Movie companies today put disclaimers on older films for various portrayals, especially regarding race and culture. They point out the inappropriate language, behavior or treatment of some people in the older films, by today's standards.
And, they note that to expunge or change the film to eliminate such material after the fact, would be a denial of the facts and truth that such things had occurred in history as portrayed. Therefore, they have significant historical value in educating society about those times and behaviors of the past. This film is a must for any serious war film collection. Linking up with a US Navy battle task force in the South Pacific, in late July , a US Marine troop ship gets the word that it's men are to be part of the invasion of the Japanese held Solomon Islands landing at a place called Gudalcanal.
Heading the invasion force is Marine Col.
Wallace Grayson, Minor Watson, of the 1st. Marine Div. As D-Day, August 7, , approaches there's an eerie feeling among the Marines on deck that this first land battle is going to be a lot different then any thing that they could possibly imagined, they were right. Johnny "Chicken" Anderson storm ashore on Gaudalcanal only to find that the Japanese are nowhere to be found and the "stiff resistance" that they expected was almost non-existent.
Caught off guard and by surprise the Japanese defenders took off in the jungles and caves on the island. It's there that they waited to be reinforces by fresh Nippon army and marine units from the neighboring Japanese-held islands of Rabaul and Bouganinvillea. With the US Marines capturing the Japanese air-field on the island, renaming it Henderson Field, and having much needed supplies flown in everything look up for the leathernecks and the battle of Guadalcanal seems just about over.
The truth later turned out to be that the battle only began and would last some eight months. Making the Marines in the movie more human with real emotions and feeling about surviving the battle and coming back home when the war's finally over. We also see the Japanese as both tough and effective, as well as cunning,soldiers not the wild-eyed and mindless fanatics were used to seeing, in the many war movies released back then.
Thus giving the American public a better idea of what the men in both the US Marines and Army were fighting in the war in the Pacific. The US Marines at first being told by a captured Japanese soldier that his unit is ready to surrender send a patrol to the off-shore island village of Matanikau only to find that the Japanese troops waiting for them.
In an ambush the Japanese wiped out the entire Marine patrol, including it's commanding officer Capt. Cross ,Roy Roberts. Alvarez, Anthony Quinn, was the only survivor who escapes by swimming out at sea. It now becomes apparent that the Japanese are not giving up that easily and the Maines dig in for the major battles that are soon to come. In a tough sea air and land campaign the US and Japanese forces slug it out as the Japanese Navy tries to cut off reinforcements to the Marines on the Island.
Leaving them isolated and sitting ducks for their massive naval and air attacks. The fighting goes on unabated until the US finally breaks through the Japanese blockade. As new Army as well as Marine unites land on the Island, and on Novermber 11, launch a major counter-attack that clears Gudalcanal of Japanese troops.
The Japanese, unlike in the movie, were successfully evacuated by sea not massacred on the beaches by the Marines and GI's. Still the battle of Gudalcanal was the first of many Japanese held island taken by US forces that eventually lead to the defeat of Japan in the late summer of With all the action and heroics in the movie the most moving scene in the film is when the Marines, underground in their bunker, are being hit by a nerve wracking and murderous Japanese naval and air bombardment.
The Marines acted like you would expect to act under the same circumstances, scared and afraid. Aloysius "Taxi" Potts, William Bendix, put it best when he says "I'm no hero I'm just a guy I've come out her because somebody had to come, I don't want no medals I just want to get this over with and go back home".
The ensemble cast of this film made it the fine war film it is. Most of the cast had starring roles in other films. Guadalcanal was a turning point in the Pacific War as it ended a series of Japanese successes and began the shrinking of their Pacific conquests. Others have pointed out the historical inaccuracies including the fact that the Japanese survivors were successfully evacutated from the island and not driven into the sea as depicted in the final battle.
One shocking inaccuracy I noticed took place on the second day of the Marine landing. The first night, while huddled in foxholes, they hear gunfire off shore and comments that "The Navy is busy tonight. Grayson Minor Watson comments, "We lost four cruisers but we beat them off good. Navy suffered one of its worst defeats in history in the battle of Savo Island. The Japanese commander was hardly "beaten off" but decided to withdraw after sinking 4 Allied cruisers Canberra, Astoria, Quincy and Vincennes because he thought U.
