A solid WW II action film, OPERATION PACIFIC offers more than the usual John Wayne heroics, presenting subtle doubts about the invincibility of Wayne, while allowing the foxy Neal to assert her strong personality in turn. Wayne and Neal play a couple who divorced after they lost their
child. Now, in WW II, Wayne stumbles out of the Asian jungle with a baby he has just saved and which he turns over to a base hospital where Neal is stationed as a nurse. She arranges to meet Wayne again "accidentally" to see if she still has that old feeling for him. She does but refuses to yield
to her emotions, even though he admits that their breakup was his fault, saying, "We had something--I guess I kicked it around." Meanwhile, young Navy flier Carey is hotly pursuing Neal, begging her to marry him, but with Wayne back in her life, even by a toehold, Neal hesitates. Wayne goes off to
sea on his submarine with skipper Bond, who happens to be Carey's father. During a battle, Bond is wounded and orders his sub submerged, even though he will be left to drown topside. Wayne obeys and is later haunted by guilt and hated by Carey. Neal is his only source of comfort though and he
later assuages his guilt by saving Carey, whose plane has been shot down and who has been forced to survive in the sea. Wayne is still a little too tough for Neal, however, and she tells him off near the end, bitterly reminding him of how he deserted her when their son died. "You went off into
some corner alone, never realizing that by comforting you I could have helped my own grief. You don't need anybody but yourself!" But Neal's superior, Brissac, gives her a comeuppance, telling her, "You married him for what he is and then tried to make something else out of him, but you couldn't!"
Neal and Wayne wind up together; meanwhile, the problems of defective torpedoes are solved. There's plenty of action here, especially when Wayne navigates submerged into the middle of a Japanese fleet and then fires off all his torpedoes in all directions to see if they will work. Clips from an
earlier Warner Bros. submarine film, DESTINATION TOKYO, were used in OPERATION PACIFIC; in one brief scene, the star of the former film, Cary Grant, can be briefly glimpsed. The film was shot partly on location in Honolulu and was mirrored by another production that year, SUBMARINE COMMAND, in
which William Holden's character is also afflicted with debilitating doubt and guilt.
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