Tora! Tora! Tora!

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Tora! Tora! Tora!
Original movie poster
Directed byAmerican sequences
Richard Fleischer
Japanese sequences
Toshio Masuda
Kinji Fukasaku
Screenplay byAmerican sequences
Larry Forrester
Japanese sequences
Hideo Oguni
Ryūzō Kikushima
Akira Kurosawa
Based onTora! Tora! Tora!
1969 book by
Gordon W. Prange
and The Broken Seal by
Ladislas Farago
Produced by Elmo Williams
Richard Fleischer
Starring Martin Balsam
So Yamamura
Joseph Cotten
Tatsuya Mihashi
E.G. Marshall
James Whitmore
Takahiro Tamura
Eijirō Tōno
Jason Robards
CinematographyAmerican sequences
Charles F. Wheeler
Japanese sequences
Shinsaku Himeda
Masamichi Satoh
Osamu Furuya
Edited by James E. Newcom
Pembroke J. Herring
Inoue Chikaya
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Elmo Williams-Richard Fleischer Productions
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
  • September 23, 1970 (1970-09-23)
Running time
144 minutes
United States
Budget$25.5 million [1] [2]
Box office$37.15 million(rentals) [3]

Tora! Tora! Tora! (Japanese : トラ・トラ・トラ!) is a 1970 epic war film that dramatizes the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The film was produced by Elmo Williams and directed by Richard Fleischer, Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku, and stars an ensemble cast including Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten, So Yamamura, E.G. Marshall, James Whitmore, Tatsuya Mihashi, Takahiro Tamura, Wesley Addy, and Jason Robards. It was Masuda and Fukasaku's first English-language film, and first non-Japanese film.


The tora of the title is the two-syllable Japanese codeword used to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved. Japanese being a language with many homophones, it is a coincidence that tora also means "tiger" (). [4] [ failed verification ]


In August 1939, the United States imposes a trade embargo on a belligerent Japan, severely limiting raw materials. Influential Japanese army figures and politicians push through an alliance with Germany and Italy in September 1940 despite opposition from the Japanese navy and prepare for war. The newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, reluctantly plans a pre-emptive strike on the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, believing that Japan's best hope of controlling the Pacific Ocean is to quickly annihilate the American fleet. Air Staff Officer Minoru Genda is chosen to mastermind the operation while his old Naval Academy classmate Mitsuo Fuchida is selected to lead the attack.

Meanwhile, in Washington, U.S. military intelligence has broken the Japanese Purple Code , allowing them to intercept secret Japanese radio transmissions indicating increased Japanese naval activity. Monitoring the transmissions are U.S. Army Col. Bratton and U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Kramer. At Pearl Harbor itself, Admiral Kimmel and General Short do their best to increase defensive naval and air patrols around Hawaii which could provide early warning of enemy presence. Short recommends concentrating aircraft at the base on the runways to avoid sabotage by enemy agents in Hawaii.

Several months pass while diplomatic tensions escalate. As the Japanese ambassador to Washington continues negotiations to stall for time, the large Japanese fleet sorties into the Pacific. On the day of the attack, Bratton and Kramer learn from intercepts that the Japanese plan a series of 14 radio messages from Tokyo to the Japanese embassy in Washington. They are also directed to destroy their code machines after receiving the final message. Deducing the Japanese intention to launch a surprise attack immediately after the messages are delivered, Bratton tries warning his superiors of his suspicions but encounters several obstacles: Chief of Naval Operations Harold R. Stark is indecisive over notifying Hawaii without first alerting the President while Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall's order that Pearl Harbor be alerted of an impending attack is stymied by poor atmospherics that prevent radio transmission and by bungling when a warning sent by telegram is not marked urgent. At dawn on December 7, the Japanese fleet launches its aircraft. Their approach to Hawaii is detected by two radar operators but their concerns are dismissed by the duty officer. Similarly the claim by the destroyer USS Ward to have sunk a Japanese miniature submarine off the entrance to Pearl Harbor is dismissed as unimportant. The Japanese thus achieve surprise and a joyous commander Fuchida sends the code to begin the attack: "Tora! Tora! Tora!"

