They Were Expendable movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was They Were Expendable filmed?


City Locations

Biscayne, Florida

Location Types

American, Ship Docks, NatureScapes, House

Location Styles

Americana/Anywhere America, Boat Style, Dated/50's-60's-70's Building, Desert

About They Were Expendable

This They Were Expendable film scene opens in December of 1941 and shows Lt. John “Brick” Brickley in charge of a group of U.S. Navy PT boats in the Philippines. He displays the fleet’s strengths for the admiral who remains impassive to the boats’ capabilities. Brick’s commanding officer is excited for the men to join the combat efforts. He is annoyed by the dismissive attitude of the admiral and makes a request to be transferred upon hearing news of the Pearl Harbor attacks.

The Japanese navy and army invade the Philippines, leaving carnage in their wake. The local military does not deploy Brick and his squadron, forcing them to remain involved in more trivial tasks such as dealing with the mail and relaying messages. The men become increasingly frustrated.

When their base is attacked, the admiral is forced to consent to Brick’s squadron launching an attack on a Japanese cruiser. Rusty is chosen to skipper one of the boats, but it is soon discovered that he is suffering from blood poisoning. He is commanded to remain in the sick bay.

Rusty gets angry and accuses his commanding officer of being a glory hound. He refuses to be evacuated to a military hospital but is forced to go anyway and is furious to discover his health is in grave danger. He starts up a romance with nurse Sandy Davys and also meets a patient named Ohio who encourages him to submit to the chain of command.

Under Brick’s directives, the cruiser sinks. The full squadron attacks and is increasingly victorious though lives and boats are lost at sea. The Philippines is in danger of falling soon.

The Japanese fight back against the Americans stationed at Bataan and on the Corregidor. The squadron informs General Douglas MacArthur that they are to evacuate the Pacific Theatre, moving everyone to Mindanao where they can travel to Australia. Rusty calls Sandy to tell her he will soon be evacuated, but their phone connection is lost.

The small crew assists MacArthur and his men on their journey to Australia. Attacks then recommence against the Japanese, and the squadron is reduced to only a small number of men and boats. Other men are ordered into battle as infantry.

In the final attack, Rusty’s boat sinks, and the remaining boats are given back to the US Army, leaving the final few squadron members back committed to messenger duty. Brick, Ryan, and two other soldiers are supposed to be airlifted out on the final plane. Upon their return to the United States, they will be involved in training new PT crews.

Rusty sees Ohio again and asks what has happened to Sandy, but Ohio doesn’t know. One of the squadron arrives late, and Ohio has to give his seat to him, leaving him behind to face his imminent death or torture at the hands of the Japanese.

They Were Expendable Locations

Filmed in 1945, They Were Expendable is a war movie under the direction of famed filmmaker John Ford. The all-star cast in this film includes Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, and Donna Reed. The movie is loosely based on a 1942 novel written by William Lindsay White. Though the book documents real events and people, its contents have been fictionalized.

The filming locations for They Were Expendable are largely found in Biscayne, Florida. If a good, old-fashioned war picture is your idea of a great way to spend an afternoon, you won’t want to miss the chance to visit the filming locations for They Were Expendable. It’s sure to be a memorable vacation!

Fun Fact:

Robert Montgomery actually served as a skipper during World War II.

The opening scene in They Were Expendable

Key Biscayne, Florida

In the opening They Were Expendable production scene, we see PT boats out on the waters of Manila Bay. The seamen have been tasked with proving their seaworthiness and capabilities while the admiral and other commanding officers look on. The boats prepare to dock along the shore while the commanding naval officers eagerly await their arrival.

The boats are moored in the harbor, and the soldiers come ashore and line up for inspection. The admiral and his men walk past the soldiers who are all standing at attention. The admiral turns to the commanding officer, and this dialogue ensues between the two men.

Admiral: You have a splendid looking lot of men.

CO: Thank you, sir.

Admiral: Gentlemen, we’re late. Those boats of yours maneuver beautifully, but in wartime, I prefer something more substantial.

This They Were Expendable location is easily accessed by taking bus line 102, driving your own vehicle, or calling a taxi. You could also use a rideshare service.

The men celebrate Doc’s retirement scene in They Were Expendable

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (now Sony Pictures Studios) - 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, California

In this They Were Expendable film scene, the men are gathered in a bar to say goodbye to Doc after 30 years of faithful service. As the men all hold a drink in preparation for a toast, the Admiral shares a few remarks and then leads a toast to his old friend and colleague. He says.

