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Fighter Squadron (1948)

During World War II, an insubordinate fighter pilot finds the shoe on the other foot when he's promoted.



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Complete credited cast:
Capt. Stuart L. Hamilton
John Rodney ...
Col. William 'Bill' Brickley
Tom D'Andrea ...
M / Sgt. James F. Dolan
Brig. Gen. Mike McCready
James Holden ...
Lt. Tennessee Atkins
Capt. Duke Chappell
Brig. Gen. Mel Gilbert
Maj. Sanford
Lt. 'Shorty' Kirk
Bill McLean ...
Pvt. Wilbur (as William McLean)
Mickey McCardle ...
Captain (scenes deleted) (as Richard Taylor)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Guard (scenes deleted)


At an American air base in England, 1943, is conniving Sergeant Dolan, who manipulates everyone, and insubordinate ace fighter pilot Major Ed Hardin. When Ed is promoted to commander of his group, he must fight his former anti-authority stance as well as the enemy; tension grows as D-Day approaches. Generally lighthearted between moments of technicolor gore; lots of air combat footage, much of it genuine. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


If it had wings, they'd fly it! If it had skirts they'd fight for it! See more »


Action | War


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Release Date:

27 November 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Escuadrón de combate  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Filmed on location at Oscoda Army Air Field (Wurtsmith AFB), Michigan. See more »


Wrong markings on the P-47's. The story is set in England, and is of the 8th Air Force. All 8th AF planes had a three letter alphabetic code system. Two letters ahead of the insignia on the fuselage indicated the squadron of the plane, and a single letter to the rear indicated the plane within the squadron. In the film, there is a two-digit numerical code. This was done by the movie makers to match documentary outtakes from William Wyler's "Thunderbolt", a documentary about 12th air force P-47's. The 12 AF used a two-digit marking to indicate a particular plane. For the same reason, the color bands at the front of the cowlings are only about half as wide as they should be for 8th AF planes. See more »


Gotta Be This or That
Music by Sunny Skylar
Played when Lt. Kirk introduces himself to Lt. Col. Hardin
See more »

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User Reviews

well-paced action and a fitting storyline
16 March 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Of course 'Fighter Squadron' employed P-51D Mustangs to depict Luftwaffe Me.109G's. Big deal: how many films use the wrong gear to portray the right gear? (Duh...Hollywood = PRETEND!) No major sin committed, okay? Besides, there's at least one Hollywood film (whose title escapes me at the moment) in which differently-painted bubble-canopied P-51's portray USAAF Mustangs AND Luftwaffe Me.109's.

'Fighter Squadron' is well-paced and the storyline rings true with accounts written by the men of the USAAF who actually flew fighters in the ETO. Yes, the dialogue is a bit "rah-rah," but I challenge anyone who's known fighter pilots to contend that they're not a rah-rah, go-team-go, bunch of daredevils; moreover, the film was made in the context of the postwar flush of victory, in which period there were few who challenged the might or the right of the architects and builders of the Allied victories over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Man oh man, was the young Robert Stack ever so handsome as he was in 'Fighter Squadron'! Edmond O'Brien gives a bristling, aggressive, energetic performance as the squadron's CO. As the commanding general Henry Hull lends his stern dignity to the effort. Tom D'Andrea provides welcome comic relief as the enterprising Sergeant Dolan whose scheming employment of black cats wangles for his character plenty of off-base time in which to shirk his legitimate duties - and to arouse the ire of the black feline-owning English civilian population.

There is a touching plot detail in the handing-down of a killed-in-action pilot's coveted flying boots, which illustrates just one of the many ways in which sentimentality's were expressed by, if not directly revealed or mentioned among themselves, young macho fighter jocks.

Aeroplane nuts can't complain about the abundant color footage of masses of P-47D's of both razorback and bubble-canopy configuration. Despite those irksome P-51D Hollywood "Messerschmitts" there are correct portrayals of much other gear, such as the variety of RAF and USAAF goggles and flying helmets actually worn by USAAF ETO pilots, shearling-lined flight suits and boots, A-2 flight jackets, ground crew coveralls and maintenance gear, and more. Also heartwarming to realist aviation nuts is the war-worn, paint-chipped-and-faded, oil and exhaust streaked condition of the P-47's appearing in the film (which was shot at a USAF base in the Carolinas at which then-obsolescent Thunderbolts were still employed in 1948 to train pilots); none of those glossy, glammed-up-to-perfection movie aircraft in this hard-charging story, although the pristine paint on the "Me.109's" betrays the production company's hurried disguise of their P-51 under skinning.

Extraneous historical detail: one reviewer points out that the P-47N Thunderbolt enjoyed a range superior to that of the P-51 Mustang. True indeed, but the P-47N model came too late for the ETO and, actually, it was developed to provide fighter escort for the long over water missions flown by B-29 crews in the Pacific Theater - the Mustang's liquid-cooled Merlin engine rendered it the second choice for such long flights over the sea, whereas the P-47 Jug's much less finicky, rugged, dependable Pratt & Whitney radial engine recommended itself for pilot survival through such missions. The P&W radial often functioned remarkably well with one or two cylinders shot-off, while no Merlin engine, or any other liquid-cooled aero-engine, absent a cylinder would long provide propulsion sufficient for the sustenance of flight.

In a way, 'Fighter Squadron' was the thrilling 'Top Gun' of its time, with the chief - and significant - difference being that of the two films 'Fighter Squadron' portrays fighter operations and tactics in an actual war - and without, in either film's case, the contextual absurdity of a civilian woman fighter plane instructor.

Does anyone know the title of 'Fighter Squadron's' soundtrack's rousing march theme? The same march was used for several film soundtracks, from among which the only other title I can recall is 1941's 'Dive Bomber.' In sum, 'Fighter Squadron' gives plenty of bang for one's buck. You won't see it on anybody's all-time-greats list, but it's a sound story told tidily which profits from apt casting, superb pacing, and vivid action sequences.

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