The damage to the naval base is catastrophic and casualties are severe. Seven battleships are either sunk or heavily damaged. General Short's anti-sabotage precautions prove a disastrous mistake that allows the Japanese aerial forces to destroy aircraft on the ground easily. Hours after the attack ends, General Short and Admiral Kimmel receive Marshall's telegram warning of impending danger. In Washington, Secretary of State Cordell Hull is stunned to learn of the attack and urgently requests confirmation before receiving the Japanese ambassador. The message that was transmitted to the Japanese embassy in 14 parts – a declaration of war – was meant to be delivered to the Americans at 1:00 pm in Washington, 30 minutes before the attack. However, it was not decoded and transcribed in time, meaning the attack started while the two nations were technically still at peace. The distraught Japanese ambassador, helpless to explain the late ultimatum and unaware of the ongoing attack, is bluntly rebuffed by a despondent Hull.

Back in the Pacific, the Japanese fleet commander, Vice-Admiral Chūichi Nagumo, refuses to launch a scheduled third wave of aircraft for fear of exposing his force to U.S. submarines. Aboard his flagship, Admiral Yamamoto solemnly informs his staff that their primary target – the American aircraft carriers – were not at Pearl Harbor, having departed days previously to search for Japanese vessels. Lamenting that the declaration of war arrived after the attack began, Yamamoto notes that nothing would infuriate the U.S. more and ominously concludes: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."



Martin Balsam Admiral Husband E. Kimmel Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Joseph Cotten Secretary Henry Stimson U.S. Secretary of War
E.G. Marshall Lt. Colonel Rufus S. Bratton Chief, Far Eastern Section, Military Intelligence Division, War Department
James Whitmore Vice Admiral William Halsey Jr. Commander, Aircraft Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Jason Robards General Walter Short Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Forces Hawaii
Wesley Addy Lt. Commander Alwin KramerCryptographer, OP-20-G
Frank Aletter Lt. Commander Francis ThomasCommand Duty Officer, USS Nevada
Leon Ames Secretary Frank Knox U.S. Secretary of the Navy
Richard Anderson Captain John EarleChief of Staff, 14th Naval District
Keith Andes General George C. Marshall Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army
Edward Andrews Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark Chief of Naval Operations
Neville Brand Lt. Harold KaminskiDuty Officer, 14th Naval District
George Macready Secretary Cordell Hull Secretary of State
Norman Alden Major Truman Landon Commanding Officer, 38th Reconnaissance Squadron
Walter Brooke Captain Theodore Wilkinson Director of Naval Intelligence
Rick Cooper 2nd Lt. George Welch Pilot, 47th Pursuit Squadron
Carl Reindel 2nd Lt. Kenneth Taylor Pilot, 47th Pursuit Squadron
Karl LukasCaptain Harold C. Train Chief of Staff, Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Ron Masak Lieutenant Lawrence E. RuffCommunications Officer, USS Nevada
Richard Erdman Colonel Edward F. FrenchChief, War Department Signal Center
Jerry Fogel Lt. Commander William W. Outerbridge Commanding Officer, USS Ward
Elven HavardMessman 3rd Class Doris Miller Crew member, USS West Virginia
G.D. Spradlin Cmdr. Maurice E. Curts Communications Officer, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Edmon Ryan Rear Admiral Patrick Bellinger Commander, Patrol Wing Two
Bill Zuckert Admiral James O. Richardson Commander, United States Fleet
Francis De Sales Capt. Arthur H. McCollum Naval Intelligence officer
Dave DonnellyMaj. Gordon Blake Hickam Field Operations Officer
Bill Edwards Col. Kendall J. Fielder Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, Hawaiian Department
Jerry CoxLt. Kermit Tyler Pilot, 78th Pursuit Squadron
Dick Fair Lt. Col. Carrol A. PowellRadar officer
Dick Cook Lt. Cmdr. Logan C. RamseyCommander, Naval Base Pearl Harbor
Robert Karnes Maj. John H. DillonKnox's aide
Ken Lynch Rear Adm. John H. NewtonCommander, USS Lexington
Walter Reed Vice Adm. William S. Pye Interim Commander, Aircraft Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Robert Shayne Cmdr. William H. Buracker Operations Officer, Aircraft Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Larry Thor Maj. Gen. Frederick L. MartinCommander, Hawaiian Air Force
Harlan Warde Brig. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow Commander, 29th Infantry Division


