Tora! Tora! Tora!

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Tora! Tora! Tora!
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAmerican sequences
Richard Fleischer
Japanese sequences
Toshio Masuda
Kinji Fukasaku
Akira Kurosawa (uncredited)
Screenplay byAmerican sequences
Larry Forrester
Japanese sequences
Hideo Oguni
Ryūzō Kikushima
Akira Kurosawa (uncredited)
Based on
Produced byElmo Williams
CinematographyAmerican sequences
Charles F. Wheeler
Japanese sequences
Shinsaku Himeda
Masamichi Satoh
Osamu Furuya
Edited byJames E. Newcom
Pembroke J. Herring
Inoue Chikaya
Music byJerry Goldsmith
Williams-Fleischer Productions
Toei Company
Distributed by20th Century Fox (U.S.)
Toei Company (Japan)
Release dates
  • 23 September 1970 (1970-09-23) (U.S.)
  • 25 September 1970 (1970-09-25) (Japan)
Running time
144 minutes
CountriesUnited States
Budget$25 million[1][2]
Box office$37 million (rentals)[3]

Tora! Tora! Tora! (Japanese: トラ・トラ・トラ!) is a 1970 epic war film that dramatizes the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The film was produced by Elmo Williams and directed by Richard Fleischer, Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku, and stars an ensemble cast including Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten, So Yamamura, E.G. Marshall, James Whitmore, Tatsuya Mihashi, Takahiro Tamura, Wesley Addy, and Jason Robards. It was Masuda and Fukasaku's first English-language film, and first international co-production. The tora of the title, although literally meaning "tiger", is actually an abbreviation of a two-syllable codeword (i.e., totsugeki raigeki 突撃雷撃, "lightning attack"), used to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved.[4]

The film was released in the United States by Twentieth Century Fox on September 23, 1970, and in Japan by the Toei Company on September 25. It received mixed reviews from American critics, but was praised for its historical accuracy and attention to detail, its visual effects, and its action sequences.[5][6] A 1994 survey at the USS Arizona Memorial determined that for Americans the film was the most common source of popular knowledge about the Pearl Harbor attack.[7]

Tora! Tora! Tora! was nominated for five Oscars at the 43rd Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, winning Best Visual Effects (L.B. Abbott and A.D. Flowers).[8] The National Board of Review ranked it in its Top Ten Films of 1971.


In August 1939, the United States imposes a trade embargo on a belligerent Japan, severely limiting raw materials. Influential Japanese army figures and politicians push through an alliance with Germany and Italy in September 1940 despite opposition from the Japanese navy and prepare for war. The newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, reluctantly plans a pre-emptive strike on the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, believing that Japan's best hope of controlling the Pacific Ocean is to quickly annihilate the American fleet. Air Staff Officer Minoru Genda is chosen to mastermind the operation while his old Naval Academy classmate Mitsuo Fuchida is selected to lead the attack.

Meanwhile, in Washington, U.S. military intelligence has broken the Japanese Purple Code, allowing them to intercept secret Japanese radio transmissions indicating increased Japanese naval activity. Monitoring the transmissions are U.S. Army Col. Bratton and U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Kramer. At Pearl Harbor itself, Admiral Kimmel increases defensive naval and air patrols around Hawaii which could provide early warning of enemy presence. General Short recommends concentrating aircraft at the base on the runways to avoid sabotage by enemy agents in Hawaii, so General Howard Davidson of the 14th Pursuit Wing tries dispersing some of the planes to other airfields on Oahu to maintain air readiness.

