The film was considered a flop when it was released in the U.S., but was a huge success in Japan.
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Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto most likely did not utter his famous quote about having "roused a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve." It seems to be a post-war invention based on Yamamoto's actual beliefs on the likely outcome of war with the U.S., and his affinity for the U.S. in general. It appears to be a more dramatic re-write of a letter he sent a month after the attack, in which he wrote: "A military man can scarcely pride himself on having 'smitten a sleeping enemy'. It is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack." By contrast, his warning earlier in the film about attacking the U.S. that begins with "If I am told to fight, I shall run wild for the first six months" is largely accurate.
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The wounded sailor shown firing back at the strafing Japanese planes late in the film near the conclusion of the attack is based on Chief Ordnanceman John Finn, who was stationed at Kaneohe Naval Air Station on December 7, 1941. He set up a .50 caliber machine gun mount, and despite being wounded several times, fired back at strafing Zero fighters during the second attack wave, hitting several of them, and even shooting down one, piloted by combat unit leader Lieutenant Fusata Iida. Finn was later awarded the Medal of Honor for valor beyond the call of duty.
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When Japanese characters refer to the date of the attack, they actually say "December 8." It's technically correct, as Japan is a day ahead of the U.S. It was translated as "December 7" in the subtitles to avoid confusing U.S. audiences.
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The African-American mess attendant seen shooting at the Japanese planes is based on Seaman First Class Doris "Dorie" Miller who was stationed on the U.S.S. West Virginia. He was the first African-American to be awarded the Navy Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor in the U.S. Armed Forces Order of Precedence. Without any training, he fired an unattended machine gun at the Japanese aircraft until it was out of ammunition. Cuba Gooding Jr. portrayed him in Pearl Harbor (2001).
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The film's failure in North America was partly blamed on opposition to the Vietnam War. Young moviegoers weren't interested in a movie about World War II, and couldn't understand what was controversial about attacking a naval base.
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The P-40 crashing in the flight line was an unplanned accident. It was a life-sized mock-up powered by a gasoline engine turning the propeller and steered using wheel brakes, just like a real airplane, but specifically designed not to fly. The aircraft shown was loaded with explosives to be detonated by radio control at a specific point down the runway. Stunt performers were strategically located and rehearsed which way to run. Soon after the plane began taxiing down the runway, it began to lift off the ground and turn to the left, toward a group of other mock-ups that had also been wired with explosives, but weren't scheduled to be destroyed until later. The explosives in the first P-40 were detonated on the spot to keep it from destroying the other planes. The stuntmen were really running for their lives. The special effect was filmed with multiple cameras so it could be reused in other shots.
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The Japanese airplanes flown in the movie were all converted American trainers. No genuine Japanese warbirds could be found in flying condition at the time. Several American planes had to be rebuilt at a cost of about $30,000 each. They were later sold at auction for about $1,500 each, and most are still flying in private hands.
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In the 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 a mock-up float plane 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.
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Of all the time and money spent by Akira Kurosawa, less than one minute of the film he shot is in the final release version.
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Producer Elmo Williams wanted to make the film as historically accurate as possible. After he put together an initial script, he sought out Professor Gordon W. Prange, regarded as the foremost authority on the attack on Pearl Harbor. One of Dr. Prange's books, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" had been a huge bestseller in Japan, and provided source material for this film. Williams asked Dr. Prange to check the script scene by scene for accuracy. Prange made numerous corrections and suggestions.
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Many of the replica Japanese planes were also used in Midway (1976), The Final Countdown (1980), and Pearl Harbor (2001).
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Numerous active-duty U.S. Navy personnel appeared in the movie. The Navy only allowed them to work during their off-duty hours, and the production had to pay them as they would any other extras.
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One unidentified civilian pilot hired to fly the Japanese aircraft was taken by a line of stage direction in the script that read, "Watanabe smiles." After each successful shot, when the aerial coordinator announced his satisfaction, the pilot would announce on his radio, "Watanabe smiles." A civilian plane inadvertently flew into their formation during filming, forcing them to perform emergency evasive maneuvers. The aerial coordinator performed an immediate inventory of flying aircraft, and announced his relief that disaster had been avoided. The unknown pilot announced, "Watanabe shits!"