So Yamamura Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto Commander-in-Chief, Combined Fleet
Tatsuya Mihashi Commander Minoru Genda Air Staff, 1st Air Fleet
Takahiro Tamura Lt. Commander Mitsuo Fuchida Commander, Air Group, Akagi
Eijirō Tōno Admiral Chuichi Nagumo Commander-in-Chief, 1st Air Fleet
Shōgo Shimada Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura, voiced by Paul Frees Japanese Ambassador to the United States
Koreya Senda Prince Fumimaro Konoye Prime Minister of Japan
Junya UsamiAdmiral Zengo Yoshida Minister of the Navy
Kazuo KitamuraMinister Yosuke Matsuoka Minister of Foreign Affairs
Susumu Fujita Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi Commander, Second Carrier Division
Bontaro MiyakeAdmiral Koshiro Oikawa Minister of the Navy
Ichiro ReuzakiRear Admiral Ryūnosuke Kusaka Chief of Staff, 1st Air Fleet
Asao Uchida General Hideki Tojo Minister of War
Hiroshi Akutagawa Marquis Koichi Kido Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
Shunichi Nakamura Captain Kameto "Gandhi" KuroshimaSenior Staff Officer, Combined Fleet
Kan NihonyanagiRear Admiral Chuichi Hara Commander, 5th Carrier Division
Toshio HosokawaLieutenant Commander Shigeharu Murata Commander, 1st Torpedo Attack Unit, Akagi
Hisashi Igawa Lt. Mitsuo MatsuzakiFuchida's pilot
Hideo Murota Lt. Zenji AbePilot, Air Group, Akagi


Leora Dana Ileana KramerLt. Cdr. Kramer's wife
Harold ConwayEugene DoomanUS Embassy counselor
June Dayton Ray CaveSecretary
Meredith Weatherby Joseph Grew US Ambassador to Japan
Akira Kume Katsuzo OkumuraJapanese diplomat
Jeff Donnell Cornelia Fort Civilian flying instructor
Hank Jones DaveyCivilian student pilot
Kazuko IchikawaEmiko Geisha in Kagoshima
Randall Duk Kim TadaoMessenger boy

The film was deliberately cast with actors who were not true box-office stars, including many Japanese amateurs, in order to place the emphasis on the story rather than the actors who were in it. [5]

Several members of the cast had themselves served in World War II.

Martin Balsam US Army Air Forces B-24 radio operator
James Whitmore US Marine Corps Reserve Lieutenant
Jason Robards US Navy USS Northampton and the USS Nashville
Wesley Addy US Army
Norman AldenUS Army
Frank AletterUS Army
Richard AndersonUS Army
Keith AndesUS Army Air Forces
Edward AndrewsUS ArmyCaptain, awarded Bronze Star Medal
Neville BrandUS ArmyEarned a Purple Heart and Silver Star
Walter BrookeUS Army
Paul FreesUS ArmyWounded in combat on D-Day
G.D. SpradlinUS Army Air Forces
Arthur ToveyUS Army
Harlan WardeUS Army US Army Special Forces
Bill ZuckertUS Navy Construction Battalion ("Seabees")

Some crew members also served in the War.

Crew memberCredited asServiceNotes
Darryl F. ZanuckExecutive producerUS ArmyColonel, US Army Signal Corps. Also served in World War I.
Charles F. WheelerCinematographerUS Navy Combat photographer
Gordon W. PrangeAuthor / Technical consultantUS NavyChief Historian in General Douglas MacArthur's staff

Some cast members served before or after World War II.

Leon AmesUS Army / US Army Air Service World War I Field artillery and later in the flying corps
Ron MasakUS ArmyN/A
Jamie Farr (uncredited voice acting)US Army Korean War Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS)


The North American T-6 Texan stood in for the Mitsubishi A6M Zero as there were no airworthy types at that time. Only Zeros from the carrier Akagi were depicted, identifiable by the single red band on the rear fuselage. Mitsubishi A6M Zero Replica.jpg
The North American T-6 Texan stood in for the Mitsubishi A6M Zero as there were no airworthy types at that time. Only Zeros from the carrier Akagi were depicted, identifiable by the single red band on the rear fuselage.
Aichi D3A replica at the Geneseo Airshow. In 1968 a Vultee BT-13 Valiant (N56867) was converted to a Val replica for use in the filming of the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, flown as Val "AI-244" from the carrier Akagi. Aichi D3A Replica Airshow.jpg
Aichi D3A replica at the Geneseo Airshow. In 1968 a Vultee BT-13 Valiant (N56867) was converted to a Val replica for use in the filming of the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, flown as Val "AI-244" from the carrier Akagi.
Nakajima B5N replica modified from a T-6 for the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! Japanese Kate (2783320658).jpg
Nakajima B5N replica modified from a T-6 for the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!
A number of Curtiss P-40 Warhawk mockups were blown up during filming. This example, which was spared destruction, is currently on display at Wheeler Army Airfield, with markings identical to those of 2nd Lt George Welch. P-40 movie prop at Wheeler.jpg
A number of Curtiss P-40 Warhawk mockups were blown up during filming. This example, which was spared destruction, is currently on display at Wheeler Army Airfield, with markings identical to those of 2nd Lt George Welch.
Replica models like this
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1/15 scale USS Nevada were used for the overhead shots of Battleship Row. The model survives today in Los Angeles and often appears at local parades. USS Nevada (replica).jpg
Replica models like this 115 scale USS Nevada were used for the overhead shots of Battleship Row. The model survives today in Los Angeles and often appears at local parades.