Several months pass while diplomatic tensions escalate. As the Japanese ambassador to Washington continues negotiations to stall for time, the large Japanese fleet sorties into the Pacific. On the day of the attack, Bratton and Kramer learn from intercepts that the Japanese plan a series of 14 radio messages from Tokyo to the Japanese embassy in Washington. They are also directed to destroy their code machines after receiving the final message. Deducing the Japanese intention to launch a surprise attack immediately after the messages are delivered, Bratton tries warning his superiors of his suspicions but encounters several obstacles: Chief of Naval Operations Harold R. Stark is indecisive over notifying Hawaii without first alerting the President while Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall's order that Pearl Harbor be alerted of an impending attack is stymied by poor atmospherics that prevent radio transmission and by bungling when a warning sent by telegram is not marked urgent. At dawn on December 7, the Japanese fleet launches its aircraft. Their approach to Hawaii is detected by two radar operators but their concerns are dismissed by the duty officer. Similarly the claim by the destroyer USS Ward to have sunk a Japanese miniature submarine off the entrance to Pearl Harbor is dismissed as unimportant. The Japanese thus achieve complete and total surprise, which Commander Fuchida indicates with the signal "Tora! Tora! Tora!"

The damage to the naval base is catastrophic and casualties are severe. Seven battleships are either sunk or heavily damaged. General Short's anti-sabotage precautions prove a disastrous mistake that allows the Japanese aerial forces to destroy aircraft on the ground easily. Hours after the attack ends, General Short and Admiral Kimmel receive Marshall's telegram warning of impending danger. In Washington, Secretary of State Cordell Hull is stunned to learn of the attack and urgently requests confirmation before receiving the Japanese ambassador. The message that was transmitted to the Japanese embassy in 14 parts – including a declaration that peace negotiations were at an end – was meant to be delivered to the Americans at 1:00 pm in Washington, 30 minutes before the attack. However, it was not decoded and transcribed in time, meaning the attack started while the two nations were technically still at peace. The distraught Japanese ambassador, helpless to explain the late ultimatum and unaware of the ongoing attack, is bluntly rebuffed by Hull.

Back in the Pacific, the Japanese fleet commander, Vice-Admiral Chūichi Nagumo, refuses to launch a scheduled third wave of aircraft for fear of exposing his force to U.S. submarines. Aboard his flagship, Admiral Yamamoto solemnly informs his staff that their primary target – the American aircraft carriers – were not at Pearl Harbor, having departed days previously to search for Japanese vessels. Lamenting that the declaration of war arrived after the attack began, Yamamoto notes that nothing would infuriate the U.S. more and ominously concludes: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."


Note: Characters listed by rank in descending order


Actor Role Notes
Joseph Cotten Secretary Henry Stimson Secretary of War
George Macready Secretary Cordell Hull Secretary of State
Leon Ames Secretary Frank Knox Secretary of the Navy
Meredith Weatherby Ambassador Joseph Grew US Ambassador to Japan
Harold Conway Eugene Dooman US Embassy counselor, Tokyo
Martin Balsam Admiral Husband E. Kimmel Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Edward Andrews Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark Chief of Naval Operations
Bill Zuckert Admiral James O. Richardson Commander, United States Fleet
Keith Andes General George C. Marshall Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army
James Whitmore Vice Admiral William Halsey Jr. Commander, Aircraft Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Walter Reed Vice Admiral William S. Pye Interim Commander, Aircraft Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Edmon Ryan Rear Admiral Patrick Bellinger Commander, Patrol Wing Two
Ken Lynch Rear Admiral John H. Newton Commander, USS Lexington
Jason Robards Major General Walter Short Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Forces Hawaii
Larry Thor Major General Frederick L. Martin Commander, Hawaiian Air Force
Harlan Warde Brigadier General Leonard T. Gerow Commander, 29th Infantry Division
Edward Sheehan Brigadier General Howard C. Davidson Commander, 14th Pursuit Wing
Richard Erdman Colonel Edward F. French Chief, War Department Signal Center
Bill Edwards Colonel Kendall J. Fielder Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, Hawaiian Department
Richard Anderson Captain John Earle Chief of Staff, 14th Naval District
Walter Brooke Captain Theodore Wilkinson Director of Naval Intelligence
Karl Lukas Captain Harold C. Train Chief of Staff, Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Francis De Sales Captain Arthur H. McCollum Naval Intelligence officer
G.D. Spradlin Commander Maurice E. Curts Communications Officer, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Robert Shayne Commander William H. Buracker Operations Officer, Aircraft Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
E.G. Marshall Lieutenant Colonel Rufus S. Bratton Chief, Far Eastern Section, Military Intelligence Division, War Department
Dick Fair Lieutenant Colonel Carrol A. Powell Radar officer
Wesley Addy Lieutenant Commander Alwin Kramer Cryptographer, OP-20-G
Frank Aletter Lieutenant Commander Francis Thomas Command Duty Officer, USS Nevada
Jerry Fogel Lieutenant Commander William W. Outerbridge Commanding Officer, USS Ward
Dick Cook Lieutenant Commander Logan C. Ramsey Operations Officer, Patrol Wing Two
Norman Alden Major Truman Landon Commanding Officer, 38th Reconnaissance Squadron
Dave Donnelly Major Gordon Blake Hickam Field Operations Officer
Robert Karnes Major John H. Dillon Knox's aide
Neville Brand Lieutenant Harold Kaminski Duty Officer, 14th Naval District
Ron Masak Lieutenant Lawrence E. Ruff Communications Officer, USS Nevada
Jerry Cox 1st Lieutenant Kermit Tyler Pilot, 78th Pursuit Squadron
Rick Cooper 2nd Lieutenant George Welch Pilot, 47th Pursuit Squadron
Carl Reindel 2nd Lt. Kenneth Taylor Pilot, 47th Pursuit Squadron
David Westberg Ensign Edgar M. Fair Officer, USS California
Elven Havard Messman 3rd Class Doris Miller Crew member, USS West Virginia
Bruce Wilson Private Joseph Lockard Radarman at Opana Point


