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RE: engineers in movies

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     This is a good movie but, "historically accurate" is a different mater.  The actual bridge is a steel bridge not a wood bridge.  In addition many more Chinese were used then POWs as labors.  I find it difficult to believe that even an officer would help the Japanese the way the movie depicted it.  The vast majority of depths along the railway were conscripted Chinese from areas occupied by the Japanese during the war.  The History Channel has a good program about the railway which is much more believable.  Having said all that it is a good movie.
Acie Chance
-----Original Message-----
From: Gerard Madden, SE [mailto:gmse4603(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Thursday, January 11, 2007 8:50 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: engineers in movies


Yeah, that's the plot in the nutshell. Bridge on the River Kwai is not something you should recommend as "pretty good". It's a movie every person should see, it's one of the best movies ever made.

People can see Alec Guinness playing a role besides Obi Wan Kenobi too


On 1/11/07, Andrew Kester, PE < akester(--nospam--at)> wrote:
You beat me to the punch on Bridge over the River Kwai. This is really a pretty good, decently historically accurate WWII movie. I actually went there prior to seeing the movie (It is about 2 hours or so from Bangkok, close to the border with Myanmar). Many American, British and Australian (and probably Canadian) POWs died there building the "railway of death" and the bridge was part of this. They say for many miles each railroad tie represents a dead POW who died in the jungle building this railway. The plan was for the Japanese to connect India-Myanmar(Burma)-Thailand-Vietnam from what I can remember. Trying to link up their conquered territories, though Thai people are proud they never "bowed to the Japanese" but they did just basically let them do what they wanted in their imperialistic conquests...
But the lead British Captain convinces the Japanese that their bridge would certainly collapse after the first train went over it. Once he did convince the Japanese they could build the bridge successfully and the Japanese stepped aside, he got better conditions, food, treatement, etc for all of the soldiers/workers. They had a planning meeting, were going over drawings, I swear they talked about soil pressure and how the Japanese were building the bridge in an area with poor soils and they needed to build it in a different spot. They may not have used the term "structural engineer" but that is what they were doing. There was a debate between two of the guys in charge regarding whether it was ethical/right to help their enemy build a proper bridge, they could of course design and build it to collapse. The captain was a very proper British trained leader, and I forgot his exact reasoning but basically "if we are going to do a job, no matter what it is, we will do it right. Let the cards fall where they may." I also think he was worried if it collapsed the Japanese would execute every last one of them... But I took it to be that he was an ethical engineer or sorts.
In real life the US bombed the bridge these guys built at the end of the war. I think in the movie there was a team of US/Brit soldiers who were sent there commando style to blow up the bridge before the Japanese could use it. When we walked on the bridge we found a plaque from around 1947 from a Japanese Foundry stating this was built by the Japanese as part of the reparations.
I reccomend the movie, but not from an engineering standpoint... It is from 1957 so it is second at least to the John Wayne railroad tunnel flick.
Andrew Kester, PE
ADK Structural Engineering, PLLC
Lake Mary, FL