Objective, Burma! (1945)

 

 

Director:  Raoul Walsh.

Starring:   Errol Flynn (Captain Nelson), William Prince (Lt. Sid Jacobs), George Tobias (Cpl. Gabby Gordon), Henry Hull, (Mark Williams, American News correspondent), Warner Anderson (Col. J. Carter), John Alvin (Hogan), Mark Stevens (Lt. Barker), Jim L. Brown (Staff Sergeant Treacy), Richard Erdman (Pvt. Nebraska Hooper).

WWII Brits invade Burma
 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.  

"I claim we got a beating.  We got run out of Burma and it's humiliating as hell.  I'll go over the mountains into India and rake up an army.  I'll supply them there, train them and some day I'll lead them back into Burma."  Joseph W. Stilwell.

 

"This is Burma the toughest battleground in the world where the Japs had sealed off the Burma Road and closed the back door to China.  A door that had to be reopened.  After months of secret preparations at Mountbatten's base headquarters in India, a far-reaching combined operation was about to begin.  British General Wingate conferred with his staff.  General Stilwell speeded up the training of his Chinese troops.  A special group of American Army Air Force commandos was set up under Colonel Bill Cochran.  And deep in the jungle, the forward command posts of a force called Merrill's Marauders got ready to push off.  Only their top officers knew where to, or what for.  One hot afternoon, a reconnaissance plane from an advanced air base near the border of India scouted the Jap-infested jungle.  The operation was about to begin.  Its objective: Burma."

A map is shown of the area.  In India, close to its border with western Burma, along the Brahmaputra River is a place called Dibrugah.  To its northeast is Sadiya and east of it is Ledo, the starting point for the Ledo Road through Burma. 

An airplane lands and some film is delivered by jeep to the United States Air Force, Aerial Photographic Section, Field Laboratory.  The photographs of the Red Robin Operation are developed and made ready for the general. The general looks at them and tells one of his officers:  "Well, lad, it's been a long time.  But here's where we start paying back the Japs."  The crucial photo is now rushed over to Col. Carter, 503rd Parachute Infantry Headquarters.  Stilwell speaks to Carter on the phone and says the Red Robin operation goes into effect immediately.  Captain Nelson receives the aerial photograph and gives it to Col. Carter.   

Carter tells Nelson that there will be a diversion to cover the air drop in the jungle.  Six bombers will hit the village of Yawe south of the jump field. 

Nelson gives a briefing to the first platoon.  A superior officer tells the men that Stilwell was pushed out of Burma two years ago.  Now the first platoon will be the first to go back into Burma.  Nelson gets up and explains to the men that their objective is to destroy a Japanese radar and communications center.  There is a garrison of 2,000 Japanese soldiers in the area and there are patrols of 30 and 60 men.  Nelson now introduces Major Fitzpatrick of the Burma Rifles to the men and he tells the paratroopers more about the operation.  He shows the men where two years ago soldiers build a now abandoned airstrip.  After blowing up the center, they are to move to the airstrip. 

After the briefing, Nelson talks with Williams of the American News Service.  Williams informs the captain that he will be going along with the men.  Williams is an older man and Nelson warns him that this is not going to be an easy assignment for him, but Williams insists on going nonetheless. 

The men arrive at the airport ready to go.  Lt. Jacobs is there and also Captain Li of the Chinese Republican Army.  The men put on their parachutes and Nelson checks them.  The men get into two airplanes and take-off.  It's a 50 minute flight to the drop zone. 

The actual drop goes very smoothly and without enemy opposition.  The men  get together and then bury their parachutes.  One of the Burmese guys spots tracks and the unit follows them.  The men are bothered by mosquitoes, but push on.  A Japanese patrol is spotted.  It's rather a large patrol.  The Americans take cover and let the patrol pass. 

Later the guys run into isolated sentries and they take them out.   Higgins spots the station in a little clearing in the jungle.  Most of the enemy soldiers go inside the messhall for dinner.   Sid will take his men and cover the messhall.  Treace is to take five men and cover the radio shack.  Nelson will handle the radar station.  The three groups start moving forward.  As they get closer they start crawling up close to the communications center.  At the set time the three groups open up on the Japanese.  The enemy has been completely surprised by the attack and all are killed or wounded. 

The men now prepare to blow up the entire center.  The place blows up as the men start running back the way they came. 

The Japanese learn of what happened and take a large force to eliminate the attackers.  The Americans find the abandoned air strip. 

The Japanese unit still pursues the Americans.  The Americans hear an airplane coming their way.  Nelson communicates with the lead pilot and says it's okay to land.  Just as the pilots prepare to land, a Burmese guide comes backs saying about a hundred Japanese soldiers are in the area.  Nelson quickly calls back to tell the pilots to abort their mission.  He gives a map reference for their next pick-up spot in two days. 

Learning of the setback, Col Carter says to a staff member that the Chindwin River is covered with Japanese. The men are just going to have to walk out of the jungle.  It's a 150 mile trip. 

Nelson breaks his men into two groups with leaders Nelson and Lt. Jacobs.  A plane with supplies takes off for the rendezvous place.  Nelson reaches the rendezvous point, but they cannot contact Lt. Jacobs and his group.  The plane drops the supplies to Nelson's group of men.  Nelson learns that he and his men are definitively going to have to walk out of Burma. 

One guy from Lt. Jacobs's group, Hollis, finally arrives, but he is in bad shape.  He says they were ambushed by the Japanese and it was a real slaughterhouse.  The men have to construct a stretcher to carry Hollis on.  They move out.  A vine is cut and falls into the stream.  Downstream the Japanese find it and figure it was cut or knocked off from the rest of the vine.  Now they push on after the Americans. 

