War was not yet over, and that was the reason what it was still necessary making patriotic films with propagandistic value. This was the case of the film "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" (1944), which was based on the true story of the Doolittle Raid, America's first retaliatory air strike against Japan four months after the December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The film is now considered a "classic aviation and war film. The actual Raiders considered it a worthy tribute.
The film is noted for its accurate depiction of the historical details of the raid, as well as its use of actual wartime footage of the bombers in some flying scenes. The use of Hurlburt Field and Peel Field near Mary Esther, Florida and Eglin Field (present day Eglin AFB, the actual base where the Doolittle Raiders trained), along with using operational USAAF B-25C and -D bombers (which closely resembled the B-25B Mitchells used in 1942) made for an authentic, near-documentary feel. Auxiliary Field 4, Peel Field, was used for the short-distance take off practice scenes.
Although an aircraft carrier was not available due to wartime needs (the USS Hornet itself had been sunk in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on 27 October 1942 only six months after launching the raid), a mix of realistic studio sets and original newsreel footage faithfully recreated the USS Hornet scenes. Principal photography took place between February and June 1944
It was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, directed by Mervyn LeRoy, produced by Sam Zimbalist. The screenplay by Dalton Trumbo was based on the 1943 book of the same name, written by Captain Ted W. Lawson, a pilot who participated in the raid. In both the book and the film, Lawson gives an eyewitness account of the training, the mission, and the aftermath as experienced by his crew and others who flew the mission on April 18, 1942. Lawson piloted "The Ruptured Duck", the seventh of 16 B-25s to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet aka, "Shangri-La."
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo stars Van Johnson as Lawson, Phyllis Thaxter as his wife Ellen, Robert Walker as Corporal David Thatcher, Robert Mitchum as Lieutenant Bob Gray and Spencer Tracy as Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, the man who planned and led the raid.