Actor Role Notes
Koreya Senda Prince Fumimaro Konoye Prime Minister of Japan
Hiroshi Akutagawa Marquis Koichi Kido Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
Kazuo Kitamura Shigenori Togo Foreign Minister
Sō Yamamura Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto Commander-in-Chief, Combined Fleet
Bontaro Miyake Admiral Koshiro Oikawa Minister of the Navy
Asao Uchida General Hideki Tojo Minister of War
Eijirō Tōno Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo Commander-in-Chief, 1st Air Fleet
Junya Usami Vice Admiral Zengo Yoshida Minister of the Navy
Susumu Fujita Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi Commander, Second Carrier Division
Ichiro Reuzaki Rear Admiral Ryūnosuke Kusaka Chief of Staff, 1st Air Fleet
Kan Nihonyanagi Rear Admiral Chuichi Hara Commander, 5th Carrier Division
Tôru Abe Rear Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi Chief of Staff, 11th Air Fleet
Shunichi Nakamura Captain Kameto "Gandhi" Kuroshima Senior Staff Officer, Combined Fleet
Tatsuya Mihashi Commander Minoru Genda Air Staff, 1st Air Fleet
Takahiro Tamura Lieutenant Commander Mitsuo Fuchida Commander, Air Group, Akagi
Toshio Hosokawa Lieutenant Commander Shigeharu Murata Commander, 1st Torpedo Attack Unit, Akagi
Hisashi Igawa Lieutenant Mitsuo Matsuzaki Fuchida's pilot
Hideo Murota Lieutenant Zenji Abe Pilot, Air Group, Akagi
Hiroshi Tom Tanaka Ensign Akira Hiroo (credited as "Japanese Midget Submarine Crewman") Commander, Midget Submarine I-20tō
uncredited Petty Officer 2nd Class Yoshio Katayama Pilot, Midget Submarine I-20tō
Hisao Toake Saburō Kurusu Japanese Ambassador
Shōgo Shimada Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura Japanese Ambassador to the United States
Paul Frees Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura (voice) Japanese Ambassador to the United States


Actor Role Notes
Leora Dana Ileana Kramer Lt. Cdr. Kramer's wife
June Dayton Ray Cave Secretary
Akira Kume Katsuzo Okumura Japanese embassy secretary
Jeff Donnell Cornelia Fort Civilian flying instructor
Hank Jones Davey Civilian student pilot
Andrew Hughes Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop German Minister for Foreign Affairs
Kiyoshi Atsumi Japanese messman


