But, entertainment value not withstanding, they were ultimately more gung-ho, near propaganda-ish dramas wherein the Dec. 7th attack was more a narrative "McGuffin", a story-point event towards which the various characters' romances and other forms of emotional angst would ultimately converge. With raw and horrific news footage from Southeast Asia beaming into living rooms nightly, near jingoistic treatises on men in combat were no longer enough. The late 1960’s populace was fine-tooth-combing everything placed in front of them, and in a time when many were demanding civil rights, gender equality and an end to U.S. involvement in Vietnam after the Tet Offensive, Zanuck and Williams where now challenged in ways they had not initially anticipated.
They came up with three solutions. 1) The studio would take out full page ads in major U.S. newspapers explaining “Why TORA! TORA! TORA!?“. And the answer as printed, “To insure that such an attack can never occur again”. 2) Zanuck would secure the rights to two of the most respected books on the subject - TORA! TORA! TORA! by GORDON PRANGE, and THE BROKEN SEAL by LADISLAS FARAGO (author of the biography on which Fox’s PATTON would also be based). In addition Elmo Williams would (Cornelius Ryan-like) not allow anything to be included in the script which couldn’t be verified by more than one source on both sides of the Atlantic. To this end even former Japanese Commander MINORU GENDA - a chief planner of the Pearl Harbor attack, was himself secured as a technical consultant.
And finally 3) unlike THE LONGEST DAY’s novel-like focus on the persons and personalities involved, TORA! would primarily focus on events, specific decisions within those events and the repercussions of both. And it would do so analytically and cipher-like, almost as if a documentary told in narrative form. The “characters” would be there to fulfill their historical responsibilities only in the sense of “this person did and said that at this time”. But their actions and words wouldn’t necessarily be editorialized as either positive or negative. That would be left for each member of the audience to decide - a daring move, and the first time a big budget studio war film would take such an approach. In fact the now commonly used phrase “docu-drama” was first coined to describe just exactly what TORA! TORA! TORA! was to be.