Director: Sam Wood
Writer: William Wister Haines(play), George Froeschel and William R. Laidlaw
Cinematographer: Harold Rosson
Producer:Sidney Franklin and Gottfried Reinhardt
by Jon Cvack
Check out Part 1...
During the second bombing of Schweinhafen, Martin, Kane, Casey and the press join medal ace pilot Capt. Lucius Jenks (Michael Steele) to award him a Medal of Valor, who like the men in Memphis Belle, hit his 24th mission and was relieved of duty (not 25th, which makes me wonder what the difference was as both seemed to be very accurate portrayals), creating the kind of positive press they were waiting for. However, another pilot, on the verge of his final mission is shot down. While the mission is a success, with more losses than they expected, Casey remains committed to bombing the third city they discussed with Brockhurst, shocking Kane who eventually relieves him of command.
As Casey is about to leave, he expresses to Martin how he had always hated the job and how he looks forward to returning back to the states to be near his family. Though just as he’s about to board, he’s informed that Kane has reconsidered the order, now placing Casey in command of the B-29 group in the Pacific, which was an extremely prescient decision from William Haines, as even though it was made in 1943, the Pacific would last two years longer, ensuring Casey an even greater confrontation with death.
I typically hate to write such extensive summaries, but I think even someone who saw the film could use an explanation of how all this worked, as this was far more complex than I initially thought. The whole story is comprised of characters who remain on the look out for their own best interests. By avoiding any cuts to action, we avoid the movie attempting to at all celebrate what the men went through. One image, which is coincidentally the most terrifying scene from both Memphis Belle and this film, is a gunmen trying to land a damaged bomber, with both pilots dead, as Casey instructs him on the radio. Successfully landing, then failing to complete the procedure, the bomb filled plane explodes. It makes me wonder if my grandfather and his crew had to drop their bombs, or simply wanted to, having either seen or heard of such things happening.
I was left considering the position of the General, and a line from The Thin Red Line, in which John Travolta mentions to Nick Nolte about how once someone becomes a Colonel they’re so hungry for that first star of a General that it becomes a game of politics rather than duty; where some men are willing to sacrifice great numbers of soldiers so long as a mission is accomplished and they look as ripe for promotion as possible. While the idea isn’t as explicitly laid out in Command Decision, it remains omnipresent. Did Casey want his second star and therefore was willing to do whatever it took to get it, or did he genuinely believe that bombing Schweinhafen would save even more lives? At the end of the day, in a time when there was use of data, it was up to General to assess the ratio - would more Americans die bombing Schweinhafen than not going at all? While we discover that all he desired was to be near his wife and kid, I was left wondering if this was just an act of defense.
Maybe he really did want to go the Pacific, as if we peel back the logic it would make the most sense. His intention in sacrificing bombers was to save more lives, and while the Pacific might come with a higher emotional cost, his expertise would save those lives. I have trouble believing that such a noble ambition would be satisfied by his family; not because he didn’t want to be near them, but because the mission was greater than any three or four people, including himself. Or maybe it was about ambition, and his simple determination to do whatever it took to get another star, and hopefully another beyond that. Perhaps it was a mixture of all three. I’m sure I’d need to watch it a couple more times to discover all the complexities of these great characters. You could see this movie being made today, using the same script, and offering a timeless tale of ambition, honor, and sacrifice. It’s a great and unexpected story.
BELOW: Little beyond the TNT spot, so here's a trailer
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