Posted by: Tom Owen | July 27, 2009

Twelve O’Clock High (1948) – Beirne Lay, Jr., SPS 1927

Twelve O’Clock High


(Wikipedia) Publicity shot of Gregory Peck in Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

Biographical Notes
After graduating from St. Paul’s and Yale, Beirne Lay, Jr. enlisted in the army and started writing pieces based on his aviation experience.  He returned to active duty at the onset of World War II and became commander of a bomber group.

Lay adapted his classic WWII aviation novel Twelve O’Clock High into a widely acclaimed movie starring Gregory Peck.  The following summary is adapted from the Wikipedia article of the  film adaptation.

Colonel Keith Davenport (Gary Merrill) is the commanding officer of the 918th Bomb Group, a hard-luck B-17 unit suffering from poor morale. He has become too close to his men and is troubled by the losses sustained in the early attempts at daylight precision bombing over German-held territory.

Brigadier General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck), who commanded the first B-17 group to fight over Europe and is a long-time friend of Colonel Davenport, is Davenport’s replacement.

Savage finds his new command in disarray and begins to address the discipline problems, dealing with everyone so harshly that the men begin to detest him.

The 918th resumes combat operations, and Savage continues to earn everyone’s enmity with his harsh post-mission critiques. However, the airmen and pilots begin to change their minds about him after he leads them on a mission in which the 918th is the only group to bomb the target and all of the aircraft make it back safely.



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