Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday Man Movie

I know. I fell away from doing these when I went traveling a few months back. Truth be told, it was getting tougher to find video clips that I hadn't already shown.

But I found this one, from the 1955 movie Strategic Air Command, with Jimmy Stewart, himself a real Army Air Force bomber pilot in World War Two and an Air Force Reserve General by the time he retired. Granted, you can only see him for a few seconds in the first cockpit shot, but he's there, as is recently deceased actor Harry Morgan, who sits with his back to the camera but speaks at 02:45 and 03:04.

And then there's the Convair B-36 Peacemaker bomber that was the real star of this movie. Yes, they were real. They really flew. The one in this movie is really flying.

There were 384 of these bombers built, and they were operated by the US Air Force for ten years, from 1949-1959. They required a crew of 15, and they had a range of 10,000 miles. The original idea when they were designed was to be used to bomb Europe from American airfields if England fell, but during the Cold War, they were tasked with dropping the nuclear hammer on Soviet Russia if the need arose.

The B-36 bombers never dropped nukes on Russia, but they did accidentally drop two of them due to emergencies in training operations, losing one atomic bomb into the Pacific off the coast of British Columbia in 1950, and one hydrogen bomb into the desert outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1957. Whoopsie.

There are five of these aircraft left today. Just five out of three hundred eighty four. Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum has one in Dayton, Ohio. I've seen it. There's another at the Strategic Air Command Museum in Offutt, Nebraska. I've seen that one, too. Both are stored indoors and you can really get up close and personal with them.
A third is at Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona, and a fourth one resides at Castle Air Museum in Atwater, California.
A fifth one was bought by military collector Walter Soplata and is still in pieces in his yard in Newbury, Ohio.

Here's another clip on the B-36 and the then-new Strategic Air Command.

And here's James Stewart talking about his real-life military exploits. A modest man, he didn't speak of these days very often, but he flew 20 combat missions as pilot in command of a B-24 Liberator bomber.


  1. Nothing like old movies, I wonder if the pilots in those days could hear all the music in their headsets ?

  2. I saw the last one that was built (retired just five years later), when I was in grade school-junior high when it was on display at Amon Carter/Greater Southwest Airport. It was really a hell of a note that its restoration couldn't get greenlighted here in the town where it was born - that airframe is the one now in Pima.

    Amon Carter/GSW closed commercial operations with the advent of DFW Int'l, which abuts the property on the N-NE, though I remember my Dad flying a Sundowner from there, with his CFI, in the mid-70's, when some GA ops were still permitted.

    After all flight ops had ceased and before the airport was erased (it had one of the grandest terminals), teenagers and, uh, college students may or may not have used the south end of Runway 13 as a late night shooting practice area, using makeshift targets created with permanent markers on discarded refrigerators and washing machines.

  3. Six pusher props and 4 jets. 6 hours of ground prep, plus 1 hour of pre-flight checks. Must have been a beast. And must have been one heck of a maintenance nightmare.

  4. @ Andy: Don't forget two different types of fuel, one type for the recips and jet fuel for the jets.

  5. Good movie, and Stewart was the 'real deal'... Along a number of other stars during WWII!