Posted in B-17, Old Movies, WWII

My Top Five WWII Air Corps Movies

Movies, Movies, Movies! I’ve been on a movie kick lately, especially the old ones that I love. This month I’m talking about my top five favorite WWII Air Corps movies. Love those fly boys.

5. A Guy Named Joe (1943)

Starring Spencer Tracy, Irene Dunne, and Van Johnson, in his first major role, this movie is romance within a romance with some flying and a ghost thrown in. Tracy, a B-25 bomber pilot, loves Dunne, an American flying with the British Air Transport Auxiliary. Tracy goes down with his plane after bombing a German ship. Then Tracy finds himself in heaven. A year later Tracy is sent to help a new pilot, played by Johnson, when he encounters a still grieving Dunn. Johnson and Dunne gradually fall in love (the second romance.) I’ll skip the exciting and danger-filled ending so you will have to find the movie and watch it for yourself.

4. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)

Depicting the famous Doolittle raid in 1942 is an all-star cast with Van Johnson, Phillis Thaxter, Robert Walker, Robert Mitchum and Spencer Tracy as Doolittle. Asked to volunteer for a secret mission, the men train to take off on very short runways. When their B-25 bombers are loaded on an aircraft carrier they know why. At sea they learn that they will bomb Tokyo. Spotted by a Japanese ship the planes must take off early. When they drop bombs on Tokyo the Japanese are completely surprised. Running low on fuel the crews must ditch in China and hope to reach allies. Despite severe wounds, the Chinese manage to get them out to return home. It’s an exciting and heart-wrenching movie.

3. Memphis Belle (1990)

Based on a documentary made by William Wyler during WWII, Memphis Belle depicts the 25th bombing mission for the crew – the the first to reach the number of missions required to go home. Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, and Harry Connick, Jr., and several other young actors play the pilots and crew. The movie is an exciting, nail-biting ride depicting an actual bombing mission over Europe and what the men went through. Like I said earlier, love those flyboys.

2. The War Lover (1962)

In the War Lover Steve McQueen plays an arrogant bomber pilot who, when not flying, goes to London to party. Despite his antics and ignoring orders, McQueen is the best pilot in the squadron and trusted by his co-pilot played by Robert Wagner. The love interest is Shirley Ann Field who chooses Wagner over McQueen. Wagner becomes disillusioned by McQueen’s attitude and actions. After their falling out, McQueen tries to force his attentions on Field who rejects him. On a long bombing mission their bomber is shot up badly and crew members are wounded or killed. They limp back toward England. Over the channel McQueen orders everyone to bail out. Wagner waits for McQueen to jump. Instead McQueen pushes Wagner out of the bomber, then tries to fly back to base alone. He crashes into the white cliffs. A sad ending which depicts the stress on pilots and their belief in inevitable death.

1. Twelve O’clock High (1949)

The absolute best Air Corps movie ever made, bar none. Even WWII veterans say it is an accurate depiction of what a Group leader, played by Gregory Peck, went through. The cast includes Dean Jagger, who won the best supporting actor Oscar, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, and Millard Mitchell. Sent in to straighten out a poorly performing Group, Peck’s strict rules and abrupt manner have everyone requesting a transfer. Using delaying tactics, Peck whips the Group into shape and earns their respect by flying with them in the lead plane. Like his predecessor Peck becomes to involved with and attached to his men. The stress of leading so many to their deaths finally causes him to break. A great movie that everyone should see, even if you aren’t a WWII buff like me.

Do you have a favorite WWII Air Corps movie? Let me know in the comments.

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Posted in B-17, History, Old Movies, WWII

Twelve O’clock High – The Movie

Movies can inspire and get the creative juices flowing. That’s what Twelve O’clock High did for me, creating a fascination with the 8th Air Force and their part in winning World War II. It is one of my favorite WW II movies, even though there’s no love story. Never the less, parts of my novel, Kitty’s War, were inspired by the movie.

Made in 1949 and starring Gregory Peck, Twelve O’clock High tells the story of an American bomb group flying daylight raids over German occupied Europe early in the war. The characters depict the personal struggles of the pilots and crew who flew these dangerous missions day after day. After the war ended the need to bolster the home-front morale gave way to a need to understand what had happened during the war. Many of the films made in the late 40’s and in the 1950’s were more realistic about the human cost of war.

Twelve O’clock High showed the devastating effects of continuous losses on the morale of the airmen and their leaders. To get morale and performance back on track, General Savage (played by Gregory Peck) took command with such a strict attitude that the men hated him and the pilots all requested transfers. But Savage stalled the transfers because he knew they needed discipline to face the job they had to do. While pulling the outfit together Savage became so personally involved with the men and the missions that he eventually suffered battle fatigue.

In 1942, the American Air Corp bombed German held Europe in the daylight, something the British would not do because it was too dangerous. The RAF bombed at night. The Americans faced intense anti-aircraft fire as well as deadly attacks by German fighters. Neither the Americans nor the British had fighter planes that could fly as far as the bombers so the bombers had no protection from the German fighters except their onboard guns. Later in the war, the P-51 Mustang flew as fighter protection to the target and back.

Although nominated for Academy Awards, the film and Gregory Peck failed to win the coveted award. Dean Jagger won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Major Harvey Stovall, the Group Adjutant who helped Savage win over the men, as well as introducing and ending the film with his reminiscences.

If you love war movies filled with action and tension, then Twelve O’clock High fills the bill. It is truly entertaining and informative. If, like me, you enjoy a little romance mixed it, this may not be what you are looking for.

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