Posted by: SJS | July 9, 2011

The Duke, Donna Reed, and PT lore

The 1945 movie  They Were Expendable celebrated the exploits of the PT Boats and elevated their profile with the American public.  Directed by the renowned filmmaker John Ford, the movie starred rising stars like John Wayne, Donna Reed, and Robert Montgomery.  They Were Expendable  presented a dramatic retelling of the story of  General MacArthur’s daring escape from the Philippines early in the war when things were looking grim for the Allies in the South Pacific.  

They Were Expendable

movie poster

 With his credentials as a director already well established through movies such as The Grapes of Wrath and Young Mr. Lincoln (both starring Henry Fonda), John Ford was one of the best in the business when he directed They Were Expendable.  Through war movies and westerns,  John Wayne would become a Hollywood legend in his own right.  In the popular television series, The Donna Reed Show, Ms. Reed became a regular presence in the living rooms of most Americans during the 1950s and 1960s. 

Long before the movie PT 109 or the television comedy series McHale’s Navy, the PT Boats were portrayed on the silver screen.  With the help of some of Hollywood’s best, the story of the PT sailors and the crucial role they played in WWII became one of the proudest legacies of the US Navy.

John Wayne and Donna Reed

John Wayne and Donna Reed in They Were Expendable

Red Stahley was a lifelong fan of John Wayne and saw all of his movies. 

 As a young boy, when I learned that the star of two of my favorite movies, The Alamo and The Longest Day,  had previously been in a movie about the PT boats I was stunned.  I became convinced that his prominence in Hollywood was all because of his role in They Were Expendable.  No one could convince me otherwise.  Watching it still gives me a thrill– I highly recommend it!


  1. Added it to my Netflix queue, thanks for the suggestion ! I did the blog, great work, keep it up.

  2. Kieran,

    Thanks for your support! It’s great to have your input and I’m glad that you’re following the blog. I’ve learned so much through the research process and the expanding dialogue helps me learn even more.


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