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Command Decision (1948)

Passed | | Action, Drama, War | February 1949 (USA)
Army generals struggle with the decision to prioritize bombing the German factories producing new jet fighters over the extremely high casualties the mission will cost.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Technical Sergeant Immanuel T. Evans
Brigadier General Clifton I. Garnet
Elmer Brockhurst
Colonel Edward Rayton Martin
Captain George Washington Bellpepper Lee
Major George Rockton
Lieutenant Ansel Goldberg
Major Homer V. Prescott
Major Desmond Lansing
Colonel Earnest Haley
Major Belding Davis
Congressman Stone


General Dennis of the US Force in England in World War II finds that he must order his planes deeper and deeper into Germany to prevent the production of military jet planes that will turn the tide of battle to the Germans. He must fight congressmen, and his own chain of command to win the political battle before he can send his planes out. His problem is complicated by a very narrow window of good weather necessary to allow his effort to be successful. Adapted from a stage play, it attempts to look at the challenges of command in the political arena. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Heroes, cowards, fighters, braggarts, liars...and what goes on in their hearts! See more »


Action | Drama | War


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

February 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sublime decisión  »

Box Office


$3,700,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)


(archive footage)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Robert Taylor was originally going to star alongside Clark Gable, according to an April 1947 edition of "The Los Angeles Times". See more »


After the plane General Dennis tried to talk in to a landing crashes, the next scene is an inside shot with the generals discussing allowing staff photographers into a debrief. On the brick wall in the background, the shadow of a boom mic is clearly seen moving in and out of scene for the entire duration. See more »


[Standing next to a B-17 starting up]
Col. Edward Rayton Martin: Well... see you later.
[Col. Martin runs to get aboard the bomber]
Col. Edward Rayton Martin: Keep your temper with the big wheels!
Brig. Gen. K.C. 'Casey' Dennis: What?
Col. Edward Rayton Martin: I said; keep your temper with the big wheels! I don't want to get back and find you with a Legion of Merit and a ticket home!
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Featured in Clark Gable: Tall, Dark and Handsome (1996) See more »

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User Reviews

The political process of a military decision
3 April 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Command Decision was adapted from a Broadway play that ran for 409 performances the previous year. Tony Awards were won by Paul Kelly who played General K.C. Dennis and James Whitmore for Tech Sergeant Emanuel Evans. The play shows the process of making military decisions when you have to factor in the politicians who control the purse strings. It's a necessary evil in a society that values civilian control of the military.

Both during and after World War II there was a debate among the British and American air commanders over the value of daylight versus nighttime bombing attacks. The British did night raids over Germany, responding in kind to what the Luftwaffe had done to them. Fly over at high altitudes and just drop the bombs. It did make for fewer casualties among the RAF pilots of their Lancaster bombers.

The Americans opted for daylight raids at a lower altitude trying to hit certain strategic objectives. In Command Decision it involves three factories that intelligence has learned are manufacturing new jet aircraft. If the Nazis had ever developed the far advanced jets against the Allied propeller aircraft in any number, the course of the war over Europe might have changed. Just like the V-2 rockets were developed too late to help the Axis cause.

Command Decision has Clark Gable leading a distinguished cast as the general who has to make the decision about whether to bomb or not, to go into Germany's heartland without fighter escort. Unfortunately his purely military outlook is not shared by his immediate superior Walter Pidgeon who has to factor in the politicians in Congress who read the dispatches by correspondents like Charles Bickford here about the appalling losses in American life.

In many ways Pidgeon has the most difficult part in the film. He has to take in the voices of objection raised by the visiting Congressional delegation led by Edward Arnold. Pidgeon is a politician, but purely by necessity. We admire Gable's stand on principle, but the audience also respects Pidgeon and sympathizes with him.

On Broadway Command Decision takes place in the headquarters and to make it better for the screen, playwright William Wister Haines wrote an additional scene that Paul Kelly did not do on Broadway. Clark Gable on a radio microphone tries to talk down a bombardier who is piloting a plane where the pilot and co-pilot are wounded and killed. It's a harrowing scene and one of the best Clark Gable ever did. Gable must have drawn from his World War II experience, he was a tailgunner in our Army Air Corps and flew many a B-17 mission over Germany.

Rounding out a distinguished group of MGM contractees are Van Johnson, Brian Donlevy, Marshall Thompson, Cameron Mitchell, Warner Anderson, Ray Collins, John McIntire and John Hodiak. They all cast well as Army Air Force personnel. Johnson plays the part that James Whitmore originated on stage and provides what little humor there is in this film.

The main criticism of Command Decision has always been that it is too stagey. But I found it an absorbing account of the decision making process in a military command.

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