Monday, April 25, 2016

John Hughes, the Doolittle Raid and Globalization

[My sources in Korea tell me that the first project for Mr Hughes in his new studio will be a Bruce Beresford film about the aftermath of the Doolittle Raid in China].

It has been announced that John Hughes is forming an effects studio in Beijing with Chinese money. The first project will probably be one that dramatizes the support the Chinese people gave to the allied war effort in World War 2, in particular the support that the Chinese gave to the Doolittle Raid of Tokyo, and the Japanese response which was severe.

Its an interesting choice of topic for a first project and I wonder who came up with it. My guess is that it was not the visual effects people, as we have learned that to have an opinion in such matters is not our place, and any enthusiasm or intelligence just makes the clients afraid (this is my personal experience). So we must assume that the choice of subject was made by the Chinese and is just a coincidence that it is on such a relevant topic in US / China relations. 

For those who are not aware of their own history, the Doolittle Raid was an improbable surprise attack by Mitchell B 25B medium bombers on Tokyo relatively early in the war.  They were launched by the Hornet, an aircraft carrier which had made a daring and dangerous approach to the Japanese coast.  The bombing itself was of minimal impact. The US had no way to retrieve the bombers or their pilots so the plan was for the bombers to fly on to China and land (or bail out) there.  Then with the help of the Chinese on the ground, the pilots would make their way back to America.  That did work up to a point.  The raid had minimal direct military impact, but it was a giant morale builder for the American people.  What was perhaps not completely thought out was how the Japanese were going to respond to the Chinese support for this activity.

But the raiders’ choice of haven revealed coastal China as another dangerous gap in the empire’s defense. Japan already had many troops in China. Within weeks, the Imperial General Headquarters sent the main force of the Thirteenth Army and elements of the Eleventh Army and the North China Area Army—a total force that would swell to 53 infantry battalions and as many as 16 artillery battalions—to destroy the airfields the Americans had hoped to use in the provinces of Chekiang and Kiangsi. “Airfields, military installations, and important lines of communication will be totally destroyed,” the order read. The unwritten command was to make the Chinese pay dearly for their part in the empire’s humiliation. 
Details of the destruction emerged from previously unpublished records on file at Chicago’s DePaul University. Father Wendelin Dunker, a priest based in the village of Ihwang, fled the Japanese advance along with other clergy, teachers, and orphans under the church’s care, hiding in the mountains. He returned to find packs of dogs feasting on the dead. “What a scene of destruction and smells met us as we entered the city!” he wrote in an unpublished memoir.
The Japanese returned to Ihwang, forcing Dunker out again. Troops torched the town. “They shot any man, woman, child, cow, hog, or just about anything that moved,” Dunker wrote. “They raped any woman from the ages of 10–65.”

B25B Mitchell medium bombers preparing to take off from the USS Hornet

So it is fair to say that a movie the celebrates the long suppressed or just ignored history of our alliances in WW2 and the sacrifices of the Chinese people on our behalf is to be welcomed.

An article in the Smithsonian Magazine about the aftermath of the Doolittle raid

Wikipedia page on the Doolittle Raid

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