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Twelve O'Clock High

Tough Command Decisions In The Army Air Corps

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Leading men is hard when all are dying around you.

  • Aug 13, 2010

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.
“Twelve O’clock High” is one of the best movies depicting the challenges command can be, especially when taking a high casualty rate as our “fly boys” did with the new concept of daylight bombing in the early years of WW 2.  This is in the days before the B-17’s had p-51 fighter escort all the way to the target and back.  Thus, few aircrews actually survived to reach the 25 mission requirement before rotating home.
In this story General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) a desk bound staff chief, is sent to the group after the Bomber Commander is relieved of duty.  He must take command of a "hard luck" bomber group. His command challenge is his struggle to whip his group into a disciplined fighting unit in spite of heavy losses.  At first encountering resistance and becoming unpopular because of his harsh exacting standards, Savage eventually shows the pilots how to take pride in their unit and serve above and beyond the standards of the Army Air Corps.  He even has a nervous breakdown himself.  One of the very best movies for showing how hard leadership is when all around you are dying and in fear of losing their lives.
By the way, the movie has a great cast and story line.

Leading men is hard when all are dying around you. Leading men is hard when all are dying around you.

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About the reviewer
Michael Neulander ()
Ranked #41
Recently graduated with a Masters in Humanities degree from Old Dominion University reading in philosophy and history. I graduated from the Univ. of Miami in 1980 with a B.A. in Political Science; specializing … more
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