“They Were Expendable” is this weird World War II recap movie from John Ford and Robert Montgomery. The retired Naval officers had made this bizarre greatest hits film of America’s involvement in the war and let John Wayne star in it. While covering the PT boat units wouldn’t become bigger until “Profiles in Courage” got released, it’s still a great war film. Ford crafted his best war film by focusing on the little known story of the US PT boats patrolling the Philippines following Pearl Harbor. While they were there protecting US interests and American civilians living there, their duty soon doubled.

These brave men and women were tasked with dealing with the Japanese, as the US rebuilt from Pearl Harbor and began the Pacific Theater of War. The film dashes between the outnumbered civilians and the PT boats, as they braced for eventual invasion. Supplies were limited, crews were understaffed and local Americans knew that they might die. But, everyone banded together as “Red River Valley” blared. Staring down death with almost certainty of its success, these American heroes told the Axis to go to Hell.

While some viewers have complained that the film feels anticlimactic, I don’t buy it. What the film represents is Ford and Wayne’s most fatalistic team-up. The few scenes that show off the PT boats in action match Wayne’s prior military movies. But, Ford knew to keep the focus of those moments. John Ford wanted to show that sometimes the good guys don’t want walk away unharmed. Stunning for its era, this is a war film to keep on repeat during the July 4th Holiday. Do your role and be patriotic, people! If you need more suggestions for Holiday films, I’ll throw a few together over the next day or so.


  • Nothing


  • 1.37:1 1080p transfer
  • DTS-HD 2.0 mono


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