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The U.S.S. Yorktown (CVS-10) was disguised as the Japanese carrier "Kaga" to film scenes of aircraft taking off and landing. It was fitted with a false bow to disguise the catapults. It was unofficially named "U.S.S. Kaga" for the duration of filming. While steam appears to be leaking from the bow, Japanese carriers used steam to indicate wind speed and direction over the bow. The steam trail was lined up with the painted white lines on the bow. The U.S.S. Enterprise entering Pearl Harbor at the end of the movie was actually the U.S.S. Kearsarge (CVS-33).
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Many of the replica Japanese aircraft are owned by members of the Commemorative Air Force, an organization that specializes in re-enactments and aircraft preservation. They are used every year in the annual CAF air show, where a re-enactment of the Pearl Harbor attack takes place. This has been going on since 1972.
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When Akira Kurosawa was fired from the production, the Japanese sequences were at least three weeks behind schedule. Producer Elmo Williams solved the problem by hiring two Japanese directors to head two production units as replacements. Toshio Masuda handled the dramatic scenes. He had directed about 25 features in a decade. Kinji Fukasaku had experience directing large-scale action scenes and scenes involving special effects.
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Akira Kurosawa attempted to cast friends and business associates, including some high-level industrialists, in key roles in the film's Japanese segments as a quid pro quo for later funding of future films. 20th Century Fox was not amused by this, and finally the breach between 20th Century Fox and Kurosawa became the cause for his dismissal from the project.
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Shôgo Shimada and Hisao Toake were the only cast members to work with the Japanese and American units. Shimada's English dialogue was looped by Paul Frees.
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The two pilots named by Admiral William F. Halsey during the target practice scene, Dickinson and Anderson, were both real members of bombing squadrons aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise in December 1941. LT Dickinson was one of the Enterprise's SBD Dauntless pilots shot down during the Pearl Harbor attack when their flight ran into the attack on their way to land at Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor. During the attack, Dickinson's rear-gunner William Miller shot down a Japanese aircraft; this is considered one of, if not the first, Japanese aircraft shot down by U.S. Navy aircraft; however, Miller ultimately did not survive the battle. Surviving that incident, Dickinson would go on to help sink the Japanese submarine I-70 on December 10, 1941; the first enemy ship sunk by the U.S. Navy after the Pearl Harbor attack. Dickinson survived the War and retired from the Navy as a Rear Admiral.
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The Japanese aircraft in the film were highly modified American AT-6 and BT-13 trainers. The fighters, "Zeros", were AT-6s, the dive bombers, "Vals", were BT-13s and the torpedo and level bombers, "Kates," consisted of AT-6 fronts and wings, and BT-13 tails.
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One of the B-17s shown in the film has been fully restored and (as of 2000) is on display at the Yankee Air Force museum in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
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Contrary to some belief, the film did not introduce the line spoken by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." That line was already famous, which is the reason for its inclusion in the film. Naval historian George W. Prange (author of the book "At Dawn We Slept") recorded eyewitness accounts in his book from individuals who were in the room with Admiral Yamamoto, as well as those who heard what he said after the attack.
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The peak filmed and pointed out by the actors as the site for the new radar antenna, where they were having trouble securing access from local forestry officials, is nowhere near Opana Point. The peak is actually Puu Kanehoalani on Oahu's east coast. It is one of the narrowest and most inaccessible peaks on the island, even for daring mountain climbers.
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This is believed to be the first major Hollywood production to be distributed on Fujicolor release prints.
The mock-ups of the American ships in Pearl Harbor were constructed upon ocean-going barges, which were extremely expensive to rent, causing Director Richard Fleischer to comment during production, "If the Japanese had attacked us with ocean-going barges, we couldn't afford to make this film!"
