Combat America

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Ratings: 7.50/10 from 8 users.


Combat America

In 1943 actor Clark Gable served as a Major in World War II, operating out of England's Royal Air Force station Polebrook (RAF Polebrook) as a member of the 351st Bomb Group. Gable flew five missions during his term, and was tasked with producing Combat America as a recruitment tool. He worked in partnership with unit members First Lieutenant Andrew McIntire, a former director of cinematography for MGM, additional camera operators Master Sergeants Robert Boles and Merlin Toti, and Hollywood scriptwriter John Lee Mahin.

Together this team of seasoned industry professionals created an energetic and educational propaganda piece intended to motivate viewers to serve their country while doing the same themselves. Produced at a time when audience patriotism was at an all-time high, the film plays to the national desire to defend fellow man and country. Opening with footage of both civilians and servicemen looking to the sky in admiration of the fighter planes as they soar overhead, viewers are transported across seas for an inspirational look at the life of a bombardier.

Featuring a playfully animated narration by Gable, we are walked through the process of gearing up for flight, from checking ammunition to assessing uniforms and safety gear. Gable gives a coaching voiceover as the planes take off, advising them on how to maneuver, take flight, and avoid crashing in a fiery blaze.

Conversational moments with soldiers lend a personalized perspective to hum-drum aspects of serving, such as making small talk while cleaning their service weapons or chatting casually on the airfield. The action footage picks up when we join the bombardiers in the air, as they evaluate the enemy threat and plot their course of action. Gunners are shown on alert and ready at their turrets, acting promptly on the directive to fire. Culminating in a mass air-drop, the boys deliver their payloads and return to base.

An adventurous and invigorating documentary, Combat America will hold great appeal to historical buffs and World War II enthusiasts. The film serves as a time capsule back to a fight that has not gone forgotten, allowing an unaltered depiction of the servicemen and weaponry of the time.

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1 comment / user review

  1. Bob Jacobson

    Sadly, aerial gunnery proved unreliable as an air defense. The casualty rate among B-17s and B-24s was often in the double digits for each flight over Germany and its allied and captive nations. Only when long-distance fighters were assigned to the bomber missions were casualties reduced -- and even this hiatus was interrupted by a change in mission, when the 8th Air Force began using the bombers as bait, to lure the Luftwaffe aloft so that fighters could down them and thus destroy German air support before D-Day. More bomber crew died over Europe in WW2 than did Marines in the Pacific, both occasions for sadness.

    I was unable to finish watching this documentary, which was so jaunty. Perhaps because my late father, a B-17 crew mechanic -- whose three planes all made their 25-mission thresholds, a statistical miracle that earned the wing a Presidential Merit Citation -- never had high praise for strategic bombing as practiced in Europe, only for the flight crews themselves whose bravery succeeded in getting most of them back alive, most in one piece, despite desperate odds.

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