Friday, July 29, 2011

Red Tails

George Lucas and Lucas Films will release in January 2012 a movie telling the story of the all black fighter unit called the Red Tails in WWII. Here is the trailer for the movie, after viewing it I will skip the movie.

Why will I skip this movie about World War II and aerial combat over Europe? Because they could not get details correct. Seconds 08 and 09 of the trailer prove this. The models themselves of Bf-109G-6/R6s as they swoop in are beautiful. Its the markings on the planes that are so wrong. First the tail band on the gray 109s, its a narrow yellow band edged in black. I have pillaged my reference library for any photos showing such. There aren't any. Eastern Front Bf-109s and FW-190s wore a narrow yellow tail band but no black edging, this was a mandated theatre marking. Mediterranean Bf-109s and FW-190s sported a similar sized white tail band, again no black edging. I can hear a question forming, what about Defense of the Reich bands? JG11 in late 1944-early 1945 sported a broad yellow tail band, still no black edging.

Then we get to second 11 of the trailer. This could be the late war camouflage pattern as ordered by the Luftwaffe. The plane is again a Bf-109G-6/R6. But the bright yellow nose was last seen about 1942 in the Luftwaffe. As for the center placed swastika on the tail? Last time that appeared on the Bf-109s was in 1940 and with the Bf-109Es of JG52 in France. By the time of the Battle of Britain, the swastika was painted on the fin and not across the rudder break. The skull emblem on the nose is unknown but the bar edged in white means the plane belongs to some JG's II Gruppe - this they seem to have gotten right. But I think they merely thought White 1 and chevrons looked good. The double chevrons would indicate a JG's commander and would not need the White 1 marking.

At second 19 I wonder how the co-pilot is keeping his oxygen mask on. The pilot has his mask properly fitted. And is it me or do the B-17s look a bit too tightly packed for proper defensive box formation?

Later when the Red Tails get Mustangs in this trailer, it is implied they went directly from what looks like olive drab P-40Ks to bare metal P-51Ds. This glosses over the 99th Fighter Squadron trading in their Warhawks for P-51B/C Mustangs. Would it have been that hard to rent and repaint Princess Elizabeth, an already bare metal P-51B that is still flying? It seems so.

So I will simply skip this movie.

Okay watching the clip yet again. And it gets worse. At second 18 as the olive drab B-17G is collapsing over onto its burning wing and the Me-109s are zooming, guess what. On the pilot side of the B-17G is a four ship of bare metal Mustangs. So much for him screaming about where his escort went, they are outside his window tucked in too tight.

And they are twisting the historical fact that the 99th never lost a bomber when they flew escort into an accusation that others would abandon the bombers. To refute this baseless slander, one must talk fighter escort history. Initially the practise was called close escort, the fighters stayed with the bombers and reacted to enemy fighters. This caused losses but it was the practice every air force started WWII with. Later in the 8th, when enough fighters were in theatre, a close escort and one or more fighter groups would fly further out to pounce the enemy fighters as they formed up. This tremendously reduced bomber loses.

At second 50/51 is the 99th straffing a POW train? Or one carrying civilians to a concentration camp? Why else would there be guards atop the cattle cars? Von Ryan's Express anyone?

At 2:00 minutes, back to seeing the same dark green and bright yellow Bf-109G-6/R6 with a huge scoreboard on the fuselage side. Strange do not have a picture of a single 109 with such a scoreboard. Luftwaffe aces like Rollwage of JG 52 and Marseille of JG 27 carried their scoreboard on the rudders of their 109s. Both flew in the Mediterranean theatre same as the 99th.

Then at 2:03 I get to the ME-262s Ed Rasimus is talking about. They are flying almost in trail, number 1 at point and the other three all to his right and behind. Only Kommando Novonty flew the 262s in a four ship formation. Galland's JV-44 reverted back to the pre-war three ship. And the markings are again totally wrong. Again that narrow yellow tail band edged in black, not the assigned colors of any 262 Defense of the Reich band. Swastika over the rudder break in bright yellow band. And same markings as the previously mentioned 109. Double chevrons means a JG commander, there would be no single bar for II Staffel. As for how they split up, well it seems Lucas Film never talked to any of the 262 fighter pilots. ME-262s would start their attack run slightly above and to either side of the bomber stream. They would attack in a graceful curving way, rippling off the R4M rockets, pulling away and repeating the attack with their 30mm cannons. No Allied fighter could catch a 262 in level flight. Which is why it became standard practice to bounce 262s when taking off or landing.

P.S. I long ago gave up commenting on fighter pilots in their planes with oxygen mask dangling down. Drama and seeing the star's face trumps the reality of carbon monoxide.

So give this movie a major pass. Don't even bother with Netflix on it.

