Action-packed depiction of a lesser-known aspect of World War Two. Italy, 1944. A segregated squadron of African American airmen are called into duty to face their German foes.
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Germans. Let's get 'em!
Where are the damn fighters going?
They've gone chasing scalps, leaving us unprotected again.
Damn those glory-grabbing bastards!
Bandits! Hundreds of them! Six o'clock!
Is there anything left of our escort?
Damn it! Why don't they worry about us?
I can't believe this! It never fails.
Oh, no. Stay with me.
FRANTIC RADIO CHATTER
This is Bouncing Betty. Engine three is out.
We're falling back. Two, you take lead position.
Need the extinguisher.
Mayday! Mayday! Prepare to bail out.
I repeat, prepare to bail...
Red One to Red Two, come in.
'Are you awake over there, Lightning?'
Yeah, yeah, sorry. Boy, I need a nap!
Well, look alive. Wouldn't want you to miss this war.
War is hell. What we're doing is just boring as hell.
Whoever she was, I hope she was worth losing sleep over.
Oh, trust me, she was worth it!
'Junior. Junior, you OK?'
Fine as wine, Red One. The sky is blue and my guns are hot.
'Joker, you all right?'
Nope. I feel like I'm flying my grandfather's Buick.
Coolant indicator's all over the map.
And to think I was as happy as a church lady when I got this plane.
All right, Red Four, you're done. Take it on home.
Come on now, Captain, this gauge over here is a piece of crap.
Captain, let me give it a looky before you send him back.
He's not trailing any oil or water.
Seems to me like he's just got a bad indicator.
Come on, Easy. Let me fly, sir, please?
You know it ain't gonna be no fun without me.
All right. OK. You stay on, Red Four.
You stay on, but you keep an eye on it, all right?
Thank you, sweetheart. Just my luck I get stuck with the flying wreck.
Another P-40 from Uncle Sam's junkyard.
It looks like we got a truck up there.
It's got German markings.
-Junior, it's your turn.
Prepare to feel the wrath of the Ray Gun.
I'm on your wing, Junior!
You see that?
Congratulations, kid. You killed yourself a truck.
Woohoo! We can go back victorious(!)
Everybody, form up. We're going home.
Easy, I see something. It's a train! 11 o'clock.
I don't think it's German. I don't see any guns.
Looks like they're moving livestock to me.
No. It's military.
It could just be cows.
You don't want to shoot up no cows if you don't have to.
Unless y'all planning on a barbecue.
Nobody sees any guns?
I'm telling you, Easy, that's a munitions train.
And I bet it's armed to the teeth.
You grown-ups better think fast. It's headed for that tunnel.
All right. Only one way to find out. Let's go get it.
Wait. Easy, we've got to take it head-on,
low, so their guns can't hit us.
It's my decision, Lightning. Stay in formation.
Looks like these cows are armed.
Stay in front of it!
Die, you Nazi dogs!
Dang! Those cows just shot up my wing!
No sweat. No sweat.
If that train makes it into the tunnel, they'll stop in there.
'Where the hell are you, Lightning?'
Taking the train from the front, like you should have done.
THEY SPEAK GERMAN
Come on. Come on. Come on.
Nothing like a good old Georgia ass-whupping.
Just trying to keep you boys inspired.
'How's this headline for inspiration?'
"Negro Pilot Dies Because He's Too Stupid To Follow Orders."
Your plane looks like it's been through a shredder.
How are you going to explain THAT to Coffee?
By explaining to him that I'm the one who blew up the train.
You boys go on ahead. I've spotted something.
Lightning destroyed another one.
Look at that mess. Look at that mess.
I guess we'll be working all night again.
RADIO: 'It's been a long time since you've seen your sweetheart.
'Too bad she's dancing with someone new.
'This is Axis Mary coming to you from Berlin with your favourite music.'
# Never thought that you would be
# Standing here so close to me
# There's so much I feel that I should say
# But words can wait
# Until some other day. #
How about one time you bring my plane home without wrecking it?
Good morning, Mr Coffee.
You keep tearing up my planes like this,
you're gonna be wearing your balls for a necktie.
See, I can't let you do that, cos I just saw a goddess
who's gonna bear my beautiful children.
You're a clown, Lightning. You need to grow up. We can't afford to
have any more planes taken off the line with your stupid...
What is this? What did you do?
