1955 Strategic Air Command – Movie Clips

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1955 Strategic Air Command Official Trailer 1 Paramount Pictures

Saga of the US Air Force special bomber unit during the Cold War era. A professional baseball player is recalled to military service because of the expert flying skills he acquired during World War II. Although the athlete and his wife are both reluctant to give up civilian life, both come to realise the importance of the defence mission. The film features spectacular aerial footage of big bombers on manoeuvres.

The model aircraft seen on Gen. Hawkes’ desk in the final scene might appear to be an eight-engined variant of the six-engine B-47 featured in the film, but is actually a prototype B-52 (either XB-52 or YB-52), with a canopy cockpit design similar to the B-47; the design was changed in the production version.

Strategic Air Command (1955) | (2/3) | Baby

James Stewart joined the Army Air Corps during World War II, and flew combat missions in Europe. At war’s end, he transferred to the Reserve as a colonel. He remained an active pilot in the Air Force Reserve, and was trained on the B-36 and B-47 bombers which he flew in this film. He flew one combat mission over Vietnam in a B-52. He retired as Brigadier General James Maitland Stewart, USAFR in 1968. In 1985 he was promoted on the retired list to Major General, making him the highest ranking member of the military of anyone ever in the acting profession.

Dutch tells Sally to book a room at the Blackstone Hotel. Built in 1929 and 282-feet-tall, the art deco structure was and continues to be the tallest hotel in Fort Worth. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, over the decades it hosted many presidents and international celebrities. It sat vacant after 1982 and was renovated and reopened in 1999 and is still operational as of 2021. During the filming of the Carswell scenes, the stars and crew stayed at the Blackstone, just as Sally does in the film.

Strategic Air Command (1955) | (1/3) | Crash

The B-36 and B-47 bomber aircraft showcased in the film were such powerful deterrents against Soviet aggression in the 1950s that neither plane ever had to be used in combat. The B-36 was eventually retired due to persistent problems with its engineering and its fuel distribution to the outer wing, exactly as shown in the movie. The B-47 was being replaced as soon as the last wing was put into service. Both bombers were replaced with the B-52 Stratofortress. It has remained in service for over 50 years and the grandchildren of the original pilots are now piloting the same aircraft which have been meticulously cared for and upgraded over the decades.

Strategic Air Command (1955) | (3/3) | Decision

The character of Gen. Ennis C. Hawkes was based on Gen. Curtis LeMay, the real-life commander of the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command from 1949-57. General LeMay was also the General responsible for the firebombings over Japan during WWII and considered to be a quasi war criminal from the Axis point of view. In the early ’60’s. General LeMay ordered the first official batch of M16’s for his base security forces to protect SAC without authorization. In the next decade, most of the other services would adopt the M16 as it’s service rifle.

Dutch’s first posting was to Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, which was one of a number of domestic SAC bases. The B-36 Peacemaker bomber was manufactured by Convair, which was also based in Fort Worth. One of the planes that would replace the B-36 was the three-man B-58 Hustler supersonic bomber, which was also manufactured by Convair and which also flew out of Carswell in Fort Worth. When the B-58 was introduced to the public James Stewart (who, like Dutch, was both a former combat pilot and prominent celebrity, signed up for the Air Fore reserve) made a promotional film on the new supersonic bomber. In terms of general configuration, crew size, and original mission, the most direct replacement for the B-36 was the B-52 Stratofortress, which overlapped the operational status of the B-36 by seven years and which is still part of the U.S. arsenal today.

Synopsis – The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

  • Thinking that his fighting days are over, Robert “Dutch” Holland (James Stewart) had become a successful third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, only to be recalled into the newly-formed Strategic Air Command. Set in 1955, when the Cold War is rapidly heating up, SAC has been formed to provide the ultimate deterrent to World War III. By building up a powerful force of nuclear-armed bombers and keeping them on a war-ready status at all times, SAC’s leader, Gen. Hawkes (Frank Lovejoy) hopes to keep the “enemy” from starting another devastating conflict. Unfortunately, he is forced to recall reserve pilots and crew from their private lives in order to fill his needs.

    Holland, promoted to Lt. Colonel, grudgingly accepts the assignment, along with some other equally unhappy airmen, many of whom are old acquaintances from bomber missions flown over Tokyo in 1945. Holland’s wife Sally (June Allyson) is less than pleased with the turn their life has taken, and isn’t happy about her husband being sent out on dangerous missions when there isn’t even a war going on. Also, she soon discovers that she’s pregnant, and though she tries to support her husband’s efforts to do his job, Holland is soon torn between his sense of duty to his men and country, and his responsibilities to his wife and family.