Bf109 Aces of North Africa and Mediterranean by Jerry Scutts. Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 2
Jet&Prop Foto-archiv Band 4. October 1994. Printed in Germany.
Messerschmitt Bf-109 in Action Part 1, Aircraft #44 by Beaman and Campbell. Squadron Signal Publications.
Messerschmitt Bf-109 in Action Part 2, Aircraft #57 by Beaman and Campbell. Squadron Signal Publications.
Focke Wulk FW-190 in Action, Aircraft # 19 by Campbell. Squadron Signal Publications.
Curtiss P-40 in Action, Aircraft #26 by McDowell. Squadron Signal Publications.


Ed Rasimus said...

There is little excuse for inaccuracy since modern CGI can give you whatever you need.

Of course, I'm still waiting for a call from Hollywood seeking an option on film rights for "Fighter Pilot" We'd need some ME-109s, FW-190s, P-38s in various flavors, P-51B's and D's then F-4C and D, F-105D and a few MiG-17 and 21. Plus a four-ship of P-80s and a Gloster Meteor squadron. Seems like a block-buster film!

Anna said...

Exactly. It could have been such a great movie. But the inaccuracies are just jarring. And that damages the credibility of the whole movie.

Fighter Pilot would be awesome on a big screen, IMAX. Though it might have to be split into two parts to give it justice. Part 1 covers WWII and Part 2 Viet Nam.

Ed Rasimus said...

I just watched the trailer on Facebook. I nearly gagged from the first seconds when the apparently white pilot escorts apparently routinely abandon the fighters. It gets progressively worse with the stereotypical racist leadership, the NFL pre-game chant on the flightline and possibly the most inaccurate four-ship of Me-262s being chased and run-down by P-51s! Tripe!But politically correct tripe.

Anna said...

I totally missed the four ship of ME-262s. Perhaps I was too disgusted prior to that. Dare I watch it again?

nzgarry said...

Once again Anna, I'm impressed with your aircraft knowledge and eye for detail (I'm taking your word for it all!).
I for one do not like present day politics/attitudes draped in the garb of wars gone by and for that reason probably will not watch it either.
What of the American pilots who fought voluntarily in the Battle of Britain?. American pilots who fought for a cause when the US was still at peace. I guess such stuff doesnt interest todays audience, which is kinda sad.

Anna said...

Garry, well thanks for the kind words. Luftwaffe is not my strong research area. But I grew curious because of Hans-Jaochim Marseilles, the Star of Africa, who scored 151 kills with JG 27 before being killed. The mysteries surrounding the planes Marseilles flew still persist. It also exposed me to the mania Germans had for designating their planes. Marseilles flew at least two Bf-109F-4/Z/Trop. Which translated out to F model with DB-601E engine. -4 meaning the ependage was reinforced to not tear off like it did with the -2. Z mod meant it had GM-1 fitted, N2O injection for more power plus fatter VDM propeller and deeper oil cooler. Trop mod meant a sand filter was fitted over the supercharger intake and some sources say a rifle was installed. As I said,a mania for being correct. Enough to make the eyes cross. And still 60+ years later there are gaps in knowledge. But I know enough to look at that trailer to identify the planes as Bf-109G-6/R-6. The giveaway to being G-6 is the bulges over the wheel wells and the bulges over the machine gun breeches in front of the windscreen. R-6 indicates the plane was fitted with factory built, field installed underwing gondolas holding MG-151/20mm cannons. If the plane also had a belly tank then its a Bf-109G-6/R-6/R-3. And if it was a /Trop then it was fitted like the previous F/Trops but now the pilot got clips on left hand side of cockpit to externally mount a sun umbrella. *THUD* My eyes are going cross again. I shall stop.

Yes it would be nice to have another crack at recreating the Battle of Britain on the big screen. Waves of He-111s and Ju-88s being escorted by Bf-110s and Bf-109s like the yellow nosed Emils of Abbeville. Spitfires and Hurricanes from places like Tangmere and Debden rising to meet them over the Thames. And yes tell of the seven Americans who fought during the Battle. But also talk of the Canadians, Kiwis, Poles, French, Czechs, and others who formed the Few.

Legion said...

Parroting Nzgarry- I am SUPER impressed by your knowledge and eye for detail. Proud to be your Bud! Will adhere to your recommendation. You should get a second job as a military movie critic.

Anna said...

LOL! Thanks Legios. I could always use some extra money and perhaps free movie tickets. :)

tarfeathers said...

I think Tuskegee Airmen told this story pretty well, complete with those deathtrap P-39 Airacobras. What could Lucas add but politics and special effects anyway?

Anna said...

Tarfeathers, you have an excellent point. Plus History Channel's Dogfight episode that covered the 99th's combat.

Though I will quibble on the P-39s being death traps. That fault can be laid at the USAAC who decided the P-39 would not need its supercharger so Bell removed it. Thus dooming the P-39 to being an also ran since above 15,000ft anything could kill it. The plane did yeoman service as a ground attack plane in the Southwest Pacific and with the Soviet air force.

Anonymous said...

What was the deal with the SS-Totenkopfverbande shield on the nose of the "nasty Luftwaffe ace complete with disfiguring facial scar and Yankee schweinhund dialogue"? Did anyone catch that?

Anonymous said...

^heh...I meant to type "on the nose of his 109".