User Reviews (8)

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  • DILO-123 December 2004
    I have seen this movie on 16mm film, because I own a copy I have NEVER seen this title on TV, Cable or on VHS/DVD. Can somebody PLEASE tell me why? Even in Review books on movies the story, is wrong. Most movie books tell about aviators before World War Two and it is actually about an Oklahoma National guard unit called up for active at the start of the war. I have made several inquiries to Turner Classic movies and have received nothing back when I asked about this movie. I have also tried to Contact Republic Pictures Corporation but it seems they are out of business. This film is produced by Herbert Yates, the same producer who did The Sands of Iwo Jima. Please, I would like to save this film for future Generations to enjoy.
  • I agree with comments from DILO-1. DILO-1 should contact me by email so that we can arrange a copy of this film "Thunderbirds (1952) for the 45th Infantry Division museum. I saw this movie when it was originally released, and it motivated me to join the Oklahoma National Guard and the 45th Infantry Division which returned from the Korean War at that time. There are periodic reunions for veterans of this Division, and I am sure that all of the members would like to see the film. The 45th (brigade sized, now) is currently on active duty in Afganistan. It is a shame that the History channel could not be more proactive in obtaining historical films of this type. is a source for DVD.
  • Even though the "Code Talkers" were Navajo and Marines and in the South Pacific and this film was made in 1952 and even though the Navajo Code Talkers' secrecy was not declassified until 1968, someone knew about it and put a different spin on the facts. I was surprised when it was disclosed only a few years ago about the real code talkers. The Thunderbirds was a nickname for the 45th Infantry Division of Oklahoma. They fought in the European Theatre in World War II. As far as I remember (50 years ago) from the movie there were no Navajos from Oklahoma. Still a good movie for the old Saturday afternoon matinees where we had 5 cartoons, a newsreel and a double feature.
  • Col_Hessler12 September 2005
    One of my favorite moments from this film is early on when an Osage chief, who's talking to a man he just gave a trophy to, asks him why they changed patches to the Thunderbird, and the man shows the old patch, which was a swastika. The man tells the chief, "Hitler took it." The chief says, "Hitler? Oh, crazy man. You take it back son." I understand if you can find an original 45th Division Swastika patch, it's very valuable. I also wish we knew who the chief was. And, the Osages did use their language in real life to confound the Germans. Just so our friend who spoke of the Navajos knows. This is a great flick, and if it's ever on video, get it.
  • Warning: Spoilers

    This one is a Republic Pictures Production about the American Army's 45th Infantry Division during WW2.

    The cast is headlined by John Derek and John Drew Barrymore, with support from, Ward Bond, Mona Freeman, Slim Pickens, Wally Cassell, Barton MacLane, Norman Budd and Gene Evans.

    The film starts just before the start of WW2, and shows a group of friends from the same town going through National Guard training. The two leads, John Derek and John Drew Barrymore are in love with the same girl, Eileen Christy. The two are best friends and have been chasing Christy since elementary school.

    Pearl Harbor happens and their National Guard unit is formed up with others to create the 45th Division. They are put through more training and are soon off to Europe. They land at Oran in North Africa before taking part in the Allied landing in Sicily. After fighting their way up the boot of Italy, they again are loaded on ships and landed at Anzio.

    Once again they are pulled out of combat and this time landed on coast of Southern France. They then fight their way through France to the German border. The story has a side bit where the folks at home read the letters from the boys. It also tells the story of how various men from the town are killed in combat.

    The film is full of stock footage which is used to fill out the rather bare story. OK for a Republic production, but it could have used a bigger budget.

    The director was B-film veteran, John Auer. Auer's films include, HELL'S HALF ACRE, JOHNNY TROUBLE, THE ETERNAL SEA and THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS.
  • I have only seen this movie once, when I was about 14 years old, but I was thrilled that they made a movie about the 45th Division. Being from Oklahoma and especially now that both of my sons are members of the 45th, I would like to see it released on a DVD. I may sound a little bias but the 45th Division sometimes does not get the recognition it deserves today. The History channel always talks about the other infantry divisions when it talks about WW2 and Korea but you rarely hear it mention the 45th. One of the scene that really stood out for me was when the had the Indian Code Talkers at work and the puzzled look on the German soldiers faces when they could not understand this language. I am glad that all of the Native American Code Talkers are getting the recognition they deserve.
  • Thunderbirds is a tribute to the war service of the Oklahoma National Guard which was activated in 1940 before America's entry into World War II and the action they saw.

