Cinema: What Really Happened

Whenever Hollywood gets ahold of history, it can be a tricky business separating fact from fiction

December 7, 1941, 7:55 A.M.: a low-flying Japanese plane zooms over the Hawaiian island of Oahu. It passes directly above a sandlot baseball field. The tail gunner waves at the kids below, warning them to take cover before bombs begin to fall. It's an extraordinary moment--a moviemaker's dream--and, as Socrates once observed of a far different subject, "it has the very great advantage of being a fact and not a fiction."

The ball-game scene represents one of many accurate anecdotes in Pearl Harbor. Some come from histories, others from the nearly 100 interviews the filmmakers conducted with survivors. But while Pearl...

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