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VIDEO: Mel Gibson set to Direct World War II Kamikaze Attack Film ‘Destroyer’

USS Laffey in 1944. US Navy Photo

Mel Gibson plans to direct a film about the ferocious kamikaze attack on USS Laffey (DD-724), according to a report published by The Hollywood Reporter.

Destroyer (original working title: Kamikaze) will mark Gibson’s second foray into events concerning the 1945 Battle of Okinawa. His 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge about pacifist medic Desmond Doss’ heroic efforts to save wounded soldiers during the allied assault on the island received wide critical acclaim and was a commercial success.

Laffey is famous for surviving a relentless attack by two dozen kamikaze aircraft while serving on radar picket duty early in the campaign to capture Okinawa. Laffey sustained substantial damage when it was struck by six planes and four bombs, yet was able to stay afloat and continue to fight.

According to a 2010 article in Proceedings magazine, one of Laffey’s junior officers asked the skipper about abandoning the ship during the onslaught because the ship was “a blazing mess of charred airplanes and body parts, many of her guns were destroyed, her radar was knocked out, more than 30 of her crew had been killed, and she was sinking.” Cmdr. Frederick Becton responded “Hell no. We still have guns that can shoot. I’ll never abandon this ship as long as a gun will fire.”

Cmdr. Frederick Becton aboard USS Laffey. US Navy Photo

Many ships during the war had been sunk after absorbing a single kamikaze strike, yet Laffey endured multiple direct hits and was dubbed “The Ship that Would Not Die.” A month after the hellish attack, the scorched and scarred Laffey was put on display in Seattle so that the American public could get a sense of what the nation’s sailors were experiencing. Laffey was repaired and continued to serve until finally being decommissioned in 1975.

Screenwriter Rosalind Ross adapted the script for Destroyer from the book Hell From the Heavens: The Epic Story of the USS Laffey and World War II’s Greatest Kamikaze Attack by John Wukovits after the rights were acquired by Hollywood Gang Productions.

There already had been industry speculation that Gibson would be attached to the project because he is in a relationship with Ross. In April 2017, the couple were spotted visiting Laffey which is now on exhibit at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

In a 2016 interview with the USNI News, Gibson expressed his interest in Laffey and was asked if he planned on making a film about it.

“Man, that is a great story. Somebody is doing it, somebody is developing it now,” Gibson said. He commented that the entire 90-minute attack on Laffey could be dramatized in real time.

In addition to Destroyer, two other epic films about the U.S. Navy in World War II are in the works.

Mel Gibson on set on the film ‘Hacksaw Ridge’

Tom Hanks wrote the screenplay for Greyhound, which is currently being filmed in Baton Rouge, La. Hanks stars as the captain of a U.S. destroyer leading a convoy across the North Atlantic, where wolf packs of German U-boats lie in wait.

Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) will begin shooting Midway later this year. The $100-million production about the pivotal Pacific battle will likely include Woody Harrelson and Mandy Moore among the cast. The star-studded 1976 film of the same name received mixed critical reviews but did well at the box office.

  • echos of the mt’s

    The first USS Laffey (DD-459) was sunk at the Battle of Guadalcanal but before it did it took on the battleship Hiei at a distance of less than 20 feet. Her guns raked the flag bridge wounding the Japanese commanding admiral and killing some of his staff.

    • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

      Cool, what a great legacy.

      • echos of the mt’s

        The 2nd Laffey was at D-Day doing screening and bombardment duties. After the landings she helped break up an E-boat attack on the fleet. Later got hit by a dud German shell when she and the battleships bombarded Cherbourg.

        The ladies never shied away from a fight!

  • Ed L

    The 2nd USS Laffey (DD-724) was an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer of World War II, laid down and launched in 1943, and commissioned in February 1944. My Uncle was on the USS Miller DD 535 Fletcher-class in the same area

    • Rocco


  • muzzleloader

    Wow. Some great movie times ahead.
    Mel Gibson did a fantastic job with HR, and I have no doubt he will do the same with this upcoming film.
    The 1976 Midway movie had an all star cast and complete US Navy cooperation, but it was boring, not to mention some glaring inaccuracies( wrong aircraft types, etc).
    Roland Emmerich can make some spectacular war films( The Patriot, and Flyboys).
    If he can stay true to history and have a good script, Midway is something to anticipate.