The North American T-6 Texan stood in for the Mitsubishi A6M Zero as there were no airworthy types at that time. Only Zeros from the carrier Akagi were depicted, identifiable by the single red band on the rear fuselage.
Aichi D3A replica at the Geneseo Airshow. In 1968 a Vultee BT-13 Valiant (N56867) was converted to a Val replica for use in the filming of the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, flown as Val "AI-244" from the carrier Akagi.
Nakajima B5N replica modified from a T-6 for the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!
A number of Curtiss P-40 Warhawk mockups were blown up during filming. This example, which was spared destruction, is currently on display at Wheeler Army Airfield, with markings identical to those of 2nd Lt George Welch.[9]
Replica models like this 115 scale USS Nevada were used for the overhead shots of Battleship Row. The model survives today in Los Angeles and often appears at local parades.[10]

Veteran 20th Century Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck, who had earlier produced The Longest Day (1962), wanted to create an epic that depicted what "really happened on December 7, 1941", with a "revisionist's approach". He believed that the commanders in Hawaii, General Short and Admiral Kimmel, though scapegoated for decades, provided adequate defensive measures for the apparent threats, including relocation of the fighter aircraft at Pearl Harbor to the middle of the base, in response to fears of sabotage from local Japanese. Despite a breakthrough in intelligence, they had received limited warning of the increasing risk of aerial attack.[1] Recognizing that a balanced and objective recounting was necessary, Zanuck developed an American-Japanese co-production, allowing for "a point of view from both nations".[11] He was helped out by his son, Richard D. Zanuck, who was chief executive at Fox during this time.

Production on Tora! Tora! Tora! took three years to plan and prepare for the eight months of principal photography.[11] The film was created in two separate productions, one based in the United States, directed by Richard Fleischer, and one based in Japan.[12] The Japanese side was initially to be directed by Akira Kurosawa, who worked on script development and pre-production for two years. But after two weeks of shooting, he was replaced by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku, who directed the Japanese sections.[12][13]

Richard Fleischer said of Akira Kurosawa's role in the project:

Well, I always thought that even though Kurosawa was a genius at film-making and indeed he was, I sincerely believe that he was miscast for this film, this was not his type of film to make, he never made anything like it and it just wasn't his style. I felt he was not only uncomfortable directing this kind of movie but also he wasn't used to having somebody tell him how he should make his film. He always had complete autonomy, and nobody would dare make a suggestion to Kurosawa about the budget, or shooting schedule, or anything like that. And then here he was, with Darryl Zanuck on his back and Richard Zanuck on him and Elmo Williams and the production managers, and it was all stuff that he never had run into before, because he was always untouchable. I think he was getting more and more nervous and more insecure about how he was going to work on this film. And of course, the press got a hold of a lot of this unrest on the set and they made a lot out of that in Japan, and it was more pressure on him, and he wasn't used to that kind of pressure.[14]

Larry Forrester and frequent Kurosawa collaborators Hideo Oguni and Ryūzō Kikushima wrote the screenplay, based on books written by Ladislas Farago and Gordon Prange of the University of Maryland, who served as a technical consultant. Numerous technical advisors on both sides, some of whom had participated in the battle and/or planning, were crucial in maintaining the accuracy of the film. Minoru Genda, the man who largely planned and led the attack on Pearl Harbor, was an uncredited technical advisor for the film.[1]

Four cinematographers were involved in the main photography: Charles F. Wheeler, Shinsaku Himeda, Masamichi Satoh, and Osamu Furuya.[15] They were jointly nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. A number of well-known cameramen also worked on the second units without credit, including Thomas Del Ruth and Rexford Metz.[15] The second unit doing miniature photography was directed by Ray Kellogg, while the second unit doing aerial sequences was directed by Robert Enrietto.

