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DVD Review: Victory Films - 100th Bomb Group in World War II

By Floyd S. Werner Jr.

The latest DVD from Victory Films covers the Eighth Air Force's hard luck group, the 100th Bomb Group. This DVD is more like an individual camera record than a documentary. This takes you from the formation of the unit in 1942 until its deactivation on 21 December 1945.

The unit had issues since its conception, they failed their final certification process which caused considerable problems for the unit. Obviously the commander was relieved, but all the copilots were pulled out of the group and sent to other places. The Squadrons were split up to train other groups in the US.

The video picks up at the group's earliest stages in the US. They were simpler times and it is nice to see the un-propaganda view for a change. Filmed by the unit photo officer in full color you are treated to such things as the training bases, views from the Empire State Building, and the Queen Elizabeth. The unit was sent to Europe to replace losses of 1943 despite not being certified.

The base was not finished when they arrived so you are treated to the base being built. There is plenty of footage showing the unit training up. B-17 maintenance is the highlight of this section with some great video of the mechanics and armorers doing their job. The B-17F and G are shown flying, taxiing and flying formation. The beautiful countryside is seen from the air and on ground. The look at war time England in full color is unique and exciting. There is a neat view from the pilot's seat during landing. This part of the DVD is like a travel log of the group and its time in England. The colors of London and the surrounding areas are different and interesting.

You are treated to some interior shots of the B-17 and the strike photo equipment. The real treat is the low level passes by a P-47 which is piloted by none other than Gabby Gabreski. You don't get to see him but his razorback is seen performing mock attacks on a B-17. His aircraft comes in, lands and taxis past the camera operator. A Halifax and a Mustang are seen at the airfield.

A beautiful scene resplendent in full winter white belies the dangers of the battle damaged B-17s landing. There are some spectacular explosions from bombs and .50 cal rounds as some aircraft have crashed on takeoff. The fire fighting sequences lend to the spectacular until you see them pull the charred bodies from the wreckage. There is a great sequence with a crashed B-24 showing the extreme weathering these aircraft sported. There are lots of crashes and fire. The 100th BG had the third highest loss rate by the end of the war; however, initially they had substantially more losses than any other group. That is where they got the hard luck moniker.

A Spitfire does a low pass which is really nice. Air show nice. We are taken along on a Air Sea Rescue launch in the Channel and rescue a downed fighter pilot. The coloration of the launches is interesting, especially the large yellow ID numbers. The gun mount on the boat resembles an aircraft turret.

A picturesque sunrise starts a mission as bombs and guns are loaded. Natural Metal Finished Fortresses and Olive Drab ones are side by side on the flight line. The aircraft are seen flying over Europe and again you are treated to the heavily weathered finish. There are some unique markings and camouflage on the wings. The multi hued OD leads me to believe that most modelers don't weather their aircraft enough. The cameraman takes you on a tour of an occupied German city. Again the contrast between it and London is readily apparent. Interestingly, in this sequence back at the airfield you see a USN F6F Hellcat doing a flyby. Yes a US Navy Hellcat.

The Regensburg shuttle raid on 17 Aug 43 is seen in the next sequence. There are several heavily damaged aircraft seen on the raid. The landing in Algiers is unique. The travel log picks up in Africa with camel and donkey rides prior to the return trip.

The next sequence is combat film from Eighth Air Force fighter combat films, including Kidd Hofer and Duane Beeson of the 4th Fighter Group. You get to see Me-410, Bf-109, Bf-110 and FW-190s being torn up. Some of them are so close you are waiting for the impact.

A war bonds rally is the next segment. Jimmy Doolittle is on hand as are Glenn Miller and his orchestra. This segment was particularly interesting to me as I love Glenn Miller's music. Two or three songs are included.

A Weekly Digest documents the Holland food drop. Filmed in Kodacolor and black and white the different unit markings are seen. The one that I particularly liked is one with a red tail and wing stripes. The B-17s are seen flying over the countryside in Holland. It is beautiful to see such a majestic aircraft flying so low.

The next sequence is a feel good documentary about America the Beautiful. It has some gorgeous footage of the American countryside and our way of life back then. It is interesting and gives a glimpse of what life was like for the returning GIs, real Americana 1940s style.

The final sequence is a still photo collection of aircraft from the 100th Bomb Group.

This DVD is unique in that it shows a lot of what life was like in the Army Air Corps in WWII and what wartime England was like. There are certainly plenty of great shots of B-17s on the ground and in the air. To say that much of the film has never been seen before seems so clique but it really is just that, brand new footage. Not footage from documentaries, but real life 16mm film that has really aged well. As a modeler, if you don't come away with plenty of inspiration and diorama ideas then you haven't looked at this DVD. This DVD and the rest of the DVDs from Victory Films are exceptional films. You can't go wrong with any of them. Don't forget to tell your spouse that they make great Christmas gifts. Hint, hint.

Highly recommended

Thanks to Wade Meyers Studios for the review copy. You can obtain your copy of this and all the other great titles from Victory Films at http://wademeyersart.tripod.com/id73.html. Let him know you heard about it here.

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