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Watch: Closer to the Action Than Ever at a Tora Tora Tora Reenactment

These Reenactments Have Been Thrilling Crowds for Almost 50 Years

Image via AirshowStuff YouTube channel video capture

The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is world renowned for their advocacy of warbird aircraft. When the CAF reenacts scenes from the 1970 Twentieth Century Fox film “Tora Tora Tora!” using some of the same aircraft used in the filming of the movie, it’s always a feast for the eyes and ears. The aircraft are of course not the actual Nakajima B5N Kates, Aichi D3A Vals, and Mitsubishi A6M Zeros used to attack Pearl Harbor on that infamous day, but they do provide plenty of smoky noisy fun when they perform their act. This video was uploaded to YouTube by AirshowStuffVideos. Enjoy!

The performance was shot during at the 2018 Terra Haute Airshow from a unique perspective. The sharper-eyed Avgeeks among you will notice that some of the replica Zeros have modified wingtips to make their appearance truer to the actual Zeros flown by Imperial Japanese navy pilots during the actual attack on Pearl Harbor. The majority of the aircraft used in the making of the film and the reenactments today are based on the North American T-6/SNJ/Harvard trainer. Some of the others are modified Vultee BT-13 Valiants. All are fun to watch.

By Ebdon [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
The reason the CAF B-17G Texas Raiders appears in the reenactments is worthy of mention. During the filming of the movie, one of the five B-17s used for the film was unable to lower its starboard landing gear. The Flying Fortress flew around burning off fuel while the crew prepared to shoot the landing sequence. During the editing of the film it was decided to include the mishap. The crew went back and choreographed establishing shots of a B-17 on approach with its starboard gear up- including single-wheel touch and gos.

Image via AirshowStuff YouTube channel video capture

The CAF began performing their Tora Tora Tora! reenactments in 1972 at Galveston’s Scholes Field. Back in those days Texas Raiders would approach the field with smoke trailing from the number 3 engine and with only one wheel down to “simulate” one of the eleven B-17Es that arrived in Hawaii during the Japanese attack. For many years, CAF “Colonel” Van Skiles would actually touch the one extended wheel down on the runway and fly the length of the runway as had been done in the movie. For many years the CAF reenacted that one-wheel approach.

Image via AirshowStuff YouTube channel video capture

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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