    The film which nicely blends in actual battle footage with the ensemble cast focuses on two members of the Guard who were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma John Derek and John Drew Barrymore. When they are activated and the guard mixed in with other troops the whole film starts to look like an updated version of The Fighting 69th.

    The top sergeant of the regiment is Ward Bond. He's carrying a deep dark secret from the first World War and no pun intended a bond with Barrymore that John Drew knows nothing of. It's the main plot line of the film.

    Some good and believable characters blended in with clichéd military types you find in most war films of the era.

    By the way, Thunderbird is the insignia of the Oklahoma National Guard. It's a decent war film from Republic Pictures.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Anyone watching this is likely to develop a severe case of déja vu. But that's okay because you really HAVE seen it all before in one iteration or another. The Thunderbirds are members of the 45th infantry division of the National Guard, mostly from Oklahoma. Their shoulder patch is a bright red square, balanced on one of its points, with a golden wingspread bird on it, a symbol of the Navaho Indians.

    It shouldn't take more than a few minutes to capture the caricatured characters and dope out their destinies. There is the handsome young lead, John Derek, who will survive. There is best friend (and rival for girl friend) John Drew Barrymore who surely must die to make up for a blotch on the family's escutcheon and to get out of the way of Derek's pursuit of the girl. (One thing had me puzzled: "the girl" was not Mona Freeman.) There's the elitist snob who must learn to get down in the ruck with the rest of them. Sammy Jacobs, whose Mamma gives him a mezzuzah and sends him a salami, may not be long for this world. This time, the New York wiseguy is from Bayonne, New Jersey. The tough sergeant -- Gene Evans, with a voice like a coffee grinder -- will survive unless he too must be gotten out of the way so Derek can take over command. The tiny, goggle-eyed, plump clerk is probably going to make it. If skinny, dumb Texan Slim Pickens -- he's the guy with no mandible -- makes it, that's okay but he may just turn out to be cannon fodder.

    Barton MacClane is the sadistic three striper. Ward Bond is the stern but fair top sergeant. I'd be surprised if he didn't make it. Assembled church goers sing "America the Beautiful" and, later, the boys at religious services sing "Battle Hymn of the Republic," even Sammy Jacobs tucked away in the back and wearing his tallit. When the training camp banter and grabass are over, the unit ships out.

    All of this is during the first twenty minutes or so. Then you're forced to stick with this dusted-off World War II story to see if your guesses turned out to be correct. The dialog keeps pace with the martial musical score. "It's quiet out there -- too quiet." "Waiting is tougher than doing." (Not in my experience.) "Training doesn't prepare you for the sight of your first dead man." "Anyone who tells you he's not scared, he's a liar." "We run short of everything -- but guts." "Atta boy! Hit 'em right in their swastikas!" The invasion of Sicily. They're in Palermo. No mention of General Patton. A Dear John letter arrives in the form of a record. It's from the girl back home, and she's chosen John Drew Barrymore over Derek.

    I was aghast. What the hell was John Derek going to do NOW? But then Derek is ordered to drive "a lieutenant" to the nearest hospital. The "shavetail" turns out to be lovely Mona Freeman and everything was back in place. They don't exchange more than two dozen words before they fall into each other's arms and start necking. The next time they meet they're calling each other "darling." It strains credulity. Of course it happens to me all the time but Derek doesn't have my pheromones.

    Next they're in Anzio, which turns out to be a spot of bother, and then Rome, with no mention of such personages as Mark Clark or Lucien Truscott. Not that it matters in this kind of story, but the leader of the US Army in Italy was now General Mark Clark, who always saw to it that the press referred to "MARK CLARK'S Fifth Army." After the breakout from Anzio, Clark allowed an entire German army to withdraw unmolested while he made a mad dash for Rome so he could be the first to conquer the Eternal City. His celebrity was short. A few days later the Allies landed at Normady.

    The 45th division was in the thick of things in Europe: Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, the southern coast of France ("the champagne campaign"), across the Rhine, liberating a concentration camp, and then being demobilized. They took a lot of casualties, including an uncle of mine. The movie shows no such heroism. It sticks to the rules. Virtually no combat scenes that aren't clips of newsreel footage. The commanding office at Republic Pictures was Herbert J. Yates, a notorious skinflint and cheat. This production reflects his values.