    Holland flies missions in the massive B-36 “Peacemaker” bomber, a plane that can take off from its base in Texas and fly non-stop to Alaska and back while carrying a crew of a dozen men and more destructive power than a thousand WW-2 bombers. Over the next few months, Holland helps form SAC into a tightly run, well oiled machine, but it means long stretches away from Sally; she’s come to dread the sound of the phone ringing, fearing it will be terrible news about Dutch.

    Holland is flying a cold-weather test mission over Greenland at -40 degrees when his plane’s fuel tank seals fail, and the fuel sloshing around in the left wing starts a fire. Nothing they can do will extinguish it, and Holland orders the crew to bail out. Realizing he’s too low to bail out himself, he rides the big plane down to a belly landing on the snow, and spends days trapped in the plane’s wreck before rescue arrives. Meanwhile, Sally has given birth, and is overjoyed to hear that her husband is alive with only a twisted shoulder for an injury.

    Returning to duty, Holland is shown the newest addition to SAC’s inventory: the futuristic B-47 Stratojet, a sleek, swept-wing jet plane that looks like nothing Dutch has ever seen before. Gen. Hawkes wants Col. Holland to head up the new Stratojet bomber force, but Sally has different plans. Wrangling an opportunity from Dutch’s old boss with the Cardinals that she knows he will take, he can finally leave the Air Force behind. Joyfully presenting this to Dutch that night, she is dismayed to see that he has been thinking about his duty to SAC, and has decided to stay. He tries to explain his reasons, his belief that he’s doing something far more important than he’s ever done, his desire to serve his country and protect his family by staving off war, but Sally is heartbroken, and Dutch must leave on yet another mission.

    Still bothered by his shoulder injury, Holland leads a massive deployment of the entire wing to Japan, a tremendous undertaking designed leave no doubt in an enemy’s mind about what SAC can accomplish. It will also stretch SAC to its limits, and push everyone to the breaking point. Sally tries to speak to her husband one last time before he takes off, but she’s too late. Flying non-stop to their base in Japan, Dutch keeps track of all his planes and people, and manages to get everyone there safely, but when it’s his turn to land the field is socked in with fog, and Dutch can barely move his right arm. With the help of his co-pilot, he manages a hair-raising blind landing, and collapses from exhaustion.

    Grounded by his shoulder, Gen. Hawkes is finally forced to release Holland from the Air Force. But before he leaves, he tells Dutch just how much good he has done for SAC. The example he set for his men, staying in even when he had every reason to leave, has done more good for the force than he can imagine. Sally is overjoyed that she’s got her husband back at last, and Holland leaves, knowing he has done his duty.

The Convair B-36 “Peacemaker”[N 1] is a strategic bomber built by Convair and operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1949 to 1959. The B-36 is the largest mass-produced piston-engined aircraft ever built. It had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built, at 230 ft (70.1 m). The B-36 was the first bomber capable of delivering any of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal from inside its four bomb bays without aircraft modifications. With a range of 10,000 mi (16,000 km) and a maximum payload of 87,200 lb (39,600 kg), the B-36 was capable of intercontinental flight without refuelling.

Entering service in 1948, the B-36 was the primary nuclear weapons delivery vehicle of Strategic Air Command (SAC) until it was replaced by the jet-powered Boeing B-52 Stratofortress beginning in 1955. All but four aircraft have been scrapped.


A B-36 airframe undergoing structural stability tests. Note for scale the three men in the balcony at the extreme right of the photograph.

The B-36 took shape as an aircraft of immense proportions. It was two-thirds longer than the previous “superbomber”, the B-29. The wingspan and tail height of the B-36 exceeded those of the 1960s Soviet Union’s Antonov An-22 Antheus military transport, the largest ever propeller-driven aircraft put into production.[2] Only with the advent of the Boeing 747 and the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, both designed two decades later, did American aircraft capable of lifting a heavier payload become commonplace.

The wings of the B-36 were large even when compared with present-day aircraft, exceeding, for example, those of the C-5 Galaxy, and enabled the B-36 to carry enough fuel to fly the intended long missions without refueling. The maximum thickness of the wing, measured perpendicular to the chord, was 7.5 feet (2.3 m), containing a crawlspace that allowed access to the engines.[18] The wing area permitted cruising altitudes well above the operating ceiling of any 1940s-era operational piston and jet-turbine fighters. Most versions of the B-36 could cruise at over 40,000 feet (12,000 m).[19] B-36 mission logs commonly recorded mock attacks against U.S. cities while flying at 49,000 feet (15,000 m).[citation needed] In 1954, the turrets and other nonessential equipment were removed (not entirely unlike the earlier Silverplate program for the atomic bomb-carrying “specialist” B-29s) that resulted in a “featherweight” configuration believed to have resulted in a top speed of 423 miles per hour (681 km/h),[20] and cruise at 50,000 feet (15,000 m) and dash at over 55,000 feet (17,000 m), perhaps even higher.[21]