Veteran 20th Century Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck, who had earlier produced The Longest Day (1962), wanted to create an epic that depicted what "really happened on December 7, 1941", with a "revisionist's approach". He believed that the commanders in Hawaii, General Short and Admiral Kimmel, though scapegoated for decades, provided adequate defensive measures for the apparent threats, including relocation of the fighter aircraft at Pearl Harbor to the middle of the base, in response to fears of sabotage from local Japanese. Despite a breakthrough in intelligence, they had received limited warning of the increasing risk of aerial attack. [1] Recognizing that a balanced and objective recounting was necessary, Zanuck developed an American-Japanese co-production, allowing for "a point of view from both nations". [8] He was helped out by his son, Richard D. Zanuck, who was chief executive at Fox during this time.

Production on Tora! Tora! Tora! took three years to plan and prepare for the eight months of principal photography. [8] The film was created in two separate productions, one based in the United States, directed by Richard Fleischer, and one based in Japan. [9] The Japanese side was initially to be directed by Akira Kurosawa, who worked on script development and pre-production for two years. But after two weeks of shooting, he was replaced by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku, who directed the Japanese sections. [9] [10]

Richard Fleischer said of Akira Kurosawa's role in the project:

Well, I always thought that even though Kurosawa was a genius at film-making and indeed he was, I sincerely believe that he was miscast for this film, this was not his type of film to make, he never made anything like it and it just wasn't his style. I felt he was not only uncomfortable directing this kind of movie but also he wasn't used to having somebody tell him how he should make his film. He always had complete autonomy, and nobody would dare make a suggestion to Kurosawa about the budget, or shooting schedule, or anything like that. And then here he was, with Darryl Zanuck on his back and Richard Zanuck on him and Elmo Williams and the production managers, and it was all stuff that he never had run into before, because he was always untouchable. I think he was getting more and more nervous and more insecure about how he was going to work on this film. And of course, the press got a hold of a lot of this unrest on the set and they made a lot out of that in Japan, and it was more pressure on him, and he wasn't used to that kind of pressure. [11]

Larry Forrester and frequent Kurosawa collaborators Hideo Oguni and Ryūzō Kikushima wrote the screenplay, based on books written by Ladislas Farago and Gordon Prange of the University of Maryland, who served as a technical consultant. Numerous technical advisors on both sides, some of whom had participated in the battle and/or planning, were crucial in maintaining the accuracy of the film. Minoru Genda, the man who largely planned and led the attack on Pearl Harbor, was an uncredited technical advisor for the film. [1]

Four cinematographers were involved in the main photography: Charles F. Wheeler, Sinsaku Himeda, Masamichi Satoh, and Osami Furuya. [12] They were jointly nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. A number of well-known cameramen also worked on the second units without credit, including Thomas Del Ruth and Rexford Metz. [12] The second unit doing miniature photography was directed by Ray Kellogg, while the second unit doing aerial sequences was directed by Robert Enrietto.

Noted composer Jerry Goldsmith composed the film score and Robert McCall painted several scenes for various posters of the film. [13]

The carrier entering Pearl Harbor towards the end of the film was in fact the Iwo Jima-classamphibious assault ship USS Tripoli, returning to port. The "Japanese" aircraft carrier was the anti-submarine carrier USS Yorktown, fitted with a false bow to disguise the catapults. The Japanese A6M Zero fighters, and somewhat longer "Kate" torpedo bombers or "Val" dive bombers were heavily modified Royal Canadian Air Force Harvard (T-6 Texan) and BT-13 Valiant pilot training aircraft. The large fleet of Japanese aircraft was created by Lynn Garrison, a well-known aerial action coordinator, who produced a number of conversions. Garrison and Jack Canary coordinated the actual engineering work at facilities in the Los Angeles area. These aircraft still make appearances at air shows. [14]

