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About Tora Tora Tora

Discussion in 'WWII Films & TV' started by Lias_Co_Pilot, Aug 17, 2008.

  1. Lias_Co_Pilot

    Lias_Co_Pilot Member

    May 9, 2008
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    I was in third grade when this mvie came out. It's a well done movie. I've always had lingering questions about some items in the movie, like:

    Did they really waste some great vintage WW2 planes to make the movie?

    Where did they find a WW2 Japanese battleship?

    Where did they find a WW1 type American battleship?

    I went looking and found this trivia at a movie site.
    • The B-17 "Flying Fortress" that lands with one wheel up is no film-trick. The plane got problems with its landing-gear and the pilot was asked to circle until the film-crew got cameras in position to film the crash-landing. The B-17 was not badly damaged, it flew again but was lost in a fatal crash while water-bombing a forest-fire some years later.
    • The P-40 that crashes into the parked planes was not a planned scene either. All the P-40:s in that scene,
    • Except for two to the extreme right in the background, were full-scale mock-ups and some of them were fitted with real Allison engines and controlled by wires. It was meant that the plane should run down the runway and be blown up as the "Zeros" attacked, but the special-effects crew lost control of it, and it crashed into the parked mock-ups. Some of the extras standing around suffered injuries, but reportedly only minor.
    • More accidents related to the movie: Jack Canary, who traveled around all United States to collect the AT-6 and BT-13-trainers that were converted to Japanese planes, was killed when the BT-13 he was ferrying caught fire in the air. One "Val" (dive-bomber) stalled and crashed in a field during filming. The pilot was killed. One "Kate" (torpedo-plane) crashed in the water and sank. The pilot was rescued.​
    • Reportedly the film-crew had not only planned to launch the "Japanese" planes from the US carrier "Yorktown" as seen in the movie, but they also had planned to film real landings aboard the ship. That was terminated after an accident. The few landings seen in the finished movie are faked in the editing-room.​
    • The Japanese battleship where Admiral Yamamoto meets his officers in the beginning of the movie was a full size mockup and complete from bow to stern with every gun and even a mockup seaplane on a catapult. It was built on a beach in Japan, next to the full size mockup of the aircraft-carrier "Akagi" where the pre-launch scenes of the Japanese airfleet were filmed. About half the carrier-deck and the "island"-structure were built.​
    • In Pearl Harbor the aft half of a battleship was built in full size. It floated on barges and doubled for several of the battleships that came under attack in 1941. ​
    • Only two of the aircraft (a Zero and a Kate) that are seen on the "Akagi"-set are modified to the same degree as the flyable planes in the movie. The rest are standard North American T6-trainers with three-bladed propellers, drop tanks and undercarriage-doors added. Furthermore, for some reason, as hardly any scene shows planes with folded wings, their wings were cut and hinges installed, thereby making the planes unflyable.​
    Here is a little information about the aircraft in the movie ​

