Gung Ho! The True Story of Carlson's Makin Island Raiders (December 20, 1943)

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Randolph Scott in Gung Ho!
 

Released December 20, 1943: Seven weeks after Pearl Harbor the Second Marine Raider Battalion was created to attack Pacific islands that were captured by the Japanese.

Directed by Ray Enright

The Actors: Randolph Scott (Colonel Thorwald), Alan Curtis (John Harbison), Noah Beery Jr. (Corporal Kurt Richter), J. Carrol Naish (Lieutenant C.J. Cristoforos), Sam Levene (Leo 'Transport' Andreof), David Bruce (Larry O'Ryan), Richard Lane (Captain Dunphy), Walter Sande ('Gunner' McBride), Louis Jean Heydt (Lieutenant Roland Browning), Robert Mitchum ('Pig-Iron' Matthews), Rod Cameron (Rube Tedrow), Grace McDonald (Kathleen Corrigan), Milburn Stone (Commander Blake), Peter Coe (Kozzarowski), Harold Landon (Frankie Montana), Irving Bacon (Harry the hamburger man), Eddie Coke (Chief Clerk), Dudley Dickerson (mess boy), John Frazer (signal officer), Alex Havier (Filipino), Joe Haworth (singing marine), Bill Healy (marine Sergeant), Chet Huntley (narrator), John James (Buddy Andrews), Robert Kent (submarine navigator Robinson), Liparit (Japanese Dialogue), Clarence Lung (Japanese officer), Don McGill (clerk), Bernard Sell (helmsman), Nick Shaid (old guard), Carl Vernell (marine on submarine), Prince Waln (Japanese soldier), Bruce Wong (Japanese pilot).

 

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I create web sites for a living, and have been honored to create a couple of web sites dedicated to WWII marines. One site honors the bloodiest battle that the U.S. Marines ever fought in at Tarawa Island in the Pacific, TarawaTheAftermath.com, and another tells the story of one of the Marines that fought on Tarawa and beyond, Open-Fire.us

This movie is also about a real event during the early days of WWII, tellling the story of Carlson's Raiders, a group formed and trained by Marine Evans Carlson. Carlson fought against the Japanese as they were invading China in 1927-1929, years before they attacked us at Pearl Harbor, and from that experience he brought to his men the slogan, "Gung Ho!," which in Chinese means Work - Harmony. Today we are accustomed to hearing about Seal Team, Green Beret's, and other 'special' fighting forces. This might have been the first 'special' group of fighters in modern warfare. A few weeks after Pearl Harbor, Carlson organized a small group of rough and tough misfits from within the Marine Raiders Battalians to carry out specially planned operations against special enemy targets, and their first mission was to knock out a critical communications link that the Japanese had between Hawaii and Australia on Makin Island. This movie was released in 1943, while the war was still raging, and was designed in part to give encouragement to the folks back home as their young sons were fighting far, far away.

When I was a young boy we could usually only get one channel on our television set, and for a large portion of my childhood it happened to be an NBC station. So while I ate breakfast and killed time before leaving for school, I have memories of the Today show with Dave Garroway, and Frank Blair giving the news. And in the evenings I can still hear the closing dialogue between network news' first tandem anchors, "Good night, Chet" - "Good night, David... and good night for NBC News." The 'Chet' part of the news was Montana native Chet Huntley. He had a perfect voice for radio or television, with deep, round, resonating tones. In 1943 when this movie was made he was doing local TV news for the Los Angeles NBC station, and he earned extra money on the side by doing narration work for movie studios, and it is his voice that provides the narration in this movie, and I could recognize that familiar voice the moment I heard it. There is another actor with a small part that stuck out for me . . . the Marine doctor, played by Milburn Stone. He played Doc Adams on the long running cowboy television show, "Gunsmoke." Again you will recognize his voice if not his face in this Marine epic. The one other character that popped out for me was the hamburger joint owner, played by Irving Bacon. How the home scene has changed during war time! Today we are told to go shopping and spend money to support the war, so that tax revenue will go up and provide the funds for fighting. But during WWII Americans were taught to do without common items so that they could go instead to the fighting men. When two of our Raiders go to the hamburger joint for a burger, Bacon reminds them that it is 'Meatless Tuesday' and no one in America will eat meat on this day so that the extra beef can be sent to our troops fighting overseas. Tmes sure have changed.

Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn and drizzle lots of real melted butter on top and enjoy a real life tough-man fighting movie from the tough WWII war year of 1943.