Oh, man! Where did that come from?
-What happened was...
Come see what this clown did to the plane.
I can see what you're thinking.
What the hell is this? Did somebody throw a train at you?
Coffee, I can see you're upset.
Maybe we should talk about this another time.
Oh, we got a new recruit here!
Hey there. You lost, son?
I was looking for Jimmy Wayans.
Uh, Jimmy got shot down must've been, what, two weeks ago?
I believe so.
Well, is Uly Douglas here?
Furball's dead, son. Crashed on takeoff.
You're just a bad-luck Chuck, aren't you?
Everybody you know ends up on the wrong side of the dirt.
Don't pay him no mind, boy. My name's Smokey.
This here's Neon, this is Joker.
Flight Officer Maurice Wilson, sir!
You can leave all that saluting, son. You're home now.
Seeing as how everybody you know dead,
-you might as well bunk with us.
-Wait. Wait. Wait.
Just don't bad luck us before you get up in this Jeep now.
-I'm trying to live.
-Come on, Maurice.
-Come on, boy.
-Come on, boy, get in there!
Come on, Maurice.
-Wait, you've got to back up.
How'd it go up there, Ray?
I'm telling you, Deacon.
Lightning almost got himself killed AGAIN today.
He's one crazy pilot.
I'm going to pray for him if we ever get to see any real combat.
Well, hey, I see you here after every mission.
I'm sure your prayers are helping.
we thank you for bringing Red Squadron back home to us.
WHOOPING AND CHEERING
Lightning's usual elegant work.
Although I understand your plane
didn't fare any better than the train.
That old Lightning don't never have his brakes on.
Does it really matter, sir?
- Lights up. - Here we go.
What was your question?
What we do, how well we do it, does it matter?
Strafing runs and coastal patrols.
They got us out here using planes to mop floors, fellas.
I don't normally go in for loose talk,
but we won't even be doing that for long.
Ain't that why Colonel Bullard went stateside?
The Colonel's business stateside is above your grade.
All due respect, sir,
but are they back there deciding if they should shut us down?
- Just a rumour, Winky. - You know this how?
Pass it up.
Read it, Easy. Out loud.
Go ahead, son.
EASY CLEARS THROAT
"The use of Negroes in the Army Air Corps may yet be halted.
"A report has been forwarded calling the performance by Negro pilots
MURMURS OF DISSENT
"A plan to assign the Negroes to routine convoy cover may be
"all that remains for those who seem to have neither the intelligence
"nor the proper reflexes for such a complicated task
"as fighter pursuit. The great Tuskegee..."
"The great Tuskegee experiment
"to allow the Negro type to fly airplanes has failed."
And you all thought what?
You'd sign up,
you get shiny boots, a uniform,
and that'd be the end of 100 years of bigotry?
You're Coloured men in a White man's army.
It's a miracle you're flying fighters in Italy
and not mopping latrines in Milwaukee!
You want it straight?
Yes, the old man's stateside, fighting the good fight.
And when he comes through for us,
we better be damn sure we're ready to do the same for him.
Any of you feel otherwise, any of you want to wash yourselves out,
well, Negro, please do so,
and I'll have you on the next thing smoking back home
to make room for the men who want to stand and fight.
Get your head up, son.
You're fighter pilots.
Watch the rest of the film.
When we came under your command, Colonel,
you stated very clearly that we would never find Negroes
who could pass a pilot's exam,
make it through flight school, survive basic combat.
A combat record which, to this point...
We've done all of that.
To this point,
I don't believe your boys have scored a single aerial kill.
Because you have not assigned us a single forward mission.
It's damn hard to shoot down the enemy
100 miles behind the front lines.
As a matter of fact, when will we be assigned to bomber escorts, Colonel?
There have been any number of reports of poor discipline.
Which is in every newspaper and magazine in the country.
We have enough race troubles as it is
without these sons of bitches in the press throwing fuel on the fire.
How an unofficial assessment of the Tuskegee programme
made its way to newspapers and magazines
may be worthy of its own hearing, sir.
you've been supporting this experiment from the beginning,
but I'm afraid you're just gonna have to suffer its failure.
We're given hand-me-down planes,
ordered to attack targets that have already been bypassed,
fly patrols where the enemy hasn't been seen for months.
Now we've done every lowdown, dirty job you've handed us,
hoping that we would just limp along and go away.
We will not go away.
