The war-time memories of surviving World War II bomber squadrons were still crystal clear when this acclaimed drama was released in 1949--one of the first post-war films out of Hollywood to treat the war on emotionally complex terms. Framed by a post-war prologue and epilogue and told as a flashback appreciation of war-time valour and teamwork, the film stars Gregory Peck in one of his finest performances as a callous general who assumes command of a bomber squadron based in England. At first, the new commander has little rapport with the 918th Bomber Group, whose loyalties still belong with their previous commander. As they continue to fly dangerous mission over Germany, however, the group and their new leader develop mutual respect and admiration, until the once-alienated commander feels that his men are part of a family--men whose bravery transcends the rigours of rigid discipline and by-the-book leadership. The film's now-classic climax, in which the general waits patiently for his squad to return to base--painfully aware that they may not return at all--is one of the most subtle yet emotionally intense scenes of any World War II drama. With Peck in the lead and Dean Jagger doing Oscar-winning work in a crucial supporting role, this was one of veteran director Henry King's proudest achievements, and it still packs a strong dramatic punch. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com
Colonel Keith Davenport (Gary Merrill) is more of a friend than a commander to his men, a US bomber crew stationed in wartime Britain. After a series of dangerous missions, the pilots are living on their nerves and when Davenport is replaced by the callous General Savage (Gregory Peck), the latter's attempts to whip the crew into shape result in a deluge of requests for transfers. However, young Lieutenent Bishop (Robert Patten) rallies his fellow pilots, and soon they and Savage begin to develop a mutual respect.