Major Daniel Kirby takes command of a squadron of Marine fliers just before they are about to go into combat. While the men are well meaning, he finds them undisciplined and prone to always finding excuses to do what is easy rather than what is necessary. The root of the problem is the second in command, Capt. Carl 'Griff' Griffin. Griff is the best flier in the group but Kirby finds him a poor commander who is not prepared to the difficult decision that all commanders have to make - to put men in harm's way knowing that they may be killed.
From Guadalcanal to Okinawa...the Marine air-devils blazed a trail of glory...while the women they left behind fought battles of their own! (1956 reissue poster)
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Did You Know?
's character in this movie, Major Daniel Xavier Kirby, was based on Captain John Lucian Smith, USMC Ace who was Commanding Officer in the Marine Fighting Squadron 223 at Guadalcanal in 1942 during World War II. Smith was a Medal of Honor recipient in 1943 and a leader of the "Cactus" Air Force. Smith, a wildcat fighter pilot, shot down nineteen Japanese airplanes over Guadalcanal in 1942. Smith's achievements and commendations were well known to the public prior to this film being made. Smith was eventually promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and likewise, Wayne's Kirby character is also promoted to the same rank in this movie. Moreover, there is also a physical likeness and resemblance between Wayne and Smith. See more
Wires used to pull the canopy away are visible when Cowboy bails out over point Zebra. See more
Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby
Come on Wildcats, make us proud today!
Referenced in Charade