    • The twelve Zeros (fighters) were North American AT-6 or SNJ trainers with cockpits, fins, wingtips and some other parts modified.
    • The nine Vals (dive bombers) were Vultee BT-13 or BT-15 trainers with lengthened fuselages, new engines, undercarriage-fairings and reshaped fins and wingtips.​
    • The nine Kates (torpedo- and level bombers) were a composite of AT-6/SNJ front end and wings, and BT-13/15tails. Plus lengthened fuselages and new cockpits with an extra seat added.​
    • For most scenes, dummies, dressed in Japanese flying uniforms, occupied the seats behind the pilots.​
    • The cost for the conversions was about $ 30.000 each. After the movie was finished, the planes were sold for around $ 1.500 each.​
    • The above-mentioned aircraft were the airworthy Japanese planes filmed on the USS Yorktown and Hawaii (the planes on the set in Japan consisted of about 20 planes, and I have discussed them earlier in this column).​
    • Several of the planes still fly in the hands of collectors. Three Vals and three Kates were loaned for use in Disneys Pearl Harbor. One of the Vals hit a palm-tree during the filming and was destroyed. The pilot survived.​
    • Five B-17 bombers were flown to Hawaii for use in Tora. They were fire-fighting tankers, but the water-tanks and related equipment was removed, and fake gun-turrets installed. One plane got damaged in the unintentional crash-landing seen in the movie.​
    • Five PBY Catalinas were transported to Hawaii. One was airworthy and used in some flying scenes; the other four were destroyed in the Ford Island bombing scenes.​
    • One A-24 Dauntless was made flyable (barely), but the scenes involving that plane never made it to the finished movie. They were later used in Midway.​
    • In a scene a Zero crashes into a hangar. Inside the hangar are a P-40 mock-up and an unidentifiable aircraft. Both are seen a very short time before they are destroyed. The later plane is actually a derelict B-25 that the movie-company found in Hawaii. For some unknown reason they modified its tail from two- to one-fin configuration, so it doesn't look like a B-25.
    • The two real Curtiss P-40 fighters were leased from private owners. They were of E-models, a model that didn't exist in 1941, but no flyable P-40 B or C existed when the movie was made. One of the aircraft (c/n 18723) had been converted to a two-seater by removing the fuselage tank and completely rebuilding the cockpit. The movie-company altered it back to the original look, but in close-ups and stills from the movie, one can see that part of its canopy-area looks curious. For the owner the leasing of this aircraft was not a happy experience. When the movie-company returned the plane, the original paint-scheme was ruined, it had a different canopy, the filmcrew had ground-looped the aircraft and sheared off a landing-gear leg, and the engine and propeller were not the original ones. The other P-40 (c/n 18796) had been owned by legendary stuntflier Frank Tallman, and was a movie veteran. Apart from flying for the cameras, it was also used as a pattern to create moulds for the fabrication of the fuselages for the fibreglass mock-ups. The mock-up P-40:s had C-45 (Beech 18) outer wing panels as wings, and T-6 landing gears. The tailwheels were genuine P-40 items. When found, they were still brand new in their original boxes. As mentioned before, a few of them had real Allison engines and Curtis-Electric propellers, and could taxi very fast, controlled by wires.
    • The OS2U Kingfisher that sat on a catapult on the battleship-set built in Pearl Harbor, was a fibreglass mock-up. It was only seen in a few short scenes before it was destroyed, but had a real engine (not working) installed as well as a detailed interior.
    • The American aircraft practising dive-bombing on a target towed by a ship prior to the attack, were actually Japanese Kates, but they were filmed from so long a distance that they are hard to identify. They were probably meant to represent Douglas SBD Dauntlesses, but from a distance they very much resembled Vought Sikorsky SB2U Vindicators, of which the Navy and Marines still used a number in December 1941.
    • The American battleships, and some other ships in the movie, were of course large models. For some reason no aircraft models were used. It would undoubtedly have added to the realism if at least some aircraft had been seen flying over Battleship Row when seen at a distance.
    • The real Japanese ”Kates” torpedoes did not have a nose down position when they hung under the planes as they have in the movie. The reason why they are mounted like that in the movie is that it was the only way the modified T-6 planes could retract their landing gear when they were loaded with the (dummy) torpedoes.

    • All information above posted by: Olav Westerman
    • The B-25 that was destroyed in the hangar with the P-40 in the "kamikaze" scene was meant to look like a Douglas A-20 Havoc, of which an even dozen were stationed at Hickam Field during the attack. Also the B-25 had originally starred in the movie "In Harm's Way" (Goodbye Edrington/Kirk Douglas!). (Source: B-25/P-40 in hangar)
    Moderator Edit - Moved to Films and TV Forum.
  2. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

    Oct 2, 2007
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    This is a film that I really liked. Thanks for the posting the trivia. You made my day!
  3. skunk works

    skunk works Ace

    Nov 12, 2005
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    Neat stuff!

    As well the movie "Midway" has many of the same scenes, and the best collection of SB2U Vindicator (Vibrator) flying footage ever seen.

    Even though the only ones I know of were stationed on Midway island, and not on any of the Carriers.
  4. mutt71

    mutt71 Member

    Sep 27, 2010
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    This is really interesting information on this fine Movie. Many Thanks for sharing this information with us!
  5. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

    Oct 16, 2010
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    IIRC the mocked-up Vals (and maybe the Kates?) have been owned by the CAF for decades now, they form part of their "Pearl Harbour" airshow routine.

    This was a successful mockup - something similar had been tried earlier with a Percival Proctor in the UK to create a flying Stuka for The Battle Of Britain but it proved to be "unflyable" unless the pilot had 1/ no nerves and 2/ his sphincter sewn shut!

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