Command Decision (1948)

Command DecisionCommandDecision (1948)
Directed by Sam Wood
Written by William R. Laidlaw and George Froeschel from a play by William Wister Haines
First viewing/Netflix rental


James Carwood: What do you suppose is there, Brockie? Is there any one target in Germany worth 48 bombers?

Elmer Brockhurst: Worth it to whom?

This is a surprisingly modern look at what happens when military strategy and politics collide.

Brig. Gen. Casey Dennis (Clark Gable) is in command of a bomber squadron flying out of England.  While his commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Kane (Walter Pidgeon) has been absent, Dennis has taken advantage of some good weather to send his planes on unprotected bombing runs far into Germany.  Dennis is fighting against time to destroy factories building a German plane that will give the Axis air superiority.  The raids are successful but approximately a quarter of the planes are shot down over Germany on each run.

Kane’s main concern is that Congress appropriate funds for the program he commands. Some Congressmen are on a visit and he struggles to package the operation as palatably as possible.  One of the Congressmen (Edward Arnold) suggests that the human cost of these unprotected long range missions is too high.  Kane is also plagued by the presence of a military journalist (Charles Bickford) who is snooping around and asking inconvenient questions.

command6Dennis doesn’t like the losses any more than anyone else but is determined to continue on while the weather is good believing that this will save more lives down the line and end the war sooner.  He has a hard time controlling his temper around the Congressmen. Eventually, Kane is feels forced to relieve him of command.  His replacement (Brian Donlevy) is left to face the exact same dilemma.  With Van Johnson as a wise-cracking staff sergeant and John Hodiak as a pilot.

Annex - Gable, Clark (Command Decision)_04

This started off rather slow and talky but I was drawn in and thoroughly enjoying it by the end.  Clark Gable is excellent in a dead serious dramatic role and the rest of the all-male cast is very good.  I spent time around Congressional delegations in a former life and can attest that the dynamic rang very true.


6 thoughts on “Command Decision (1948)

    • Grim seems to suit Gable very well. Most of his comedies of that era aren’t available except for rent on Amazon. I figure there must be a reason for that.

  1. Lost me at
    (a small force engaging in an implied series of) “unprotected bombing runs far into Germany”.

    Apologies if this si a duplication, getting a string of errors when trying to post.

    • I don’t think I understand. The bombers did not have protection against being shot down by the Germans from fighter aircraft.

      • Yep, that’s a big sticking point, a small force of 48 unescorted would have been annihilated. The full US bomber arm despite outstanding bravery couldn’t sustain unescorted deep penetration raids at one point due to losses. It was the introduction of the long range escort fighter, the Mustang, that turned things around again.

        I like war movies to be realistic in the basics…..yep I’m often disappointed as that gets in the way of the intended plot!

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