We have a right to fight for our country,
the same as every other American.
So you shut us down,
or you let us fly.
RADIO: # Soldier boy.
# Oh, do you think about me, soldier boy?
# How could you ever...? #
Don't give me that look.
What the hell were you doing up there today?
Beating up on Hitler. Winning the war. I got the train, didn't I?
I love you like a brother, Joe.
But you disobey my orders again, I'm gonna have to write you up.
For what? For being right?
I told you those guns were there. You almost got yourself killed.
No, I followed protocol.
You went for the glory. There's a difference.
Now you may not need me to get you through this thing alive,
but Joker, Junior, the rest of the squad just might.
OK. OK. You're right, I'm wrong. I'm sorry.
What you in such a hurry for anyway?
I saw a girl.
The most beautiful I have ever seen.
Just can't let them alone, can you?
No more than you can let that bottle alone.
You got your way of getting through the war, and I got mine.
I wonder what your pops'd say to that.
We can just leave him out of this.
He's got you in a pressure cooker, man. Graduating college at 20,
4.0, and now a captain?
Pushing yourself mighty hard to please him.
-Didn't I just say we can leave him out of this?
Besides, I drink cos I got to bunk with your crazy self.
You bunk with me cos I'm the best pilot in the whole damn Army,
and you're just hoping you're gonna learn something.
If I'm not mistaken, I'm the flight leader,
-which would make you my wingman.
-Smarter doesn't make you better.
Better at what? Busting up Coffee's planes?
Romancing the ladies, for one. Now if you're done whining,
I have got a pass to do that very thing right now.
-Lightning. Can I ask you something?
What's going to happen when you go home and the women speak English,
and they understand just how full of bullshit you are?
Something to celebrate you being old enough to know better.
Italian for Beginners?
How many cartons of smokes this set you back?
A simple "thank you" wouldn't hurt.
And a "happy birthday" would have been fine.
Knowing you, you're just tired of me
embarrassing myself in front of the signorinas.
Yeah, that might be it.
How you feel?
A whole lot more than one year older.
Pilots got you all hot and bothered. Come on.
We got three planes, the hydraulic pumps are shot.
Two more got bad governors.
Grab a piece of that tape and put it over that hose.
What are you doing, Lightning?
What? What did you say?
Come on, Lightning.
I need it back by nightfall!
And ask if she's got a sister!
Yeah, a blind one!
I'm sorry to bother you.
I flew around your house this morning.
Io non parlo inglese.
HE IMITATES PLANE ENGINE
SHE SPEAKS ITALIAN
That was me. I'm Joe.
-Sofia, right. Nice to meet you.
WOMAN SPEAKS ITALIAN
SOFIA SPEAKS ITALIAN
SOFIA SPEAKS ITALIAN
Little. Joe Little.
THEY SPEAK ITALIAN
I hope I'm not intruding, ma'am.
MAMA SPEAKS ITALIAN
MAMA SPEAKS ITALIAN
Hold on. I want to ask you something.
HE ASKS QUESTION IN ITALIAN
SOFIA SPEAKS ITALIAN
Yeah? You wanna...?
Oh, how? I got a Jeep. You want to come for a drive?
Is that a yes?
SOFIA SPEAKS ITALIAN
You want to bring your mother?
It's going to be tougher than I thought.
MAMA SPEAKS ITALIAN
What you going with? I got two pair.
-And three of clubs.
-I don't care what you have,
you'll never be able to beat me, son. You ain't got enough in the head.
I can't lose. I don't even know why y'all try.
You just got here, Maurice. I hope you're learning something.
Hope at least you're learning by now
not to play poker with people that cheat.
I ain't cheating.
I don't want to learn how to play cards,
I want to learn about combat flying.
Dogfights and tricks for switching it up on them Jerries, you know?
What the hell you think it is we know about dogfighting?
The White boys are the only ones
get to tangle it up with the Jerries around here.
But they don't talk to us much, so...
Experience is a cruel teacher. Gives the exam first, then the lesson.
You know what?
-I decided when I get home...
...people ask me about the war, I'm going to just make stuff up.
Hell, I already do! Ask me what I killed - seven trucks, five Jeeps,
and one of those motorcycles with the sidecar on them.
My record look like the inventory down at the motor pool.
How the hell am I gonna go back home and tell my dad
all I killed were traffic?
He'll whup my ass!
