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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

this is not an essay

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Twelve O’clock High


During the Second World War, the United States was predominantly aiding Great Britain and their actions against the central power of Europe, Germany. In Twelve O’clock High, directed by Henry King, the American 18th Bombardment Group suffers losses due to miscommunication during air attacks. Early in the movie, during a routine mission, five of the group’s B-17 Flying Fortresses were shot down because of poor strategy and navigation. The head navigator missed a crucial checkpoint during the mission, which caused failure of the planned simultaneous attack. The planes were three minutes late leaving each of the B-17s at variable altitudes, thus the British had to take necessary action and relieve the Group Commander Keith Davenport of his Lieutenant status. Davenport states his compassion for each and ever man under him, “I don’t believe in chopping someone’s head off for one mistake. I don’t think that’s any way to run a group.” The movie focuses on replacement general, General Frank Savage’s conquest to rebuild and re-teach the pilots of the 18th Bombardment Group.


Earlier in the war, “night bombing” was the method that the British had always used in war, but this type of bombing grew antiquated and the British were desperate for change. With night bombing it was difficult to focus on specific targets, pilots simply would drop dozens of bombs from high altitudes and cross their fingers. In 14 the US Army Air Corps introduced daylight precision bombing. With this new alternate bombing method, the B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-4 Liberators, because of their heavy armor and accurate Norden bombsites, had the ability to attack at low altitudes during the day. The “hard luck group” (nickname for the 18th bombardment group) from Twelve O’ clock high was historically known as the 8th Air Force. The movie accurately portrays the benefits of daylight precision bombing through mission briefings between General Frank Savage and his men. The exception was that in the movie General Savage speaks of daylight precision bombing as though it were a walk in the park, but in fact it was extremely dangerous. With daylight precision bombing, planes were flying at lower altitudes and because of visibility factors the odds of an aircraft being shot down were much higher. The movie describes the altitudes of ,000ft, but in actuality these bomber planes were flown at heights near 6,000ft. Flying any lower than 6,000ft would have been suicide; flying at ,000ft is completely unrealistic.


Incorrect numbers and percentages are one of the few, but common, errors throughout the movie. The incorrect detail of how high the planes of the 8th Air Force is one example, but this wasn’t the only numerical error that Henry King neglected. With daylight precision bombing it was never mentioned that the British did not completely abandon night time raids, in fact the British continued with night time bombing and had more success than the Americans (who were the only pilots who flew during the day) had. American crews tried to prove that would not result in unacceptable losses; the original tour of duty was 5 missions though the average survival rate was 15 missions. Twelve O’clock High gives its audience the idea that the Americans are unstoppable by counting the planes after every mission counting only one of two losses. In October 14, Americans suffered a 5% loss rate in their air raids. Because of this horrible loss rate, daylight bombing was discontinued until 144 when long-range fighter escorts, the P-51 mustangs became available.


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Twelve O’ Clock High portrayed the invasion of Wilhelmshaven as a morale destroying war event, but in actuality this was not the case at all. This mission brought the German side to the defensive. The German air force known as the Luftwaffe, had to change from the Russian front toward the British front. While German forces were being relocated, the first time mission on German soil took place. The movie showed the planes at take off and then returning, not mentioning the duration of the attack. The mission took place during February 11th and 1th of 14. General Savage led a successful attack, but was not mentioned was the fact that the target was completely cloud covered. The weather was also not stated as a disturbance during the time periods showed while present in the 18th Bombardment bases at Ashbury or even during the abundant amount of missions carried out. The main force, which the movie alluded to as well, was supposed to drop the bombs when flares were in their sights letting them know that they were over their target.





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