« Mozbackup is da bomb! | Main | Good night, and good luck* »

Why I'm not happy with the new Red Tails trailer.

This began as a comment at Lex's place, but ... grew... So I moved it here. :)

I downloaded the hi-def version of the trailer, and it's 864x368. I can't say how much that affected the look of the CGI, but Lucas loves him some digital, so I expect the full version to be pretty good. It might even persuade me to buy a Blue-Ray player. :)

The Fortresses seemed to blow up pretty easily...

The Wiki article on the film includes this:

1944. World War II rages and the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.


As the war in Europe continues to take its dire toll on Allied forces, Pentagon brass has no recourse but to reconsider these under-utilized pilots for combat duty. Just as the young Tuskegee men are on the brink of being shut down and shipped back home, Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) awards them the ultimate chance to prove their mettle high above. Undaunted by the prospect of providing safe escort to bombers in broad daylight -- a mission so dangerous that the RAF has refused it and the white fighter groups have sustained substantial losses -- Easy's pilots at last join the fiery aerial fray

(my emphasis)

If you watch the trailer carefully, you will catch comments to the effect that the white escort pilots were too busy hunting scalps to defend the bombers.

I know Lucas is historically ignorant (he considers the battle on Endor his metaphor for the Vietnam War) but that's just pathetic.

In the real world, Eighth Bomber command in northern Europe (not the Fifteenth in North Africa/Italy) suffered crippling losses, but that was during the second half of 1943, not 1944, with the raid on Schweinfurt as the leading example. The change came during "Big Week" (Project ARGUMENT) in late February, 1944. From Martin Caidin's Flying Forts!:

A study of the Big Week produced impressive and satisfying figures. Most of these have been derived from .German as well as American sources. First, the Eighth on these five missions sent up more than 3,300 bombers, and the Fifteenth put up another 500.

The 3,800 bombers that hit their main targets dropped a tonnage roughly equal to the total bomb tonnage dropped by the Eighth Air Force in its entire first year of operations—approximately 10,000 tons of bombs. Planners had expected losses to be very heavy; they were considerably less than anticipated. The Eighth lost 137 bombers and the Fifteenth another eighty-nine, producing an overall loss ratio of about six percent of the strike armadas. Fighters from the Eighth, Ninth and Fifteenth Air Force flew, respectively, 2,548,712 and 413 escort missions. Twenty-eight fighters were shot down. Approximately 2,600 men were lost—taking into account killed, missing and seriously wounded.


There is reason to believe that the large and fiercely fought air battles of those six February days had more effect in establishing the air superiority on which Allied plans so largely depended than did the bombing of industrial plants. Total USSTAF claims of enemy aircraft destroyed amounted to well above 600, with more than a third of these victories credited to the fighter escort and roughly another third to the bombers of the Fifteenth Air Force, which enjoyed no long-range escort.


When Mission 115 ended late in the day of 14th October 1943, few leaders of the Eighth Air Force doubted but that the Germans had seized a firm grip on air superiority over the Reich. When the Big Week ended late in February 1944, it was becoming just as evident that the Germans had lost what they struggled so tenaciously to attain. That became evident when the Luftwaffe switched its old tactics and adopted a new plan that had caution stamped all over it. The Germans could, when they made the effort, put up an intense and effective defense. They could batter a bombing force with deadly results. But they could not do so, not any longer, whenever they so wanted. They could not do so as a matter of policy.

(again, my emphasis)

In other words, the war was not in the balance, and by spring 1944 the advantage lay heavily weighted for the Allies.

Lucasfilm was correct in that the Brits refused daylight escort, but only because they considered daylight bombing in general suicidally foolish, hence their reluctance is irrelevant to the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. Their doctrine was devoted to night bombing & escort. As for continued "substantial losses" for white escort pilots, I have never seen any reports which substantiate this claim. As shown above, after February 1944 while the Germans could inflict significant losses upon occasion, such occasions became rarer as the war moved forward.

The P-38 Lightning became operationally active on Oct 15, 1943, one day after the Schweinfurt disaster. Seven groups of P-47s had also become operational about the same time,but at that time lacked the Lightning's range. Note this creation of an escort forces was only four months before Big Week occurred. An examination of 8th AF Fighter Command shows that escorts were, in fact, limited in their ability to defend the bombers by the requirement to stick close, in direct contradiction to what was shown in the trailer. A further examination shows widespread historical agreement that German escort fighters were similarly hobbled during the Battle of Britain by strict instructions to stay close to the bombers.

In the excellent HBO movie, The Tuskegee Airmen, there was reference made to escorts missing rendezvous with bomber groups in the Mediterranean theater, but that is entirely different from the trailer's claim that escorts refused to defend the bomber while running up their scores.

The inference is clear: the noble, virtuous Red Tails remained dedicated to their mission, while the white pilots hoo-hawed across the sky pursuing personal glory. The Airmen turn the tide against German interceptors, and -by implication- save the free world. Add to this the claim that Col. Bullard was somehow personally responsible for getting the group assigned to escort missions , and the result is not only inaccurate, but revisionist bilge. Their true history is so magnificent that such melodramatic exaggeration disrespects the memory of the 332nd FG.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 3, 2011 10:34 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Mozbackup is da bomb!.

The next post in this blog is Good night, and good luck*.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.33