Noted composer Jerry Goldsmith composed the film score and Robert McCall painted several scenes for various posters of the film.[16]

The carrier entering Pearl Harbor towards the end of the film was in fact the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge, returning to port. The "Japanese" aircraft carrier was the anti-submarine carrier USS Yorktown, fitted with a false bow to disguise the catapults. The Japanese A6M Zero fighters, and somewhat longer "Kate" torpedo bombers or "Val" dive bombers were heavily modified Royal Canadian Air Force Harvard (T-6 Texan) and BT-13 Valiant pilot training aircraft. The large fleet of Japanese aircraft was created by Lynn Garrison, a well-known aerial action coordinator, who produced a number of conversions. Garrison and Jack Canary coordinated the actual engineering work at facilities in the Los Angeles area. These aircraft still make appearances at air shows.[17]

For the parallel filming in Japan, full-scale mock-ups of the Japanese battleship Nagato and aircraft carrier Akagi were built from the waterline up on shore, with about 90 feet (27 m) of their bows extending out over the ocean on stilts. These were used for much of the Japanese scenes on ship's decks. The one error introduced, however, was that the model Akagi's bridge was built on the starboard side instead of the port side. Only two Japanese carriers were built in this fashion, with bridges on the port side: Akagi and Hiryū. This was done because it was known that for the launching scenes filmed in the US, a US carrier would be used and the islands of US carriers were always on the starboard side. A few of the modified aircraft were also converted in Japan for the flight scenes filmed there.

In preparation for filming, Yorktown was berthed at NAS North Island in San Diego to load all the aircraft, maintenance, and film crew prior to sailing to Hawaii. The night before filming the "Japanese" take-off scenes she sailed to a spot a few miles west of San Diego and at dawn the film crew filmed the launches of all the aircraft. Since these "Japanese" aircraft were not actual carrier-based aircraft, they did not have arresting gear with which to land back on the carrier, and continued on to land at North Island Naval Air Station. Yorktown sailed back to North Island and re-loaded the aircraft. She then sailed to Hawaii and the aircraft were off-loaded and used to film the attack scenes in and around Pearl Harbor. Aircraft Specialties of Mesa, Arizona performed maintenance on the aircraft while in Hawaii.[citation needed]

A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress's actual crash landing during filming, a result of a jammed landing gear, was filmed and used in the final cut.[18] The film crew received word that one of the B-17s could not lower their starboard landing gear so they quickly set up to film the "single gear" landing. The aircraft stayed aloft to use up as much fuel as possible, which gave the film crew some time to prepare, prior to landing. After viewing the "single gear" landing footage they decided to include it in the movie. In the sequence depicting the crash, only the final crash was actual footage. For the scenes leading up to the crash they manually retracted the starboard landing gear on a functioning B-17 and filmed the scenes of its final approach. After touching down on one wheel the pilot simply applied power and took off again. The B-17 that actually landed with one gear up sustained only minor damage to the starboard wing and propellers and was repaired and returned to service. A total of five Boeing B-17s were obtained for filming. Other U.S. aircraft used are the Consolidated PBY Catalina and, especially, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk (two flyable examples were used). Predominantly, P-40 fighter aircraft are used to depict the U.S. defenders with a full-scale P-40 used as a template for fiberglass replicas (some with working engines and props) that were strafed and blown up during filming.[19] Fleischer also said a scene involving a P-40 model crashing into the middle of a line of P-40s was unintended, as it was supposed to crash at the end of the line. The stuntmen involved in the scene were actually running for their lives.[20] The B-17 crash along with several other scenes were reused in the 1976 film Midway.

With over 30 aircraft in the air, the flying scenes were complex to shoot, and can be compared to the 1969 film Battle of Britain where large formations of period-specific aircraft were filmed in staged aerial battles.[21] The 2001 film Pearl Harbor would use some of the same modified aircraft.[22]


The film was deliberately cast with actors who were not true box-office stars, including many Japanese amateurs, in order to place the emphasis on the story rather than the actors who were in it.[23]

Several members of the cast had themselves served in World War II.

