Twelve O'Clock High (1949) Poster


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  • In many ways very accurate, including many events based on real incidents such as a pilot being decorated for subduing a wounded comrade thrashing around in pain with many of the air combat sequences represented by actual combat footage from World War 2. However the film is misleading in that it puts the blame for the squadron's failure on inadequate discipline and leadership, the attitude adopted by the General Henry Arnold the head of the Army Air Force who accused bomber commanders of a lack of aggressiveness. In truth it was impossible for US bombers however numerous, in formation or well armed to operate effectively over Germany as Army Air Force doctrine dictated without long range fighter escorts. Their bombing was also ineffective, never penetrating the U-boat pens on the French Atlantic coast or causing any significant disruption to German industrial capacity whilst devastating the surrounding areas and killing thousands of civilians. Bombing raids against Germany were suspended not because of any problems in command or morale but because of disastrous losses suffered during the 'Black Thursday' attacks against the German city of Schweinfurt resulting in the loss of over a quarter of the bombers involved (represented by the Hambrucken raid in Twelve O'clock High). General Arnold would dismiss these losses as 'incidental' despite one squadron, the 305th Bomb Group losing 87% of its' personnel. The 8th Air force commander, Ira Ackers (represented by Major General Pat Pritchard in the film) was eventually transferred to another command and the introduction of P51 Mustang long range fighter escorts eventually allowed the force to resume operations. Rather than an example of positive leadership the early bomber campaign is cited as an example of senior commanders refusing to listen to their subordinates or alter their strategic theories in the face of tactical realities. Edit



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