They Were Expendable Author:W.L. Wright A national bestseller when it was originally published in 1942 and the subject of a 1945 John Ford film featuring John Wayne, They Were Expendable offers an account of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three's heroic actions during the disastrous Philippine campaign early in World War II. The author uses an unusual and effective format to tell the sto... more »ry: an interview with the four young survivors whose names are forever linked with the tragedy - John Bulkeley, Robert Kelly, Anthony Akers, and George Cox. Deeply moving, it describes Squadron Three's brave exploits, from the first appearance of Japanese planes over Manila Bay to its calamitous end, including a thrilling account of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's escape from Bataan.« less
As stated in the text on PBS, this book was made into a 1945 film staring John Wayne. However, the lead actor who received top billing at the time was Robert Montgomery. See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038160/ for details.
While the story is based on true events, readers need to understand that the book was a war time publication used to raise morale and instill a dedication to destroy the Japanese Empire. Considering what the Japanese did to opposing forces and the people of the nations they occupied, the latter purpose was a very good cause.
However, much of the dialogue was made up by the author. And the numerous comments made in the book about Japanese fifth columnists in Hawaii (not a state at that time) and the United States had no foundation in truth. So, this book is either a semi-historical novel or a novelization of history. Whatever... just enjoy it.