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The following videos contain actual footage of aerial combat operations during World War II.  Although a lot of the footage shot during the war contains B-17 aircraft, the actions of the various crew members was the same regardless of the asircraft they flew.

Some are fictional accounts, like the favorites "12 o'clock High" or "The War Lover".  The fictional accounts, while not always 100% accurate, do give the viewer a sense of the drama and dangers of aerial combat.  Others, such as "Target for Today", are official Army Air Force publications that depict actual combat operations, from the planning stage all the way through mission execution.


Title

Description

Twelve O'Clock High

Twelve O'Clock High is a 1949 American war film about aircrews in the United States Army's Eighth Air Force who flew daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany and occupied France during the early days of American involvement in World War II. The film was adapted by Sy Bartlett, Henry King and Beirne Lay, Jr. from the 1948 novel 12 O'Clock High, also by Bartlett and Lay. It was directed by King and stars Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, Millard Mitchell, and Dean Jagger.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two: Dean Jagger for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and Thomas T. Moulton for Best Sound Recording.  In 1998, Twelve O'Clock High was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The War Lover

In 1943, Captain Buzz Rickson (Steve McQueen) is an arrogant B-17 pilot stationed in England during World War II. When a bombing mission is aborted because clouds obscure all potential targets, Rickson ignores the order to turn around, dives under the clouds and completes the job, at the cost of one of the bombers in his squadron and its entire crew. Rickson revels in the fighting and destruction; when he is assigned to drop propaganda leaflets, he makes his displeasure felt by buzzing the airfield. His commanding officer tolerates his repeated insubordination because he is the best pilot in the bomber group. Even so, when he asks the flight surgeon his opinion, the latter is uncertain whether Rickson is a hero or a psychopath. However, Rickson's crew trusts his great flying skill, especially his co-pilot Lieutenant Ed Bolland (Robert Wagner).

Between missions, Rickson and Bolland meet a woman, Daphne Caldwell (Shirley Anne Field). Although she is attracted to both pilots, she quickly finds out what kind of man Rickson is and chooses Bolland. They soon begin sleeping together. She falls in love with him, though she suspects he will leave her behind and return to America at the end of his tour of duty.

Meanwhile, Bolland becomes increasingly disillusioned with Rickson, his arrogance and his callousness. Rickson pressures his navigator, 2nd Lieutenant Marty Lynch (Gary Cockrell), into transferring to another aircraft because he questions his orders and behaviour. Soon afterwards, family man Lynch is killed in action. His friend Bolland takes it hard and blames Rickson.

Then, when the crew is near the end of the required 25 missions, Rickson makes a move on Daphne, visiting her in her flat after Bolland heads back to the base. Rickson plans to embark on a second tour of duty, while his rival goes home. Daphne rejects his forceful advances, telling him she loves Bolland (unlike the novel), but Rickson tries to make Bolland think otherwise.

Finally, on a bombing mission, the B-17 is badly shot up and one crew member, Sgt. Sailen (Michael Crawford) - known as "Junior" - dies of his wounds. It limps back over the English Channel and the rest of the crew bails out. Rickson then pushes the unsuspecting Bolland out of the plane and tries to nurse the bomber back to base by himself, only to crash into the white cliffs on the Kent coast.

Bolland reports Rickson's death to Daphne in Cambridge, who says: "It's what he always wanted." The film ends with the two of them walking away together lovingly, with the last line from her: "I'm so glad you're here."

Target for Today

Target for Today is a film containing United States Army Air Forces combat footage of B-17 and B-24 bombers and named for the phrase used at briefings before air raids. The October 1944 footage was filmed during Eighth Air Force attacks on Nazi Germany industrial targets in Anklam, Marienburg (on the 9th), and Gdynia in occupied Poland. Prior to the combat footage, the documentary explains Operation Pointblank target selection and depicts planning, briefing, and mission preparation.

B-24's At War

A two-part video (The Mission & Report From The Aleutians).
The Mission - This film features the 44th Bomb Group under the command of Col. Leon Johnson in preparation of the typical B-24 mission.  It includes all details from fueling, bomb loading, engine starts, take-off, flak, enemy fighters, target strikes, and return to base.  Several crash landings are seen, including a one-wheel landing by Lt. Griffith.  This is a comprehensive, "true-to-life" account of combat mission activity.


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