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DVD Review: Victory Films-The 494th Bomb Group

By Floyd S. Werner Jr.

B-24s are often overlooked in the study of WWII history. Besides being the most produced airplane in the US during WWII this heavy bomber did yeoman's work and never received the accolades of the B-17 in Europe. The B-24 flew faster and farther than the B-17. Not as easy to fly as the big winged B-17, the Douglas winged B-24 flew like a truck and was heavy on the controls. Maybe it was this trait or the fact that it couldn't take the punishment the B-17 could but whatever the reason the B-24 is often overlooked.

A new feature for this DVD is a start menu so that you can index a certain portion of the video. Hopefully this will be on all future releases from Victory Films. The title screen has a beautiful picture of a B-24 "The Senator" in full color with the titles along the bottom. A very nice and very professional touch.

The DVD starts out with a documentary "Action at Anguar" which follows the exploits of the 81st Infantry Division in taking Anguar. Filmed in black and white during July 1944, it shows the troops on the ships prior to the invasion. I found it interesting that the European American troops were entertained by African American sailors. I don't know why this struck me as odd, but it did. There were African American boxing matches and swing bands complete with dancers. It just seemed strange to see it in a documentary, especially considering the political climate at the time.

The pollywog, or shellback, ceremony is funny to say the least. Also interesting was the practice on Quadalcanal. Finally they are ready and it is off to Anguar. You are treated to Hellcats and Helldivers taking off from the carrier to cover the invasion. The real close in naval bombardment is interesting. The LVTs are seen assaulting the beaches. There is a funny segment on a soldier using the latrine. This is accompanied by the commenter saying "no place to get caught with your pants down." OK so I found it funny. Sherman tanks with soldiers hitching a ride. An L-4 Grasshopper is the first aircraft to take off from the strip. Lots of wounded soldiers are followed by the slogan "Buy more war bonds."

After the ground battle comes the airfield building. The Seabees do their thing and we are treated to an aerial view of the building process, followed by the first B-24s. Highlighted in full color for those of you who love Japanese aircraft there are a bunch of Zeros, a Dinah or Nick being inspected by GIs. A C-47 lands and brings in the ground eschelon. Finally the B-24s land. The B-24s are complete with nose art of scantily clad women. The gorgeous NMF B-24s are highlighted and look every bit of brand new.

The next sequence is filmed in black and white with takeoffs and the huge nose art. You follow the complete bombing mission with flak and clouds. Interestingly the flak is different than the flak in Europe.

The next sequence is a color bombing mission. The open air briefing is interesting and the difference between uniforms is something to note. The film crew drives down the flightline to highlight the nose art. Another thing that I noticed was the complete lack of anti-glare panels on the engines. There are lots of diorama possiblilities with the ground crew. There are some beautiful formation flying and some gorgeous clouds. One B-24 that caught my eye is a shark mouthed Liberator.

There is another mission in color with some great formations with "Crash Kids" Nose art.

The black and white film shows the runway with no overrun. The overrun is the Pacific Ocean. Don't misjudge the approach or you may be swimming with the sharks.

A weekly newsreel shows a mission with the bombing results. It is interesting to here what was presented to the theater goers of yesteryear.

The next mission has some interesting details on the wings, maybe antennas or vents but I've never noticed this detail before. There are some really close formation shots with nose art. Decal manufacturers should find lots of markings to keep them busy. The diorama possibilities show the crews attaching bomb shackles to the bombs under the bomber. There is a spectacular B-24 breakup in flight that is attributed to flak but in fact looks like a misplaced aircraft that is actually bombed out of the sky by the airplane above it. Either way it is a spectacular inflight breakup.

A color mission to Okinawa features B-24s and B-29s everywhere. The 494th is the first B-24 group to hit the Japanese homeland. The "Senator" nose art is featured in some really close formation shots.

The next sequence features "Final Objective" nude nose art. Also included on the airfield are Avengers, P-38s, C-46, and B-29s. Just some nose art that is highlighted are "Bugs Bloody", "Liquidator", and "The Big Time Operator". Also shown are Japanese fighters attacking the bombers in full color.

There is another weekly newsreel, but this is followed up with a nose art section with no less than 20 B-24s being used as a canvas for the unit painters. These are enough to motivate any modeler.

The quality of this film and the others in the Victory Films library are well worth the money. The historical significance cannot be overstated.

I highly recommended this and all of the DVDs from Victory Films. I have not seen a bad one yet.

You can obtain your copy of this and the other great films by going to http://wademeyersart.tripod.com/id73.html . Tell him you heard about it here.

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