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Critical Analysis of the Film ‘Pearl Harbor’

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‘Pearl Harbor’ is an American romantic war drama film directed by Michael Bay in 2001. The film presents a heavily fictionalized version of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, focusing on a love story that unfolds in the run-up to the attack, its aftermath, and the Doolittle Raid.

Historians have found multiple inaccuracies in this film. Professor Bruce Reynolds believes the greatest outcome from people seeing the film is that the film would engage them and they would be fascinated with why these events occurred.

It was not possible to straightforwardly join the RAF. The RAF Eagle Squadron incorporated Americans who offered to fight for Britain. About 7000 men volunteered before the attack. In the film Rafe McCawley notified his friend about his mission with the RAF Eagle Squadron. This happened in 1941 before America became involved in World War II. Yet, it was against the law for American citizens to fight for another country while the US remained objective, on penalty of losing their citizenship. It is not likely that McCawley would have been instructed to join the RAF. McCawley appeared as the only American although; the squadron was for Americans.

The 1940s radio technology is incorrect in the film. In Hawaii Evelyn Johnson listened in on Doolittle’s raiders conversation as they flew towards Tokyo. In the 1940s long-range communication regularly used Morse code because long-distance voice communication did not work at the time. Planes would have used radios deliberately for interplane communication, and an unknown attack would observe radio silence.

The ‘Queen Mary’ had grey paint in 1941. In the film Rafe McCawley and Evelyn Johnson float past the British ship. The ship is shown in its standard red, white and black paint but was grey at the time.

Fighter pilots and bomber pilots are totally different. McCawley and Danny Walker are initially fighter pilots in the film but become bomber pilots when Doolittle plans his bombing run.

Most of the women in the film are portrayed as nurses. However, women also worked as mechanics, test pilots and were involved in manufacturing jobs when men went overseas for war. The war effort also included 10000 female code breakers. White women were also not the only race who worked after the attack.

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In the film ‘Pearl Harbor’ Franklin D. Roosevelt proved to his cabinet how anything is possible by pushing aside his wheelchair and trying to stand up. This did not happen. Roosevelt normally kept the attention to his condition as low as possible.

The portrayal of the ship’s cook in the film, Dorie Miller, was partially correct. He really saved sailors and fired a machine gun at Japanese planes. However, the film showed Evelyn Johnson tending to Miller’s injuries. This would have not been possible as the US had segregated hospitals at the time. A chaperon would have been present when a white woman was alone with a black man.

The equipment used in the film is inaccurate. The Japanese airplanes used during the attack are incorrect. Japanese torpedo bombers struck the American airfields in the film. A 50s Jeep, speedboat and a nuclear-powered submarine is also used in the film.

The film showed Japanese planes intentionally aiming for the hospital. In reality, the Japanese did not aim for or fire on the hospital. Ammunition was kept for high-value targets.

The Pearl Harbor attack was not unexpected. A few weeks earlier the US Navy and Army issued warnings about a possible attack. They knew Japan was going to strike, they just did not know where.

The swing music and the fact that the Japanese attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 were correct in the film.

In conclusion, Michael Bay’s film ‘Pearl Harbor’ cannot be considered as an accurate representation of the events that took place during the attack on Pearl Harbor due to a sufficient number of inaccuracies highlighted in this essay.

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Critical Analysis of the Film ‘Pearl Harbor’. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Critical Analysis of the Film ‘Pearl Harbor’.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023,
Critical Analysis of the Film ‘Pearl Harbor’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2023].
Critical Analysis of the Film ‘Pearl Harbor’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Mar 01 [cited 2023 May 29]. Available from:
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