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Film / Objective, Burma!

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Objective, Burma! is a 1945 film directed by Raoul Walsh, starring Errol Flynn.

The time setting is a little vague but appears to be 1944. Captain Nelson (Flynn) is head of an elite squad of American paratroopers in the Burma theater of war. The Allies are planning an advance into Burma, and Nelson's squad has been given a special mission: parachute into Burma and destroy a key Japanese radar station. Afterwards they will march to an abandoned airfield, built by the British shortly before the Japanese conquered Burma, where they are to be taken out of enemy territory by American planes.

Nelson and his band of 33 paratroopers, accompanied by newspaper correspondent Mark Williams, parachute into Burma, 150 miles behind Japanese lines. The mission goes off without a hitch, the Americans mounting a surprise attack on the radar station and destroying it, annihilating the Japanese garrison without losing a man. However, the Japanese, now alerted to the presence of the enemy, pursue aggressively and intercept the Americans at the airfield. Nelson and his men escape but, unable to rendezvous with the planes, are forced to make a harrowing long march over land to safety.

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Inspired by... the exploits of "Merrill's Marauders", a Real Life American special operations unit that did in fact operate deep in the Japanese rear in Burma (although they weren't paratroopers).


Tropes:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Discussed Trope. A soldier says that his jealous girlfriend wrote to ask what his girlfriend in Bombay has that she doesn't have. He answered her by saying "Nothing, honey, only she's got it here in Bombay!"
  • America Won World War II: One of the most notorious examples of this trope. Technically justified, at least in the sense that the plot was Inspired by... Merrill's Marauders, a real American special forces unit that really did operate behind enemy lines in Burma. However, the approximately 3,000 Marauders were the only American infantry forces in the China-Burma-India theater, as compared to over a million British, Indian, and Commonwealth troops under the command of General Bill Slim. This movie was rapidly withdrawn from British theaters in 1945 in the face of public outrage over the portrayal of American troops fighting in what was actually an almost wholly British theater. (Reportedly Winston Churchill himself was pissed off by Objective, Burma!.)
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  • The Big Board: Not just a board! Nelson's unit actually has a 3-D scale model of the sector where they are to make the drop, hills, river valleys, and all.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The men are upset and even Nelson is mystified when they're ordered to turn around and make for a hill further in the Japanese rear rather than continue back to Allied lines. It turns out that they were used as a decoy force, which works when the British enter Burma and Nelson and what's left of his squad are flown out. But the melancholy look on Nelson's face as he enters the glider shows he's well aware of the high price paid.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: In the opening scenes some of the Americans in camp are practicing throwing knives into a tree. This pays off during a combat sequence, when an American throws a knife into the back of a Japanese soldier. The enemy soldier manages to turn around and raise his gun, only for the American to throw a second knife into his chest to finish him off.
  • Boring Return Journey: Inverted. The mission goes off flawlessly, but the attack on the radar station comes only a third of the way through the movie. The remaining two-thirds follows the men on the desperate journey back, which eventually gets diverted.
  • Dwindling Party: Nelson makes it back with only 11 of his 33 men, the rest, along with Williams the reporter, having died along the way.
  • Excited Show Title!: ''Objective, Burma!"
  • Hollywood Darkness: Some pretty crisp shadows being thrown at 0315 when Nelson and his men are mustering at the air field.
  • Instant Death Bullet: For an entire garrison of Japanese soldiers. After ambushing and annihilating the garrison at the radar station, the Americans step through the corpses as they set the explosive charges to blow the place up. Not a single Japanese soldier is shown to move, none need to be finished off; they all died right away in classic Instant Death Bullet style.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Williams, who despite being at least twice the age of the soldiers in the squad accompanies them on the mission. He claims to have parachuted frequently, but Nelson notices that he put his gear on upside down.
  • It's Raining Men
    • The men parachute behind enemy lines.
    • Again at the end, when what's left of Nelson's squad is saved by British paratroopers dropping as part of the invasion of Burma. One of the Americans nearly manages to be the Trope Namer when he says "It's raining parachutes!"
  • Jungles Sound Like Kookaburras: Lots of kookaburras cawing in the jungles of Burma, which is weird since they only live in Australia.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Hollis has been seriously wounded while out on patrol. Nelson muses that he should leave Hollis behind, that the rest of the squad needs to keep moving and he'll slow them down. Then he says "I can't do it," and has the men carry him on a stretcher.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Nelson himself pulls the pin of a grenade with his teeth before chucking it at the Japanese soldiers in the radar station.
  • Stock Footage: The setting is established with some stock footage of Allied commanders in Burma planning operations.
  • Title Drop: The opening narration explains that "the operation was about to begin its objective—Burma!"
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