1941 is a 1979 period comedy film directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, and featuring an ensemble cast including Dan Aykroyd, Ned Beatty, John Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Lee, Toshiro Mifune, and Robert Stack. The story involves a panic in the Los Angeles area after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
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On Saturday, December 13, 1941 at 7:01 a.m., a woman goes swimming somewhere on the California coast, only to find a Japanese submarine surfacing beneath her. The submarine crew realizes they have arrived in Hollywood, and the vessel submerges while the woman swims to safety.
Later that morning, a 10th Armored Division tank crew, consisting of Sergeant Frank Tree, Corporal Chuck Sitarski, and Privates Foley, Reese, and Henshaw, are at a restaurant where dishwasher Wally Stephens works. Wally is planning to enter a dance contest with Betty Douglas, against the wishes of her father Ward. Sitarski dislikes Wally almost immediately, and trips him. A fight ensues, leading Wally to lose his job. Later, Wally takes his friend Dennis shopping for zoot suits and steals a suit.
In Death Valley, Army Air Corps Captain Wild Bill Kelso lands his Curtiss P-40 fighter near a grocery store and gas station; while refueling, Kelso accidentally blows up the station.
In Los Angeles, Major General Joseph W. Stilwell attempts to bring order. At a press conferences at Daugherty Field in Long Beach, Captain Loomis Birkhead is attracted to the General's secretary Donna Stratten. He lures her into a bomber to seduce her but she knocks him out, he lands on the bomb release control, sending a bomb rolling towards the podium just as the General promises "there will be no bombs dropped here." The bomb explodes, though Stilwell escapes.
That afternoon, at the Douglas family home in Santa Monica, Wally is told by Betty and her friend Maxine, both USO hostesses, that he cannot enter the USO dance that night because he is not a serviceman. Wally is forced to hide in the garage loft when Ward shows up. Soon after, Tree and his tank crew arrive to deliver an anti-aircraft battery; Sitarski spots Betty and is attracted to her. He is just about to ask Betty to go to the dance with him when Wally falls from the loft. Ward and Sitarski dump him into a garbage truck.
The Japanese submarine becomes lost trying to find Los Angeles when the ship's compass is broken. A landing party captures Hollis "Holly" Wood who will only give them his name, occupation, and social security number. They see he has a small Cracker Jack compass, but he swallows it, and then escapes, hoping to find the authorities.
That night, Stilwell goes to see Dumbo. Birkhead and Donna are at the 501st Bomb Disbursement Unit at Barstow, where Colonel "Mad Man" Maddox shows them the unit's aircraft. Maddox, convinced the Japanese are sending paratroops into the hills near Pomona, lets Birkhead and Donna borrow a plane, assuming they are going on a reconnaissance.
Outside the USO, Sitarski kicks Wally and drags Betty into the dance. Maxine tags along. Wally sneaks in with a stolen Shore Patrol uniform, steals Betty away, and they win the dance contest whilst evading Sitarski, who is pursued by Maxine. Sitarski punches Wally, inciting a brawl. Tree arrives with his team, just as L.A. goes to Red Alert with an unknown aircraft in the air. At the Douglas' home, Ward spots the sub. As Birkhead and Donna fly over L.A., anti-aircraft batteries open fire. Kelso shoots down Birkhead's plane, then sees the submarine, only to be shot down by two spotters who mistake his plane for a Japanese fighter.
Sitarski drags Betty under a tank, but Wally rescues her, knocking Sitarski out. They find Kelso, who informs them about the sub. Wearing an army uniform, Wally commandeers Tree's tank and heads toward Pacific Ocean Amusement Park. Ward begins firing at the submarine, destroying his house in the process. The submarine returns fire, hitting the ferris wheel, which careens into the ocean. The tank sinks when the pier collapses. Kelso drives a motorbike into the ocean and swims to the submarine, where he is captured by the Japanese.
On Sunday morning, December 14, Stilwell arrives at the remains of the Douglas home. Tree predicts to Stilwell that 1942 will be "the 'really big' year of the war." The General simply mutters: "It's gonna be a 'long' war."
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