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Men of the Fighting Lady (1954)

Approved  |   |  Drama, War  |  16 December 1954 (Portugal)
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 403 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 1 critic

A famous writer visits an aircraft carrier during the Korean war to learn more about it and the way it's run. He also gets to find out more about the army aviators themselves, their internal and external conflicts and dangers of their job.



(story), (story) (as Commander Harry A. Burns USN) , 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
Lt. (jg) Howard Thayer
Comdr. Kent Dowling
James A. Michener
Ensign Kenneth Schechter
Lt. Comdr. Ted Dodson
Frank Lovejoy ...
Lt. Comdr. Paul Grayson
Ensign Neil Conovan
Lt. (jg) Andrew Szymanski
Lewis Martin ...
Comdr. Michael Coughlin
George Cooper ...
Cyril Roberts
Dick Simmons ...
Lt. Wayne Kimbrell


A famous writer visits an aircraft carrier during the Korean war to learn more about it and the way it's run. He also gets to find out more about the army aviators themselves, their internal and external conflicts and dangers of their job.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


TORN OUT OF A TORTURED SKY! (original print ad - all caps) See more »


Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

16 December 1954 (Portugal)  »

Also Known As:

Panther Squadron  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


After Van Johnson brings in a blind pilot and lands safely on the carrier, he mutters "I should have found a home in the Army". In Battleground (1949), he mutters "I found a home in the Army". See more »


When the aircraft take off on combat missions, under wing stores are often missing. See more »


Ensign Kenneth Schechter: Ever think about being married?
Lt. Howard Thayer: Not lately. They say it's better when you don't think about women, so I'm trying not to think.
See more »


Featured in Midway (1976) See more »


Symphony No. 8 in B Minor (The Unfinished)
Written by Franz Schubert
See more »

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User Reviews

Men of the Fighting Lady
12 March 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY is a very unglamorous, but very gritty Korean War aircraft carrier picture whose centerpiece--the episode of a jet fighter pilot blinded by gunfire and "talked" back to a safe landing--is a true account from a story by Harry A. Burns titled "The Case of the Blind Pilot." The secondary script source for the story line is author James Michener (TALES OF THE SOUTH SEAS, HAWAII, THE SOURCE) who is actually portrayed in the film by Louis Calhern.

The lives of jet fighter pilots aboard the Fighting Lady in the Sea of Japan and their treacherous missions to destroy key North Korean military installations serve as the exposition for this slice-of-life, often neglected chapter in American war history. The mood and atmosphere of the film contain an unmistakable Korean War grimness that clouds over the men from beginning to end as they cut through the harsh North Korean skies battling ceaseless anti-aircraft fire in mission after mission.

MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY is unromantic and raw. It's theme is the harsh, day-to-day experience of jet pilots who flew their missions under the gloom of being shot out of the air. For it is well worth remembering that unlike Viet Nam and subsequent Iraq wars, Korean War bombing missions exposed pilots to blistering anti-aircraft fire and attacking enemy aircraft resulting in numerous pilot casualties and downed planes. Not to be forgotten is that the Korean War was the first, full-blown "jet aircraft war" in history.

The opening of the film begins with a nostalgic flashback over "ham and eggs" recalled by Louie Calhern who recalls the episodes aboard the Fighting Lady and the lives of heroic pilots during the Korean War conflict. The lives of the men and their interaction with their commanders lead to the film's signal sequence in which Ensign Kenneth Schecter (Dewey Martin) is strafed by enemy fire in his cockpit while on a mission and radios back that he is blind. Lt Thayer (Van Johnson) calms him and ultimately talks him back to a perfect landing aboard the Fighting Lady. In another moving scene at Christmas, the entire squadron watches movie footage of a pilot's wife sending her love to her husband---who had just lost his life on a mission.

Frank Lovejoy and Walter Pigeon are perfect fits as salty naval officers bearing up under the harsh war conditions in the Sea of Japan at that time. Former MGM musical comedy star Van Johnson is excellent as Lt. Thayer guiding the sightless ensign back in safely to the carrier deck. A young Kennan Wynn portrays the anxiety of a flight deck signalman very effectively.

There may have been better Korean War films--BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI, PORK CHOP HILL, RETREAT, HELL, but many of those fine films are packaged within romantic portrayals of war. MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY has no romantic sub-plot, no love story, and, in short, no women. The film is superior in its depiction of the reality of a jet pilot's life walking the thin line between returning from a mission in one piece and facing annihilation. MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY also contains effective and very real stock footage of jet take-offs and landings as well as North Korean targets under actual cannon fire from American sorties.

MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY should be viewed by anyone interested in the true mood and atmosphere of the Korean War years when a jet pilot faced demise on every mission--and for the time in our nation's history when Starfighters and Scorpian jets ruled the skies over the Sea of Japan.

Trivia: MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY should not be confused with the 1944 release THE FIGHTING LADY starring Charles Boyer and Robert Taylor. That film follows the exploits of the USS Yorktown.

Dennis Caracciolo

9 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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