While the 1945 cinema in Nazi Germany re-lived historical victories and the Imperial Japanese turned toward animation to inspire their citizens, American films touted valor and victory. Nominated for two Oscars, They Were Expendable was named one of the top films of 1945 by the New York Times.
A dramatized account of the role of the American PT Boats in the defense of the Philippines, the film is based on a book by W.L. White about Motor Torpedo Squadron Three during the Battle of the Philippines (1941–42).
With enthusiastic support from the Navy Department, the film was shot in Key Biscayne and the Florida Keys, a region chosen to simulate the Pacific War zone. Actual U.S. Navy 80-foot Elco PT boats were used throughout the filming.Based on actual characters and events, the film has lauded for its verisimilitude.