For the parallel filming in Japan, full-scale mock-ups of the Japanese battleship Nagato and aircraft carrier Akagi were built from the waterline up on shore, with about 90 feet of their bows extending out over the ocean on stilts. These were used for much of the Japanese scenes on ship's decks. The one error introduced, however, was that the model Akagi's bridge was built on the starboard side instead of the port side. Only two Japanese carriers were built in this fashion, with bridges on the port side: Akagi and Hiryū. This was done because it was known that for the launching scenes filmed in the US, a US carrier would be used and the islands of US carriers were always on the starboard side. A few of the modified aircraft were also converted in Japan for the flight scenes filmed there.

In preparation for filming, Yorktown was berthed at NAS North Island in San Diego to load all the aircraft, maintenance, and film crew prior to sailing to Hawaii. The night before filming the "Japanese" take-off scenes she sailed to a spot a few miles west of San Diego and at dawn the film crew filmed the launches of all the aircraft. Since these "Japanese" aircraft were not actual carrier-based aircraft, they did not have arresting gear with which to land back on the carrier, and continued on to land at North Island Naval Air Station. Yorktown sailed back to North Island and re-loaded the aircraft. She then sailed to Hawaii and the aircraft were off-loaded and used to film the attack scenes in and around Pearl Harbor. Aircraft Specialties of Mesa, Arizona performed maintenance on the aircraft while in Hawaii.[ citation needed ]

A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress's actual crash landing during filming, a result of a jammed landing gear, was filmed and used in the final cut. [15] The film crew received word that one of the B-17s could not lower their starboard landing gear so they quickly set up to film the "single gear" landing. The aircraft stayed aloft to use up as much fuel as possible, which gave the film crew some time to prepare, prior to landing. After viewing the "single gear" landing footage they decided to include it in the movie. In the sequence depicting the crash, only the final crash was actual footage. For the scenes leading up to the crash they manually retracted the starboard landing gear on a functioning B-17 and filmed the scenes of its final approach. After touching down on one wheel the pilot simply applied power and took off again. The B-17 that actually landed with one gear up sustained only minor damage to the starboard wing and propellers and was repaired and returned to service. A total of five Boeing B-17s were obtained for filming. Other U.S. aircraft used are the Consolidated PBY Catalina and, especially, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk (two flyable examples were used). Predominantly, P-40 fighter aircraft are used to depict the U.S. defenders with a full-scale P-40 used as a template for fiberglass replicas (some with working engines and props) that were strafed and blown up during filming. [16] Fleischer also said a scene involving a P-40 model crashing into the middle of a line of P-40s was unintended, as it was supposed to crash at the end of the line. The stuntmen involved in the scene were actually running for their lives. [17] The B17 crash along with several other scenes were reused in the film Midway (1976).

With over 30 aircraft in the air, the flying scenes were complex to shoot, and can be compared to the 1969 film Battle of Britain where large formations of period-specific aircraft were filmed in staged aerial battles. [18] The 2001 film Pearl Harbor would use some of the same modified aircraft. [19]

Historical accuracy

USS Yorktown during the filming of Tora! Tora! Tora!, 1968. USS Yorktown (CVS-10) during filming of Tora Tora Tora movie 1968.jpeg
USS Yorktown during the filming of Tora! Tora! Tora!, 1968.

Parts of the film showing the takeoff of the Japanese aircraft utilize an Essex-class aircraft carrier, Yorktown, which was commissioned in 1943 and modernized after the war to have a very slightly angled flight deck. [20] The ship was leased by the film producers, who needed an aircraft carrier for the film; and as Yorktown was scheduled to be decommissioned in 1970, the Navy made her available. She was used largely in the takeoff sequence of the Japanese attack aircraft. The sequence shows interchanging shots of models of the Japanese aircraft carriers and Yorktown. It does not look like any of the Japanese carriers involved in the attack, due to its large bridge island and its angled landing deck. The Japanese carriers had small bridge islands, and angled flight decks were not developed until after the war. [21] In addition, during the scene in which Admiral Halsey is watching bombing practice an aircraft carrier with the hull number 14 is shown. Admiral Halsey was on USS Enterprise, not the Essex-class carrier USS Ticonderoga, which would not be commissioned until 1944. This is understandable, however, as Enterprise and all six of the Japanese carriers from the attack had been scrapped or sunk.

