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They Were Expendable is a war film released in 1945. The film is based on the book by William L. White, relating the story of the exploits of John D. Bulkeley, a motor torpedo boat squadron commander and Medal of Honor recipient, and Robert Kelly, a skipper, during the World War II Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 19411942. The characters of John Brickley (Robert Montgomery) and Rusty Ryan (John Wayne) are fictionalized name changes of the actual subjects. While both book and film depict actions which did not occur in fact, they were believed as fact during the war and the film is noted for its verisimilitude. The film opens with a demonstration of the capabilities of PT boats in Manila Bay on the day Pearl Harbor is bombed. Ryan becomes disgusted when his superiors refuse to see them as viable naval craft and is in the process of writing his request for a transfer when war breaks out. Ryan and Brickley's 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 interlude with nurse Sandy Davis (Donna Reed). With the mounting Japanese onslaught against the doomed American garrisons at Bataan and Corregidor, the squadron is sent to evacuate General MacArthur and a party of VIP's. This done, they resume their attacks against the Japanese, who gradually whittle the squadron down to a handful of men and a single boat. The film ends with Brickley and Ryan and a few others being airlifted out to help rebuild the Navy and the remaining men left to join the resistance.

Starring ... Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Jack Holt,
Ward Bond, Marshall Thompson

Director: John Ford
Producer: John Ford

Year Released - Dec. 1945

Length - 135 minutes

Music Composer: Herbert Stothart

Movie Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

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