Actor Service Notes
Martin Balsam Army Air Forces B-24 radio operator
James Whitmore Marine Corps Lieutenant
Jason Robards Navy USS Northampton and USS Nashville
Wesley Addy Army
Norman Alden Army
Frank Aletter Army
Richard Anderson Army
Keith Andes Army Air Forces
Edward Andrews Army Captain, awarded Bronze Star Medal
Neville Brand Army Earned a Purple Heart and Silver Star
Walter Brooke Army
Paul Frees Army Wounded in combat on D-Day
G.D. Spradlin Army Air Forces
Arthur Tovey Army
Harlan Warde Army Special Forces
Bill Zuckert Navy Construction Battalion ("Seabees")

Some crew members also served in the War.

Crew member Credited as Service Notes
Richard Fleischer Director / Producer Army
Darryl F. Zanuck Executive producer Army Colonel, Army Signal Corps. Also served in World War I.
Charles F. Wheeler Cinematographer Navy Combat photographer
Gordon W. Prange Author / Technical consultant Navy Chief Historian in General Douglas MacArthur's staff

Some cast members served before or after World War II.

Actor Service Engagements Notes
Leon Ames Army / Army Air Service World War I Field artillery and later in the flying corps
Ron Masak Army
Jamie Farr (uncredited voice acting) Army Korean War Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS)

Historical accuracy[edit]

USS Yorktown during the filming of Tora! Tora! Tora!, 1968.

Parts of the film showing the takeoff of the Japanese aircraft utilize an Essex-class aircraft carrier, Yorktown, which was commissioned in 1943 and modernized after the war to have a very slightly angled flight deck.[24] The ship was leased by the film producers, who needed an aircraft carrier for the film, and as Yorktown was scheduled to be decommissioned in 1970, the Navy made her available. She was used largely in the takeoff sequence of the Japanese attack aircraft. The sequence shows interchanging shots of models of the Japanese aircraft carriers and Yorktown. She does not look like any of the Japanese carriers involved in the attack, due to her large bridge island and her angled landing deck. The Japanese carriers had small bridge islands, and it wasn't until after the war that angled flight decks were developed.[25] In addition, during the scene in which Admiral Halsey is watching bombing practice, an aircraft carrier with the hull number 14 is shown. Admiral Halsey was on USS Enterprise, not the Essex-class carrier USS Ticonderoga, which would not be commissioned until 1944. This is understandable, however, as Enterprise and all six of the Japanese carriers from the attack had been scrapped or sunk.

In Tora! Tora! Tora!, an error involves the model of Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi. In the film, Akagi's bridge island is positioned on the starboard side of the ship, which is typical on most aircraft carriers. However, Akagi was an exception; her bridge island was on the port side of the ship. Despite this, the bridge section appeared accurately as a mirrored version of Akagi's real port-side bridge.[26] Secondly, all the Japanese aircraft in the footage bear the markings of Akagi's aircraft (a single vertical red stripe following the red sun symbol of Japan), even though five other aircraft carriers participated, each having its own markings. In addition, the markings do not display the aircraft's identification numbers as was the case in the actual battle. The white surround on the roundel on the Japanese aircraft was only used from 1942 onwards. Prior to this, the roundel was red only.[27]

USS Ward (DD-139) was an old "4-piper" destroyer commissioned in 1918; the ship used in the movie, USS Finch (DE-328), which portrays Ward, looked far different from the original destroyer.[28] In addition, in the movie, she fired two shots from her #1 gun turret. In reality, Ward fired the first shot from the #1 4-inch (102 mm) un-turreted gunmount and the second shot from the #3 wing mount.[29] The attack on the midget submarine by USS Ward was previously mentioned in the film In Harm's Way.

A stern section of USS Nevada was built that was also used to portray USS Arizona and other U.S. battleships. The lattice mast (or cage mast) section of the Tennessee-class/Maryland-class battleship was built beside the set of the USS Nevada stern section, but not built upon a set of a deck, but on the ground, as the footage in the movie only showed the cage mast tower. The large scale model of the stern shows the two aft gun turrets with three gun barrels in each; in reality, Nevada had two heightened fore and aft turrets with two barrels each while the lower two turrets fore and aft had three barrels each. Another model of Nevada, used in the film to portray the whole ship, displays the turrets accurately. The reason for this anomaly is because the aft section model was used in the film to portray both USS Nevada and USS Arizona. The ships looked remarkably similar except that Arizona had four triple turrets and a slightly different stern section. Footage and photographs not used in the film show the cage mast as being built on the ground. The USS Nevada/USS Arizona stern section was shown exploding to represent the explosion that destroyed Arizona, although in reality the explosion took place in #2 magazine, forward, and Arizona's stern section remains essentially intact to this day.

