World History

Did the movie "Pearl Harbor" portray events accurately?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. When Japan began to expand its empire and ally with Nazi Germany, the U.S. tried to stop the Japanese from taking Britain's Pacific colonies by implementing oil embargoes. Relations between America and Japan had been deteriorating for about 10 years, since some of Japan's extremists in its army had overrun Manchuria. As relations continued going downhill during the war, the Japanese prepared a strike force with a Hawaiian target in mind.

    The Japanese struck Pearl Harbor early on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941. The U.S. was not prepared to defend an air attack at the base. The morning of the attack, 130 vessels belonging to the U.S. Pacific Fleet were tied up at the harbor, including nine battleships. The attack may have shattered the fleet and killed many personnel, but the aircraft carriers and harbor largely survived. Most of all, the attack cemented Americans' resolve to get behind U.S. involvement in World War II.

    The events of Pearl Harbor have stayed in our minds and history books. More than 1.5 million people visit Hawaii's memorial to the attack each year [source: NPS]. In 2001, a Hollywood movie was made about the attack. Historians were somewhat amused by the movie "Pearl Harbor," which starred Ben Affleck, was directed by Michael Bay and written by Randall Wallace. Many said that the depiction of the events surrounding the Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy in Hawaii and the events that led to the U.S. entering World War II, only remotely resembled the historic events. The movie also included blatant inaccuracies, such as bikinis and airplanes occurring at a time in history before they were invented and a crippled President Franklin Delano Roosevelt getting up from his wheelchair. There also were many accurate depictions in the film, such as a radio system that was held against the operators' throats instead of their mouths and the fact that President Roosevelt possessed a Hitler pincushion [source: IMDB].

    Bay, the movie's director and co-producer, has said that those putting the movie together interviewed historians, and that memories and views often differed. He added that the movie sought to portray the heroism of the 4,000 American nurses stationed at Pearl Harbor and of the Japanese as well. Most of all, he has pointed out that this was a movie -- only two hours of time -- and that he hoped to spark interest in Pearl Harbor among people who saw the movie so that they could learn more about the event and the war [source: Bruckheimer].

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