The Americans arrive at a native village.  Hollis recovers enough to walk by himself.  The village is a bit too quiet for the men.  They are very wary of going in.  They decide to bypass it.  Three Burmese men stop them and tell them that there were 50 Japanese soldiers in their village, but they left in the morning.  There are only two Japanese sentries guarding the village and the American prisoners.  Nelson sends four men in to eliminated the sentries.  They sneak up on the sentries and kill them.  A fellow named Nebraska finds their and other men all cut up in pieces by the Japanese.  Lt. Jacobs is found still alive, but he asks Nelson to kill him.  The lieutenant dies before Nelson can respond. 

The men bury the tortured dead.  About 16 Japanese return to the village.  One enemy soldiers trips off two grenades which warns the Americans.  More Japanese arrive as the Americans start knocking off the first group.  Several fellows hold the enemy back while the other guys get across the river.  After the men are on the other side, the last of men go across the river.  Everyone except for a man named Soapy gets away. 

The supply plane is to give Nelson new instructions. The message is for Nelson to go north to map reference D-247850.  There are other plans in the works, but they can't tell the pilot. 

The pilot relays the message to Nelson.  The men are upset that they are not heading straight home, but have to resign themselves to their new orders.  As the men are picking up their supplies, Japanese soldiers open up on them.  They kill quite a few Americans. 

Three separate pilots report in that there is no sign of Nelson and his men.  They have a photo of the drop zone with three dead Americans near the supplies in the clearing.  Col. Carter now cancels any more airplane searches for the lost group. 

The men see an American plane overhead.  Nelson tries to signal them with a pocket mirror.  The pilots don't see anything and keep on going.  Hollis breaks down crying.  When the men start moving out, the exhausted journalist starts heading the wrong way.  A fellow has to grab him and set him on he right path.

The men keep walking and walking, then they climb uphill, slosh across another stream, and repeat this process many times, until they finally reach the top of the right hill.  Everybody is disappointed because all they can see around them from the hill is just jungle, jungle, jungle.  Mr. Williams is found dead on the side of a hill.  One of the men apologizes to Mr. Williams for his not having made it out alive.  They bury Williams. 

A plane comes over them and drops more supplies.  The Japanese spot the airplane and then spot the men on the hilltop. 

The Japanese start moving down one hill and then start up the American hill.  A Japanese soldier trips off a grenade, which gives the meaning some early warning.  A Japanese soldier sneaks up and knifes Hollis in his fox hole.  Another of the soldiers asks if Hollis is all right and a voice says he's okay.  Then the voice says:  "Where are you, Joe?"  There is no Joe among the men now so the American soldier tells the enemy where he is.  He puts a hand grenade without its pin out on the side of his fox hole and gets low in his hole.  The Japanese fellow is blown up by the grenade.  Another man sneaks up on Nelson, but he grabs the knife out of the enemy's hand and stabs him with it.  He then rolls the man's body down hill.   

Nelson sends up a flare, which shows up the positions of the Japanese.  The men open up on them and kill quite a few.  Then they lob grenades down the hill killing more of them.  In the morning, Nelson learns that the "monkeys" have pulled out.  The men hear planes coming in over them.  They all jump in their fox holes fearing the worst.  But there are scores of planes in the sky.  Nelson says:  "Now you know why we were sent here.  That's why they made us wait.  The invasion of Burma."  Paratroopers now fill the skies with their parachutes.  Gliders also start landing with troops, artillery, jeeps and even tractors. 

Col. Carter is informed that Nelson and 11 men are coming in.  Carter gets in a jeep and heads to the aide station.  He congratulates Nelson on making it back and thanks him and his men for taking out that radar station.  He tells the men to get into a glider.  A plane flies overhead and hooks the line, dragging the glider into the air.      

"This story has a conclusion but not an end.   It will end only when the evil forces of Japan are totally destroyed.  This film is gratefully dedicated to the men of the American, British, Chinese and Indian armies, without whose heroic efforts Burma would still be in the hands of the Japanese." 

 


 

The movie deals with a group of mostly American paratroopers under the command of Captain Nelson (Errol Flynn) dropped into the Burmese jungle in order to wipe out a Japanese radar station in expectation of a general Allied invasion to retake Burma.  The destruction of the radar station goes extremely well, without a single casualty, but that proved to be the easy part of the mission.  Now the problem is, how do the raiders ever get back to their forces given that the Japanese are all over the area looking for revenge against the destroyers of the radar station?  In a senses, it's largely a chase movie with brief moments of combat popping up.   

The film is not great, but it does keep one's interest wondering if the raiders will make it out successfully.  The best thing about the movie is Errol Flynn who sure is a smooth, charming character.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 


Historical Background:.

 

1943 (October)  --  Admiral Lord Mountbatten appointed the Supreme Allied Commander of South East Asia.

The US forces in the China-Burma-India theater were under the nominal command of General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell. 

About the same time  --  the Japanese created the Burma Area Army with command of the 15th and 28th Armies.

After the loss of the Burma Road, the Americans under Stilwell prevailed with their idea of building a new road (the Ledo Road) through north Burma to the Burma Road close to the Chinese border.  To build the Ledo Road, Stillwell attacked the Japanese northern front with Merrill's Marauders, the Chindits (i.e., the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade) and Chinese troops along the route of the new road. They were able to clear north Burma after heavy jungle fighting and the prolonged siege of Myitkyina.

by 1944  --  the British Royal Air Force had gained air superiority in the area. 

late 1944 and the first half of 1945  --  the British launched a series of offensive operations into Burma.

1945 (April 22)  --  Japanese General Kimura ordered Rangoon to be evacuated.

1945 (May 1)  --  a Gurkha parachute battalion cleared Japanese rearguards from the mouth of the Rangoon River. 

1945 (May 2)  --  the Indian 26th Infantry Division took over Rangoon. 

 

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