As a retired army officer and an adjunct history professor I thought it was important to review what I consider the best war movies depicting the challenges of leadership and the command of men.
"Strategic Air Command" is the best movie showing the daily grind, time spent away from family, and challenges for leaders during the “Cold War.” SAC’s motto “Peace Through Strength” was very appropriate. Seen by most people as one of the offensive arms in the American arsenal, it actually kept the nuclear peace with Russia because it was so well equipped and had highly trained personnel. SAC’s success is due in no small part to Gen. Curtis LeMay, an Air Force strategic genius. A cigar smoking tough as nails leader, who knew what he wanted to get done and was the kind of leader that always got 110% out of his people.
OK, now a little about the movie. Believing his fighting days are over, Robert "Dutch" Holland (James Stewart, who in real life was a bomber squadron commander in WW 2 and wound up retiring as a General in the Air Force reserves,) had become a successful ballplayer for the Cardinals, only to be recalled into the newly-formed Strategic Air Command,. Set in 1955, when the Cold War is rapidly heating up, SAC has been formed to provide the ultimate deterrent to nuclear war. Holland, promoted to Lt. Colonel, grudgingly accepts the assignment, along with some other equally unhappy airmen, many of whom are old acquaintances from WW 2. Holland's wife Sally (June Allyson) is less than pleased with the turn their life has taken, and isn't happy about her husband being sent out on dangerous missions when there isn't even a war going on.
The movie is great at displaying Dutch’s leadership skills, and how over the next few months, he helps form SAC into a tightly run, well oiled machine, even when it means long stretches away from home. The example he set for his men, staying in SAC even when he had every reason and opportunity to leave, has done more good for the force than he can imagine.
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