The large wing area and the option of starting the four jet engines supplementing the piston engines in later versions gave the B-36 a wide margin between stall speed (VS) and maximum speed (Vmax) at these altitudes. This made the B-36 more maneuverable at high altitude than the USAF jet interceptors of the day, which either could not fly above 40,000 ft (12,000 m), or if they did, were likely to stall out when trying to maneuver or fire their guns.[22] However, the U.S. Navy argued that their McDonnell F2H Banshee fighter could intercept the B-36, thanks to its ability to operate at more than 50,000 feet (15,000 m).[23] The USAF declined the invitation from the U.S. Navy for a fly-off between the Banshee and the B-36. Later, the new Secretary of Defense, Louis A. Johnson, who considered the U.S. Navy and naval aviation essentially obsolete in favor of the USAF and SAC, forbade putting the Navy’s claim to the test.[24]

The propulsion system of the B-36 was unique, with six 28-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-4360 ‘Wasp Major’ radial engines mounted in an unusual pusher configuration, rather than the conventional four-engine, tractor propeller layout of other heavy bombers. The prototype R-4360s delivered a total of 18,000 hp (13,000 kW). While early B-36s required long takeoff runs, this situation was improved with later versions, delivering a significantly increased power output of 22,800 hp (17,000 kW) total.[25] Each engine drove a three-bladed propeller, 19 feet (5.8 m) in diameter, mounted in the pusher configuration, thought to be the second-largest diameter propeller design ever used to power a piston-engined aircraft (after that of the Linke-Hofmann R.II). This unusual configuration prevented propeller turbulence from interfering with airflow over the wing, but could also lead to engine overheating due to insufficient airflow around the engines, resulting in inflight engine fires.

The large, slow-turning propellers interacted with the high-pressure airflow behind the wings to produce an easily recognizable very-low-frequency pulse at ground level that betrayed approaching flights.

Addition of jet propulsion

Beginning with the B-36D, Convair added a pair of General Electric J47-19 jet engines suspended near the end of each wing; these were also retrofitted to all extant B-36Bs. Consequently, the B-36 was configured to have 10 engines, six radial propeller engines and four jet engines, leading to the B-36 slogan of “six turnin’ and four burnin’ ”. The B-36 had more engines than any other mass-produced aircraft. The jet pods greatly improved takeoff performance and dash speed over the target. In normal cruising flight, the jet engines were shut down to conserve fuel. When the jet engines were shut down, louvers closed off the front of the pods to reduce drag and to prevent ingestion of sand and dirt. The jet engine louvers were opened and closed by the flight crew in the cockpit, whether the B-36 was on the ground or in the air.[26] The two pods with four turbojets and the six piston engines combined gave the B-36 a total of 40,000 hp (30,000 kW) for short periods of time.[27]

B 36 takeoff and landing Re edit in 4 K!

Some neat clips of the awesome Convair B 36 taking off and landing. If you have a big screen 4 K or 8K tv this looks awesome. Enjoy!

The B-47 cockpit used in the film is now on display at the March Field Air Museum in Riverside, CA.

In the end, the B-36 turned out to be a place holder for the B-52 Stratofortress. Convair attempted to stave off Boeing’s intercontinental jet bomber with the YB-60, which premiered as the YB-36G, with eight jets, a five-man crew, completely redesigned swept wings, a speed of 508 mph, and a 2,920-mile combat radius–in short, a knock-off that was inferior in every respect to its competitor. Boeing’s bombers had the advantage of having been designed for jet power from the start. The Air Force didn’t even bother to supply engines for the second YB-60 prototype.

Though obsolescent, the B-36 still had some momentum. Before descending into retirement, it made its first overseas deployment with a USAF unit in 1955, to Britain and Guam. In the same year, it starred in a Hollywood epic, Strategic Air Command–though in Jimmy Stewart’s final scene with Frank Lovejoy, who played the LeMay-like general, a model of an early B-52 can be seen on the general’s desk. The B-36 remained in the inventory for four more years, while the new Stratofortress was being tweaked to its full potential.

The B-36 was nowhere near as durable as the B-52 would prove to be, but it did the work asked of it. And eventually, the inter-service rivalry that led to the Congressional eruption over the big bomber’s strategic mission died down, with the Navy’s missile-submarine fleet garnering a permanent place in the strategic “triad” along with bombers and land-based missiles. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the Peacemaker is that it lived up to its name. The B-36 never went to war, never dropped a bomb in anger, nor (so far as we know) even fired its cannon at an enemy airplane. Created at a time when the atomic bomb redefined strategic air power and the turbojet redefined performance, its career spanned the crossroads that divided two eras.

WE&P by: EZorrilla.

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