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Objective, Burma

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Objective, Burma

Objective, Burma!
film poster
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Produced by Jerry Wald
Written by Alvah Bessie (story)
Ranald MacDougall (screenplay)
Narrated by Truman Bradley
Starring Errol Flynn
James Brown
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography James Wong Howe
Editing by George Amy
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) February 17, 1945
Running time 142 min
Country United States
Language English

Objective, Burma! is an Oscar-nominated 1945 war film which was loosely based on the six-month raid by Merrill's Marauders in the Burma Campaign during the Second World War. The film, made by Warner Brothers immediately after the raid, was directed by Raoul Walsh and starred Errol Flynn.


A group of United States Army paratroopers led by Captain Nelson (Errol Flynn) are dropped into Burma to locate and destroy a camouflaged Japanese Army radar station that is detecting Allied aircraft flying into China. For their mission, they are assigned Gurkha guides, a Chinese Army Captain and an older war correspondent (Henry Hull) whose character is used to explain various procedures to the audience.

The mission is an overwhelming success as the 36-man team quickly take out the station and its personnel. But when the airborne troops arrive at an old airstrip to be taken back to their base, they find the Japanese waiting for them at their rendezvous site. Captain Nelson makes the hard decision to call off the rescue planes, and hike out on foot.

To reduce the likelihood of detection, the group then splits up into two smaller units to meet up at a deserted Burmese village. But when Nelson arrives at the meeting place, he finds that the other team had been captured, tortured and mutilated by the Japanese. Only Lt. Jacobs survives, and he too dies after telling Nelson what had happened. The surviving soldiers are then attacked and are forced again to retreat into the jungle. The men must then cross the swamps in their attempt to make it back to safety through enemy-occupied jungle.

Fighting an almost constant rearguard action, Nelson's paratroopers also succeed as decoys leading Japanese troops away from the site of the British 1944 aerial invasion of Burma.



Producer Ranald MacDougall had been a creator and co-writer of the CBS radio series The Man Behind the Gun that was awarded a 1942 Peabody Award.[1] He had been contracted to Warner Brothers, with this his second film after uncredited work on Pride of the Marines.

The movie was made with authentic World War II American military material, aircraft and gliders, due to their availability.[2] Producer Jerry Wald acknowledged that the plot bore a significant similarity to the 1940 film Northwest Passage.[3]


Exteriors were shot at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, California. Filming began on May 1, 1944 and was scheduled for 60 days. But shooting required more than 40 extra days due to bad weather and constant script changes.

The movie also contains a large amount of actual combat footage filmed by U.S. Army Signal Corps cameramen in the China-Burma-India theatre[4] as well as New Guinea.[5]



Even though it was based on the exploits of Merrill's Marauders, Objective Burma was withdrawn from release in the United Kingdom after it infuriated British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and drew protests about the Americanization of an almost entirely British, Indian and Commonwealth conflict.[6] An editorial in The Times said:

It is essential both for the enemy and the Allies to understand how it came about that the war was won ... nations should know and appreciate the efforts other countries than their own made to the common cause.

The film was not put on general release in the UK until 1952 when it was shown with an accompanying apology. The movie was also banned in Singapore although it was seen in Burma and India.[7][8]

There were also objections to Errol Flynn playing the hero as, despite being Australian, he had stayed in Hollywood during the war, unlike actors like David Niven or James Stewart.[9][10] Flynn, however, had tried to enlist but had been declared medically unfit for military service. His studio suppressed the news of his medical problems to preserve his public image.

Reviews of Objective Burma were generally favorable, with Variety noting: "The film has considerable movement, particularly in the early reels, and the tactics of the paratroopers are authentic in their painstaking detail. However, while the scripters have in the main achieved their purpose of heightening the action, there are scenes in the final reels that could have been edited more closely."[11]


The movie was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1945:




  • Dunning, John. On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-19507-6-783.
  • Hobbes, Nicholas. Essential Militaria: Facts, Legends, and Curiosities About Warfare Through the Ages. London: Atlantic Books, 2003. ISBN 978-1-84354-229-2.
  • Holston, Kim R. The English-Speaking Cinema: An Illustrated History, 1927-1993. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1994. ISBN 978-0-89950-8-580.
  • Thomas, Tony, Rudy Behlmer and Clifford McCarty. The Films of Errol Flynn. Sacramento, California: Citadel Press, 1969.

External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • AllRovi
  • TCM Movie Database
  • Downloadable trailer in different formats

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