Thunderbolt (1947 film)


[Music] this picture was photographed in combat zones by cameramen of the Mediterranean Allied air forces and by pilots of the 12th Air Force food during missions against the enemy operated automatic cameras in their planes behind the pilot shooting forward and back under the wing in the wing time with the guns in the wheel well [Music] in the instrument panel photographing the pilot himself the commanding general of the United States Army Air Forces general Carl spots has asked me to tell you something about this picture I I don’t think I could do any better than just to read from his telegram to me thunderbolt was made in 1944 that’s ancient history has made about one fighter bomber group in the Italian campaign it happens to be an American group but the same story could well be told of the Royal Air Force groups which participated so gallantly in the same air offensive matter of fact the story belongs to all men who fought for freedom and did it a long way from home sign spots thank you [Music] to the Italian man in the street or what’s left of the street this is the fulfillment of a promise the promise of the fascists to build a 20th century Roman Empire conceived in tyranny and dedicated to the proposition that some men were meant to be slaves of other men [Music] special victims were the children they saw things not meant for children’s eyes from the air Italy is more remote the airmen never sees the face of the people only the face of the country from the air you look down at the mountains look down and wonder how our men on the ground ever got through mountains and rivers the Balter no part of American blood in that one natural barriers made other campaigns top two exhausted Hannibal’s elephants Caesar’s legions [Music] for the airmen the ground war is remote the only war you really understand is the air war you can see a pattern to it lots of the country never been touched little towns that walk the richest like tightrope artists to keep from falling off this one didn’t matter when something did matter that was another story this is how we change the face of Italy from the air they boasted Italian trains ran on time not these this is what we did to the face of Italy there’s a story behind why we did it and how we did it the story starts on an island 60 miles of Italy’s coast the island of Corsica [Music] Corsica rugged primitive mountainous malaria here they still remember a local boy who put Corsica on the map 150 years ago this island part of France was liberated by the French in September 43 but you can still find a few Germans left by the wayside where they sell in the shadow of our eardrums [Music] Alto airbase Sunday morning Sunday is like Monday and Monday is like every other day of the week a working day the Indians wake you at dawn in your sack you can hear the crew chiefs preflighting your planes getting them ready for the day’s missions this is how you live when you’re an airplane driver fighting an air war 20 minutes from the Germans and Italy you’re used to it you’ve been washing out of your helmet since July 42 from the Holy Land to Africa across the desert Egypt an El Alamein to Libya and Tunisia 1,300 miles you moved when the infantry moved Sicily and Italy 58 moves in two years now of course ago this is the best deal you ever had call it the country club [Music] well you talk about air power this is what you mean you mean spy commander Major Francis s manda metamour New Mexico squadron operations officer not a desk job at over 170 missions working for 200 he’s 22 you mean captain Howard Hickok of Ames Iowa he’s a flight leader just had 30 days in the States I had to get married and come back he’s 23 and his Italian generals trailer Gill Wyman Louisville Kentucky why he looks old enough to vote but he’s boss of a squadron he signed his letters Gilbert Oh Wyman Lieutenant Colonel Air Corps command a the old man he’s 24 [Music] Sunday morning for the 57th Fighter Group three squadrons a thousand men another day begins at alpha where base you could close your eyes and see it this way spread out like a diagram in home sweet home for sometime good steal Matt runway 150 by 6,000 feet tower call sign is breakneck lots of jokes about that we share the fear with a French fighter group don’t speak the same language but we fly the same airplane against the same enemy each lost a man yesterday we get along Group commander Lieutenant Colonel Archie J Knight West Point 1940 he’s 27 first mission today is a 65 squadron show briefing right after breakfast informal short to the point mark yourself on a bomb crate and get your escape kit any money instructions to get you back through the lines just in case yes to tells you about your target he doesn’t have to draw it for you you do this every day sometimes two or three times a day your woman will lead the show Charlie lays out the job that’s the nurses hat it’s girls wears it for luck eat all you can get the brass upstairs plans the war they want something done they pick up the phone you do it don’t always know why they send you out on a mission don’t always care but you know there’s a reason a good one today the missions are going out because in Italy our armies have been stopped cold at the Gustav line across the narrowest and most mountainous part of the peninsula US v Army British made bombing stop for five months at Anzio a hundred thousand men sweating it out we couldn’t move stalemate March 15th we bombed casino our immediate objective good job of bombing our infantry didn’t advance it was the wrong use of air power wrong because we were not taking advantage of the airplanes greatest asset its ability to get behind the enemy that’s what the air planners wanted to do get behind him Lieutenant General IRA CA ker commanding all the air in the Mediterranean British French and American Major General John cake cannon Uncle Joe commanding the 12th Air Force and Brigadier General Gordon piece of l12 Tactical Air Command the brass upstairs who run the air war they said let’s not hit him here let’s hit him here let’s isolate the battlefield let’s weaken the entire German front by depriving it of supplies fuel