Cast & Crew
Capt. John Huston
Capt. John Huston
Lt. Jules Buck
Sgt. Freeman C. Collins
Corp. Herman Crabtrey
This film documents battles fought against the Japanese in the Aleutian Islands: The Aleutian Islands form a chain that reaches from the territory of Alaska to Siberia and compose the southern boundary of the Bering Sea. These rocky islands of volcanic origin are located in an area of severe storms that move from west to east. The Japanese take advantage of the storm cover to move east toward the United States. In June 1942, after the Battle of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians, a U.S. offensive toward Japanese installations on Kiska Island is launched from nearby Adak Island. In preparation for landing U.S. planes on the treeless, waterlogged tundra of Adak, a tidal flat is bulldozed and a pre-fabricated steel runway laid down in thirty-six hours. Eleven days after U.S. forces land, the runway is completed and daily bombing raids on Kiska Island begin. Engines are warmed up before dawn, and on good weather days, the first flights leave at daybreak and continue every hour until nightfall. Adak has no natural resources except water, making it necessary to ship in all supplies and equipment, but the island does boast a good harbor. On Adak, the customary military formality is relaxed, and enlisted men mingle with officers. Sometimes, planes are severely crippled or carry dead and wounded soldiers. Scenes of the dead being buried after an outdoor memorial service are shown. Photos of Kiska, taken during the flights, are studied by the generals, who then aid the senior officers in planning future operations. The determining factor in any mission is the weather. On Sunday, chaplains lead religious services, but in all other respects, Sunday is a day like any other day. If the weather is good, there are afternoon bombing runs. The bomber crew must work together as a team with respect and trust. After last-minute weather calculations, a mission begins: A bomber pilot has a heavy plane and a large crew, and the flight to Kiska takes about one and three-quarter hours. Because Kiska is heavily fortified, with many of its operations hidden underground, the main goal of the bombing missions is to harass the enemy and keep them from building up their forces. The flyers face heavy ground fire, as well as enemy aircraft. The mission depicted is a success--all the bombers return to Adak.
Capt. John Huston
Report from the Aleutians
Report from the Aleutians is unlike most World War II combat documentaries in that it concentrates primarily on the day-to-day activities of servicemen and contains very little actual combat footage. The film focuses on sequences of the drudgery of base life (e.g., cleaning out latrines, eating in the mess halls) and the boredom soldiers feel. Huston had to wrangle with Army authorities to include the mundane scenes. It took a couple of months before he prevailed in his insistence that audiences back home needed to see the reality of a wartime soldier's life.
Nevertheless, much of what the troops engage in is vital work. Once a base was established on barren Adak Island in the Aleutians, the treeless, soaked tundra had to be cleared and a prefabricated steel runway laid down in 36 hours to prepare for bombing missions over Japanese positions in the area.
Nearly half of the film is devoted to one of these missions, an almost two-hour flight to a Japanese stronghold at Kiska at the far end of the Aleutians, giving the film its brief spate of action as the mission drops several loads of bombs on the enemy and tail gunners exchange fire.
The film opens with a map showing the location of this particular part of the Pacific campaign. As Huston's father and co-narrator Walter Huston explains, the Aleutian Islands are a chain that extends about 1,200 miles west-southwest of the Alaskan peninsula towards Siberia, forming the southern boundary of the Bering Sea. He details how the Japanese took advantage of the frequently moving curtain of storms over the region to land troops on the undefended island of Kiska.
According to an article in the New York Times on August 8, 1943, cameraman Rey Scott received a medal for making nine flights over Kiska. Huston twice came close to being killed--once when his plane crash-landed and once when a 20mm shell from an attacking enemy plane hit his plane, killing the waist gunner standing near him.
The film was nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Academy Award.
The working title was "Alaska--1942"; it was also identified by the Army as "Army Air Forces Training Film AF-114." The film begins with the written foreword: "Since the filming of this picture American troops have taken and are holding additional island objectives in their march out along the bridge to Asia." SPOILER ALERT: The Japanese lose the war.
Director: John Huston
Writer: John Huston
Screenplay: John Huston
Camera Operators: Jules Buck, Freeman C. Collins, Herman Crabtree, Buzz Ellsworth, Rey Scott
Editing: John Huston
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: John Huston, Walter Huston (narrators), Maj. Milton Ashkin, Lt. Lyle Bean, Col. Jack Chennault, Lt. Hawley P. Nill, Lt. George I. Radell, Lt. Henry J. Strenkowski (USAAF Fighter Pilots), Col. C.M. McCorkle, Col. William Prince (USAAF Commanders)
By Rob Nixon
Report from the Aleutians
The film's working title was Alaska-1942, and it was also identified by the Army as Army Air Forces Training Film AF-114. It begins with the following written foreword: "Since the filming of this picture American troops have taken and are holding additional Island objectives in their march out along the bridge to Asia." Footage was originally shot on 16mm Kodachrome and enlarged onto 35mm Technicolor stock for theatrical release. The Variety review adds the following information about the film: Director John Huston and his crew spent five months filming in the Aleutians. Some of the footage appeared in newsreels before the release of the film. General release of the film was temporarily suspended while the Army and the film industry discussed the final length. The Army wanted the film to remain at four-and-a-half reels, while the War Activities Committee of the motion picture industry wanted it cut to less than two reels to better fit theater programs. According to an August 8, 1943 New York Times article, cameraman Rey Scott received a medal for making nine flights over Kiska. Huston twice came close to being killed-once when his plane crash-landed and once when a 20mm shell from an attacking enemy plane hit his plane, killing the waist gunner standing near to him. Modern sources credit Dimitri Tiomkin with the musical score. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary.