AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Report from the Aleutians
Alternate Title: Alaska--1942
Director: Capt. John Huston (Dir)
Release Date:   1943
Premiere Information:   New York opening: week of 31 Jul 1943
Duration (in mins):   44-45 or 47
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Cast:   Capt. John Huston (Narrator)  
    Walter Huston (Narrator)  

Summary: 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. 

Production Company: U.S. Army. Signal Corps. Pictorial Service  
Distribution Company: U.S. Office of War Information  
Director: Capt. John Huston (Dir)
Writer: Capt. John Huston (Scr)
Photography: Capt. Rey Scott (Photog)
  Lt. Jules Buck (Photog)
  Sgt. Freeman C. Collins (Photog)
  Corp. Buzz Ellsworth (Photog)
  Corp. Herman Crabtrey (Photog)
Film Editor: John Huston (Film ed)
Country: United States
Language: English

Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd:
  gauge: 35mm from 16mm

 
Genre: Documentary
Sub-Genre: World War II
 
Subjects (Major): Air pilots, Military
  Aleutian Islands (AK)
  Arctic regions
  B-17 bombers
  Bombing, Aerial
  United States. Army Air Corps
  World War II
 
Subjects (Minor): Burial
  Chaplains
  Construction camps
  Ships
  Weather

Note: 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 Var 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 8 Aug 1943 NYT 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. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   7 Aug 1943.   
Daily Variety   4 Aug 43   p. 3.
Film Daily   13 Jul 43   p. 18.
Film Daily   27 Jul 43   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Aug 43   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald   31 Jul 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   31 Jul 43   p. 1456.
New York Times   31 Jul 43   p. 8.
New York Times   8 Aug 1943.   
Variety   14 Jul 43   p. 22.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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