food ammunition reinforcements they call the plan operation strangle this is what we want to do a lot of railroads in Italy this is the enemy keep the trains from getting through what of rivers in Italy and over 700 major bridges we figured if a train came to one and it wasn’t there they kind of tough to get across medium bombers got many of the important ones but bridges are long narrow targets difficult to hit and destroyed took a lot of trips bombs planes we started to use a special weapon a fighter bomber a p-47 Thunderbolt one engine one man one bomb on each wing extra fuel tanks arranged six fives crew chiefs taxi from the dispersal point to the end of the runway light up this quadrant [Music] all the pilots have to do is climb in and take them away if you’re a crew chief you’ve got your own p-47 sometimes you think of it as your personal airplane the pilots if le you lend it to every day you let him fly around in it and you expect him to bring it back in good condition no bullet holes or flak holes after you’ve been lending your airplane to one pilot for a long time you get attached to him too if you’re a pilot no matter what your rank or how many hours you’ve had what counts here is the combat flying you’ve done unless you’ve done plenty you’re a beginner you call a sprog and you remain a sprog until you’re wise to the tricks of the trade after you put a few missions behind you become a sport then with plenty of action 50 or 60 missions if you’re still around you’re promoted you become an old sport the better the big shots like Gill Weiland I call wheels no one knows exactly why this fellas a wheel two says so on his plane major Richard Oh hands eager of Tucson Arizona got 179 missions your crew chief can’t go along so you always like to tell them what you’re gonna do got a triple threat mission today each sections going after a bridge I’ll come in on a course of about 40 degrees same old thing dive bomb out of a left-hand turn about and carry the bombs right on down we’re flying top cover on the other two sections while they bomb and then we go in ourselves well they’re supposed to be carefu so maybe we’ll have a good show [Music] all set to go but you don’t you wait you wait for five minutes that’s the way it’s planned [Music] time to settle down relax you’ll be busy later so if you’ve got any thinking to do and who hasn’t now’s the time to do it [Music] yeah oh let’s delay it back take off as always rough thunder boats in the airplane besides you’ve decorated it like a Christmas tree Billy tank Rockets 500-pound bomb cameras Roger : leader from breakneck you’re clear number one to take off the mile of steel runway will shrink to nothing under here halfway down by the tower you’ll be committed that means you can’t slam on the brakes and stop once you’re committed you usually go up first pair Klieman and Gustafsson [Music] [Music] first pair off second pair taxis out golf’s and Burgess [Music] made it okay Maddon Richardson missmiss an Edward [Music] [Music] b’gok and Mauro last pair well Basin tons/acre [Music] the squadron is airborne [Music] of course again then have to see on the deck [Music] sixty miles east [Music] from Corsica only 60 miles and you’re a hundred and fifty miles behind the German front turn again that castle into the mountains Lito section red section like section formation flying game of follow-the-leader the squadron leader he navigates makes the decisions doesn’t tell you what to do does it you follow wingtip to wingtip he turns u-turn he climbs you clod [Music] [Music] [Music] climbing still to 10,000 go to the cloud [Music] [Music] I’m getting close start looking for the target stuck down there and one of those ravines lookalike wingman feedback keep the formation spread out [Music] there’s a checkpoint Oh first bridge should be down there somewhere there it is come back and attack from the opposite direction by the tricks you’ve learned leader section goes into loose string formation then Wyman peels off the rest of the section follows at two-second intervals [Music] last man goes in no bomb site in the p-47 pilot does his own aiming [Music] bomb burst from the blames a couple of misses [Music] maybe like you up for a second blood drains from your head to young it comes back fast leader section reforms top cover watch his read section I miss [Music] another miss like section goes down [Music] concussions should do the trick no more bombs still got plenty of gas plenty of ammo go on the prowl he’s down on the deck see what you can find [Music] [Music] railroad tracks following tracks [Music] not a bad way to find a train [Music] you spot one kick her over give it a few squirts might kill somebody Buster locomotive first train can’t move now let’s see what’s in those boxcars you know criss-crossing everybody takes a few passes try the cars one at a time might be something interesting enough usually is got it burn nicely now take another pass [Music] strafing spreads the squadron over the sky every man his own general looks like we’re out at rains lighthouse out there what if I’ve got any ammo left radio station a lot a few tubes somebody in that fear I know they are no friends of mine you’re a vehicle part in that formula and back must be a headquarters houses around look kinda suspicious maybe something in them nothing that one nothing that one could be wrong what do you know [Music] back it out up no one is sweating out 6 5 squadron 6 6 is taking off [Music] no one will sweat them out either too many missions nine for the day when you don’t fly you’ve got things to do try to make some sort of life for yourself and trying give improvised in American community step off the field given Corsica step back on you’re in America this is part of the war to the endless detail of living the dust is a problem dust is good for the laundry business and laundry branches everywhere community laundry three-day service and for their rugged individualists water supply pump heating unit washing machine massage injustice always in New Orleans he’s keeping his hand in the barbershop and for the next customer always something to read never more than a year old bus line lunchtime