War Movie – Battle Stations (1956)

Battle Stations (1956)

A rebuilt WWII U.S. Navy carrier sails back to the Pacific theater to rejoin the war in early 1945, a carrier the Japanese think they sank. So, if she shows up again, they will go after her with a vengeance.

The story is told through the perspective of the ship’s chaplain, Father Joseph McIntyre (John Lund). He’s never served aboard a carrier but that is what he is about to do having been sent to serve aboard a carrier heading into battle with the Japanese fleet, and through his narration you get to know each of the major players of War.

During his time aboard, Father McIntyre offers support to the crew, especially a trio of Crewmen.

The Captain (Richard Boone) is a good guy, the epitome of the officer who realizes that he needs everybody on the ship, not just the experienced men. He knows the added risk for his ship, but shows he also has a heart by not relieving a pilot of flight duty, one who committed a serious mistake by not taking a wave-off as instructed.

The drill sergeant (William Bendix) is tough-talking, but genuinely concerned about the recruits. He’s that big lug with the heart of gold that you want on your side.

There’s also an injured pilot wanting to return to action, a troublemaking seaman who wants to be kicked off and another sailor annoyed that he was passed over for promotion, and enlisted men and low ranking officers (Claude Akins, Keefe Brasselle, and young hopeful Jimmy Lydon among them).

The first half of the film shows the crew going through their daily routines, their friendships and struggles with missing life at home, and a few power struggles.

The film takes a more serious turn when they get closer to their mission, and the fast pacing keeps the audience intrigued. The dive bomb and kamikaze attacks on two Essex class carriers, the USS Franklin and the USS Bunker Hill, provide much of the plot of this film. And the Japanese fleet nearly destroys the carrier again, ending the mission, but it is able to limp back to the states.

A 1956 American war film directed by Lewis Seiler, produced by Bryan Foy, written by Crane Wilbur and Ben Finney, cinematography by Burnett Guffey, starring John Lund, William Bendix I (“The Babe Ruth Story”), Keefe Brasselle, Richard Boone (then playing TV’s Dr. Conrad Styner on “Medic”), William Leslie, Jimmy Lydon, and a young Claude Aikens. Distributed by Columbia Pictures.

Lot of action, with actual war footage. Somewhat uniquely, this film has no women in it. Opening title music is the title music from “The Caine Mutiny” (1954).

Inspired by the documentary “The Fighting Lady” (1944). Filmed onboard an Essex class carrier, and in part, plays like a recruiting film for the U.S.Navy.

Based on the USS Franklin CV-13. Its Chaplain, LCDR Fr. Joseph O’Callahan, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the climactic battle depicted in the movie. His MOH citation reads: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as chaplain on board the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19 March 1945. A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lt. Comdr. O’Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets, and other armament. With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them. Serving with courage, fortitude, and deep spiritual strength, Lt. Comdr. O’Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the Franklin to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port.”

The Movie Scene described this above-average Columbia programmer as having “that same sense of patriotism and propaganda about it which those movies made during WWII had,” that “it feels like who ever wrote it had watched dozens of other movies about life at sea during the war, picked out all the bits which they liked right down [to] the music and then slotted them together,” and that it “delivers plenty of cliche.

This tale of heroism shows once again how ordinary men tapped undreamed reserves of valor with which to face otherwise overwhelming horror, and would interest people who want to know more about the war and how it affected people.
Credit to : Donald P. Borchers

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