Lessons from an Old Movie

By | April 5, 2021

[April 5, 2021]  It has been said, many times over, that what we see affects us in ways that we often do not know.  Such can be said of an old movie, The Purple Heart (1944).1  The film dramatizes the “show trial” of U.S. airmen from the Doolittle Raid.

Americans are familiar with the bombing raid by Jimmy Doolittle on Tokyo in April 1942.  The daring raid was conducted less than four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and had two goals.  First, as retaliation for Pearl Harbor, and second, to demonstrate that the Japanese homeland was vulnerable.

For an extraordinary view of the raid’s impact and a historical review of what happened to those captured by the Japanese, I recommend Last Mission to Tokyo (2020) by Michel Paradis.  His book tells a gripping saga of what happened to those imprisoned Doolittle Raiders and the internal strife caused during the American trial of those involved in the Japanese show trial.

The impact of the raid itself was far-reaching.  While doing minor material damage inside Japan, Doolittle’s success raised Americans’ morale and gave hope to the peoples of China. Japan’s army and navy were humiliated, and it also pushed Japan to seek retribution.  Japanese Admiral Yamamoto’s plans to attack Midway Island were moved up, and, as we know, his forces were decisively defeated.

But the old movie The Purple Heart has lessons for us as well.  Here are some of those that strike me as important:

  1. It gave hope by showing the bravery of very young men in the U.S. Army Air Corps who managed to maintain their honor and dignity despite brutal tortures.
  2. It showed that torture as a means to elicit information and confessions is an evil act of debasement that should never be tolerated in a civilized world.
  3. It showed the malevolence of people, even those granted high levels of authority, including sentencing others to death.
  4. It continues to linger as a scar on the reputation of Japan’s peoples for evil acts committed by so many of their countrymen.
  5. And, it showed the clash of two dominant cultures in a courtroom setting and that it is not always the one in power that wins in the end.


  1. You can see the movie in its entirety on YouTube (1:34:07 minutes) here: The Purple Heart 1944 – YouTube
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Lessons from an Old Movie

  1. Eduardo

    Thanks for the lessons. There are many more, of course. That is why we need folks like Gen. Satterfield. Not only does he give us some prompt lessons but also opens the door to us to THINK on other lessons, as well. So ‘think’ and ‘think’ some more. That is what leaders do!

  2. Janna Faulkner

    Gen. Satterfield, I enjoyed these lessons and I do, as others, appreciate you giving us the list. I would suggest you also consolidate many of these lessons from the movies you write about somewhere on your website, so we can more easily find them all. Thanks. Just a suggestion.

    1. Jonathan B.

      Good suggestion, Janna. And I also like it when Gen. Satterfield lays out the lessons we should gain from such a review.

      1. Greg Heyman

        The study of this point in history has great value. Let’s not overlook that fact.

  3. Carlson

    The clash of civilizations. Yep. But more. What about a free country vs. tyranny.

  4. Scotty Bush

    I watched both films and found them both disturbing. The Purple Heart, I originally stopped watching and then went back a week later to finish it. Too much to take in and I didn’t like the obvious propagandizing.

  5. José Luis Rodriguez

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield. I too want to thank you for your choice of topics. They have been truly interesting to me and my colleagues at work. We like to discuss them during our breaks.

  6. Harold M. Smith II

    No. 4 It continues to linger as a scar on the reputation of Japan’s peoples for evil acts committed by so many of their countrymen. Just a comment. I agree and I do think that the Japanese peoples today (those who are young) do not know the extent of the horrors their countrymen perpetuated on the world in the 1930s and up to 1945.

    1. Steve Dade

      Right, too bad. I do believe we can overdo this however like the PC police who insist that the US is a forever racist nation because we had slavery more than 100 years ago. And, blacks are using it as an excuse for failure. Wrong lessons learned in our case.

      1. Doug Smith

        This discussion deserves emphasizing. What a country did centuries ago – evil – should be learned from but not used to beat over the heads of those today unless they are following the same path of destruction.

  7. corralesdon

    Another spot-on article. Lessons from an old movie. Who would have known. I didn’t watch this old movie yet but I will later tonight after I get home from work. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for highlighting it for us.

  8. Willie Shrumburger

    Excellent article this morning for our Monday go-to-work day. I like how you’ve shown us that lessons can be learned easily from certain movies if only we put our heads to it. However, too many of us just want to be entertained. I can actually do both. Go figure. I am okay with some entertainment intertwined with education.;

    1. Shawn C. Stolarz

      Yes, Willie, and I believe those here in Gen. Satterfield’s leadership forum are thinking the same. I know I am. What I do like most about this site is that it gets you to THINK. Geee, what a concept? Yep!

  9. Rev. Michael Cain

    Wow, had not heard of this movie before. Is it somehow linked to “30 Seconds Over Tokyo”?

    1. Jeff Blackwater

      Rev. Cain, yes it is. The Doolittle Raid had 16 bombers (I think). They all crashed in China. The 30 Seconds Over Tokyo were in a plane that the men managed to escape the Japanese who occupied China. The move The Purple Heart are the men who were (obviously) captured. Same raid, different fates.

      1. Audrey

        Right! Study the whole raid and you will see it was a tumultuous time for all free peoples, not that different today with the censorship and violence being perpetrated by the US Democratic Party against those they disagree with.


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