted to  commander in 1924.

From 1925-1926, Nagumo accompanied a Japanese mission to study naval warfare strategy, tactics, and equipment in Europe and the United States.

Served as an instructor at the Japanese Naval Academy from 1927-1929, then promoted to rear admiral on 1 November 1935. Commandant of the Torpedo School 1937-1938, promoted to vice admiral on 15 November 1939.

imageOn 10 April 1941, Nagumo was appointed Commander in Chief of the First Air Fleet, the Imperial Japanese Navy′s main aircraft carrier force. Many contemporaries and historians have doubted his suitability for this command, given his lack of familiarity with naval aviation.  image right

Nagumo oversaw the primary attack on Pearl Harbor, but was later criticized for his failure to launch a third wave, which might have destroyed the fuel oil storage and repair facilities, rendering useless the most important American naval base in the Pacific.



Martin Balsam as Admiral Husband E. Kimmel,
Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet

Husband Edward Kimmel (1882 – 1968) a four-star admiral in the United States Navy. He was removed from command after the attack on Pearl and reduced to the two-star rank of rear admiral, at which he retired.

Kimmel graduated in 1904 from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. In January 1941 Kimmel began duties as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet with a brevet rank of admiral. In this role he earned a reputation for attention to detail, if sometimes at the expense of larger structural planning.

imageCombat Intelligence Officer Edwin T. Layton related that during the attack “Kimmel stood by the window of his office at the submarine base, his jaw set in stony anguish.”

As he watched the disaster across the harbor unfold, a spent .50 caliber machine gun bullet crashed through the glass. It brushed the admiral before it clanged to the floor. It cut his white jacket and raised a welt on his chest. “It would have been merciful had it killed me,” Kimmel murmured to his communications officer.

Husband Kimmel on wikipedia


Husband A. Kimmel, Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet


E. G. Marshall as Colonel Rufus S. Bratton,
Chief, Far Eastern Section, Military Intelligence

Colonel Rufus Sumter Bratton (1892 – 1958) –  Graduated West Point in 1914, posted to Oahu as a Lieutenant in the 1st Infantry Regiment, where he served until the regiment returned to the continental U.S. in 1917.

From 1922 to 1924 Bratton learned Japanese as a student officer in Japan, followed by an appointment to be an assistant military attaché in Tokyo. In 1931 he returned to Japan and attended the Japanese Imperial War College. The next year he became military attaché at the American Embassy.

imageIn early 1937 he was appointed to the War Department as a member of the Army General Staff’s Military Intelligence Division with responsibility for the Far East and especially Japan.

As Chief of the Far Eastern Section, Colonel Bratton was one of the few men, military or civilian, privileged to be given access to the product of American cryptanalysis efforts against Japanese secret codes, known as Magic.

Bratton was one of the first officers to receive the intercepted final section of the Fourteen Part Message breaking off diplomatic relations early on the morning of December 7.

Believing an attack to be imminent, the Philippines and the Panama Canal Zone (believed to be most likely targets) received  warnings by radio, but poor atmospheric conditions  blocked radio communications with Hawaii and the warning was sent as a telegram. By the time the warning message was delivered at Pearl, the attack was already underway.


by artist Robert McCall for Twentieth Century-Fox
more examples on DavesWarBirds


Jason Robards as Lieutenant General Walter C. Short,
Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Forces Hawaii

Walter Campbell Short (1880 – 1949)  Major general in the US Army and the military commander responsible for the defense of US military installations in Hawaii at the time of the attack on Pearl.

Unlike some of his predecessors in Hawaii, Short was more concerned with sabotage from Japanese-Americans on Oahu, and this led to Army planes parked in such a way as to make them more vulnerable to aerial attack.

imageOn December 17, 1941, General Short was removed from command of the US Army’s Hawaiian Department, and ordered back to Washington, D.C. in disgrace.

The Roberts Commission, headed by US Supreme Court Associate Justice Owen J. Roberts, was formed soon after the attack on the Hawaiian Islands.

General Short, along with Navy Commander in Chief, US Fleet and Pacific Fleet, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, was accused of being unprepared and charged with dereliction of duty.

On May 25, 1999, the United States Senate passed a non- binding resolution exonerating Kimmel and Short by a 52 to 47 vote.




James Whitmore as Vice Admiral William F. Halsey,
Commander, Aircraft Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (image)

Admiral William Frederick Halsey, Jr ( 1882 – 1959) aka  “Bull” Halsey, commander of the South Pacific Area during the early stages of the Pacific War against Japan, later commander of the Third Fleet through the duration of hostilities.

imageBorn in Elizabeth, New Jersey, son of US Navy Captain William F. Halsey, Sr..

After waiting two years to receive an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, the young Halsey decided to study medicine at the University of Virginia and then join the Navy as a physician.

After his first year, Halsey received his appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, and entered the Academy in the Fall of 1900.

Graduated 1904, sailed with the main battle fleet aboard the battleship Missouri as Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet circumnavigated the globe from 1907 to 1909.

Lieutenant Commander Halsey’s World War I service, including command of USS Shaw in 1918, was sufficiently distinguished to earn a Navy Cross.  Halsey earned his Naval Aviator’s Wings on May 15, 1935 at the advanced age of 52, the oldest person to do so in the history of the US Navy.

Halsey was a firm believer in the aircraft carrier as the primary naval offensive weapon system. When he testified at Admiral Kimmel’s hearing after the Pearl Harbor debacle, he stated that the Americans had to “get to the other fellow with everything you have as fast as you can and to dump it on him.”