In fact, they had departed and the Japanese commander could have destroyed the entire invasion fleet and the outcome would have been far different. What proved to be an eventual allied victory, came within a hairs-breath of being a disastrous defeat. While the Marines have received the lion's share of the glory, well deserved, Guadalcanal took the lives of many more Navy personnel than Marines. The many horrific night naval battles took a heavy toll and the waters north of Guadalcanal were aptly renamed "Ironbottom Sound. The movie about the five Sullivan brothers, who all died when their ship Juneau was sunk with only 10 survivors in the bloody waters of Guadalcanal, was just a small part of the carnage the Navy suffered there.
Guadalcanal Diary is a stirring tribute to the Marine Corps and a accurate portrayal of what they endured on that wretched island. Outstanding recounting of the U. Marine invasion of Guadalcanal Island. Thankfully free of much of the harsh jingoistic tone and phony heroics so evident in films such as Ray Enright's "Gung Ho! The film does, in fact, have a definite Warners look and feel to it, and could easily be mistaken as a work by legendary Warners director Raoul Walsh, although it was actually directed by Lewis Seiler--like Walsh a Warners alumnus, and while Seiler is not in Walsh's league, this is far and away his best and most accomplished picture and if any of you can figure out what the hell poster Christopher Mulrooney is talking about in a preceding review of this film, I wish you'd tell me.
A previous poster has mentioned that the picture has some rather glaring historical inaccuracies, and I have no doubt that he's correct. Still, this is an exciting and riveting film--and, surprisingly enough, often a quite touching one, a quality not often associated with war pictures--that I believe truly deserves its reputation as one of the best war films to come out of Hollywood.
Guadalcanal Diary is one of those rare films made during World War Two that manages to show the audience what it was like for the men on the front lines, albeit not in the fashion of movies about this time that would be made years later. The actors manage to convey the wide eyed wounder that many of the men had when going into battle for the first time, then how the grim reality of war changed them and the reality that not all of them may make it out alive. The later is best shown during the night attack by the Japanese air and naval forces. During the attack, Cpl.
Aloysius "Taxi" Potts William Bendix gives a monologue in which he states that he is scared and doesn't care who hears him say it.
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During his speech, Potts states that this is all over his head and that its up to someone bigger then him. What I mean is I I guess it's up to God. And I'm not kidding when I say I sure hope he knows how l feel. I'm not going to say I'm sorry for everything I've done. When you're scared like this, the first thing you do is start trying to square things.
- Twist of Fate.
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- GUADALCANAL: THE FIRST OFFENSIVE by John Miller Jr..
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If I get out of this alive, I'll probably go out and do the same things all over again. The only thing I know is I didn't ask to get in this spot.
7 Things You Didn't Know About Guadalcanal
And if we get it In the end, Guadalcanal Diary is a strong, character driven movie. At the same time, while the battle scenes are "clean" and the hardships endured by the Marines are not fully emphasized, the film still manages to show what it took for them to win this battle. KUAlum26 9 May Considering that this was a WWII movie released in ,while the war was still going and a ways from being resolved,this movie was probably as effective and convincing as you were going to get for the period. Certainly,given the state of the nation's need to keep the national morale up for the war effort,anything too graphic or too gritty would besides probably raise the dander of the censorship standards of the day probably would've deflated the efforts to get stateside citizenry to buying war bonds,cutting usage of certain products metals come first to mind and probably would've helped undercut the Roosevelt administrations efforts to keep the war push at the rate it was going.
If it's too soft,it becomes mostly jingoistic and loses just about all of the entertainment value it could possibly have. Fortunately perhaps by design,maybe not ,the makers of this movie were able to strike the right--if perhaps unremarkable--balance. Being a grandchild of the generations being showcased here erstwhile known by some as "The Greatest Generation" ,I have only stories told or written about the two theaters of war effort,not to mention the movies. Of course,as more years would pass between the conclusion of that war,the movies that would be made many of them sprung from books would become grittier,harsher,a little less glossy or idealistic,and ultimately,more graphically violent.
THerefore,I And I'm guessing many of my generation could view this movie somewhat jadedly: the dialog is so simple and full of gaps that it almost feels like it could be parodied on Mystery Science Theatre ,add in the fact that many of the "kills" and soldiers dropping dead are noticeably staged and forced looking and you have a film that might have a hard time being instantly compelling to people who've seen things ranging from The Great EScape to Saving Private Ryan.
