Sunday, May 11, 2014

HISTORY or HOLLYWOOD: The Great Raid (2005)


 
          "The Great Raid" (2005) is a sadly forgotten movie about the daring POW rescue raid on Cabanatuan in the Philippines in 1945.  The behind the lines mssion by the U.S. Rangers was one of the great adventure stories of World War II.  The plot is so incredible that you have to wonder just how true is this "true story".
GUESS WHICH OF THE PLOT ELEMENTS IN “THE GREAT RAID” ARE TRUE.
1.  American prisoners on the island of Palawan were forced into air raid shelters and then the Kampeitei poured in aviation gasoline, set it on fire, and machine gunned the survivors. 
2.  Gen. Krueger approved the mission and put Mucci in charge.  He, in turn, gave operational command to Prince. 
3.  The senior camp officer was a malaria-ridden Maj. Gibson. 
4.  Margaret Utinsky was an American nurse who worked with the Filipino Underground to smuggle drugs into Cabanatuan, among other activities. 
5.  The original camp guards left the camp and the prisoners found a large stock of food.  Later, Japanese returned and reestablished control of the camp. 
6.  The Rangers stop at the village of Balincarin and witnessed the results of a massacre of villagers for aiding the guerrillas. 
7.  Pajota suggested the raid be postponed a day because of a temporary increase in Japanese forces and originated the idea of the flyover. 
8.  Capt. Redding was caught escaping and he and ten random prisoners were shot. 
9.  The Rangers crawled 800 yards over open ground in daylight and used a flyover by a plane to get the Japanese to look up instead of out. 
10.  The raid came as a complete surprise to the Japanese and many were killed in their barracks by the intense fusillade. 
11.  A bazooka took out a Japanese tank. 
12.  The Japanese commander was killed in a duel with Sgt. Wojo. 
13.  The two American casualties were a sniper victim and the doctor who was mortally wounded by mortar shrapnel. 
14.  Pajota and his guerrillas held off a large Japanese force at a bridge near the camp. 
15.  Mucci defeated a flanking attempt by Japanese fording the river. 
History or Hollywood?

1.  American prisoners on the island of Palawan were forced into air raid shelters and then the Kampeitei poured in aviation gasoline, set it on fire, and machine gunned the survivors.  HISTORY  The incident did occur, but it was the Japanese 14th Area Army was responsible.  Survivors telling their stories directly led to the idea of the Cabanatuan raid.
2.  Gen. Krueger approved the mission and put Mucci in charge.  He, in turn, gave operational command to Prince.  HISTORY  The movie overplays disagreements between Mucci and Prince about various aspects of the plan.  It underplays Mucci’s “glory hound” reputation.  Prince did have a bad case of jungle rot on his feet.
3.  The senior camp officer was a malaria-ridden Maj. Gibson.  HOLLYWOOD  All of the prisoners are fictional
4.  Margaret Utinsky was an American nurse who worked with the Filipino Underground to smuggle drugs into Cabanatuan, among other activities.  HISTORY  Surprisingly, much of this is true.  Utinsky was the wife of an American soldier who dies in Camp O’Donnell soon after the fall of the Philippines.  She elected to stay in Manila and joined the Resistance.  She did smuggle drugs into Cabanatuan.  She was arrested and tortured by the Kampeitei, but for much longer (32 days) than in the movie.  She then spent six weeks in a hospital suffering from a gangrenous leg.  After that she escaped to the hills and joined the guerrillas.  She did meet the prisoners when they reached American lines.  She was not romantically involved with any of the prisoners.  In 1946, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Pres. Truman
5.  The original camp guards left the camp and the prisoners found a large stock of food.  Later, Japanese returned and reestablished control of the camp.  HISTYWOOD  The Japanese did leave the prisoners for several weeks and they did fatten up on Japanese supplies.  The Japanese who eventually reestablished control were not from the Kampeitei (Nagai is a fictional character), they were mostly retreating Japanese units who basically ignored the prisoners
6.  The Rangers stop at the village of Balincarin and witnessed the results of a massacre of villagers for aiding the guerrillas.  HOLLYWOOD  There was no mention of this incident in my research.  However, these types of atrocities did occur.
7.  Pajota suggested the raid be postponed a day because of a temporary increase in Japanese forces and originated the idea of the flyover.  HISTORY
8.  Capt. Redding was caught escaping and he and ten random prisoners were shot.  HOLLYWOOD  I found no evidence of this particular incident.  It does conform to Japanese policy and was done at the camp.  By the way, most of the time the executions were done via beheadings.
9.  The Rangers crawled 800 yards over open ground in daylight and used a flyover by a plane to get the Japanese to look up instead of out.  HISTORY  The plane was a P-61 Black Widow (the absolute perfect choice for this), but in the movie they had to use a Lockheed Hudson.  The P-61 did twenty minutes of acrobatics and faked engine trouble which allowed the Rangers to transit the field.
10.  The raid came as a complete surprise to the Japanese and many were killed in their barracks by the intense fusillade.  HISTORY  The movie gives the Japanese more of a fighting chance than the Rangers did.
11.  A bazooka took out a Japanese tank.  HISTYWOOD  A bazooka team did take out a shed that was suspected of housing tanks and blew up some trucks, but no tank.
12.  The Japanese commander was killed in a duel with Sgt. Wojo.  HOLLYWOOD
13.  The two American casualties were a sniper victim and the doctor who was mortally wounded by mortar shrapnel.  HISTYWOOD  Doctor Fisher was wounded similar to the movie.  The other death was an accidental friendly fire incident.
14.  Pajota and his guerrillas held off a large Japanese force at a bridge near the camp.  HISTORY  This scene is very accurate.
15.  Mucci defeated a flanking attempt by Japanese fording the river.  HOLLYWOOD  Mucci spent the battle observing from the rear.
 
SCORE:
History =  7
Hollywood =  5
Histywood =  3
 
RATING =  .57     

10 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I'm afraid the fact it bombed makes it less likely Hollywood will try again.

    I cannot absolutely confirm that the unit had not seen action, but I do not recall any mention of it in the book.

    The P-61 was one bad-ass fighter. Absolutely perfect for distracting the Japanese guards. I agree that it is a crying shame there are so few left.

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  3. Bit of a mixed bag accuracy-wise it seems.

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  4. Actually, I think it was commendably accurate considering what you would expect Hollywood to do with a story like this.

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  5. I knew a guy who survived the march and imprisonment and was eventually rescued. He said in a TV interview (I think on History Channel) that the movie was almost 100% historically accurate. He would have had no knowledge of the bogus Japanese flanking movement at the bridge. By-the-way, the man I knew was Abie Abraham, author of 2 or 3 books about his experience. I met him in the Butler, PA VA hospital where he was a long time volunteer. After the rescue he was asked (not ordered) by MacArthur if he would stay behind and disinter all the dead Americans. He also was the person who accepted the surrender of the last Japanese because they were afraid of what would happen to them if they surrendered to Filipinos.

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  6. I'm not countering your research by any means but I would like to see your sources for the actual events, please. I need something to cite during some research i am performing. Very good article, by the way.

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    1. Most of it came from the excellent book "Ghost Soldiers". The other good source is "The Great Raid on Cabanatuan City".

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  7. Most of it came from the excellent book "Ghost Soldiers".

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