In Tora! Tora! Tora!, an error involves the model of Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi. In the film, Akagi's bridge island is positioned on the starboard side of the ship, which is typical on most aircraft carriers. However, the aircraft carrier Akagi was an exception; its bridge island was on the port side of the ship. Despite this, the bridge section appeared accurately as a mirrored version of Akagi's real port-side bridge. [22] Secondly, all the Japanese aircraft in the footage bear the markings of Akagi's aircraft (a single vertical red stripe following the red sun symbol of Japan), even though five other aircraft carriers participated, each having its own markings. In addition, the markings do not display the aircraft's identification numbers as was the case in the actual battle. The white surround on the roundel on the Japanese aircraft was only used from 1942 onwards. Prior to this the roundel was red only. [23]

USS Ward (DD-139) was an old "4-piper" destroyer commissioned in 1918; the ship used in the movie, USS Finch (DE-328), which portrays Ward looked far different from the original destroyer. [24] In addition, in the movie she fired two shots from her #1 gun turret. In reality, Ward fired the first shot from the #1 4-inch (102 mm) un-turreted gunmount and the second shot from the #3 wing mount. [25] The attack on the midget submarine by USS Ward was previously mentioned in the film In Harm's Way .

A stern section of USS Nevada was built that was also used to portray USS Arizona and other U.S. battleships. The lattice mast (or cage mast) section of the Tennessee-class/Maryland-class battleship was built beside the set of the USS Nevada stern section, but not built upon a set of a deck, but on the ground as the footage in the movie only showed the cage mast tower. The large scale model of the stern shows the two aft gun turrets with three gun barrels in each; in reality, Nevada had two heightened fore and aft turrets with two barrels each while the lower two turrets fore and aft had three barrels each. Another model of Nevada, used in the film to portray the whole ship, displays the turrets accurately. The reason for this anomaly is because the aft section model was used in the film to portray both USS Nevada and USS Arizona. The ships looked remarkably similar except that Arizona had four triple turrets and a slightly different stern section. Footage and photographs not used in the film show the cage mast as being built on the ground. The USS Nevada/USS Arizona stern section was shown exploding to represent the explosion that destroyed Arizona, although in reality the explosion took place in #2 magazine, forward, and Arizona's stern section remains essentially intact to this day.

The film has a Japanese Zero fighter being damaged over a naval base and then deliberately crashing into a naval base hangar. This is actually a composite of three incidents at Pearl Harbor attack: in the first wave, a Japanese Zero crashed into Fort Kamehameha's ordnance building; in the second wave, a Japanese Zero did deliberately crash into a hillside after U.S. Navy CPO John William Finn at Naval Air Station at Kāneʻohe Bay had shot and damaged the aircraft; also during the second wave, a Japanese aircraft that was damaged crashed into the seaplane tender USS Curtiss. [26]

During a number of shots of the attack squadrons traversing across Oahu, a white cross can be seen standing on one of the mountainsides. The cross was actually erected after the attack as a memorial to the victims of the attack. [27]

In the final scene Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto says "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant". An abridged version of the quotation is also featured in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor . The 2019 film Midway also features Admiral Yamamoto speaking aloud the sleeping giant quote. Although the quotation may well have encapsulated many of his real feelings about the attack, there is no printed evidence to prove Yamamoto made this statement or wrote it down. [28]


The film had its world premiere on September 23, 1970 in New York, Tokyo, Honolulu and Los Angeles. [29]


Box office

At the time of its initial release, Tora! Tora! Tora! was thought to be a box office disappointment in North America, [30] despite its domestic box office of $29,548,291 making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1970. [31] It was a major hit in Japan, and over the years, home media releases provided a larger overall profit. [32] [33] The film had grossed ¥194.22 million in Japan by 1971, becoming the sixth highest-grossing film of 1971 in Japan. [34]

According to Fox records, the film required $37.15 million in rentals to break even, and had done so by December 11, 1970. [3]


The Commemorative Air Force's Gulf Coast Wing's Tora! Tora! Tora! team still fly the movie's aircraft simulating the attack at airshows. Tora Fire Break 08.JPG
The Commemorative Air Force's Gulf Coast Wing's Tora! Tora! Tora! team still fly the movie's aircraft simulating the attack at airshows.

