In the first part of the movie, there is a scene early in it that portrays a dramatic story that sounds almost unbelievable. This is a movie, but it depicts an actual event and actual people. The movie itself is a very real depiction of real events.
When one asks why this circumstance happened, one discovers that there were organizational reasons why it did.
... because strategic bombing “was a new type of warfare, and we had to do THE WRONG STUFF in order to find out how to do it the right way."
While the movie is about leadership, a subtle story about organizations is being played out in the background. Think about what the characters are thinking about in terms of their particular situations, as well as in the evolution of the organization itself.
On 20 June 1941, to grant additional autonomy to the air forces and to avoid binding legislation from Congress, the War Department revised the army regulation governing the organization of Army aviation ... (the air war plan) laid out a strategic plan for the daylight bombing of Germany by unescorted heavy bombers ... Unfortunately the B-17 bomber command of the U.S. Eighth Air Force had only flown six relatively unopposed missions (and the mistake) of disregarding the need and feasibility of long-range fighter escorts was repeated. Both plans called for the destruction of the German Air Force (GAF) as a necessary requirement before campaigns against priority economic targets. (There were) four target sets in order of priority ... placing U-Boat facilities first, followed by transportation, electricity production, petroleum production, and rubber production
A blog posting from a previous class includes links to various takeaways from this movie. After you have seen the movie, look at them and ask yourself if these were the lessons you drew from the movie.
Elmer Bendiner's experience is also again instructive.
After a while my career as an amateur airplane spotter had a routine. It began early in the morning. The B-17 Flying Fortresses, heavy with their bomb loads, climbed slowly overhead to a height where a whole bomber group would form up and then head east over the North Sea.
Hours later they returned, no longer in tight formation but in clusters with obvious gaps where some had been lost. Finally came the stragglers, often with pieces missing from a wing or a tail. I recall one or two that managed to fly with half of a horizontal stabilizer missing or a wing tip half ripped off. Engines ran unevenly, sometimes coughing smoke.
Obviously, I had no idea of the hell that those aircrews had endured. As it turned out, one of the best accounts of that hell was later written by a B-17 navigator, Elmer Bendiner, who flew from that same base, in The Fall of Fortresses, an enduring classic of the World War II bombing campaigns.
This story about how people reacted to the missions they had to do is also instructive.
Hardwicke and his crew have trained and flown together for nearly a year and for the combat airman to shirk his duty, to fail a buddy, is unthinkable. Hardwicke, as commander, believes the least discipline is best. Treat the men fairly, and they will respond accordingly. Today, November 30, 1944, marks their 26th combat mission together.
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