Internewscast
Image default
Business

For His Naval Epic ‘Greyhound,’ Tom Hanks Cast America’s Last World War II Destroyer

Tom Hanks’ new World War II thriller Greyhound is the most authentic film portrayal of naval warfare since 2003’s Napoleonic Wars epic Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World.

There’s a good reason for that authenticity. America’s last surviving World War II destroyer, the former USS Kidd, plays a starring role.

Greyhound’s plot is simple. It’s early 1942. Hanks plays Captain Krause, the skipper of the fictional U.S. Navy destroyer USS Keeling. Krause and his crew lead an American-Canadian-British escort force shepherding a convoy from North America to Britain.

A wolfpack of German U-boats stalks the convoy.

And that’s it. Greyhound is 90 minutes of high tension and cold, sea-soaked, bloody realism.

Hanks faithfully adapted the script from C.S. Forester’s 1955 classic novel The Good Shepherd. Director Aaron Schneider and editors Mark Czyzewski and Sidney Wolinsky keep Hanks, his crew and Keeling in the center of almost every shot.

If Greyhound looks and feels real, it’s because Hanks and company shot many scenes aboard the 376-foot Kidd at her museum on the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. For some shots, director Schneider swapped out Kidd with a reproduction of the ship’s bridge, mounted on moving gimbals.

The other ships in the movie are digital recreations of real-life vessels. The surging ocean you see through Kidd’s portholes are from footage director of photography Shelly Johnson shot while sailing the North Atlantic with the Canadian navy.

The Fletcher-class Kidd, which commissioned in 1943 and fought in the Pacific Theater and also in the Korean War, is the only World War II destroyer still in her original configuration. “A lot of them got modified in the Vietnam War and the wars that followed,” Schneider explained.

Kidd decommissioned in 1965. Around 1975, the Navy tapped her to become a museum ship. “Kidd was chosen, in part, due to her condition after years of sitting idle: she had escaped the cannibalization common to ships of the inactive fleet,” according to her museum’s website.

“She was still very much in appearance as she had been when the Japanese had surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945,” the museum continued. “Her single-pole mast was still in place, though her own post-war damage control plans showed her with a tripod mast. All five five-inch/38-caliber gun mounts were still in place.”

Before towing Kidd from Philadelphia to Baton Rouge, the Navy remounted two twin 40-millimeter gun mounts forward of the bridge in place of the 1950s-vintage “hedgehog” anti-submarine mortars. “A sister ship of the Fletcher-class, USS Caperton, provided the quintuple Mk. 14 21-inch torpedo tubes that were missing, as well as a Mk. 27 torpedo director, two Mk. 63 gun directors and her boat boom,” the museum explained.

The museum opened in August 1983. Work continued to restore Kidd. “Each compartment has been treated as a display case into which innumerable artifacts have been collected and arranged just as they would have been when sailors lived and worked on board,” according to the museum.

“The search for hard-to-find World War II vintage equipment has gone around the world.” In 1984, the Dutch navy Zuiderkruis sailed to Baton Rouge and dropped off two twin 20-millimeter gun mounts, two Mk. 16 depth-charge projectors and 12 20-millimeter magazine drums.

Around the same time, the Navy salvaged a searchlight and platform, a Mk.12/22 fire-control radar antenna and four more depth-charge projectors from the destroyer Tolman right before sinking Tolman in an exercise. “Six 25-man balsa life rafts were located in Seal Beach, California,” the museum stated. In 1985, the museum located a second searchlight at a private estate in California.

In 1995 the museum wrote an open letter to navies that once operated Fletcher-class destroyers. The Turkish navy responded with a donation of 12 Mk. 9 depth charges. On July 3, 1997, museum staff loaded Kidd’s torpedo tubes for the first time since 1964. Her restoration was complete.

Maintaining a 1943-vintage destroyer is hard, expensive work. Hanks’ movie has helped. The $60-million production spent half its money in Baton Rouge. “We had to make sure they compensated us for lost revenue, additional staff time, overtime … and maybe come out a little bit ahead for our trouble,” museum director David Beard said.

Related posts

Leave a Comment