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Film / Report from the Aleutians

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Report from the Aleutians is a 1943 documentary feature (technically a "feature" at 47 minutes long) from John Huston, then in wartime service with the Army Signal Corps.

It is a documentary about the Aleutian Islands campaign, specifically, the U.S. Army Air Force base on the island of Adak. Opening narration explains just what the heck the Aleutian Islands are—a long chain of volcanic islands that extend out a thousand miles from the Alaskan mainland—and recounts the Japanese attack on the American base at Dutch Harbor, and the Japanese occupation of the islands of Attu and Kiska near the end of the chain. The United States responded by building a base on the island of Adak, further west than the Dutch Harbor base. Huston's crew films the daily lives of the soldiers at the Adak installation, concentrating on the boredom and tedium of life on a remote, windswept, treeless outpost. Finally the film ends with a combat mission to Kiska, showing nine bombers dropping their bombs on Japanese installations on the island.

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Not long after this film was completed, the Americans took back Attu and Kiska, the former after a vicious 18-day battle that saw the Japanese garrison annihilated, the latter with no battle as the Japanese had already evacuated.

Compare Huston's other World War II documentaries, The Battle of San Pietro and Let There Be Light. Also see William Wyler's The Memphis Belle, a similar documentary about an American bombing squadron in the European theater.


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Tropes:

  • The Dead Have Names: One sequence shows pictures and names of the American pilots killed in the Japanese raid on Dutch Harbor.
  • Disturbed Doves: Ravens. "The thunder of the engines makes the earth tremble and the ravens rise," and we see some agitated birds flying away.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: Bomber launching sequence, but we do see the American bombers take off and head to Kiska.
  • Hard-Work Montage: The film shows the hard labor that was involved in creating a runway for bombers and fighters on Adak.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Loading up a bomber for a combat mission, namely with bombs for dropping on the Japanese and bands of anti-aircraft ammunition for shooting at Japanese fighters.
  • Narrator: Narrated mostly by John Huston, with some additional narration by his father Walter.
  • Nose Art: One fighter has its entire nose cone painted up to look like a tiger.
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