Still,there ARE saving graces to this movie that make it stand the test of time: --The earnest and no-nonsense portrayal of battle and the basic emotions between MArines,from deployment aboard a battleship carrier,right on through the two month battle to claim and seal off the island,is honest enough that anyone who's been through battle,known someone who has been or still is at war can feel some common relationship with the characters in the film.
Some poignant lines are spoken by the perceived comic relief of the film a brash,slightly dense private from Brooklyn played by luggish William Bendix and the wise yet quietly strong chaplain Preston Brooks ,among others,to give this film some heft and --The battle scenes are concise and tight,showcasing plenty of gunfire,explosions,bombings and other various forms of combat violence WITHOUT being tedious or trivial. They are not neat,pretty or always with the desirable outcomes,but they are neither futile nor random. MOst of the characters here seem like composites,no doubt probably an amalgam of Mostly young MArines and Army men that script co-writer with Lamar Trotti and book source writer Richard Tregaskis met while covering the Pacific Theatre of Operations in the war.
I imagine there was pressure on the studio and director Lewis Seiler to crank out this film as fast as possible to stoke the fires of stateside interest in the war effort,so if the finished product doesn't exactly shine,I think he and the people making this movie can be forgiven. All in all,this is a film to recommend for those who are curious about movies set around WWII,particularly films about it that are IN the moment,when America was only able to have so much perspective on it. A realistic story of U.
Marines preparing and landing on the small island in the South Pacific; not only is there the danger of the entrenched Japanese forces, this devoted platoon battles treacherous terrain, disease and torrential weather. There is also the inner loneliness in spite of faithful camaraderie. An action-packed story told through the eyes of a war correspondent Reed Hadley.
You can always count on the Marines. One of my favorite sequences is as the movie ends with the war tested leaving the island and passing the new green soldiers having no idea what they are in for. An all star cast makes for one of the best war movies of its era. This wasn't bad, when you compare it to the average World War II film made back in the s. In the first half, it had too many of the same negative aspects that many of its contemporary war movies had at the time.
The narration was corny and the dialog by the GIs here is so dated and so racist it's embarrassing. Hey, I am the first to acknowledge how political correctness has run amok in recent years and, in fact, is out of control, but, still, hearing "Jap" yelled out every third sentence, and guys making slant-eyed "jokes" all the time is offensive, even for me. However, part of this was for a purpose: to show how these guys went from cocky, almost- ignorant soldiers who underestimated their foes, to veterans who calmed down and had their arrogant attitude kicked out of them.
In fact, Bendix wound up making some very profound statements about 20 minutes from the end when things really looked bad. There's a lot of honesty in this movie, as it turned out. But, despite that first 40 minutes of mostly-inane chatter which took away from the sense of the guys being in a brutal situation, which these GIs were in - the second half made up for it. It had tons of drama, suspense and action, plus a plea or two to the folks back home in the USA watching this film.
I have no problem with that. Why not? Our soldiers should always be given whatever they need since they're putting their lives on the line for us back here. Some people didn't like those, nor the prayers or the religious angle in here, but that's today's secular-progressives who have no tolerance. I read one big-city critic who objected to the scene showing the soldier disappointed he didn't get any mail! Give me a break. Sorry, but sometimes it's good to see a war movie with some old fashioned patriotism, "religion" and sentimentality. Overall, however, these some-year-old movies just can't stack up to the realistic ones made today, and that's understandable.
But, credit this film with having easily more actual war action than the average movie of its day and totally switched from dumb to pretty intelligent the last half of the movie. These guys got pummeled from the land, the sea and the air. It would be interesting to see this movie re-made today. It might be tough to watch with all the carnage, but I'd like to see it with a appropriate tribute to these brave men. The DVD sports a good transfer. Richard Tregaskis wrote "Guadalacanal Diary" using the present tense and the first-person plural, which always makes for vividness and immediacy.
The narration here by the unnamed correspondent played by Reed Hadley uses the same technique and it works. And that's good. Because otherwise the dialogue in this movie, as well as some of the incidents, would draw even more attention to the fact that so much of the film is made up. It's tough to believe ship-board conversations between marines when one of them has to say, "Funny, how we're about to force a landing on an enemy shore. It generally follows historic events. The original landing was unopposed, as the film indicates, mostly because there were hardly any Japanese around to defend the island.
