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The film's working title was Heroes Without Uniforms. An undated press release included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library notes that twenty-three-year-old technical advisor Richard Sullivan was one of two cadets to survive a U-Boat attack on his Merchant Marine vessel. Another press release announced that Edward G. Robinson and George Raft were to star in the picture. According to a June 24, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, this film was used in Merchant Marine schools as a part of their training sessions, because the War Shipping Administration believed that the film contained technical and educational material that would "aid considerably the training program." The studio donated three prints for official use at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY and at cadet basic schools in San Mateo, CA and Pass Christians, MI. According to a September 26, 1942 article in the Pittsburgh Courier, Humphrey Bogart wanted to include a black Merchant Marine captain in the film, stating: "In the world of the theatre or any other phase of American life, the color of a man's skin should have nothing to do with his rights in a land built upon the self-evident fact that all men are created equal." This character did not appear in the film, however. Writer Guy Gilpatric was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Modern sources add the following information about the production: Warner Bros. had originally intended to make a two-reel documentary about the Merchant Marine, but this idea was discarded as the war progressed, providing more opportunities for dramatic action footage. The film was shot entirely on the Warner Bros. backlot using special effects to provide the maritime atmosphere. Raymond Massey and Julie Bishop reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on May 15, 1944, co-starring George Raft.