Jerry Goldsmith: Early in the film, prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, the composer can be seen as the pianist signaling the orchestra to stop playing.
The USS Philip (DD-498) was the destroyer that steams out of Pearl Harbor at the beginning of the attack. Philip decommissioned 30 September 1968 and was struck from the Navy List 1 October 1968. She was sold 15 December 1971, but sank in a storm on her way to be scrapped 2 February 1972
The original Clemson-class destroyer DD-298 was the USS Percival (commissioned 1920, decommissioned 1930). Its first commander was Commander Raymond A. Spruance who lead the 5th Fleet in WWII.
According to John Huston's autobiography, this is the movie that nearly drove Tom Tryon out of the acting business. He had heard rumors of Otto Preminger's demanding nature, and was understandably nervous. Preminger saw this, and instead of trying to reassure the agitated Tryon, first chewed him out for his fears in front of other cast members, then walked behind him and screamed "RELAX!" in his ear. Tryon reportedly almost quit that day, but castmates talked him out of it.
The islands identified by Torrey as Gavabutu, Levu Vana and Tokaroa are actually San Cristobal, Guadalcanal and Malaita. Pala Passage would become known as Ironbottom Sound because of the number of ships that would be sunk there in coming battles. Cape Titan probably refers to the Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain, about 650 miles from Guadalcanal. The battle for Guadalcanal began on 7 Aug., 1942 and would not end until February, 1943.Although they say that the majority of forces are with MacArthur in the Solomons, Guadalcanal, is in the eastern Solomons. The dividing line between MacArthur's area of responsibility and Nimitz's was the 159 degrees east.
The fictional ship in the movie is a composite of several WWII cruisers. 1. The USS Salt Lake City was known as the "Swayback Maru". The ship in the movie and in the novel the movie is based on was known as "Old Swayback". 2. The USS San Francisco was the flagship of a squadron of ships in the famous naval battle of November 12, 1942, in the Solomon Islands area. The fictional ship in the movie was also the flagship of a squadron of ships in an important naval battle. 3. The two ships mentioned above survived WWII. The fictional ship in the movie was sunk, so it could also be based on any US Navy cruiser that was sunk during the Solomon Islands campaign.
The film's title comes from a quote by Revolutionary War captain John Paul Jones: "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm's way."
The escape of a destroyer from the Pearl Harbor attack with only junior officers aboard is based on the action of the USS Aylwin (DD-355).
In addition to John Wayne, Franchot Tone was also suffering from lung cancer during filming.
John Wayne was suffering from lung cancer and by the end of filming he was coughing up blood. Two months after filming ended his entire left lung and several ribs were removed.
Henry Fonda, who plays the second Commander-in-Chief-PacificFleet (CINCPAC II), was actually a naval veteran of World War II who served in the Pacific Theater. After making The Ox-Bow Incident, Fonda enlisted in the Navy to fight in World War II, saying, "I don't want to be in a fake war in a studio." He served in the Navy for three years, as a Quartermaster 3rd Class on the destroyer USS Satterlee, then, after receiving a commissioned as Lieutenant Junior Grade (O-2) in Air Combat Intelligence. For his service, he won the Bronze Star, the fourth highest award for bravery or meritorious service in conflict with the enemy. Fonda later reprised the role of CINCPAC in the docudrama Midway, where the character was identified as Adm. Chester Nimitz.
Kirk Douglas wrote that John Wayne wanted him for the role of Commander (later Captain) Eddington. Douglas was surprised as they did not know each other and did not socialize, and their political opinions were very different. Nonetheless, the collaboration was a success and the two later co-starred in The War Wagon and Wayne had a cameo in Douglas' ode to Israel, Cast a Giant Shadow.
The cruiser used for filming was the USS St. Paul (CA-73).
During the filming, Kirk Douglas sponsored a Yom Kippur service for the Jewish naval personnel being used as extras in the film.
Until recently Adms. Kimmell and Nimitz were identified in the credits simply as CINCPAC1 and CINCPAC2. Neither of them is referred to by name in the movie and any reference to them is always as 'CINCPAC'.
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