Of the millions of moviegoers exiting theaters this weekend after viewing "Pearl Harbor," few will have noticed an obscure credit line given to U.S. Steel Gary Works. In the film, the Northwest Indiana steel mill makes a brief but significant cameo appearance playing the role of industrial Japan during Jimmy Doolittle's daring bombing raid over Tokyo.
The film's producers, Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay, were "looking for a huge industrial complex" to portray industrial Japan in 1942,
film location manager Richard Klotz said.
North America's largest fully integrated steel facility,
has 57 production units on its 4,000-acre site. The facility's six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline was a plus, because it could simulate the Pacific Ocean over which Doolittle's band of B-25s flew to Tokyo after being launched from the USS Hornet.
Filming at Gary Works took place on October 28, 2000. From the ground, "plate" shots were filmed looking skyward. These shots later were fed into computers so B-25 bombers and other elements could be added digitally. Still photographs were taken for use in creating a scale model that would be blown up for special effects.
Using pre-approved flight paths, a helicopter with an exterior-mounted camera filmed what the pilots would see as they approached and bombed their targets.
Although U.S. Steel rarely grants movie producers access to its facilities, the company decided the producer's location fee could be converted into a generous donation to the Lake Area United Way. And, for a company that played an important role during that war, participating in a patriotic World War II epic offered a special appeal.
"We believed the film would provide an opportunity to remember and honor the brave men and women who fought in World War II, as well the heroes on the home front who so strongly supported the war effort," said USX Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Usher. "More so than any war before it, World War II was a war of steel, and we are extremely proud of the contributions U.S. Steel and our industry made toward equipping this nation to defend its very existence."
During the war, the United States steel industry could produce far more steel than Germany and Japan combined. Usher said of the 467 million tons of steel produced in America for the war effort, more than a third was made by U.S. Steel.
"But our people contributed far more than steel to the Allied victory," he said. "More than 113,000 U.S. Steel employees served in the armed forces. Most were men who had to be replaced on the production lines by women, who quickly became the backbone of our war production."
From July 1940 to July 1945, U.S. Steel increased its production by 30 percent to 30.8 million tons.
At its former South Works in Chicago, the company produced enough steel for 21 million helmets, or 90 percent of the helmet steel used in the war. This steel was a special, high-grade alloy steel
that had to stretch enough to be punched from a flat disk into the GI helmet shape, yet hard enough to stop a .45-caliber bullet fired at point-blank range.
From facilities in Gary and Pittsburgh, the company supplied most of the armor for 86,000 tanks. To knock out enemy tanks, these facilities delivered enough tubing to make 11.9 million motor tubes for bazooka rockets.
U.S. Steel invented prefabricated runways made of steel mats that locked together, turning atolls into airfields. It produced more than 214 million square feet of these landing mats, hailed in 1941 as the outstanding development of the year in aviation.
For the seas, the company fabricated 911 ships, including destroyers and the famous landing ships/tanks whose bows opened at the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima to expel jeeps, tanks and troops.
"Many factors contributed to the Allied victory, and steel was certainly a major one," Usher said.