John Ford’s The Battle of Midway – A Film Made by Accident:

Director John Ford was an accidental witness to one of America’s most important battles of WWII. A Commander in the Navy and later head of a photographic unit in the Office of Strategic Services, Ford arrived on Midway Island not expecting to stay long. He filmed Sailors and Marines on parade and having fun, airplanes taking off and the antics of the local Goony birds, believing he was there to make a film about an isolated outpost. Ford only heard about the approaching Japanese fleet two days before the battle. When the Japanese attack came, Ford was roused from bed. He grabbed a 16mm color camera and began filming. He shot footage of Japanese planes dropping their bombs, Americans manning machine guns in defense of the island and smoke from destroyed buildings. Ford was so close to the action he was injured by shrapnel.


John Ford returned to the US a hero, but was afraid that military censors would not allow his film to be shown to the American public. Ford had his movie edited in secret and included footage of Marine Corps officer James Roosevelt, son of President Franklin Roosevelt. When the President saw the film he declared that it should be shown to every mother in America. The Battle of Midway was released in 1942 and won an Academy Award for Best Documentary.


The Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu under attack by B-17 Flying Fortresses

The Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu under attack by B-17 Flying Fortresses

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SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber, the hero of The Battle of Midway

John Ford’s The Battle of Midway is a propaganda movie. It shows American heroism overcoming great obstacles while tugging at heartstrings by focusing on the ideals of mother, family and the hometown boy next door fighting bravely to defend America. Although its message is dated, the film is remarkable for its documentation, in rare color footage, of one of the greatest American victories in history and the turning point of the war in the Pacific.



To Read more about the Battle of Midway check out:

The Battle of Midway

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