The woman giving the flying lesson as the Japanese approach Pearl Harbor is based on the real-life Cornelia Fort, who was 22 at the time. Fort's plane, an Interstate Cadet, was chased and strafed during the attack while landing at a nearby civilian airport with a student on board. Fort later joined the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Service. In March 1943, she died in a mid-air collision near Abilene, Texas, the first WAFS pilot to die on active duty.
Roger Ebert gave the film one star, calling it "one of the deadest, dullest blockbusters ever made".
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Filming began in 1968.
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The film was shot at the U.S. Naval Station Pearl Harbor. Many of the ships seen in the background, had been extensively modified, but were still recognizable as World War II-era ships, most prominently Fletcher-class destroyers, that could substitute quite well for the older but similar-looking ships in port on December 7, 1941.
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The P-40s destroyed on the ground are full-scale mock-ups, some remote-controlled to taxi.
The bandanna, or "hachimaki", Commander Mitsuo Fuchida wore on his flight to Honolulu translates to "Certain Victory". He flew in the lead Nakajima B5N2 bomber with Lieutenant Mitsuo Matazaki piloting and Norinobu Mizuki navigating.
Footage from this film was also used in Pearl (1978), a television miniseries about the Pearl Harbor attack. Some of the Pearl Harbor footage also was used in depicting the Japanese air attacks on Midway on June 4, 1942 in Midway (1976), and on Port Darwin on February 19, 1942 in Australia (2008).
The U.S. Navy's Office of Information was inundated with complaints after the military agreed to allow active-duty U.S. military personnel to participate in the re-creation of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Some saw it as glorifying Japanese aggression and showing Americans as unprepared.
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Tatsuya Mihashi was a highly popular and prolific actor throughout the 1950s and 1960s. After completing this film, he didn't appear in another one for about ten years. In the following 25 years, he appeared in 6 feature films and several made-for-TV movies before his death in 2004.
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During filming, the officer on watch on the quarterdeck of the USS Waddell, which had arrived the day before on her way to Vietnam, sounded General Quarters when he saw what looked like 26 hostile torpedo bombers approaching low over the water. His microphone announcement included the phrase "This is not a drill!". The ship, freshly drilled to fight jet aircraft or cruise missiles, ran a missile out on the rail, bringing the full size 5-inch 54 mounts to bear, and terrifying everybody in the harbor. Fortunately the ship was frantically signaled not to shoot down the planes in time to avoid a catastrophe.
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The ship used to portray the U.S.S. Ward (DD-139), an updated World War I "Flush Deck" destroyer, was the U.S.S. Finch (DER-328), a highly modified World War II Edsall-class destroyer escort. The Finch bears no resemblance to the Ward.
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When shown the movie, survivors of the attack from both sides said it was the most accurate representation of the events that happened leading to and on that day.
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The Japanese section of the film was originally to be directed by Akira Kurosawa.
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The manned radar antenna site depicted as "Opana Point" was actually Koko Head, which is just above Oahu's famous Hanauma Bay. This is on the opposite side of the island from the real-life location. Today it is home to many antennae including the FAA's CKH VORTAC.
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When the officer tells the pilot "No, you idiot, it's your own flagship," he is technically correct. The Japanese carrier Akagi was the flagship of Carrier Division 1, and carried the flag of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo.
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The scene where the military band keeps playing "The Star Spangled Banner" even while they are under attack is in keeping with military code: when the US national anthem is played, it must be played through regardless under any circumstance. So, when the conductor starts frantically accelerating the piece's tempo as the Japanese attack begins, he is keeping to military protocol while trying to give himself and the band the soonest opportunity to take cover.
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Development of this production started in 1966.
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Since the U.S. military presently runs a restricted communications installation at the site, the memorial dedicated to the role of Opana Point in World War II is located down the road, between the hotel lobby and beach of the Turtle Bay Resort.
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Kenneth M. Taylor, one of the U.S. Army fighter pilots who managed to take off to challenge the Japanese attack, visited the set during filming. By 1968, he was a retired Colonel in the U.S. Air Force and a Brigadier General in the Alaska Air National Guard.
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The original draft of the combined script ran 675 pages.