It's my Buck Rogers X-38 disintegrator pistol.
Makes me feel like...you know,
like I can't lose.
-Here, try it.
-No. No, thanks, Junior.
I don't really like to fool with other people's good luck charms.
What's the matter?
Look, I don't like being called Junior.
I want the tag Ray Gun. I'm not a kid.
I did two years at Howard
before I even enrolled in the Tuskegee programme.
I'm going to be an engineer.
What about you?
Well, my dad's a judge.
He wants me to go to law school, so I guess I'm gonna do that.
You ought to just give it up! Go back to where you came from.
I'd rather be up there killing Jerries
than down here playing games with you, Joker.
Look, don't be in a hurry to get to the killing part, Maurice.
Tell me something. You scared of dying?
I don't know.
Every time I close the lid on that canopy,
I feel like I'm shutting the lid on my own coffin.
I tell you something else,
the pilot that tells you otherwise is either a liar
or too foolish to know any better.
It's useless. All this talk for another study, another inquiry.
"Politics is the art of..."
Major Kessel's political science class, the quote that he used...
He said, "Politics is the art of postponing a decision
"until it is..."
"..no longer relevant."
Colonel Mortamus stumbled badly.
If he hadn't embarrassed the brass by leaking that report to the press,
they probably would have let you wither and die.
His politicking bought you time.
Air cover for a beach landing.
It's your chance to go up against German fighters.
I'll say this, Jack...
..even when your hope is false, it sure is grand.
I'm serious, AJ. I can get that for you.
If you stick your neck out how far?
I don't want you to put your career on the line for me, Jack.
A little less tin on my uniform is the least of it.
If I get you the mission,
your men have got to put something on the board.
They come through or Mortamus and the brass
will have all they need to shut the whole thing down.
You get us that mission,
we will light up the board.
Has this flight order been verified?
Yes, sir. It came directly from Colonel Bullard in Washington.
Check it again. Get the flight leaders together.
The Colonel got us an opportunity. Gather around, gentlemen.
Attacking another train, sir?
Or did we graduate to minding a truck convoy this time?
It's an ambitious landing
off the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea at Nettuno.
We've been given the frag order to provide air cover for the landing.
I'm gonna have so many of those little swastikas on my plane,
they're gonna think it's camouflage.
We will repay the old man with victory, hear me?
ALL: Yes, sir!
Full briefing at 0400. On the flight line at 0530.
Good luck, gentlemen.
Junior, where you at, boy? You're gonna miss the flight.
'I know I'm late. I'm coming.'
We're a long way from Memphis, but Black Jesus is here with me,
and he says it's gonna be a successful mission.
Now does that mean we're gonna shoot down a bunch of Jerries,
or we gonna come back in one piece,
or Lightning gonna pick up some girls along the way?
No more pick-ups for me, boys. I swear to you, I am in love.
Love? Swearing? Both bad luck in my book.
-'I can't believe I made it. Don't tell Easy I was late.'
-They all set?
-All ready, sir!
Send them off.
Hallelujah. The saints are marching in!
Watch me become an ace today, boys.
Lightning, did you just say you're gonna become an ass today,
or an ace? I couldn't quite hear what you...
'Was it ass or ace? I couldn't hear.'
I think you heard him right, Smokey.
All right, men, cut the chatter.
Jesus. Would you look at that!
DULL THUD OF NAVAL GUNS
Oh, my goodness. Just like in the newsreels.
Keep your eyes peeled for the Jerries.
Bogies inbound, 12 o'clock.
And they're closing in mighty fast!
TRANSLATION FROM GERMAN:
All planes, hold formation.
Come on, come on, come on.
Any time, Red One.
'I'm shaking them! There's two more!'
Yes. They're cutting left!
'Put a little hitch in his giddy-up!'
'I'm feeling good now!'
'Remember, keep the beachhead clear.'
'Straighten up over there, Junior.'
Let's go, Lightning. I'm on one.
'I'm behind you. Break right!'
I got him. I got him.
Get on the inside, Easy! Get on the inside.
Come on, slip just a little.
Come on, tighter, tighter.
You are the first Negro to shoot down a Jerry! Whoo!
Junior! Straight ahead now.
There's my swastika.
I'm on your wing.
Come on, baby, just move a little bit closer.
All I want is a little bitty kiss.
Just give me a little peck on the cheek. Yeah!
