The Wackiest Ship in the Army (film)

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The Wackiest Ship in the Army
The Wackiest Ship in the Army DVD cover.jpg
The DVD Movie Cover
Directed by Richard Murphy
Written by Richard Murphy
Herbert Carlson
Starring Jack Lemmon
Ricky Nelson
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) December 20, 1960
Running time 99 min.
Country United States
Language English

The Wackiest Ship in the Army is a 1960 CinemaScope comedy-drama war film starring Jack Lemmon, Ricky Nelson, and Chips Rafferty. It was filmed at Pearl Harbor and Kauai.

Plot summary[edit]

During World War II Lt. Rip Crandall, an expert yachtsman in civilian life, now based at Townsville, Queensland, Australia, is surprised to be assigned command of a sailing ship, the USS Echo. The only crew member who knows how to work a ship with sails is eager young Ensign Tommy Hanson, who cost Crandall a yacht race with a mistake before the war.

Crandall tries to refuse this dubious command, but Hanson and Lt. Commander Vandewater wear down his resistance. Vandewater points out Crandall's poor fitness report and advises that if he doesn't take this command, he'll probably never get another. Hanson takes Crandell out drinking with some of the men so he'll feel guilty about abandoning them.

The Echo barely makes it out of the harbor, sailing straight into a storm. When it arrives in Port Moresby, Crandall is supposed to train a replacement to deliver a coast watcher named Patterson to a location only a shallow-draft vessel can reach. However, the replacement commander strikes Crandall as stiff-necked and unqualified to handle this kind of mission, so he takes the ship out under his own command to deliver Patterson.

Making the crossing in a not very convincing disguise as a native trading vessel, Crandall and his crew are spotted and photographed by an enemy plane. While they are delivering their passenger, a Japanese force from a passing war fleet boards the scow and captures the landing party when they return.

Crandall manages to rally his men to take the ship back. He is then faced with the decision of whether to radio a warning about the fleet, even though that will give away their position to guns on shore. He sends the warning and abandons ship as the guns open fire on the Echo and destroy her.

The crew survives to be rescued, and Crandall is given command of a modern destroyer whilst Hanson gains command of a sub chaser for their role in helping to win the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

Production notes[edit]

The USS Echo was based on the real-life USS Echo, a 40-year-old twin-masted scow (flat-bottomed schooner) that was transferred from the New Zealand government to the US Navy in 1942, and returned to the New Zealand government in 1944.

Columbia Pictures acquired the rights to a story in the July 1956 issue of Argosy entitled Big Fella Wash Wash inspired by reminisces from the Echos former skipper Meredith "Rip" Riddle. The story was advertised on the cover of the magazine as "The Wackiest Ship in the Army" and Columbia used that title when purchasing the story the following year. The director and writer of the film was Richard Murphy who had previously wrote the script for the 1951 film You're in the Navy Now. The film was originally designed for Ernie Kovacs in the lead role with Jack Lemmon as the ensign but with Kovacs unavailable and Lemmon looking too old for an ensign his role was given to popular star and singer Ricky Nelson. Though acquired before Operation Petticoat the film was not released until after that film. The US Navy provided extensive cooperation allowing the producers to film at Pearl Harbor.[1]


TV series[edit]

The film was used as the background for the 1965 TV series of the same name.


  1. ^ pp. 204-208 Erickson, Hal Military Comedy Films: A Critical Survey and Filmography of Hollywood Releases Since 1918 McFarland, 7 Aug 2012

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