The island carries a corruption of the Arabic name, Wadi al Qanar, given to it by Islamic migrants a thousand years earlier; those guys get around. Historically, the U. It was dubbed "Operation Shoestring. None of this is in the film, of course. Reinforcements were slow in coming. They were eventually to include both James Jones and Norman Mailer. The "Cactus Air Force" grew by only small increments. The Japanese, on their side, were caught unprepared, and their intelligence vastly underestimated the number of American troops, so they sent supplies and reenforcements little by little as well.
The film does show the "banzai" attacks that the Japanese were still using at that stage of the war. And we get the very real and very horrifying eyeball-coagulating naval bombardments of Henderson Field one night the Japanese sent down a battleship with inch guns! The movie is also accurate in describing the change in the form of battle, from hysterical mano a mano conflict to footslogging through the bush and eliminating the Japanese holed up in caves.
There are not only lacunae in the story but inaccuracies as well. It could hardly be otherwise in The shoot-out at Matanikau seems now not to have been a deliberate tactic by the Japanese, but rather the result of misperceiving a Japanese battle flag all white, with its red circle hidden accidentally by folds and a garbled report by a native. And the battle did not end with a courageous charge by marines driving the Japanese into the ocean, as the film shows. Instead, the Japanese, under Admiral Tanaka, managed to withdraw their scattered, starving, surviving troops without discovery, so the marines found to their delight, one morning, that the Japanese were just plain gone.
Okay, so it's propaganda. The Japanese don't fight fair. They are uniformly treacherous. They ambush patrols who have come expecting only to accept prisoners; they snipe from trees; they fake surrenders and mow down humanist sons of preachers, and so forth. But at the time this movie was released such racism was understandable.
A more balanced treatment of the enemy would have worked against the war effort. The few movies that DID try to turn the enemy into something even remotely resembling a human being eg. Anyhow, I like this movie. Propaganda and inaccuracies aside, it's an exciting and sometimes amusing story. The usual banter between the grunts is dated and funny, references to the Brooklyn Dodgers and Mammy Yokum. William Bendix is superb examining the single whisker on Chicken Anderson's chin, "Yeah, you're right. Look here. You can see it with da naked eye. Actually he was raised in the Mission District of San Francisco, a neighborhood settled by immigrants from New York City two generations before.
The accent still persists, although like so many other regional accents, it's dying out and can now be heard mostly in the speech of elderly residents. Just a footnote there. The photography is also admirable and the setting, with its gorgeous palms and open sand, a lot more picturesque than the real Guadalcanal. I used to run this movie repeatedly on tape during the evenings with my ten-year-old son and both of us would sit there enthralled by the battle scenes and the humor. Perhaps that will tell you something about the particular appeal of the flick. I ought also to mention that in pursuit of its "we're all together in this" theme, the film, like others of its time, has the usual Memphis-Belle sort of cast, all mixed in ethnicity and regional background.
This was one of the earliest to include Sammy. In the introductory shipboard scene there is an evidently Protestant religious service in process, conducted by an evidently Roman Catholic priest, and one Gyrene turns to the one next to him and says, "You've got a good voice, Sammy," and Sammy says, "I should have. My father was a cantor.
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Doylenf 8 October Marines fought and died at Guadalcanal. At first, the marines met no resistance since the Japanese had scattered, but soon the battles became fierce and the war drama deepens. A stalwart cast of players gives life to the many characters, some stereotypes to be sure, but vivid, nonetheless.
There's plenty to admire about the gritty and realistic battles and the overall quality of the performances, and sure, it's propaganda, the kind America needed at the time to keep morale high during the war, but it's well worth watching as a reminder of the sacrifices all these men made on behalf of our freedom today.
Trivia note: Just read Christopher Mulrooney's review of this film and you have to wonder what planet he's coming from. Great movie pastyboyz 21 September This movie is one of the better ones. I rate it a 7 on a 10 point scale. Some people think that the "gee-wheez" dialog is not real of what the soldiers would say. They are right, however we must keep in mind that this movie was made in the 40's for people living in the 's and not the 's.
In the 's swearing and tough real talk was just as common as it is today, but there was no need for them fill a movie up with such talk. The movies were made to stand on it's story merit and not be just a swear fest based "roller coaster ride" we have today. Taken in context, the movie hits home a very common point for movie made during the war.
The point is that our boys who are like all of us in America 's view on the world have it rough, they need our support, but they will win. Note movies made after the war have a different viewpoint. War correspondent Richard Tregaskis's memoir of the battle for the strategic island of Guadalcanal provides the basis of this film with a solid cast of players. Tregaskis himself is played unnamed in the film by Reed Hadley, who's rich narrative voice greatly enhances the film.