The film has a Japanese Zero fighter being damaged over a naval base and then deliberately crashing into a naval base hangar. This is actually a composite of three incidents during the Pearl Harbor attack: in the first wave, a Japanese Zero crashed into Fort Kamehameha's ordnance building; in the second wave, a Japanese Zero did deliberately crash into a hillside after U.S. Navy CPO John William Finn at Naval Air Station at Kāneʻohe Bay had shot and damaged the aircraft; also during the second wave, a Japanese aircraft that was damaged crashed into the seaplane tender USS Curtiss.[30]

During a number of shots of the attack squadrons traversing across Oahu, a white cross can be seen standing on one of the mountainsides. The cross was actually erected after the attack as a memorial to the victims of the attack.[31]

In the final scene, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto says "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant". An abridged version of the quotation is also featured in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor. The 2019 film Midway also features Yamamoto speaking aloud the sleeping giant quote. Although the quotation may well have encapsulated many of his real feelings about the attack, there is no printed evidence to prove Yamamoto made this statement or wrote it down.[32]


The film had its world premiere on September 23, 1970, in New York, Tokyo, Honolulu and Los Angeles.[33]


Box office[edit]

At the time of its initial release, Tora! Tora! Tora! was thought to be a box office disappointment in North America,[34] despite its domestic box office of $29,548,291 making it the ninth-highest-grossing film of 1970.[35] It was a major hit in Japan, and over the years, home media releases provided a larger overall profit.[36][37] The film had earned ¥194.22 million in Japanese distributor rentals by 1971, becoming the sixth-highest-grossing film of 1971 in Japan.[38]

According to Fox records, the film required $37.15 million in rentals to break even, and had done so by December 11, 1970.[3]

Critical response[edit]

The Commemorative Air Force's Gulf Coast Wing's Tora! Tora! Tora! team still fly the movie's aircraft simulating the attack at airshows.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 55% rating based on 29 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Tora! Tora! Tora! is scrupulously accurate and lays out of the tragedy of Pearl Harbor with intricate detail, but the film's clinical approach to the sound and fury signifies little feeling."[6] On Metacritic it has a score of 46% based on reviews from 8 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[39]

Roger Ebert felt that Tora! Tora! Tora! was "one of the deadest, dullest blockbusters ever made" and suffered from not having "some characters to identify with." In addition, he criticized the film for poor acting and special effects in his 1970 review.[40] Vincent Canby, reviewer for The New York Times, was similarly unimpressed, noting the film was "nothing less than a $25-million irrelevancy."[41] Variety also found the film to be boring; however, the magazine praised the film's action sequences and production values.[42] Charles Champlin in his review for the Los Angeles Times on September 23, 1970, considered the movie's chief virtues as a "spectacular", and the careful recreation of a historical event.[8]

Despite the initial negative reviews, the film was critically acclaimed for its vivid action scenes, and found favor with aviation aficionados.[5] However, even the team of Jack Hardwick and Ed Schnepf who have been involved in research on aviation films, had relegated Tora! Tora! Tora! to the "also-ran" status, due to its slow-moving plotline.[5]

Several later films and TV series relating to World War II in the Pacific have used footage from Tora! Tora! Tora!. These productions include the films Midway (1976; in the Tora! Tora! Tora! DVD commentary, Fleischer is angry that Universal used the footage), All This and World War II (film 1976), Pearl (TV mini-series 1978), From Here to Eternity (TV mini-series 1979), The Final Countdown (1980), and Australia (2008) as well as the Magnum, P. I. television series episode titled "Lest We Forget" (first airdate February 12, 1981).[43]

