I'm a former US Air Force F-4 Phantom Weapons Systems Officer (backseater).
You know this movie is crap when you start with a supposed fighter squadron commander who doesn't know the difference between a SQUAD (thirteen infantrymen) and a SQUADRON (48 fighter pilots).
To paraphrase General George S. Patton, George Lucas doesn't know anything more about real aerial warfare than he does about f --- ing! (And George C. Scott may have said "fornicating" in the movie PATTON, but the real Patton used the real F-word!)
Lucas was absolutely the worst person in the movie industry to do this movie. This movie is only the latest of many giant steps down the primrose path which Lucas started the world's movie-viewing public with the first STAR WARS movie in 1977; I distinctly remember the documentary on the making of that movie, in which Lucas patted himself on the back for patterning his battle scenes after what he claimed to be the most realistic dogfight scenes ever filmed, and at the same time in the documentary intercutting his scenes with those from A YANK IN THE RAF which were absolutely THE phoniest looking flying scenes ever filmed! And he hasn't bothered to learn jack about aerial warfare in the last 35 years; he's just conned most of the whole world into thinking his cartoonish creations are reality when they're the farthest thing from it.
The technical fallacies are far too numerous to list. Lucas doesn't know the first thing about physics or aerodynamics, let alone the complexities of basic fighter maneuvering required to put bullets into another airplane and to prevent another airplane from doing that to one's own. He just makes his CGI airplanes do anything he wants them to do to fit his fantasies and fiction. Lucas is welcome to create his own sci-fi universe where he makes the rules. But for an "historical" movie like this claims to be, Chuck Jones could have made cartoon Mustangs imitating the Road Runner and cartoon Messerschmitts imitating Wile E. Coyote and his Acme gadgets, and they wouldn't have been any more technically inaccurate.
But that's just about the technical fallacies and impossibilities. One of the biggest issues I have is that this movie was incapable of making the 332nd Fighter Group look good without taking cheap, lying shots at the other US Army Air Force fighter groups who fought in Europe in World War II. And it once again demonstrates George Lucas's total ignorance of aerial warfare in World War II, if not his blatant disregard for the truth.
Fighters assigned to escort bombers did not fly in and among the bomber formations, and they certainly didn't stay there when enemy fighters attacked. Escorting fighters flew above and to the sides of the bomber formations, weaving in zigzag patterns to maintain their airspeed while staying even with the much slower bombers. To "stay with the bombers" meant disengaging from the enemy fighters and returning to the flanks of the bomber formation AFTER successfully driving off the enemy if not shooting them down within sight of the bomber formations, rather than pursuing the enemy back to their home bases. It was somewhat of an issue in 1943 when the P-51 Mustang had not yet been deployed to the front lines. The older shorter-ranged P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt fighters did not have the capability to stay with the bombers all the way to targets deep in Germany, and the bombers suffered horrendous losses to German fighters past the range limits of the P-38s and P-47s. As more 8th Air Force fighter groups replaced their P-47s and P-38s with P-51s, tasks were rotated among the fighter groups between bomber escort and fighter sweep, the latter meaning that the fighters flew out ahead of the bomber route to intercept the German interceptors before they got within sight of the bombers, and/or destroy them on the ground on their own airfields.
Total abandonment of the bombers was NEVER condoned. The 8th Air Force was primarily a bomber force, and by the Fall of 1943 the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator heavy bombers were endangered species. Jimmy Doolittle, the commanding general of the 8th, was no dummy; his doctrine of employing fighters in both bomber escort and fighter sweeps reduced the bomber losses to 20-25% of what they had been before the arrival of the P-51. The Italian-based 15th Air Force quickly followed suit with that doctrine. The promise in RED TAILS fictionally given by Colonel Bullard (actually a thinly disguised version of the real-life Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.) to reduce bomber losses by 70-80% was in real life fulfilled by all American fighter pilots in the European Theater. They not only reduced the bomber losses to a fourth of what they had been, but effectively eliminated the German Luftwaffe over their own home turf wherever they found them, and not just near the bomber formations.
RED TAILS insinuates throughout the length of the movie that the 332nd was the only fighter group that stayed with the bombers and that the other fighter groups violated operational orders and standing doctrine by abandoning the bombers in pursuit of German fighters for their own personal glory.
The Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd had a more than honorable combat record and a story to be proud of, a story which could be told without trying to make other US Army Air Force fighter units look bad by telling falsehoods about them. The Tuskegee Airmen deserve better than that.
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