Joker, there's one on my tail!
OK, listen, Junior. Buttonhook right, and I'm gonna go left.
No touchdown for you today, Fritz.
Junior, you're all clear, buddy.
Deke, on your right!
I see him.
Let's give those newspapers something to write about.
Tennessee says hello!
There's the squad leader. I'm gonna take him out.
Careful. He's good.
You're letting him get away, Lightning!
I'm just toying with him.
This is for you, Pretty Boy, with your bright yellow nose!
Come on, boy. Line it up. One shot.
How'd he do that?
-'Get him off me!'
-I'm on him.
-'Get him off me!'
-Get out of the way, Lightning!
Open your throttle.
Come on, man! Take him out!
'I can't get a clear shot. Hold on.'
Drop to your right.
All right! I got him.
Oh! Thank you, Lord.
And there I was thinking you didn't love me any more.
He's headed home to mama.
You thinking what I'm thinking?
'If you're thinking I should finish him off'
'so we can get back to the beachhead, yes.'
Or we could follow him.
We could go after their airdrome.
I don't know, Lightning. We got orders. You know that.
Come on, Easy. I'm talking about a Jerry airbase.
Dozens of planes! You're saying no?
All right. I'll trust your instincts this time.
But we're running low on fuel. We're gonna follow for five minutes.
You got that? Five minutes.
Joker, you back there?
We're still back here.
I'm ready for a turkey shoot.
Achtung! Mayday! Mayday!
SIRENS WAIL, SHOUTING OVER TANNOY
OFFICER SHOUTS IN GERMAN
ENGINES TURN OVER
There it is, boys. Get your scorecards ready.
Gotta knock out those fighters before they take off.
Got to take those guns out first.
THUD OF FLAK GUNS
SHOUTING IN GERMAN
Everybody, form up.
Here we go!
Whoo! Like ducks in a row.
All right. Two at once!
That's nothing. Watch me get four this time.
'We're running low on fuel.'
No time for celebration.
The Ray Gun strikes again.
Junior, watch out for that flak!
FLAK GUN THUDS
Good job, Lightning.
'Washington brass won't be able to ignore this.'
Hey! What happened to Junior?
There he is.
Three o'clock high. He's trailing oil.
Red One to Red Three. Junior, come in.
I took something in the leg.
Something in my head.
Level off, Junior, or you're gonna stall out.
They done shot down the whole Luftwaffe, didn't they?
Yes, they did, huh? Those hotshots sure did.
Never doubted it.
Did I make it?
Yeah, you made it, damn knucklehead. Should have let you crash.
You'll be OK.
No surprises, Ray Gun. You get healthy, all right?
Luck is with you, Ray!
I think we can cautiously declare the landing a victory.
It's a slog, but the ground troops are holding. Colonel Bullard.
Your boys chalked eight kills in the air,
63 aircraft destroyed on the ground.
No losses in their first wave.
Outstanding. Pass along my congratulations.
Thank you, sir.
Action reports and assessments by 1500.
Eight German fighters
or 80 German fighters,
it still doesn't change what I think of you and your boys.
We don't care.
Respect the uniform.
Believe me, sir, that is all I have respect for.
It's not as bad as all this.
Leg's good, eye's fine. In a week's time,
I'll be able to see fine out of one eye and mostly out of the other.
Is that what you want me to tell Stance?
"Sir, Ray Gun has one and a half eyes' worth of ability."
Look, come on. I landed a plane blind.
-Hey, don't get me in this.
If the flight surgeon won't clean-bill you,
what do you expect me to do?
Just talk to him. He listens to you.
I mean, you got the same respect on this base as the old man, so...
I'd rather be dead than on the ground.
Easy, you're the best friend I got.
Please don't do this to me.
General Luntz, Colonel Bullard.
Thank you, Lieutenant.
No, thank you, sir.
Colonel, I'm in a hell of a fix with our target in Europe.
Our boys are getting cut to shreds.
I read the action report from Operation Shingle.
Eight kills in your first wave.
13 in all.
That's a right trick.
Colonel, I'll give it to you straight.
I can't afford the kind of losses my bombers have been suffering.
Do you have film of the air cover your bombers are getting now, sir?
We need to change the way we fight.
I need pilots who will fly close and tight to the heavies all the way.
Not put my men in harm's way by chasing rabbits.
