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Mission of the Shark--Training


Training for this project was difficult and demanding, both on the actors we were instructing and on the Warriors Inc. Cadre...namely, me. Fortunately, I had grown up on family stories about Navy service in World War II and plenty of my own shipboard experience during my active Marine Corps service to draw on. I was also able to spend invaluable time on location in Selma, Alabama with several USS Indianapolis crewmen who survived the ordeal of the sinking and the shark attacks. They helped me to design a one-week course of instruction for the performers that was carried out aboard the battleship USS Alabama, moored as a floating museum near Selma.

After a thorough couple of weeks of research on the U.S. Navy in World War II, I began working the actors through a period of shore-based uniform classes as well as close order drill, Navy history classes and Navy jargon instructional periods. When they didn't use the correct terms - bulkhead, deck, scuttlebutt, etc. - they paid the price with push-ups and other exercises. When I thought they were beginning to look and act like proud cruiser sailors, I took them aboard Alabama and we began a School of the Ship during which they stood regular topside and engineering watches and slept in the confined berthing spaces.

There were plenty of timed General Quarters and Battle Station drills which required the sailors in training to reach, man and report ready various anti-aircraft and anti-submarine weapons systems. When they were slow or appeared unmotivated, they did it again...until I got tired. Since I was training both officers and enlisted sailors, we worked toward the officers standing watches and conducting the drills as they became more and more capable. Stand Down instruction was held every evening in the crew's mess where they ate and listened to me teach in an effort to give them some insights to the period and to Navy service at sea during World War II. The final field exercise was a full-scale Abandon Ship drill in which they were required deploy life rafts and go over the side of the ship via cargo nets.

I also conducted some basic seamanship training for Japanese actors in the film aboard a captured Japanese I Boat which is moored just forward of USS Alabama as a tourist attraction. The conversational Japanese I picked up during service in Japan and on Okinawa was very helpful.