The Bridges At Toko-Ri, It is the Korean War and Lt. Harry Brubaker is a fighter-bomber pilot on the aircraft carrier USS Savo Island. A WW2 veteran and Naval Reserve pilot, he was drafted back into service from civilian life. This makes him quite resentful and cynical about the war. Now he has a dangerous mission to perform, and he is not sure he is up to the task.
The Bridges At Toko-Ri, This is a truly superb film on any number of grounds. First, and generally unknown, it is based on a real incident, the so called “Battle of Carlson’s Canyon” which was waged early in the Korean War in an attempt to interdict North Korean supplies on their way to the front. James Michener had gone out to the carrier ESSEX (CV-9) and had been very impressed with the men of VF-172, a Banshee fighter squadron. The book is astonishingly realistic…if one compares what he wrote as a novel with the contemporary Navy strike reports (which were then highly classified), it is amazing how much he got “right.” It is also a good look at carrier aviation in the last days of the “straight-deck” carrier with hydraulic catapults and a paddle-waving landing deck officer…all that disappeared after Korea with the introduction of the angled deck, the steam catapult, and the Fresnel-lens mirror landing system. The book is in my view the finest air war novel ever written, bar none, and the movie is the same for the film genre. Incidentally, when made into a film, Grumman Panthers were used in place of Banshees, and one of the pilots who flew in the making of the film was a very young Lt. j.g. named Alan Shepherd–later one of the Mercury and Apollo astronauts. Not to be missed!!!
An excellent movie on Naval Aviation.
I served with Task Force 77 in November 1952 on a destroyer running anti-submarine and mine detection for those floating “bird farms”. I also put in 30 years working with Naval Aviation logistics; this movie is an excellent look at carrier operations in the jet age. I recommend it to all who are interested in aviation, especially naval aviation. The one thing not depicted is the problems experienced by the destroyers in heavy weather as the carriers turned into the wind and out of the wind during flight operations, especially during chow times. This could probably be shown in a separate movie, but I still have vivid memories of my ship diving into the sea and the foam combing over the flying bridge and down both sides of my ship. Trying to log sack time during these times was also an experience unto itself. Incidentally we did lose on fly boy as a result of his ditching. We were told that exposure of more than 5 minutes in those waters could prove fatal, and this guy’s case it was so. Not a happy time.
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