The Portillo Expedition: Mystery on Bougainville Island

1943 | War in Pacific


Narrated by Gary Sinise. Follow a crew of explorers, led by legendary Chicago restaurateur Richard Portillo, to Bougainville, New Guinea to the northern Solomon Islands (Southwest Pacific) as they trek through dense jungle and deep mud to visit the remote site of the plane wreck of famed Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s crashed Betty Bomber. Admiral Yamamoto is best known as the architect of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and Japan’s failed battle at Midway in June of 1942. He was also openly opposed to a war with the United States from the outset and against any alliance with Germany and Italy in WWII. However, no one in Japan prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor listened to his warnings, so he did what any admiral or general would do in his position, Yamamoto fought for his country despite his true feelings the war could not be won. Allied intelligence was able to decipher the Japanese naval code and identify that Yamamoto’s plane was headed to Bougainville on April 18, 1943. His bomber was intercepted and shot down by American P-38 fighter planes. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the final ok on the assassination attempt. It was a bold decision that changed the outcome of the war in the Pacific. This is only part of the story, however. While on Bougainville, WWII Historian and Guide Andy Giles makes an incredible discovery in the mud. One that could change the long-held narrative of how exactly Admiral Yamamoto died in 1943. Narrated by Gary Sinise.


Each of our documentary films has a corresponding quiz or essay question for use in the classroom by teachers and educators.

We encourage you to choose one of the PDFs below that is the best match for your students. It’s up to each educator if you would like to offer either the exam or the one-question essay. An answer sheet corresponds with each quiz.  Our goal is not to overwhelm students with dates, treaties, and strategy. Instead, we would rather focus their attention on the individual stories of the subjects of our documentaries. We find these visual stories to be inspiring, impactful, and educational.

We hope that after viewing one of our films, students will want to learn more about the personal stories of World War II generation. Maybe they do this by reading a book, watching another documentary, or perhaps a full-length film.  Maybe our films will inspire your students to ask an older family member about their role, or inquire about another relative’s story, in World War II.

We recommend the below curriculum for grades 7-12 and college.


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