U. S. Steel Gary Works Plays Cameo Role in `Pearl Harbor'
Of the millions of moviegoers exiting theaters this weekend after viewing "Pearl Harbor," few will have noticed an obscure credit line given to U. S. Steel Gary Works. In the film, the Northwest Indiana steel mill makes a brief but significant cameo appearance playing the role of industrial Japan during Jimmy Doolittle's daring bombing raid over Tokyo.
"Pearl Harbor" opens today for Memorial Day weekend. It was produced by and will be distributed by Touchstone Pictures. Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay were the film's producers, and Bay was also its director.
The film's producers first contacted U. S. Steel Group (NYSE: X), a unit of USX Corporation, in June 2000 about filming at Gary Works. Location Manager Richard Klotz said, "We are looking for a huge industrial complex that can portray industrial Japan in 1942. Few, if any, facilities compare to the U. S. Steel Gary Works."
Before approaching U. S. Steel, the producers had done their homework and already knew Gary Works could be cast for the part.
Gary Works, North America's largest fully integrated steel facility, has 57 production units on its sprawling 4,000-acre site. The facility's six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline was another plus because it could simulate the Pacific Ocean over which Doolittle's band of B-25s flew to Tokyo after being launched from the aircraft carrier USS WASP.
Filming at Gary Works took place on Saturday, October 28, but only after several preplanning meetings assured the company that the film work could be safely conducted. From the ground, "plate" shots were filmed looking skyward. These shots were later fed into computers at Industrial Light + Magic (a division of Lucas Digital Ltd. LLC) so B-25 bombers and other elements could be added digitally. Still photographs also were taken for use in creating a scale model which would be blown up for special effects purposes.
Using pre-approved flight paths, a helicopter with an exterior-mounted camera made numerous passes over the plant filming what the pilots would see as they approached and bombed their targets. The plant also was filmed from higher elevations so digitally imposed B-25s could be shown from above during the raid.
Although U. S. Steel rarely grants movie producers access to its facilities, the company felt there were two good reasons to cooperate this time. First, the producer's location fee could be converted into a generous donation to the Lake Area United Way. Secondly, for a company that played an important role during that war, participating in a patriotic World War II epic offered a special appeal.
"We believed the film would provide an opportunity to remember and honor the brave men and women who fought in World War II, as well the heroes on the home front who so strongly supported the war effort," said USX Chairman and CEO Thomas J. Usher. "More so than any war before it, World War II was a 'war of steel,' and we are extremely proud of the contributions U. S. Steel and our industry made toward equipping this nation to defend its very existence and way of life."
At any time during the war, the United States steel industry could produce far more steel than their German and Japanese enemies combined. This advantage proved significant as the war progressed.
"Having a strong, viable domestic steel industry was as critical to the nation's interests then, as it should be today," added Usher. "Through the strength and resolve of the U.S. steel industry, we helped transform the United States into the 'arsenal of democracy' which President Franklin D. Roosevelt challenged the nation to become in late 1940.
"Of the 467 million tons of steel produced in America for the war effort, more than a third of it was made by U. S. Steel. But, our people contributed far more than steel to the Allied victory. More than 113,000 U. S. Steel employees served in the armed forces. Most were men who had to be replaced on the production lines by women, who quickly became the backbone of our war production."
Steel was so critical to the war effort that fighting men could not advance on land, on sea or in the air without it. Steel was needed everywhere and the armed forces' appetite for it was insatiable.
From July 1940 to July 1945, U. S. Steel increased its steel production by 30 percent to 30.8 million tons. Its output was formulated and configured in so many ways for so many purposes that a listing of its war products could have filled a thick catalogue.
At its former South Works in Chicago, for example, the company produced enough steel for 21 million helmets or 90 percent of the helmet steel used in the war. This steel was a special, high-grade alloy steel designed and perfected by company researchers to seemingly impossible specifications. The steel had to stretch enough to be punched from a flat disk into the GI helmet shape, yet hard enough to stop a .45-caliber bullet fired at point blank range.
Among many other types of war materials U. S. Steel produced were 2.9 million bombs and 33.6 million shell forgings. The company's Birmingham, Ala., plant, alone, produced 4.6 million forgings for 155 mm. artillery shells.
By adding new facilities in Gary, Ind. and the Pittsburgh, Pa., area, the company assumed a dominant role in developing welded tank armor, supplying most of the armor for 86,000 tanks. Through research and operational advances, U. S. Steel increased its armor plate production from 49,000 tons in 1940 to 335,000 tons in 1943. To knock out enemy tanks, facilities in these cities also delivered enough tubing to make 11.9 million motor tubes for bazooka rockets.
In the air, company steel stiffened the wings and landing gear of fighter planes and bombers, such as the B-25s used in Doolittle's raid. Steel tubing formed aircraft skeletons and supported the engines while steel wire comprised the interior muscles. Crews wore steel-reinforced flak vests, and steel cartridge belts permitted bombers' .50-caliber machine guns to fire 13 rounds per second.
U. S. Steel invented prefabricated runways made of steel mats that locked together, turning atolls into airfields. It produced more than 214 million square feet of these landing mats, which the commanding general of the Army Air Forces saluted in 1941 as the "outstanding development of the year in aviation."
For the battle on the seas, the company fabricated 911 ships of various kinds. These included destroyers and the famous "Landing Ships/Tanks" (LSTs) made in Ambridge, Pa., whose bows opened at the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima to expel jeeps, tanks and troops. Sheet mills in Gary and Pittsburgh were converted to produce heavy plate for ships. U. S. Steel cables snagged aircraft as they landed on aircraft carriers, and steel wire was woven into submarine and anti-torpedo nets.
"Many factors contributed to the Allied victory, and steel was certainly a major one," said Usher. "As moviegoers watch 'Pearl Harbor,' we hope they will share with us a sense of pride in our nation's response to the surprise attack, as well as an appreciation of the role steel played in World War II's successful outcome."
SOURCE: U.S. Steel Group
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