    • Rocco

      Agreed ….. Last move I saw in theatre was HR! Can’t wait for this one. As for your Midway comments…… Aircraft accuracy was what was available & able to fly at the time.

      • Secundius

        Any good? I read the Unabridged Book, but never saw the movie…

      • muzzleloader

        Well, it was not so much available aircraft, that is understandable. There was stock gun camera footage used that showed ME-109’s and Fock Wolf
        190’s going down in flames.
        Wrong theater, lol.

        • Secundius

          I would say that more than 90% of those that watched Newsreels at Movie Theatres in the ’40’s, couldn’t tell the difference or even cared. As long as was and Enemy Plane being shot down…

        • Rocco

          It’s been awhile lol🤣

      • tiger

        Well….. Not really.

        • Rocco

          Well not really what!!! Back it up!!

          • tiger

            Flyable warbirds were not in huge supply at the time nor in types needed.

          • Secundius

            The 1969 Movie “Battle of Britain” was the Last Movie where German Planes of WWII and British Planes of WWII were used in Large Numbers. Reason being they were available. The German planes being supplied by Spain. The 1977 Movie “A Bridge Too Far” was the last movie where C-47’s (DC-3’s) were used in large numbers, reason being that virtually every airport in the UK had a Stockpile of DC-3 sitting around not being used. After that Buffalo, Air of Canada either bought them up as Freight Haulers or or for Fire Bombers by AirSpray of California/British Columbia or they broken up for Spare Parts by those Nations Still using the DC-3 as Commuter/Short Range Freight Haulers. The reason that CGI is now used instead of the Real Thing is simple! Commercial Airspace! Having a Sizeable Chunk of Airspace available at any given time of the day. CGI is cheaper and doesn’t require FAA Red Tape…

    • Duane

      In the 70s, pre-digital effects, movie makers had to make do with whatever actual surviving, flyable aircraft were available. So old Navy Texan trainers were often posed as American and Japanese fighters in those days. CGI allows recreation of any aircraft that were used in the war.

      Looking forward to these new naval war pics!

      • Rocco

        I already said this!!

    • tiger


  • D. Jones

    The idea of showing the attack in real-time is really thought-provoking. So many other stories are condensed and edited for Hollywood consumption. Definitely will see.

    There is a brief chronology of the attacks in Wiki

    en.wikipedia org/wiki/USS_Laffey_(DD-724)

  • DaSaint

    Will look forward to those films!

  • Chesapeakeguy

    I have been wishing forever now that someone in Hollywood who has an interest in military matters would make a movie about task group Taffy 3, CDR Ernest Evans, and his ship the USS Johnson. I’ll bet the Spielberg/Hanks ‘touch’ would be fantastic for such a project.

    • Ctrot

      Agreed, The Battle Off Samar would be a great movie.

  • Secundius

    Redact away “USNI News”! I made a copy and sent it off to another Blog site.

  • Kenneth Millstein

    If Mel Gibson can do as well on “Destroyer” “Kamikaze” as he did on Hacksaw Ridge I will be all in to see the film in the first 30 minutes after it is released. I served on board the USS Gyatt DD712 in 1967, so I know a little bit of what it was like to serve on board a ship of that type. The Gyatt DD712 was actually older than the Laffey DD724 so perhaps I could be an advisor on the film as to it was like to serve on a WWII vintage destroyer. Mel, give me a call!

    • Rocco

      Kudos!! When I was on Forrestal we had an old 700 hull DD come along side for Fuel! The Starboard cat walk was full of all hands checking her out! Wish I took a picture!

