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WWII's Pacific theater yields classic films

Published October 19, 2006

Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers is a throwback to Hollywood's past war glories, stirring painfully patriotic memories of the Pacific theater in the way Saving Private Ryan did for European theater veterans and their survivors. World War II movies set in Europe dominate the war movie genre, but a few Pacific theater classics endure. Here are 10 to seek on home video and TV:

1. Wake Island (1942) A regimental U.S. Marine major (Brian Donlevy) and an unpolished platoon brace against the post-Pearl Harbor wave of Japanese aggression in the South Pacific. Paramount Pictures began production before the real battle had ended.

2. Guadalcanal Diary (1943) Marines invade an island stronghold in 1942. Based on the book by Richard Tregaskis, one of only two news correspondents allowed on Guadalcanal during the assault.

3. Bataan (1943) Thirteen soldiers led by Robert Taylor and George Murphy are ordered to destroy a vital bridge when Japanese forces invade the Philippines.

4. They Were Expendable (1945) Director and Navy propagandist John Ford lionized torpedo boat forces defending the Philippines. John Wayne went from B-movie cowpoke to war movie icon with his role.

5. Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) Wayne's first Academy Award nomination came for his paternal platoon leadership during the island assault.

6. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Allied prisoners of war in Burma are ordered to build a bridge to aid the Japanese but have other plans for it. Academy Awards went to the film, director David Lean and best actor Alec Guinness.

7. The Outsider (1961) Tony Curtis is superb as Pvt. Ira Hayes, the American Indian flag-raiser on Iwo Jima who couldn't defeat prejudice at home. The movie is unavailable on DVD and rarely shown on television. That should change after Adam Beach's performance as Hayes in Flags of Our Fathers .

8. Hell in the Pacific (1968) Not a conventional World War II movie, although stripping down the conflict to an American pilot (Lee Marvin) and Japanese soldier (Toshiro Mifune) marooned on an island is gripping drama.

9. Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) The essential Pearl Harbor movie .

10. Midway (1976) The Pacific theater tide turned in 1942 when U.S. air and sea forces severely disabled the Japanese navy at Midway Island. Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum and Henry Fonda lead an all-star cast showing how it happened.



[Last modified October 18, 2006, 11:00:48]

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