They Were Expendable

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: John Ford
  • Writers: William L White, Frank Wead
  • Genres: Drama, War
  • Actors: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond, Marshall Thompson

A demonstration of the capabilities of PT boats is shown in Manila Bay, Philippines in December 1941. Lieutenant (junior grade) ‘Rusty’ Ryan (John Wayne) becomes disgusted when his superiors refuse to see the small boats as viable naval craft and is in the process of writing his request for a transfer to destroyers when news arrives of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ryan and Lieutenant John Brickley’s (Robert Montgomery) demands for combat assignments for their squadron are frustrated for a time, but they are eventually allowed to show their capabilities. From there on, there are mostly ‘action’ scenes, with the exception of Ryan’s romantic interludes with Army nurse Sandy Davyss (Donna Reed). With the mounting Japanese onslaught against the doomed American garrisons at Bataan and Corregidor, the squadron is sent to evacuate General Douglas MacArthur, his family, and a party of VIPs.

This done, they resume their attacks against the Japanese, who gradually whittle down the squadron. As boats are lost, their crews are sent to fight as infantry. Finally, the last boat is turned over to the Army for messenger duty. Brickley, Ryan and two ensigns are airlifted out on one of the last planes because the PT boats have proved their worth and they are needed stateside to train replacement PT boat officers and crews. The remaining enlisted men, led by Chief Mulcahey, are left behind to continue the fight with remnants of the U.S. Army and Filipino guerillas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *