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Jim Gordon (John Wayne in his first war film) leads the Flying Tigers, a legendary unit not
sanctioned by the American government at the time. His men fly Curtiss P-40 fighters against
Japanese bombers and fighters in the skies over China. The pilots are a mixed bunch, motivated
by money (they receive a bounty for each plane shot down), patriotism or just the thrill of combat.
One day, old friend Woody Jason (John Carroll) enlists. An arrogant, hot-shot aviator, he starts
causing trouble immediately. When the Japanese raid the base, the enthusiastic new arrival goes
after them, taking a plane without permission, not realizing until too late that it has no
ammunition. As a result, he is shot down. He is unharmed, but the precious plane is a wreck.
As time goes on, he shows that he has little use for teamwork, alienating and endangering the
other pilots...particularly Blackie Bales, who is picked off while parachuting from his crippled
plane because Woody ditched him to chase another "Mitsy." In a subplot, Woody starts romancing
nurse Brooke Elliott (Anna Lee), who had been waiting for Jim to notice her. One night, they go
on a date. When he is late getting back for a patrol, Jim's right hand man, 'Hap' Smith (Paul Kelly),
secretly takes his place. Unfortunately, he had been grounded because his vision had deteriorated,
particularly at night. In the resulting dogfight, he is unable to judge distances accurately and
winds up dying in a collision with a Japanese raider. This proves to be the final straw; Jim fires
Woody, explaining that "It's out of my hands now. None of these men will ever fly with you again.
And they HAVE to fly." A day later, Jim receives word that a crucial bridge has to be destroyed.
The target is so heavily defended, the only way that has a chance of working is to sneak in
undetected with a single cargo plane and bomb it, but it would be a one-way trip. Jim volunteers,
but Woody invites himself along, much to Jim's irritation. They are able to bomb the bridge only
after a crucial supply train has crossed. The plane is hit and catches fire. Jim bails out,
expecting Woody to do the same. Instead, Woody flies the plane into the train, destroying it
at the cost of his own life.
John Wayne, John Carroll, Anna Lee, Paul Kelly
Director: David Miller
Producer: Edmund Grainger
Year Released - 1942
Length - 102 minutes
Music Composer: Victor Young
Movie Distributed by Republic Pictures
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