Monday, 16 September 2013

The Gallant Hours 1960 and the life of Admiral Halsay.

A very different kind of film is The Gallant Hours which was released in 1960 and which I viewed on TV in May of this year. It purports to tell the life of Fleet Admiral William Halsey and has James Cagney playing the part of the Admiral. The film centres on the battle with the sea forces of Japan around Guadalcanal during World War II. The story of those five weeks is told in flashback as part of his retirement ceremony in 1947.

There are no battle scenes with emphasis on the battle oif wits between the two men in charge of the opposing forces. The scenes involving the Japanese are not translated with only brief notes rather than sub titles of what is being said. The film pretends that the subsequent attempt to take the life of Admiral Yamamoto takes place during the period.

Halsay 1882 to 1959 was the son of a Naval Captain who entered a med school while waiting for a place at the Navy Academy where he graduated in 1904. He served in the First World War commanding one ship and gaining the Naval Cross. He became the Naval attaché in Berlin in 1922 and various other Embassies in Northern Europe and in this respect it is interesting that “hero “ in the books and Films of the Winds of War by Herman Wouk features as the Navel attaché in Berlin in the late 1930’s.

When in 1934 he was assigned to command an aircraft carrier he elected to take the full 12 week aviator course which he successfully completed at the age of 52, the oldest individual to ever do so. By 1940 he had become a Vice Admiral and in charge of the Navy’s aircraft battle fleet. He argued that the aircraft carrier had to be used as an offensive weapon and just not as sea base for planes and he ordered the command to sink any ship they encountered and knock out any plane within range. Hit hard , hit fast and hit often became the standard for entire Navy after Pearl Harbour.

At one point he needed hospital care and missed the Battle for Midway but vowed to return even more determined that before and immediately found himself appointed the Commander of South pacific areas and its forces. In 1943 he became commander of the Third Fleet with his field operations the Central Pacific. In 1944 h provided cover for the landings of General Mac Arthur. He claimed to have worked well MacArthur. He was made Fleet Admiral after being assigned to office of the Secretary of State and this enable him to make a goodwill trip in central and south America visiting 11 nations and covering 28000 miles. After retirement he said there were no great men just great challenges which ordinary men out of necessity are forced by circumstances to meet.

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