      • Kenneth Millstein

        Thank you for your reply. It was not a lot of fun to serve on such an old ship but once I adjusted it was OK. FYI: The USS Laffey DD724 was the second ship with that name during WWII. The first one was sunk by the Japanese and the second Laffey was launched in time do do duty during the Normandy D-Day invasion on 6 June,1944. She was sent to Okinawa in time for those landings and that is where she gained her reputation as the “the ship that wouldn’t die”. She is on view for all to see in Point Pleasant, South Carolina. PS: I am still waiting for Mel to call me.

  • Sir Bateman

    I just hope that when making the Laffey movie that they avoid using CGI to the extent possible. When it comes to the new Midway movie and the destroyer flick Tom Hanks is making extensive CGI use is probably unavoidable, but when it comes to making a movie about the Laffey I really think they can get away with using actual practical effects, i.e. actual sets, large models, etc.

    On a somewhat related note, isn’t Hanks way too old to be staring as the captain of a WWII destroyer?

    • Rocco

      They will be using a similar museum ship for actual close in effect etc which ship I’m not sure yet.

      • Secundius

        Options are limited and far between! Only “Allen M. Sumner” class Destroyers Museum Ship, “IS” USS Laffey in Mount Pleasant, SC. Only other options are of the “Gearing” class Destroyers, which are “exEversole” in Turkey, “exEverett F. Larson” in South Korea, “Joseph P. Kennedy” in Massachusetts, “exSarfield” in Taiwan and “Orleck” at Lake Charles, Louisiana…

  • Jack D Ripper

    sounds terrific,,Please no flashing wasted video game effects ,,use the new tech effects to their spectacular purpose ,,cannot wait for Midway,,unfortunate the Hanks Spielburg 8th AF effort went no where,,

    • muzzleloader

      I had seen trailers on YouTube about the mighty 8th that were several years old, but I have heard nothing recently. Has the project been officially deep sixed?

      • Secundius

        If you’re referring to HBO’s 10-Part Mini-Series “The Mighty Eighth”?/! It was to be released in 18 May 2018, but has been rescheduled for “Sometime” in 2019 (Big “IF”), and even that’s not a Firm Date. Nobody seems to be quite sure as to why it’s not being released. Some are saying “Political” Wrangling, while others are pointing towards a particular Historical date for release…

  • John B. Morgen

    I hope Mel doesn’t seek in any Hollywood nonsense into the film, and he has hired naval historians to help him stay on track with the events–accurately

    • Secundius

      In the Miniseries “Band of Brother”, the Facts were Accurate. But the Presentation of the Facts, weren’t…

      • John B. Morgen

        Any examples about the errors in presentations?

        • Secundius

          Lt. Speirs “Fratricide’d” a Drunk Sergeant for Refusing to obey an order. Forrest Guth modified Lt. Winters M1 Garand to be Fully Automatic after D-Day, Private Albert Blithe fought in Korea as a Sergeant, instead dying of his Wounds in 1947. Read the Book or All the Books made by those of Band of Brothers, its more informative than the TV-Mini Series…

          • Duane

            The mini series was based upon a book written by Stephen Ambrose, based upon his many hours of interviews with surviving vets of Easy Company. The vets believed based on heresay that Blithe died of his wounds in 1947. After the series aired in 2001, Blithe’s family members announced that he did not die of his WW2 wounds, and that he went on to a long career in Army Airborne, dying in 1967.

            It’s not that the series producers lied. or the author, or the fellow vets. It was just misinformation that got passed along.

            As for the Lt. Spears story, the series made it extremely clear that that was just BS rumor-mongering and gossip and that Spears did no such thing. Every single soldier in the series who told one of the scary Spears stories admitted they never actually witnessed any such thing, but that they “heard from a guy” that it really happened.

          • Secundius

            Gee, Duane I never knew that! I’ve only watch Band of Brothers about 200 times now, and Never KNEW that Stephen Ambrose wrote the book. Thanks for you’re Insightful clarification on the author that inspired the Mini-Series…

  • Curtis Conway

    The FIRST FFG(X) should be named the USS Laffey.

    • Secundius

      Or a pending yet unnamed Flight III Arleigh Burke…