In 1994, a survey at the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu determined that for Americans the film was the most common source of popular knowledge about the Pearl Harbor attack.[7]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result
43rd Academy Awards Best Cinematography Charles F. Wheeler, Shinsaku Himeda, Osamu Furuya and Masamichi Satoh Nominated
Best Film Editing James E. Newcom, Pembroke J. Herring and Inoue Chikaya Nominated
Best Art Direction Art Direction: Jack Martin Smith, Yoshirō Muraki, Richard Day and Taizô Kawashima
Set Decoration: Walter M. Scott, Norman Rockett and Carl Biddiscombe
Best Special Visual Effects L. B. Abbott and A. D. Flowers[8] Won
Best Sound Murray Spivack and Herman Lewis[44] Nominated
1971 American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic James E. Newcom, Pembroke J. Herring, Inoue Chikaya Nominated
1971 Laurel Awards Best Picture 8th place
Best Cinematographer Charles F. Wheeler, Shinsaku Himeda, Osamu Furuya, Masamichi Satoh 4th place
National Board of Review Awards 1970 Top Ten Films 10th place

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Parish 1990, p. 411.
  2. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p256
  3. ^ a b Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 329. ISBN 9780818404856.
  4. ^ "15 Things You Might Not Know about Pearl Harbor - AOP Homeschooling". Retrieved 2023-06-19.
  5. ^ a b c Hardwick and Schnepf 1989, p. 62.
  6. ^ a b "Movie Reviews for 'Tora! Tora! Tora!'." Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved: January 29, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Binational Pearl Harbor." japanfocus. Retrieved: February 12, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Orriss 1984, p. 200.
  9. ^ Doane, Loran. "Historic P-40 aircraft returns to 'action' near Kawamura Gate." United States Arm, June 12, 2008. Retrieved: March 22, 2013.
  10. ^ Room in San Pedro? Veterans seek home for USS Nevada model, The Daily Breeze, 24 Jan 2016, retrieved 3 Apr 2016
  11. ^ a b Orriss 1984, pp. 194–195.
  12. ^ a b Galbraith 2002, p. 156.
  13. ^ Friis, Christian. "Tora! Tora! Tora!, Twentieth Century Fox, 1970". Pearl Harbor in the Movies, what to see..., November 5, 2002. Retrieved: May 5, 2009.
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  18. ^ Retrieved February 6, 2019. B-17G-110-VE, 44-85840, c/n 8749, the B-17 in question, was a converted water bomber that crashed fighting a forest fire in Nevada three years later.
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  20. ^ O'Hara 1969, p. 23.
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  • Agawa, Hiroyuki. The Reluctant Admiral: Yamamoto and the Imperial Navy. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2000. ISBN 4-7700-2539-4.
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  • Carnes, Mark C. "Tora! Tora! Tora!" Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies. New York: Holt, 1996. ISBN 978-0-8050-3760-9.
  • Orriss, Bruce. When Hollywood Ruled the Skies: The Aviation Film Classics of World War II. Hawthorn, California: Aero Associates Inc., 2014, first edition 1984. ISBN 978-0-692-02985-5.
  • Parish, James Robert. The Great Combat Pictures: Twentieth-Century Warfare on the Screen. Metuchen, New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, 1990. ISBN 978-0-8108-2315-0.
  • Prange, Gordon. "Tora! Tora! Tora!" Reader's Digest, November 1963 and December 1963.
  • Robertson, Bruce. Aircraft Camouflage and Markings, 1907–1954. London: Harleyford Publications, 1961. ISBN 978-0-8168-6355-6.
  • Shinsato, Douglas and Tadanori Urabe. For That One Day: The Memoirs of Mitsuo Fuchida, Commander of the Attack on Pearl Harbor. Kamuela, Hawaii: eXperience, inc., 2011. ISBN 978-0-9846745-0-3.
  • Thorsten, Marie and Geoffrey White. "Binational Pearl Harbor?: Tora! Tora! Tora! and the Fate of (Trans)national Memory." The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, December 27, 2010.

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