special and for the intellectually minded there’s time for the more serious things like practicing your yo-yo [Music] if there’s anything you want don’t ask for it build it build as though you’d be here forever knowing you may get orders to move tomorrow six-six found this canyon made at the living area nobody said they couldn’t nobody says you can’t have a house nobody says your squadron can’t have a beach club nobody says you can’t dam up a river to make a swimming hole this American community has everything when you come off your shift and somebody else is carrying the ball you try to relax enjoy yourself in danger a couple hours a day the rest of the time your honor beach clubs a busy place so the Mediterranean mmm Mussolini once call it Mari Nostrum our sea but that was yesterday [Music] the Utz ‘men no wing tank and a few odds and ends make quite a boat the crew chief scrounge parts scrounge is polite to steal scrounge him from wrecked Jerry planes banged up Italian cars whole parachutes for sales they use only the best quality job sometimes when you can get a px ration of beer you drink it then you look like this [Music] the best deal you ever had the country club fella laughs a lot of Sun your American community has everything except the things you really want there are times you’d rather be flying than waiting around killing time I guess when you’re flying you don’t have that feeling of the day weeks and months slipping by slipping by and leaving here standing still these are your years he used to get started find yourself your job profession get married kids home of your own these are the years that count so you have your pets to give and receive affection in return for affection c-rations fuck brother as always in affairs of the heart some have peculiar tastes [Music] 6 6 squadron heading out sixty-five squadron heading home a meeting in the air comes and goes fast six five meter section one plain light when you reformed after strafing you noticed it nobody saw it happen maybe spun in maybe bailed out you think about it later now you’re waiting for that first side of home that’s right we’re base that’s Belenko you’re on your own Street ltos first turn to the left three fields down keep the formation tight and you fly over those other outfits you want to look good show them how it’s done [Music] Alto you come in low and peel up you feel up to reduce speed space the planes 20 seconds apart for landing second and third flights go on past the field they’ll circle back when the first flight is down [Music] yeah [Music] second flight peels up flight on circle again this is all the flying the ground crews see you like to give them a kick sometimes you tired land them rough [Music] it’s embarrassing the Colonel’s not happy about the flat holes you airplane his crew chief will be mighty sore and how will you explain this away then after the interrogation you relax grab off some doughnuts and coffee jibe at the Red Cross girl meets every mission and fly the show all over again on the ground Lyman goes back to work at being a colonel missing an action report to sign a telegram from the War Department has to start somewhere by mid-april every rail line and Italy was blocked we drew a line of interdiction across the country no train could move south of it south of it the railroad system was dead but the German had to keep the supplies moving still had highways he took to the roads so we took to the roads this is what the Germans fear most you don’t blame them this is the way Ronald got it he isn’t the only one when you plumber up highway you burn plenty of ammo cyclic rate of fire 800 rounds a minute you’ve got eight guns 106 bullets a second [Music] those aren’t just trucks and Germans you’re stopping ammunition before it’s fired on the 5th army front and you’re doing it 200 miles behind that front in the weeks that followed from Corsica to Italy was like a trip to the corner drugstore you could do it in your sleep we averaged eight and nine missions a day at the 57 the French flew about as many Lafayette Escadrille in 324 in the 86th overrun Italy with a 79th next door it was good to look up and watch him go by but there were other things those pillars of smoke never knew when you’d see what that’s a wreck a p-47 is cooking and there’s a man in it like this there’s nothing to do but a burn and stay clear of the exploding mo keep on landing you have to a place to park up there [Music] why did it happen engine cutoff for a second 200 yards from the runway 200 yards from home flag damage might have caused it we’ll never know for sure all you know is for some a war is expensive you wish the people back home could at least see it [Music] we kept up the pressure and by the beginning of May the roads were practically closed if one man on a motorcycle appeared on the highway by day he was a dead pigeon the German took to the sea the strangle was on the Germans had barely enough supplies for two weeks that’s when our ground forces attacked Allied troops took Cassino we linked up with a beachhead at Anzio and in three weeks were in Rome [Music] the men on the ground pushed north and as they moved up they saw what had been done to help them 10,000 enemy vehicles destroyed or damaged [Music] in every town they took no marshalling yard [Music] how many German tanks went out of business because of the gasoline these trains never carried they advanced and they saw the bridges how many German shells were never fired because they couldn’t get across the river [Music] the ground forces exploited their breakthrough in plain language they shot and killed Germans and they ate up the country almost 250 miles in one non-stop offensive the ground forces won a battle but they still had a war to fight and you were still flying missions up from first light to last light only the coming of darkness would stop you [Music] only the coming of darkness will bring the last missions home doubt [Music] then the long workday would end some men hit the sack early and some spent another quiet evening at the club Colonel women’s Country Club for airplane drivers [Music]

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