Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, and Josh Hartnett lined up on the poster for Pearl Harbor.

The holiday of Memorial Day is intended to reflect on the sacrifices that our military veterans gave in the name of freedom and democracy. Commemorating the loss of our warfighters in times of battle, films like Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor also help remind the world of days that lived in infamy, and the men and women who fought to avenge such actions. Which makes it all the more fitting that Bay would share a fantastic throwback to his time on that film, and the day that saw some very special veterans sitting on that very set.

As a fitting Memorial Day tribute, Michael Bay shared a photo on Instagram that dates back to the production of the 2001 historical drama. With Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer kneeling front and center, this Pearl Harbor photo boasts survivors of the December 7th, 1941 attack flanking them, with one of the massive sets from the film staged behind all involved. The photo is quite amazing to behold, and can be seen below:

The main focus of this Pearl Harbor throwback is, rightfully, the participation of the veterans who survived that fateful day and their presence on the set. While the movie itself has drawn some negative attention for various reasons, there is one thing that cannot be questioned. That is the fact that Michael Bay is a huge supporter of the US military, and through films such as Pearl Harbor, as well as his military biopic 13 Hours, and even his Transformers franchise, Bay has always paid tribute to the warfighter. The results can always be questioned, but his heart is definitely in the right place.

Coincidentally, Pearl Harbor has just celebrated its 20th anniversary, as the movie was released into theaters on Memorial Day weekend back in 2001. While Michael Bay doesn’t draw attention to that fact in his post, it is something worth mentioning as it’s kind of surprising to think of this film, starring the likes of Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Beckinsale finally reaching that milestone. No matter how you rank the film in your assessment of Bay’s filmography, or even the ranks of historical melodramas, that is a fact that’s kind of stunning to behold.

It’s especially interesting to look back at Pearl Harbor after the release of Roland Emmerich’s Midway, which feels like a modern day counterpart to Michael Bay’s previous work. Were Bay’s historical fiction narrative a sweeping hit back in 2001, we might have gotten Midway, and a slew of imitators, a lot sooner. Alas, with the film’s not so rosy reception, Hollywood continued to focus on the more popular Western Front of World War II, which has predominantly been the focus of films depicting that conflict.

The heroism of “The Greatest Generation” will always be a source of narrative entertainment, both fictitious and fact based. So long as the actual legacy of the men and women who helped fight for victory in World War II is preserved and respected, such projects will be a welcomed sight. But you have to admit, Michael Bay’s inclusion of many survivors from Pearl Harbor’s horrific true events is quite a flex, especially in a career that’s built on flexes that are uniquely his.

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