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THE FIGHTING LADY is one of the great documentaries to emerge from WWII. Shot in 1944, this documentary was produced by the U.S. Navy, directed by famed photographer Edward Steichen and narrated by Lt. Robert Taylor USNR.

The plot of the film revolves around the life of seamen on board an anonymous aircraft carrier. Because of war time restrictions, the name of the aircraft carrier was disguised as “the Fighting Lady”, although she was later identified as the Essex class USS Yorktown CV-10. (“Fighting Lady” was the known moniker of the Yorktown, just as “Lady Lex” for Lexington, “The Big E” for Enterprise, etc…) A few shots of aircraft landing were filmed aboard the Yorktown’s sister ship USS Ticonderoga.

Frequently mentioned is the adage that war is 99% waiting. The first half or so of the film is taken up with examining the mundane details of life on board the aircraft carrier as she sails through the Panama Canal and into the Pacific Ocean, finally seeing action at Marcus Island (attacked in 1943). The film provides aerial views of a series of airstrikes at Japanese bases in the Pacific theatre.

Following an attack on Kwajalein in early 1944, intelligence reports that an armada of Japanese ships is massing near Truk, a major Japanese logistical base in the Carolines. The Fighting Lady and some of her task force are sent on a “hit and run” mission to neutralize it and return to Marcus, but not to attempt a landing.

Once the ship returns from the massive, two-day Truk raid, it is then sent to the waters off the Marianas and participates in the famous “Marianas Turkey Shoot”.

At the very end some of the servicemen who appeared in the film are reintroduced to us, and the narrator informs us that they have died in battle.

The film was originally shot on 16mm stock and uses Technicolor footage shot by “gun cameras” mounted directly on aircraft guns during combat. This gives a very realistic edge to the film, while the chronological following of the ship and crew mirror the experiences of the seamen who went from green recruits through the rigours of military life, battle, and, for some, death.

Due to her fighting heritage, and to honor all carrier sailors and airmen, the USS Yorktown is on permanent display at Patriots Point in Charleston, SC.

Alfred Newman’s musical theme originally appeared in Vigil in the Night and was reused in Hell and High Water and in many 20th Century Fox film trailers.

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This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD and 2k. For more information visit



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