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Though mentioned and referenced several times, Emperor Hirohito and President Franklin D. Roosevelt don't appear in the film.
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While on location at Wheeler Field, the crew took pictures of Director of Photography Charles F. Wheeler posing near a sign that read "Help keep Wheeler clean."
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When a large-scale production about the attack on Pearl Harbor was being suggested, it was discovered that 20th Century Fox had already optioned a book about the subject, Ladislas Farago's "The Broken Seal", upon which much of the script would be based.
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Jerry Goldsmith's opening theme merges two completely different musical styles. It's a fugue with a theme written in the modal scale and a rhythm heard in traditional Japanese music. The fugue is an old western musical form which reached its zenith in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach during the Baroque period.
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The film was deliberately cast with character actors so the focus would be on the story.
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Though he's one of the few American actors receiving major billing, Joseph Cotten has just over a minute of screen time.
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YTM-195 is seen in the firefighting scenes during the battle. This was the U.S.S. Yonaguska (YTM-195). It was a harbor tug assigned to the submarine base at the time the film was made.
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In the early stages of the attack scenes, one U.S. destroyer visible in the background is marked 446. It's the U.S.S. Radford, a Fletcher-class destroyer that saw significant service in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Commissioned in 1942 and retired in 1969, Radford received: 12 battle stars and 2 Presidental Unit Citations for World War II, 5 battle stars for the Korean War, 4 battle stars for Vietnam, and the Armed Force's Expeditionary Medal. She was scrapped in 1970.
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At various points, 30 aircraft were in the air at any one time.
As there were no Japanese navy to speak of following WWII, the Japanese ships depicted in this film were made of balsa wood.
One of the highlight shots planned for the Pearl Harbor attack scene was the collapse of the U.S.S. Arizona's forward tripod mast after the ship had been destroyed. The shot was scrapped when the special effects team told the filmmakers they could not guarantee what would happen when the collapse was triggered.
Martin Balsam (Admiral Kimmel) previously appeared in Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse: The Time Element (1958), which likewise concerned the attack on Pearl Harbor.
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Average shot length = ~7.1 seconds. Median shot length = ~6.9 seconds.
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The film takes place from August 1939 to December 7, 1941.
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Although this was a huge spectacle, and one of he most expensive productions up to that time, it was shot on standard 35mm film using the Panavision anamorphic widescreen system. An optical blowup from the 35mm negative was used to create the 70mm release prints for showing in those venues.
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The film cast starts two Oscar winners: Jason Robards, Jr. and Martin Balsam; and one Oscar nominee: James Whitmore.
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This was the ninth highest-grossing film of 1970.
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Several members of the cast and crew were actual World War II veterans. Actors Martin Balsam, Keith Andes and G.D. Spradlin served in the U.S. Army Air Forces, while James Whitmore was an officer in the Marine Corps. Actors Jason Robards and Bill Zuckert and cinematographer Charles F. Wheeler were in the Navy during the War, while actors Wesley Addy, Norman Alden, Frank Aletter, Richard Anderson, Edward Andrews, Neville Brand, Walter Brooke, Paul Frees, Arthur Tovey and Harlan Warde all served in the Army. Executive producer Darryl F. Zanuck served in the Army in both World War I and World War II. Author and technical consultant Gordon W. Prange served in the Navy and was later appointed chief historian in General Douglas MacArthur's staff. Some cast and crew members served before or after WWII: Actor Leon Ames served in the field artillery of the Army and later in the flying corps (the Army Air Service) during World War I. Actor Jamie Farr was also in the Army but served in the Korean War, assigned to the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS). Actor Ron Masak was enlisted in the Army in the early 1960s, performing in the all-Army show entitled "Rolling Along", while DOD project officer and naval coordinator E.P. Stafford was a Commander in the Navy.
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The entire film was edited in the United States.
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The film took three years in preparation and eight months in production.
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Lieutenant Commander Kramer's wife drives a 1940 Cadillac.
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In 1967, it was announced that Rod Steiger would be toplining " Tora Tora Tora ".
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