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A War Story and A Love Story: A Review of "Pearl Harbor"

Updated on December 29, 2017

The Doolittle Raiders--Pioneers in Air Combat

The Doolittle Raiders ready for takeoff (photo from U.S. Navy)
The Doolittle Raiders ready for takeoff (photo from U.S. Navy)

Pearl Harbor: The Movie

This movie depicts real historical events along with a fictional romance. Rafe and Danny (Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett) grow up together and join the Army Air Corps to become pilots. Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) is an Army nurse who meets and falls in love with Rafe. Rafe is eager for action and volunteers to go to England as a fighter pilot. When his plane is shot down, Danny and Evelyn (now stationed at Pearl Harbor) are heartbroken. They find comfort in each other. Then they learn that Rafe survived and things get very uncomfortable and complicated.

In the midst of the love and angst, the Japanese interrupt with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. At this point the movie portrays the events in terrible detail. I wept as I knew which characters were on the U.S.S. Arizona at the time. I also knew from my history books that they, along with many others, were doomed. Evelyn and her nurses are overwhelmed with casualties--victims of unspeakable trauma and burns. Rafe and Danny donate blood at the hospital, then are called to the harbor to make desperate attempts to cut through ships and save men who are trapped and drowning. It really is too much to bear, yet we know real people did bear these things.

After Pear Harbor, viewers get to witness the amazing story of the Doolittle raid. In April of 1942, a group of specially trained volunteers executed a secret air raid on the Japanese mainland. The raid was almost compromised when Japanese boats spotted the aircraft carrier Hornet and the men were forced to launch the raid early. They were further out to sea than planned, so none of them reached the Chinese mainland to land; yet, most of the crew survived the raid.

The movie ends with survivors picking up the pieces of their lives and seeking to honor those who lost theirs. I give this movie my highest rating and warn you to start viewing with a full box of tissues.

Available on DVD

U.S.S. Arizona

More about the attack on Pearl Harbor and about the U.S.S. Arizona:

Take a virtual tour of the memorial to the U.S.S. Arizona.

U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club

National Park Service film

News from the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial

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