Guadalcanal Diary unfortunately has not aged well. It was made the year after Guadalcanal, together with its key airfield Henderson Field was finally cleared of Japanese. It was a slow, steady war of attrition, on both land and sea.
Guadalcanal : The American Campaign Against Japan in WWII
While this film concerns the Marines on the island, at sea our navy was battling with the Japanese Navy in what was euphemistically called 'the slot' which was a channel that bisected the Solomon chain neatly in half. Our Marines dealt not only with the Japanese on the ground, but from Naval bombardment from the Japanese Fleet whenever they snuck in. The Japanese positions were in the jungle and further in land and were less affected by off shore shelling from us. All the types you expect from World War II are there, the tough Marine sergeant Lloyd Nolan, the Marine from Brooklyn, where else, William Bendix, the young recruit, Richard Jaeckel in his first film playing a teenager when he actually was one.
Preston Foster plays the Catholic chaplain, a wise and compassionate fellow who once played football for Notre Dame. Sad to say that the Marines do refer to the Japanese as less than human on a few occasions. It's why the film doesn't age well, especially after Clint Eastwood's latest films about the Pacific Theater. Though I've never actually counted I'm willing to bet the farm that there have been at least four other films featuring Guadalcanal so I can justify my summary. Control of the island bifurcated with the changing of light—the Americans owning the day and the Japanese the night.
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For the Japanese, the best night-fighting navy on the ocean, the darkness brought great victories such as the Battle of Savo Island, which cost the United States four cruisers and the lives of 1, sailors. While the Japanese navy might win the night, the poor operational and logistical choices and the domination of Japanese shipping and land-based forces during the daylight by American airpower would spell doom for the Japanese Army on Guadalcanal.
Since the transport ships of the Japanese navy were too slow to make the journey overnight from the base at Shortland to Guadalcanal, disgorge their cargo, and return before American aircraft from Henderson field could take off at daylight to destroy them, the Japanese chose the quick-running destroyers to move men and supplies to the island. While the destroyers were fast, their capacity was severely limited and they burned oil at an alarming rate. By mid-September this left the Japanese Army with 7, soldiers on the island and a food deficit of 10 days, a disparity growing to 15, soldiers and almost unfathomable food deficit of 20 days by mid-October.
In an ironic twist, the Japanese had over 25, soldiers and heavy artillery, but could not push the marines off the island due to a lack of food rather than combat power. To sustain their army and try and push the Americans off the island, the Japanese led two massive resupply missions to Guadalcanal in October and November. For both missions, Japanese cruisers cleared the seas at night and then shelled the marine positions. Following the sea bombardment, Japanese aircraft attacked the airfield during daylight hours, while destroyers screened Japanese transports as they attempted to land at Guadalcanal.
Despite their efforts, the Japanese could not eliminate the Cactus Air Force. As a result, during both resupply missions, the transports succeeded in landing Japanese soldiers, but the Cactus Air Force destroyed many of the supplies. While the October delivery netted the Japanese a positive food supply, it also brought 5, more mouths to feed. The attempted November delivery, which took place on November as part of the larger First and Second Naval Battles of Guadalcanal, was even less successful—U. By the time the 1st Division was relieved by the U.
Army in December of , the tally of supply was stark. Although the fighting to dislodge the Japanese military was not easy and presaged the vicious combat of future island campaigns for the rest of the war, the Americans were fed and could fight while their opponent wasted away. It was not seapower that guaranteed the delivery of food to the Americans fighting and dying on the island, however, but control of the air. Emphasizing the preeminence of airpower to island operations, the Japanese sent hundreds of aircraft to protect the night movements of the debilitated Japanese force off the island during early —losing 56 aircraft during the retreat.
Japanese efforts to wrest control of the airfield from the Americans failed due to their miscalculation of the preeminence of airpower and their refusal to understand that food was more important than soldiers or weapons. Although Major General Patch sent the good news of American victory on February 9, , in reality the Japanese Army had been starved from the air four months earlier.
Airpower had come to legislate the movement of supplies by sea. Air Force, Department of Defense, or the U. Vandegrift and Robert B. Also James D. Hornsfischer has the most accessible and complete listing of all the ships sunk during the campaign. Parshall details the fuel consumption rates of destroyers which approached 10 times that of a transport ship.
This article appeared originally at Strategy Bridge.