Having been ordered to ferry aircraft to reinforce Wake Island (which they thought would be the target), Halsey was 150 miles out at sea when he got word of the attack on Pearl.


Halsey, aboard the USS Enterprise, slipped back into Pearl Harbor on the evening of December 8. Surveying the wreckage of the Pacific Fleet, he remarked, “Before we’re through with them, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.”



Shogo Shimada as Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura,
Japanese Ambassador to the United States (image)

Kichisaburō Nomura (1877 – 1964; aged 86) Admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy and ambassador to the United States at the time of the attack.

imagert: Ambassador Nomura presents his credentials to President Roosevelt at the White House. “Sorry, wrong folder…”

Graduated  Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1898, promoted to lieutenant on September 26, 1903, served as chief navigator on the cruiser Saien (1904), and cruiser Takachiho during the Russo-Japanese War.

Promoted to lieutenant commander on September 25, 1908, and became naval attaché to Germany in 1910.

During World War I, from 11 December 1914 until 1 June 1918, Nomura was naval attaché to the United States.

imageParticipated in the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-1922. On June 1, 1922, promoted to rear admiral. Promoted to vice admiral on December 1, 1926. Promoted to full admiral on March 1, 1933.

From 1933-1937, he served as Naval Councilor on the Supreme War Council, and retired from active service in 1937.  Foreign Minister of Japan from 1939-1940, sent as ambassador to the United States November 27, 1940.

After the war, Nomura denied that he knew beforehand of the plans to attack Pearl Harbor.  In his memoirs, Secretary of State Cordell Hull credited Nomura with having been sincere in trying to prevent war between Japan and the USA.



Edward Andrews (an avid yachtsman) as Admiral Harold Stark, Chief of Naval Operations

imageHarold Rainsford Stark ( 1880 – 1972) officer in the United States Navy during World Wars I and II, Chief of Naval Operations, from August 1, 1939 to 26 March 1942.

Enrolled in the United States Naval Academy in 1899 and graduated with the class of 1903. Served on the battleship USS Minnesota before and during the Atlantic Fleet’s cruise around the world.

Served on the staff of Commander, US Naval Forces operating in Europe from November 1917 to January 1919.

In August 1939, Stark became Chief of Naval Operations with the rank of Admiral. Orchestrated the Navy’s change to adopting unrestricted submarine warfare in case of war with Japan; which he expressly ordered it at 17.52 Washington time on 7 December 1941, not quite four hours after the attack on Pearl.  It appears the decision was taken without the knowledge or prior consent of the government, violating the London Naval Treaty, to which the U.S. was signatory.

In March 1942, Stark was relieved as CNO and sent to England the next month to become Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe.  In October 1943, and he supervised USN participation in the landings at Normandy. Afterward, he faced a Court of Inquiry over his actions leading up to Pearl Harbor.

above rt: Admiral Harold R. Stark, USN



Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo be all gettin’ his Philosophy on an’ shit


Les images du film
see (1920 × 1200)


Filming battleships by artist Robert McCall

Visual effects for Tora! Tora! Tora! ran in excess of $1.25 million in 1970 dollars. The (ship) model shoot was staged and filmed in a 20th Century Fox’s 3-foot-deep tank and took about 40 days to complete.

imageBlue vegetable dye was added to the water to help hide all the underwater rigging and detergent was added to produce the white water in the storm sequence.

To create the wind and surface wave effects six massive converted aircraft fans along with four large truck mounted fans and 15 wind machine fans were strategically placed around the tank.

The torpedoes were simulated by a cable that pulled a compressed air nozzle and hose along under water leaving a trail of bubbles. The water spouts caused by the torpedo detonations was created by small charges, just below the surface, blowing gypsum powder into the air to simulate fine water spray.


80 foot camera crane achieves POV down view of Battleship Row
miniature set as seen by attacking Zero’s.


some footage never made it into the final cut +


Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi

This 1/2″ to the foot scale model was nearly thirty feet long. (full size)


Battleship Row conflagration aerial view


The Fox tank at Malibu
(more on


The miniature effects budget alone was $1,250,000


“You want confirmation?  There’s your confirmation!”

All action set pieces were multi-camera affairs,
and often “one take is all we’ve got” deals.  +


Engineman 1st Class Ronnie Choate adjusts a model of OS2U Kingfisher seaplane aboard a large-scale model of the battleship Nevada (BB-36). The model was originally used in the filming of the 1970 motion picture “Tora! Tora! Tora!” see full size on NavSource


Tora! Tora! Tora!
(20th Century Fox, 1970). One Sheet (27″ X 41″)
for sale on Heritage Auction

above, full size

Sources and Further Reading:

The Ships of TORA! TORA! TORA!

Tora Tora Tora 1970

Oscar winning expertise recreates day of infamy at Pearl Harbour

on Matte Shot – a tribute to Golden Era Special FX

The Report of the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack


Rise of Imperial Japan: COMICS! Leading to Pearl Harbor

Attack on PEARL HARBOR: COMICS: Part 1

Attack on Pearl Harbor: COMICS: Part 2

Attack on Pearl Harbor:IN COMICS! Part 3

comic insets from Countdown to Infamy


A glaringly patriotic spread from the wartime comic,
Remember Pearl Harbor

(1024 x 751)


Adventures of the Blackgang on tumblr
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