Roger Ebert felt that Tora! Tora! Tora! was "one of the deadest, dullest blockbusters ever made" and suffered from not having "some characters to identify with." In addition, he criticized the film for poor acting and special effects in his 1970 review. [35] Vincent Canby, reviewer for The New York Times, was similarly unimpressed, noting the film was "nothing less than a $25-million irrelevancy." [36] Variety also found the film to be boring; however, the magazine praised the film's action sequences and production values. [37] James Berardinelli, however, said it was "rare for a feature film to attain the trifecta of entertaining, informing, and educating." [38] Charles Champlin in his review for the Los Angeles Times on September 23, 1970, considered the movie's chief virtues as a "spectacular", and the careful recreation of a historical event. [39]

Despite the initial negative reviews, the film was critically acclaimed for its vivid action scenes, and found favor with aviation and history aficionados. [40] However, even the team of Jack Hardwick and Ed Schnepf who have been involved in research on aviation films, had relegated Tora! Tora! Tora! to the "also-ran" status, due to its slow-moving plotline. [40] The film holds a 55% "Rotten" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 29 critical reviews. The site's consensus states: "Tora! Tora! Tora! is scrupulously accurate and lays out of the tragedy of Pearl Harbor with intricate detail, but the film's clinical approach to the sound and fury signifies little feeling." [41] In 1994, a survey at the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu determined that for Americans the film was the most common source of popular knowledge about the Pearl Harbor attack. [42]

Several later films and TV series relating to World War II in the Pacific have used footage from Tora! Tora! Tora!. These productions include the films Midway (1976; in the Tora! Tora! Tora! DVD commentary, Fleischer is angry that Universal used the footage), All This and World War II (film 1976), Pearl (TV mini-series 1978), From Here to Eternity (TV mini-series 1979), The Final Countdown (1980), and Australia (2008) as well as the Magnum, P. I. television series episode titled "Lest We Forget" (first airdate February 12, 1981). [43]


Tora! Tora! Tora! was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one for Visual Effects.

See also

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Japanese aircraft carrier <i>Hiryū</i> Aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy

Hiryū was an aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during the 1930s. Generally regarded as the only ship of her class, she was built to a modified Sōryū design. Her aircraft supported the Japanese invasion of French Indochina in mid-1940. She took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Wake Island. During the first few months of the Pacific War, the ship supported the conquest of the Dutch East Indies in January 1942. The following month, her aircraft bombed Darwin, Australia, and continued to assist in the Dutch East Indies campaign. In April, Hiryū's aircraft helped sink two British heavy cruisers and several merchant ships during the Indian Ocean Raid.

<i>Pearl Harbor</i> (film) 2001 film by Michael Bay

Pearl Harbor is a 2001 American romantic war drama film directed by Michael Bay, produced by Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer and written by Randall Wallace. It stars Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Colm Feore, and Alec Baldwin. The film presented a heavily fictionalized version of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, focusing on a love story set amid the lead up to the attack, its aftermath, and the Doolittle Raid.

Husband E. Kimmel US Navy admiral

Husband Edward Kimmel was a United States Navy four-star admiral who was the commander in chief of the United States Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT) during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was removed from that command after the attack, in December 1941, and was reverted to his permanent two-star rank of rear admiral due to no longer holding a four-star assignment. He retired from the Navy in early 1942.

Chūichi Nagumo Japanese admiral

Chūichi Nagumo was a Japanese admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II. Nagumo led Japan's main carrier battle group, the Kido Butai, in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Indian Ocean raid and the Battle of Midway. He committed suicide during the Battle of Saipan.

USS <i>Yorktown</i> (CV-10) Essex-class aircraft carrier of the US Navy

USS Yorktown (CV/CVA/CVS-10) is one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy. She was named after the Battle of Yorktown of the American Revolutionary War, and is the fourth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name. Initially to have been named Bonhomme Richard, she was renamed Yorktown while still under construction to commemorate the loss of USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Yorktown was commissioned in April 1943, and participated in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, earning 11 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation.

Mitsuo Fuchida Japanese Naval officer

Mitsuo Fuchida was a Japanese captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and a bomber aviator in the Japanese navy before and during World War II. He is perhaps best known for leading the first wave of air attacks on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Working under the overall fleet commander, Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo, Fuchida was responsible for the coordination of the entire aerial attack.

