Thursday, May 10, 2001

For a day, the newest U.S. warship will be sent to the
1940s. Guests aboard the Stennis will see the movie
across from the USS Arizona Memorial.

‘Pearl Harbor’
to gain nuclear
star escort

USS Stennis brings
a historic load for
this month's premiere

By Gregg K. Kakesako

The Navy's newest nuclear aircraft carrier departed San Diego yesterday bound for Hawaii with its 5-acre flight deck dressed for its latest mission, the premiere of blockbuster World War II movie "Pearl Harbor" later this month.

Although the USS Stennis has the latest arsenal of nuclear-age jet fighters, F-18E Hornets, for this trip it also will have two special vintage warbirds: a P-40 World War II fighter and a B-25 bomber.

Both World War II warbirds play prominent roles in the $145 million Disney production, which will have its world premiere on Stennis' flight deck May 21 here.

The P-40 Warhawks were on the flight line at various Army fields on Oahu when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, while B-25 Mitchell bombers were used during the Doolittle raid of Tokyo in 1942, a crucial point in the Disney movie.

For the premiere, Disney construction crews will convert the Stennis' flight deck into a large open-air theater with stadium seating for 2,000 VIPs, including the stars of the movie, 500 media people and other premiere attendees.

Disney also plans to turn the Stennis' hangar deck into a 1940s USO club with a band playing the music of the pre-Pearl Harbor era for the reception that will follow the movie premiere.

To further develop the Pearl Harbor-era atmosphere, the Navy will have on its flight deck a P-40 fighter painted like the one flown by the father of Capt. Dick Gallagher, the current skipper of the Stennis. Gallagher's father was stationed here on Dec. 7, 1941.

Disney had the plane painted with the name painted on the canopy -- Col. Skeets Gallagher -- and the plane's nickname, Cabby, his mother's name, on the nose.

The 1,092-foot Stennis, when it arrives Tuesday, will be moored at Pearl Harbor's hotel pier across the channel from where the USS Arizona rests after it was sunk near Ford Island by Japanese fighters.

The Jerry Bruckheimer-Michael Bay movie will open on Memorial Day and re-creates the events prior to, during and after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Fleet headquarters. Much of film was shot on location at Pearl Harbor last year.

Also detailed is the aftermath of the attack and the retaliation effort by the United States, in which B-25 bombers were launched from the deck of the USS Hornet on a low-level bombing mission led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle.

The movie, using advanced special effects to re-create events of Dec. 7, also is a "love story against the backdrop of war," Bruckheimer recently said in the Navy publication "All Hands."

"I think this movie emphasizes the heart of the volunteer and the determination of the volunteer," Bruckheimer added, "and it's what turned the war around for us. It was their tenacity and their willingness to serve their country and protect their country. That's the reason we're not speaking Japanese today -- or German, or whatever. It was those guys on those ships who protected our shores from a lot of people who wanted to take advantage of America and change America. There's certainly no country like that."

The 1941 attack on the Oahu naval base resulted in 2,403 Americans dead and 1,178 wounded.

The Japanese lost fewer than 200 men, and only one was captured.

The story follows two friends (Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett) who are caught up in the events that draw the United States into World War II.

One enlists with the U.S. Army Air Corps, while the other flies for the British Royal Air Force, but both find themselves falling in love with the same woman (Kate Beckinsale), a nurse.

Filming Pearl Harbor: The Big Boom

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