Gung Ho (1943)



Director:     Ray Enright.

Starring:  Randolph Scott (Colonel Thorwald), Alan Curtis (John Harbison), Noah Beery Jr. (Cpl. Kurt Richter), J. Carrol Naish (Lt. C.J. Cristoforos), Sam Levene (Leo 'Transport' Andreof), David Bruce (Larry O'Ryan), Richard Lane (Captain Dunphy), Walter Sande ( 'Gunner' McBride), Louis Jean Heydt (Lt. Roland Browning), Robert Mitchum ('Pig-Iron' Matthews), Rod Cameron (Rube Tedrow), Grace McDonald (Kathleen Corrigan).

This story is based on Carlson's Raiders and their early actions to attack the Japanese.  The U.S. Marines formed the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion to raid Japanese occupied islands in the Pacific Ocean.  The unit was placed under Colonel Thorwald.  Seven months after Pearl Harbor, the Marine Raiders, arriving by submarine, attacked the large Japanese garrison on Makin Atoll. 


O.k. movie.  This is the story of Carlson's Makin Island Raiders.  It is a factual story of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion based on the story Gung Ho by Lt. W. S. Le Francois, U.S.M.C.  They began the formation of the raider battalions seven weeks after Pearl Harbor. The story begins at the Marine Corps base at San Diego, California, June 15, 1942.  They announce to the marines that they are looking for volunteers.  They interview the men and ask them their reasons for joining and if they can kill men up close and personal.  A side plot involves the competition of two half-brothers, Cpl. Kurt Richter and David Bruce, over the same girl, Kathleen Corrigan.

900 men are selected to be raiders.    The movie spends a lot of time on the training of the marines. 

The men are transported to Makin Atoll by submarine.  A few of the marines became claustrophobic on the submarine and their fellow marines have to talk the down from a potential panic attack.

The rest of the movie is spent on battle scenes on the atoll. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.   


Historical Background:


The U-shaped Makin Atoll lies in the Gilbert Islands, southeast of the Marshall Islands.  (So does the famous Tarawa.)  It was a key target during WWII because the Japanese could have used it as a seaplane base.  With patrols from there, they could extend their air patrols closer to Allied held Howland Island, Baker Island, Tuvalu, and Fenix and Ellice Island. The atoll could also be used to protect the eastern flank of the Japanese perimeter.  The former Gilbert Islands are now part of the Republic of Kiribati.

The word "Gung-ho" refers to someone who is highly enthusiastic about performing his/her task.  It was originally the Mandarin Chinese word gōnghé, “to work together,” which was used by the Chinese Industrial Cooperative Society.

Lieutenant Colonel Evans F. Carlson (1896–1947) borrowed the word to refer to meetings in which problems were discussed and worked out.

The men in his Marine raider unit (known as “Carlson's Raiders”) began calling themselves the “Gung Ho Battalion.” From there, the word changed meaning to refer to really eager individuals.

The raiders were transported on V-boats.  There were nine of these submarines built between WWI and WWII. 

1928 (April)  --  V-4 Argonaut was commissioned.  It was the largest submarine the Navy ever built before the advent of nuclear power.  It was specifically designed as a minelayer. 

1940  --  Carlson published The Chinese Army and Twin Stars of China.

1941 (December 7)  -- the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.  The Argonaut is stripped of its mine-laying gear and transformed into a troop-carrying submarine. 

1941 (December 9)  --  the Japanese seize Makin Island in the Gilbert Islands. 

1942 (August)  --  the Argonaut and the Nautilus unloaded 122 Marines under command of Colonel Evans Carlson and James Roosevelt from the Second Marine Raider Battalion on Makin Atoll. The Marines did not take the island.  They met strong resistance and had to return to the submarines. The Raiders killed 83 Japanese soldiers.  Seven Marines drowned, 14 were killed by Japanese gunfire, and nine were captured and beheaded on Kwajalein Atoll. (Carlson and a handful of his men stayed long enough to destroy a gas dump and capture some documents.) 

Politically the attack was a failure.  It had intended to throw off the Japanese from the real goals of the Allies, but instead it showed the Japanese that they had to reinforce the Gilbert Islands. 

1942 (November)  --  Carlson's Raiders served on Guadalcanal. 

1943 (January 10)  --  the Argonaut was sunk with loss of all hands after attacking a Japanese naval convoy. 

1946  --  Carlson was promoted to brigadier general.  Later in the same year, he retired from the army. 


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)