Tom Hank’s Greyhound movie set on USS Kidd

The movie industry news media are talking about Tom Hank’s latest project, a World War 2 movie about the Atlantic Convoy War called Greyhound, to be shot on board the WW2 destroyer, USS Kidd.

Hanks has written the screenplay and will play the lead character. His script is based on the 1957 novel The Good Shepherd Pound sign by C.S. Forester – probably best known for his Hornblower series and The African Queen.

What is the movie about?

It is set in the winter of 1942, the height of the war in the Atlantic, and features fictional characters on a fictional convoy. Its central character is a firmly religious U.S. Navy Commander, George Krause, commanding the multi-national escort ships from his own destroyer USS Keeling (renamed ‘Greyhound’ for the movie). He doesn’t have that many escorts; just two destroyers: his USS Keeling and a Polish destroyer Viktor, plus two corvettes: HMS James (British) and HMCS Dodge (Canadian).

USCGC Spencer wallowing in a moderate Atlantic swell
Convoy duty was grueling. This is the US Coastguard cutter Spencer on convoy duty (Photo: USC public domain)

As the book starts, the convoy of 37 merchantmen is in the middle of the ‘Atlantic Gap’ where allied patrol aircraft can’t reach, and a wolf pack of U-boats is closing in on them. The book follows Commander Krause as he directs his forces over two days and nights with no sleep and little respite, as they rush around the convoy fending off attacks.

Indeed that’s one of the key aspects of the book. The pace is relentless making it almost impossible to put down. When I started reading it, I thought I’d put it down when I got to the end of the first chapter. Big mistake. There are no chapters!

So, it should make a cracking film!

So far there is no other casting news, other than Hanks, but we do know that Aaron Scheider has been signed up to direct the movie and Sony Pictures have reportedly bought the worldwide distribution rights.

So, who are they going to use for USS Keeling/Greyhound?

Well, according to Louisiana Economic Development (LED) they will start shooting in March on board the Fletcher class USS Kidd museum ship in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

US Navy WW2 destroyer underway with other ships
USS Kidd in dazzle camo in the Pacific 12 June 1944 (Photo: USN public domain)

LED estimates $29.5m of the $50.3m budget will get spent in Louisiana. Let’s hope the USS Kidd Veterans Museum gets a serious chunk of that to spend on maintenance, restoration and facilities.

UPDATE (07 Jan 2020): The release date for the movie has been changed a few times but it seems Sony Pictures are now planning to release it on 08 May 2020.

UPDATE (08 Feb 2020): The USS Kidd is overdue for some dry dock maintenance, so she is expected to move from her current site for a while.

UPDATE (05 Mar 2020): The trailer is out. It’s a June opening.



ADDENDUM (29 Jul 2020): The Nautical Archaeology Society has been streaming weekly live 30 min lectures since lockdown started, and one of the recent ones (I’ve been away for a few weeks so I was watching the catch-up video) was all about the wreck of German submarine UB-116, sunk in the closing days of WW1 while trying to sneak into the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow, Scotland. The sub was on a near-suicide mission, hoping to cause maximum damage to the home fleet in a bid to secure better terms in the armistice.

It turns out (at 15′ 49″ in the lecture), C.S. Forester wrote, not only the Hornblower series for which he is famous, AND The Good Shepherd, which Tom Hanks’ film Greyhound is based on, but he also wrote a little known play in 1931 called ‘U-97 which was based on the UB-116. It was never produced in the UK or USA, but did run for nine performances in Germany, where it was performed as a propaganda piece about heroic German submariners in the build up to WW2.

UPDATE (25 Jan 2021): There are a couple of interesting articles on the production of Greyhound.

1) Tom Hanks has been writing in the Los Angeles Times about the set they used for ‘dry land’ filming.

He confirms that the USS Kidd is “as fine a motion picture set as it is a museum”, and they shot as much footage as possible on board including the firing of her guns. However the cramped interiors didn’t lend themselves to filming, so they built their own destroyer interiors (principally the bridge, its wings, foredeck and sonar room) on a sound stage nearby and mounted them on a huge gimbal to put it in motion so they looked (and felt) like they were at sea.

He says the movement was continuous and a bit like a roller-coaster ride, so the cast were “sometimes falling into each other, spilling our coffee, bumping our heads and chasing rolling pencils. There were many pencils used and much coffee spilled during the Battle of the Atlantic!”

2) Meanwhile, in, Brian Welk talks to Nathan McGuinness, the visual effects supervisor about the extraordinary work of the CGI team, who created pretty much everything else in the movie in just 4 months!

That’s the ocean, the ships on it, the U-boats under it, and the sky, in 1,500 full CG shots built from scratch. Fortunately they’ve produced a video to demonstrate…

Feature image: USS Kidd in Baton Rouge, 2013 (CC BY-SA 3.0 By Niagara, own work, via Wikimedia Commons)

Convoy image: United States Coast Guard Cutter Spencer (WPG-36) during WWII in 1942 or 1943. Spencer sank the German submarine U-175 on April 17, 1943. Photographer unknown but possibly Bob Gates

Pacific fleet image:  USS Kidd (DD-661) off Roi Island, Kwajalein, en route to the Saipan Invasion, 12 June 1944. Anchored in the left background is the battleship USS Tennessee (BB-43), with a destroyer alongside and an escort carrier beyond. Photo taken from USS New Mexico (BB-40).



Join the Conversation →

  1. The movie is fantastic! Must see! I like the way Tom Hanks wrote in his screenplay mentioning two other ww2 destroyers, the Flusser and the Shannon. Those were names given to two sailors who misbehaved onboard Tom’s ship. Very cleaver! I only recognised it because my dad served aboard the Flusser DD368. The Shannon was a sister ship.

