Film: Destroyer Life in the Pacific

Someone in Destroyer Squadron 48 — probably a crewman aboard Kidd — filmed routine life aboard Fletcher-class destroyers of the Pacific Fleet in 1943. Although the original film is believed destroyed, a 16mm duplicate was made in the 1950s. It is from that duplicate that this Internet version is produced. Modern titles have been added and a scene showing collision damage to Abbot (explained elsewhere on this site) has been slightly edited, but otherwise the film is original.

This motion picture is remarkable because routine life aboard destroyers in World War II was not the subject of the same intense filming as, say, activities aboard aircraft carriers. Also, other destroyer film clips tend to be short and directed at other nearby — and presumably more interesting — ships.

The film begins in Pearl Harbor on 19 October 1943; this can be dated by the presence of the ships seen moored. It continues with various fleet duties, including gunnery practice, carrier escort, refueling, dramatic aircrew rescues, mail delivery, depth charge runs and finally a rendezvous with another Fletcher-class destroyer. There appears to be some brief combat footage with flak bursts above the fleet and smoke on the horizon.

The original film was heavily spliced, and at least two scenes are known to be out of chronological order. Most likely the entire film was assembled without regard to a timeline.

Among the vessels shown are the battleships Indiana, Maryland and Tennessee; the veteran fleet oiler Cimarron; the Fletcher-class destroyers Abbot, Bullard, Kidd and Murray; and the light aircraft carrier Cowpens. Also, there are some fine close-up running shots of the famous Essex-class carrier Bunker Hill and extensive footage of Kidd refueling from an unidentified Brooklyn-class light cruiser.

We don’t positively know the identities of the Fletcher-class destroyers on which all of the scenes were filmed, though Kidd is definitively identified as the destroyer being refueled from a cruiser; the officer looking through binoculars and then turning toward the camera is none other than Lt. Lowell Crosby Savage, gunnery officer of Kidd and future commanding officer of Abbot. Lt. Savage served aboard Kidd from April 1943 to January 1945.

It’s a good guess that all of the other scenes were also filmed aboard Kidd. The film may be a composite of life aboard several destroyers, but at least two scenes show Kidd and we know that the original film was once owned by a Kidd veteran.

Any information regarding the whereabouts of the original film or details of the scenes would be appreciated; please notify the webmaster. In 2004, the duplicate 16mm film and a DVD copy were donated to the U.S.S. Kidd & Louisiana Veterans Memorial in Baton Rouge. In 2006 a new Internet version was released, with better titles and a new soundtrack based on Richard Rodgers’ Victory at Sea suite.

Viewing the film

This 18½-minute black & white film is presented in 640x480 frame size to allow for a reasonable download time over the Internet. Still, it is a very big file and patience is required with slower Internet connections.

It can be played simply by clicking on the link at right. As a practical matter, a high-speed Internet connection (such as a cable modem or DSL) is best.

The dirt and scratches were on the original film and were copied to the duplicate. Also, the duplicate was not a precision-made copy of the original, so there is some jerkiness and misalignment. All of the titles and subtitles are modern.

About the video formats

Abbot videos are offered in several formats; your web browser will automatically pick the best for your device.

The formats are MP4, M4V (iTunes/iPhone/iPad/iPod), WEBM, OGG and MOV (Quicktime).

For best results, use the most recent web browser available for your device. Macs, PC’s and tablets are the best way to view the films, but they will also play with lower picture quality on smart phones. If you have a slow Internet connection, please allow plenty of time for a video to download before trying to play it, otherwise the playback will unexpectedly stop and start as data is downloaded.

The videos have been tested on these web browsers: Firefox version 29.0, Mac and Windows 7; Safari 7.0.1 Mac, Windows 7 and iPhone iOS 7; Google Chrome 31.0.1650.63, Mac; and Internet Explorer 10, Windows 7. Newer versions of each of these browsers should also work.