“I’m not gonna make a speech. I’ve just got something to say. Tomorrow, our old pal Doc here is going off. He’s being paid off after 30 years. I know most of you kids got a long way to go before you find out what 30 years in the navy means. It means service, tough and good. It means serving your country in peace and in war.”

One of only a few scenes in They Were Expendable that was shot on a studio film set, there are several different bus lines that bring you to this popular attraction including routes 33, CC1, CC3, and R12.

The Japanese cruiser sinks scene in They Were Expendable

Melville, Rhode Island

Having been deployed to fight off the Japanese attack by boat, the men bravely battle the enemy in the waters of Manila Bay. The squadron quietly sails through the bay on the lookout for a Japanese cruiser. Their boat stalls, and the men immediately set to work repairing it. Suddenly, enemy gunfire erupts. Some of the men begin to shout, “Abandon ship! Abandon ship!”

Several men are shot and killed, and the sky is ablaze with the coppery red flames of gunfire. The squadron sails through the water at top speed, heading directly towards the Japanese cruiser. Bombs and gunfire explode around the PT boat, but the men remain on course.

Brick delivers the directive, “Stand by. Fire one. Fire two.”

The main Japanese gunman is shot and killed. The American torpedoes pierce the Japanese boat, resulting in devastating explosions that destroy the ship. It sinks into the waters of the bay. If you plan to visit this They Were Expendable filming location, you’ll be delighted to discover that there are more than 60 bus lines and a shuttle that can take you there.

U.S. soldiers assist General MacArthur’s evacuation scene in They Were Expendable

Florida Keys, Florida

The soldiers arrive to escort General MacArthur, his family, and his men to Mindanao where they can escape by sea to Australia. General MacArthur stands aboard the ship and surveys the brave men around him, many of whom are deeply emotional. This conversation follows.

Young boy, speaking to MacArthur: Sir, please autograph my hat.

MacArthur: Why certainly!

Rusty: Good evening, Sir.

MacArthur: Ready, Ryan? Wind ‘em up.

With the issue of that order, the men prepare to launch the boat to sea.

An area that covers a lot of ground, there are many different shuttles that provide services throughout the Florida Keys, allowing you to truly explore the area where many of the best scenes in They Were Expendable was filmed.

Brick and Rusty meet “Dad” Knowlton scene in They Were Expendable

TriStar Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (now Sony Pictures Studios) - 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, California

Dad Knowlton sits on the porch of his home with a rifle in his hand and a bottle of whiskey by his side. He is skilled at repairing boats and munitions, and he is well aware that the Japanese will soon overtake the Philippines. He tells Brick and Rusty that he will not go without a fight though he knows the chances of his survival are very slim.

He watches the men ride away and picks up his bottle of whiskey, placing it between his legs and resting his hand on it.

Though there is no dialogue in this scene, the stage is perfectly set with the poignant strains of the “Red River Valley” providing a gentle backdrop, reminding the viewer that soon all that will be left of Dad’s shipyard repair business is a memory.

Filmed on a set constructed on the then Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio lot, bus lines 33, CC1, CC3, and R12 will bring you to the site of the now Sony Pictures Studios where you can enjoy a guided tour of the facility.

PT boat battle against Japanese planes scene in They Were Expendable

Biscayne Bay National Park, Florida

In this They Were Expendable scene, the men are out at sea when the Japanese strike by air. After a rigorous attack on the Japanese aircraft, Brick and Smokey share this brief exchange in one of the most memorable action scenes from They Were Expendable.

Brick: Good shooting, Smokey! Recognize him?

Smokey: Know him well. Shaved his father.

The men fight a brave battle, holding off the planes. The Japanese planes withdraw from combat, and the squadron returns to the base. They arrive on the shore to find men working to put out fires and to contain the collateral damage from the war. In amongst the wreckage, they find the sign for the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3.

To reach this They Were Expendable film set, there are several different public transportation options available to you. If traveling by bus, you can take lines 119, 32, or 93. To follow the subway, the recommended route is orange, and the light rail’s OMNI line will also take you to Biscayne Bay.


This classic film stands the test of time and has become one of the most beloved war movies of its era. With a landscape designed to perfectly replicate the pristine waters and coast of the Philippines and Manila Bay, the backdrop in this film truly transports you back to the battles fought against the Japanese in World War II.

If classic war films are among your very favorites, why not plan a trip to visit the They Were Expendable filming locations? You’re sure to have an amazing time discovering the places where some of the most popular scenes were filmed!