    Ken Lankard / Reply
  2. Just saw Greyhound directed by Aaron Schneider and starring Tom Hanks who also screenwrote, both with expert craftsmanship. Great film, technically authentic and cinematography is telling and realistic. I have the privilege of having served aboard a diverse type of boat/ships; USS James K. Polk SSBN 645, USS Seattle AOE3, USS Simon Lake AS33. To go on patrol, out to sea, with Tom Hanks as the CO, is an honor and a blast to the past.

    Robert Astengo / Reply
  3. Just watched the movie and it was extremely well done, Tom Hanks did a great job as he always does in any movie he’s in. This is a movie that I will gladly add to my collection, and watch, more than once.

    WWII is an especially interesting time period for me as is the U.S. civil war.
    My dad served on USS Hogatt Bay CVE-75 during the war, but he never told us that he was involved in the island hopping portion of the war in the south pacific, and the battle for Okinawa, as far as I can find he was still in the south pacific when we dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He always told us that he spent the war in the Aleutian islands and rarely talked about what he experienced during his time in the Navy. Sadly I didn’t find this out until after he passed away in 2014 when I was doing the research for the awards and medals he earned as well as filling out the VA paperwork for his grave marker.

    I retired from the Navy in 2006 after 20+ years having served on 5 submarines, one of which was the last diesel attack sub in the Navy and 4 Ohio class ballistic missile submarines.

    I hold a special place in my heart for anyone who served this great country from the birth of our country and up to the present day, I also hold in highest regard everyone that are our allies and friends, past, present and future.

    Thank you all for your service and sacrifices.

    Vincent Viellenave / Reply
    • I’m pleased you like the movie. I’ve not seen it yet (Apple is not my gene pool. I swim in the Google/Netflix pool so I’ll have to wait a bit) but I’m really looking forward to it.
      And thanks for your interesting comments on your family history in the service.. You have cause to be proud of your father and yourself.

      Alastair / Reply (in reply to Vincent Viellenave)
  4. Indeed. God Bless the US and her allies. I’m a Limey (yeah ok) army officer who has served all over and multi-nationally. Cracking theme for a film, especially as it includes the RN, the Poles (best Squadron in the RAF – and my mums sister married a Polish navy destroyer man, mum’s other sister married a USN PO (destroyers) and moved to New Jersey after the war. My dad was Royal Marines; he spoke highly of the USMC and I can too, was with a USMC half bird colonel in Mogadishu. Semper Fi. Canadian corvettes too, incredible guys. Really looking forward to seeing Tom Hanks giving it rock all, few beers first I think then watch this movie with my two boys. I would love to visit the USS KIdd and HMCS Sackville, we have HMS Cavalier here at Chatham but to be fair she was altered extensively aft. To all allied servicemen and women out there – past and present. Bravo Zulu.

    Jules Carmichael / Reply
    • Been meaning to get down to Chatham for a while. I’ll make a special effort this year. Agree with you about the magnificent Poles. I’ve just been writing about the Montormel Memorial in Normandy (currently featured on the front page) where the heroic 1st Polish Armoured Div closed the trap on the German 7th Army in the Falaise pocket.

      Alastair / Reply (in reply to Jules Carmichael)
  5. Yeah how about getting Battleship Texas and other ships and and airplanes and other things like that from that era in movies to help preserve them. And may God bless America and Israel and other allies…

    Douglas E. Duke / Reply
  6. Agree on both counts. The Fletcher class were flush-deck destroyers, which makes them much more elegant than their European counterparts. And agree on the need to protect and preserve historic ships like this. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it’s impossible to have too many museum ships!

    Alastair / Reply
  7. I always thought the Fletcher class DD’s were the best looking. Hope they don’t let her rot like a lot of the museum ships currently are.

    Brian Patronie / Reply
  8. i go to the Kidd every chance i get I was aboard the uss hazelwood dd 531 a sister ship of the Kidd
    it was hit by a japanese fighter at the battle of okinawa . I am so glad it is close enough to visit you can even spend the night on the Kidd . i was surprised at how small it looked compared to when i was a 18 year old sailor. its worth the trip

    pat / Reply
    • Hi Pat, She’s a good-looking ship. I hope the movie work doesn’t stop you visiting for a while, but I also hope it generates lots of cash to keep her maintained for many years yet!

      Alastair / Reply (in reply to pat)
    • Hi Pat,
      My grandpa served on the Kidd in WWII and have been going since I was a little girl but was able to take my mom a few year’s ago and see the ship again. The gentleman that day looked up my grandpa’s name for us and told mom and I he was on the ship when the Kamikaze struck the ship. This was information mom and I had never had. Thank you for your service and thank you for just going as every amount of the money goes to help keep the ship up and going!

      Kathy Thompson / Reply (in reply to pat)
      • Good the see all this. My father served on the Hornet. I know its about DD. Just love the fact people are not forgetting our history . Ps to the Granddaughter my father wouldn’t talk about much of the bad .

        Richard Coney / Reply (in reply to Kathy Thompson)
    • My father was with you at Okinawa aboard the USS LINDENWALD LSD 6. His ship was credited with shooting down one of the Kamakasi’s during that battle. I have the Battle Flag that flew over the Lindenwald on the 1st day of the Battle for Okinawa.

      John P. Weismiller Jr / Reply (in reply to pat)
    • It’s funny, I visited the Kidd & went straight down to the Shipfitter’s shop, knew exactly where to go like it was yesterday…

      charlie / Reply (in reply to pat)
  9. Interesting. reports they are also looking for bits of radio, radar and sonar gear from the USS Orleck, another museum ship destroyer just down the road at Lake Charles.

    Alastair / Reply

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