<i>Midway</i> (1976 film) 1976 film by Jack Smight

Midway, released in the United Kingdom as Battle of Midway, is a 1976 American Technicolor war film that chronicles the June 1942 Battle of Midway, a turning point in World War II in the Pacific, directed by Jack Smight and produced by Walter Mirisch from a screenplay by Donald S. Sanford. The film features an international cast of stars including Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Ed Nelson, Hal Holbrook, Toshiro Mifune, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, Robert Wagner, James Shigeta, Pat Morita, John Fujioka, Robert Ito and Christina Kokubo.

Tamon Yamaguchi Imperial Japanese Navy admiral

Tamon Yamaguchi was a rear admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy who served during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and in the Pacific War during World War II. Yamaguchi′s carrier force was part of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He subsequently participated in the Battle of Midway, where he was killed in action, choosing to go down with the aircraft carrier Hiryū when it was scuttled after being crippled by aircraft from USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown.

<i>Task Force</i> (film) 1949 film by Delmer Daves

Task Force is a 1949 war film filmed in black-and-white with some Technicolor sequences about the development of U.S. aircraft carriers from USS Langley (CV-1) to USS Franklin (CV-13). Although Robert Montgomery was originally considered for the leading role, the film stars Gary Cooper, Jane Wyatt, Walter Brennan, Wayne Morris, Julie London and Jack Holt. Task Force was the only film Gary Cooper and Jane Wyatt made together, and was the last of the eight films Cooper and Walter Brennan made together. The U.S. Navy provided complete support in not only loaning naval vessels and facilities, but also allowed the use of archival footage of the development of naval air power.

<i>Wing and a Prayer, The Story of Carrier X</i> 1944 film by Henry Hathaway

Wing and a Prayer, The Story of Carrier X is a black-and-white 1944 war film about the heroic crew of an American carrier in the desperate early days of World War II in the Pacific theater, directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Don Ameche, Dana Andrews and William Eythe. Although arguably a classic propaganda movie, it was appreciated for its realistic portrayal and was nominated for the 1944 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

The Pacific War is a series of alternate history novels written by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen with Albert S. Hanser. The series deals with the Pacific War between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan. The point of divergence is the decision of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, to take personal command of the 1st Air Fleet for the attack on Pearl Harbor, rather than delegate it to Adm. Chūichi Nagumo.

<i>Storm Over the Pacific</i> 1960 Japanese film

Storm Over the Pacific is a 1960 color (Eastmancolor) Japanese film directed by Shūe Matsubayashi. The story is an account of a young Japanese bombardier, Lt. Koji Kitami stationed aboard the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu and his participation in two battles in the Pacific during World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway.

Days of Infamy is a two-novel alternate history of the initial stages of the Pacific War by Harry Turtledove.

<i>Amagi</i>-class battlecruiser Class of Japanese battlecruisers

The Amagi class was a series of four battlecruisers planned for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as part of the Eight-eight fleet in the early 1920s. The ships were to be named Amagi, Akagi, Atago, and Takao. The Amagi design was essentially a lengthened version of the Tosa-class battleship, but with a thinner armored belt and deck, a more powerful propulsion system, and a modified secondary armament arrangement. They were to have carried the same main battery of ten 41 cm (16.1 in) guns and been capable of a top speed of 30 knots.

Marshalls–Gilberts raids 1942 U.S. naval offensive against Japanese naval forces during World War II

The Marshalls–Gilberts raids were tactical airstrikes and naval artillery attacks by United States Navy aircraft carrier and other warship forces against Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) garrisons in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands on 1 February 1942.

<i>Midway</i> (2019 film) 2019 film by Roland Emmerich

Midway is a 2019 Canadian-American war film about the Battle of Midway, a turning point in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The film was directed by Roland Emmerich, who also produced the film with Harald Kloser, and was written by Wes Tooke. The film stars Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Tadanobu Asano, and Woody Harrelson.

Naval historians such as Evan Mawdsley, Richard Overy, and Craig Symonds concluded that World War II's decisive victories on land could not have been won without decisive victories at sea. Naval battles to keep shipping lanes open for combatant's movement of troops, guns, ammunition, tanks, warships, aircraft, raw materials, and food largely determined the outcome of land battles. Without the Allied victory in keeping shipping lanes open during the Battle of the Atlantic, Britain could not have fed her people or withstood Axis offensives in Europe and North Africa. Without Britain's survival and without Allied shipments of food and industrial equipment to the Soviet Union, her military and economic power would likely not have rebounded in time for Russian soldiers to prevail at Stalingrad and Kursk.


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