Now It Can Be Told!

Written by Burl on January 4th, 2010

Advance Force — Pearl Harbor

Advance Force — Pearl Harbor

I know a young Hawaii actor who, a few years ago, did some work for the movie “Avatar.” He signed a Do-Not-Disclose agreement, and so I kept that to myself. Last month, thinking I could do a local-boy-does-good feature story, I contacted Lightstorm Entertainment for permission to interview the lad.
I got an earful. NO! Under no circumstances! If you do so, legal action will follow! “Avatar” does not wish to have any publicity surrounding its release!
Excuse me? Well, it’s your movie. And so there was no local publicity regarding the film. I think it’s doing OK without it, but still…
Last year I got involved with another production, which we’ve also kept reasonably shrouded. I am the historian and one of the third-tier talking heads of PBS’ “NOVA” show “Killer Subs of Pearl Harbor,” which airs in Hawaii Jan. 5 on KHET. It’s really Parks Stephenson’s baby, an engineer and naval-architecture enthusiast who has developed an interesting theory regarding the whereabouts of the “missing” fifth midget submarine of the Pearl Harbor attack, a theory also subscribed to by the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab. I’m not as true a believer, but Parks’ ideas are certainly worth considering. Tune in and tell us what you think.
It’s always interesting being on the “other side” of the camera, and I long ago resigned myself to the cold, hard fact that I come across as a manic goof on film. We filmed all sorts of bits that are surely cluttering the floor of the cutting room. I’ve done so many of these shows that I’ve lost count. “NOVA,” however, does its homework, and we sweated every fact possible. They also have a strong Web backup for their production, one which the folks involved, including myself, did quite a bit of additional material for. It’s been a top-quality ride.
Oh, the illustration here was my first attempt at “painting” on a computer, and used as the cover illustration for the first edition of my book “Advance Force Pearl Harbor,” which Parks credits for some background information.


15 Comments so far ↓

  1. Rachel Chesser says:

    Excellent cover art, Burl. You are truly multi-talented.

    BTW I seem to recall some of that “manic goofiness” back at RHS. It’s ALL GOOD, darlin’!

  2. Burl, if you think I stretched things a bit in the show, wait until you read the articles on after it launches tomorrow!


    P.S. How come I never got a good photo of you? I need it for the credits page.

  3. Dennis Cullender says:

    Should be a great show. I’ve enjoyed following your mini-sub saga for several years and glad it is finally getting the attention it deserves. Is “Advance Force – Pearl Harbor” still available? I gave my copy to a college student in DC. He was reading about the attack and was really excited to get your book.

    Got the DVR set for tonites showing.

  4. Burl says:

    Try ebay!

    AFPH currently out of print whilst I ponder the options…

  5. John Martini says:

    Just got finished watching the show on PBS Channel 9 here in SF. I pretty much buy all the theories up to the point where they talk about the fifth sub being scooped up and inadvertently scrapped during the West Loch cleanup.

    I find this fairly implausible, especially given all the publicity that followed the capture of Sakamaki’s sub and the subsequent recovery of the second midget that’s buried near Sub Base.

    Wouldn’t the crews cleaning up West Loch have immediately recognized what they’d found, and not dumbly cut it apart for scrapping? Or was everyone involved sworn secrecy?

  6. John Martini says:

    BTW you’re not a goof on camera, old boy. Looking good!

  7. Burl says:

    There quite a few factual errors in addition to leaps of wild-ass speculation.

  8. mutt says:

    Yeah, you and your buddies Parks, Martinez, the sub guys, etc. all did well, regardless of the “wild-ass speculation.” You historians are so finicky! The midget sub guy was interesting. I’ll have to finish it later — was trying to watch at work and the stuff hit the fan so I had to turn it off. Dang.

  9. You were AWESOME on Nova, Burl!! I loved watching you!

  10. Rachel Chesser says:

    Watched Nova last night. Terrific show! You looked only mildly manically goofy. Plenty screen time, brah! I am, however, with Martini with regard to the speculation the sub was “scooped up” and then redeposited on the ocean floor. I do not recall the cables attached to the individual sections ever being directly addressed (with difinitive explanation) either. I do remember, as a kid, knowing the location on the windward side where one of the subs landed. Cool, tho’ still tragic stuff. Proud of YOU!

  11. John Martini says:

    Gotta add that I was also disappointed that the producers threw in the old straw man argument about the Arizona being hit by torpedoes.

    I don’t think the NPS or any other historical group has ever discounted that the Arizona might have been hit by a torpedoe (or two). The questions we sought to resolve back in ’83 when we began the dive surveys was whether there was any possibility that a torpedoe SANK the battleship. (We also wanted to settle the speculation about a bomb going down her smokestack.)

    They way the show presented the question, though, made it sound as if historians were accusing the survivors about mis-remembering history.

  12. Burl says:

    The Arizona stuff was completely gratuitous. So what if torpedoes did go toward the Arizona? The air was full of B5Ms dropping torpedoes!

  13. Lots of criticism, but no better ideas on how to explain what we found. It’s too lengthy to go into here, but the evidence pointed me to the conclusions I shared either during the show or on my website (which goes into more detail than the show). If we didn’t find the “fifth” midget sub from the Pearl Harbor attack, then what did we find? Do you really think that I came up with the West Loch on a whim? It’s fine to criticise, but I challenge you to come up with better explanations.

  14. For additional insight into the logic I used to identify the West Loch as the potential original resting place of the 3-section midget, I would direct you to an article on my website:

Leave a Comment

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.