After the US Department of Defense complained about the inclusion of a description of
the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima in the Hollywood movie, Godzilla (2014), the
scene was removed from the script. The DoD criticized the monologue, which would
have been given by a character acted by Watanabe Ken, as “totally irrelevant and
gratuitous.” The DoD even threatened to withdraw its cooperation from the production;
“If this is an apology or questioning of the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
that will be a showstopper for us,” wrote one senior DoD member.
The revelations are contained in reports obtained from the Library of the Marine Corps,
Quantico, Virginia State, by Roger Stahl, a Professor of Communication Studies at the
University of Georgia. According to the documents, Legendary Pictures, the producers
of Godzilla, were in negotiations with the DoD to allow filming of military aircraft and
ships; in return, the producers would grant the DoD the right to review the script’s
contents. But, during the Pentagon’s review, it took offense at a monologue by
Watanabe’s character, a scientist, explaining his father’s experiences of the atomic
attack on Hiroshima.
Okinawa Times obtained one version of the script dated June 2012 in which the scientist
gave a speech lasting around one minute. It described how his father had been injured
in the Hiroshima blast and had regained consciousness among bodies burning in a
school yard. Following the DoD complaint, dated February 2013, the monolog was
removed and the final movie only contains a brief scene in which Watanabe shows a US
Navy commander his father’s watch stopped at 8:15, the time of the explosion.
1971 US government inspection: On Okinawa, one in five airmen using drugs, including nuclear materials personnelIn the summer of 1971, members of the General Accounting Office (GAO), the federal agency tasked with investigating government programs, visited US Air Force and US Marine Corps bases on Okinawa to assess the severity of drug use among military personnel.www.okinawatimes.co.jp
Moreover, the DoD requested sweeping changes to the script to portray the US military
in a more positive light, for example making the main character, a Navy sailor, more likable and reducing the number of military casualties. All these revisions were
incorporated into the movie. During production, the US Navy and Army cooperated
extensively with the project, such as allowing scenes to be shot on aircraft carriers.
At the time of this article’s publication neither Legendary Pictures nor the DoD had
responded to questions from the Okinawa Times about the removal of the references to
the destruction of Hiroshima.
Godzilla (2014) was a reboot of the original movie released by Toho Co. Ltd in 1954.
That film contained a strong anti-nuclear message – both against the US atomic
bombings of Japan in WW2 and Cold War nuclear tests, including the Castle Bravo
detonation of March 1954 that contaminated Japanese fishing crews aboard the Lucky
Dragon #5 and other ships. Godzilla (2014) was produced by Legendary Pictures and
distributed by Warner Brothers; a box-office success, it earned approximately $530
Pentagon complains about Hollywood depictions of US war crimes
against WW2 Japanese troops
Documents obtained by US and UK researchers, including Stahl, also reveal how the
DoD attempts to control Hollywood portrayals of WW2 by complaining about scenes of
US war crimes against Japanese troops.
One of the movies was Windtalkers (2002), a movie directed by John Woo starring
Nicolas Cage as a US Marine, set during the 1944 Battle of Saipan. In an early draft of
the script, a scene was supposed to show a Marine stealing gold teeth from a dead
Japanese soldier. However, the USMC complained to the production company, “I don’t
see the need to portray a Marine as a Ghoul”; also, in an internal email, the USMC
wrote, the scene “has to go.” Commenting on another scene where Cage’s character
killed a surrendering Japanese soldier, the DoD complained it made the Marine look
“un-heroic.” Following the DoD’s complaints, scriptwriters removed the scenes and they do not appear in the movie. In return for the right to review the script, the DoD agreed
to cooperate with the movie’s production in Hawai’i.
The atrocities depicted in the original script are historically accurate, reflecting the well-
documented behavior of some US troops during WW2.
Also, the DoD complained about the script for The Thin Red Line (1998), a movie about
the 1942 Battle of Guadalcanal, directed by Terrence Malick, starring Sean Penn, George
Clooney, and others. Internal correspondence from the US Army reveal it baulked at the
portrayal of US troops as “foul mouthed mutineers” and drunkards, as well as the
depiction of US war crimes against Japanese prisoners. The military refused to
cooperate with the moviemakers; despite this, the film was made and received
widespread critical acclaim, including seven Oscar nominations.
The case of The Thin Red Line is an exception; often when the military refuses to
cooperate with a project, the producers must abandon it and the film never becomes
made. In recent years, dozens of projects have met such a fate, especially those dealing
with topics sensitive to the DoD.
Such control also extends to projects featuring more recent US wars. In March 2010, the
military halted cooperation with Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, over a program
called “Modern Weapons” focusing on the US war in Afghanistan. According to a USMC
memo obtained via FOIA, the military claimed the producers had violated its ground
rules for an interview with one service member; the military accused the producers of
engaging in “bait and switch” tactics.
When Okinawa Times contacted NHK about the matter, it declined to comment on the
interview process but said it was not aware of such an issue having occurred.
New documentary reveals how Department of Defense and CIA shape US
The revelations about how the DoD impacted the contents of Godzilla (2014) and WW2 films related to Japan are exposed in Stahl’s new documentary, Theaters of War - How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood. It depicts how deeply the US military and the Central Intelligence Agency have become involved in the entertainment industry, influencing the contents of hundreds of movies and TV shows over the past several decades, including rewriting scripts to improve their public image.
Based on internal DoD reports, some obtained via the US Freedom of Information Act,
the documentary shows the US entertainment industry allows such interference in
exchange for the ability to feature military equipment and bases in their movies. When
projects include a subject deemed sensitive by the military – such as the usage of Agent
Orange during the Vietnam War or sexual assault within the military – the DoD refuses
to cooperate and, as a result, many movies are never made. Such influence is
tantamount to censorship, argues the documentary.
Until now, it had long been suspected that the DoD and CIA are closely related to the
entertainment industry – but, for the first time, this documentary uncovers how deeply
the relationship runs. The two US government bodies participate in all aspects of the US
entertainment industry – pitching ideas to studios, editing scripts, and promoting the
final products; this influence runs not only through movies focused on military themes
but also films such as the Marvel superhero and Transformers series, TV programs for
National Geographic and The Discovery Channel, and even reality and cooking shows.
Theaters of War contends that such control might violate US laws which ban the federal
government from engaging in propaganda against Americans, and DoD directives which
prohibit favoritism towards commercial enterprises. It concludes that the public has a right to know whether the DoD or CIA helped to produce a movie, suggesting that films
ought to contain an explicit declaration acknowledging their involvement.
Stahl has been researching the relationship between the US government and the
entertainment industry for more than 20 years.