So you're asking me to tell my men not to shoot down Jerry fighters?
I'm asking them to put the bombers ahead of themselves.
I don't care if they never splash another Jerry fighter.
I need to get my heavies to the target and back.
The losses from enemy air, I believe my men can get that down, sir.
If you can bring back one or two more of my planes every mission...
Sir, I believe we can cut your losses by 70% or 80%.
Colonel, the word is you're arrogant.
If "arrogant" is the only word people use to describe me now,
I would say I think I'm making progress.
Can you help us? I'm asking you man to man.
Can you help save lives?
We need new planes.
No more hand-me-downs.
If you get us new planes,
we can help your boys.
I got a bullet right through my canopy. I ought to be dead, y'all.
But nothing happened to me though. It's Black Jesus, I'm telling you.
Oh, go on with that. Let's play.
Don't sass Black Jesus, now you might need him one day.
What happened to you is luck. Just luck.
Lords of Poker,
Black Jesus, White Jesus,
Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, all of them!
I done lost all my damn money. Something is wrong.
Ain't that right.
How about you just get wise?
There is no special mojo running the world.
Things just are how they are.
Us getting shot up and the people
we're protecting not caring a thing for it.
I hear that.
You talk real tough, Joe Little. Real cold.
Well, reality's a little chilly.
-Is that right?
Let me tell you about this cold, hard brother.
While y'all trying to get by with your whiskey and cigarettes,
-guess what he's doing with his rations?
-What he doing?
Trading them all for lingerie to spoil his old lady.
Yeah, well, lucky in love and lucky at cards.
Man, you are so beautiful.
Of course, you have no idea what I'm saying.
Sei molto bello.
Non hai idea di quello che sto dicendo, vero?
I love you.
CHATTER AND MUSIC
MUSIC AND CHAT STOP
What are you doing here? This is an officers' club.
I am an officer.
This is a Whites-only officers' club.
You're off the reservation, pal.
Try the Italian dance hall near the main plaza.
Hey. Go home, nigger.
I got what I came for. Good night.
Am I going to be court-martialled?
I don't know.
I'm sure you trying to start a race riot won't help you...
I was finishing what they started!
Wrong or right, we got regs to live by.
And you throwing punches, busting them up, gets you what?
A good feeling, Easy. Right here.
A throb that says I didn't choke on what they were feeding me.
-How do your heart feel?
-You say "they" like it's all of them.
Same as always. "Shuffle along, cause no strife.
"Don't scare the ofays by speaking out."
Some other time I'd have stood
-with you, side by side.
-Some other time?
But you put a minute's worth of righteousness ahead of a whole war!
Same old Joe Little.
Still getting into the wrong fights for the wrong reasons.
Your reasons any better?
You spent your whole life being one big, lousy Atlanta Compromise.
Well, go sell that somewhere else. I'm not buying it.
I've come bearing gifts.
I'm all ears, sir.
Bomber escort. New P-51s.
You did it. You really did it, sir.
-Come on. Let's get some food. I'm hungry.
-Welcome home, Colonel.
SHOUTING AND CHATTER
Lieutenant Little. What am I going to do with you?
Everything's a fight, isn't it?
It must be so goddamn exhausting being you.
You know something, Joe Little?
You're a punk.
You remind me...
..of one of those kids from a comic strip.
..pushing his sleeve up one arm...
..hand balled in a tight fist...
..walking and looking at the world through a squint.
Always looking to knock something down just because it's standing.
It's right there.
It's right there.
You really want to knock something down?
Try using that.
Because I will tell you straight, I don't have anything against you.
I have the highest expectations for you.
I need everyone on this next mission.
And you're lucky you're the best damn pilot we've got.
Report to your unit.
# Bless you
# For being an angel
# Just when it seemed
# That heaven was not for me
# Bless you, for building... #
They let you out, huh?
Or did you bust out?
..I said some things.
Yeah, you did.
I didn't mean them.
Yeah, you did.
You know me. Act first, think later.
Well, nobody's perfect.
Yeah, we're good.
I figured it out.
What? That throwing punches doesn't solve your problems?
That manoeuvre Pretty Boy pulled on me, got on my tail,
I figured out how to do it.
Fancy trick flying will only get you killed.
Or make me an ace.
The American pilots flying escort now go for every kill they can score.
That's how they were trained. That's how they fight.
Here's how we change up the strategy. Lights up.
At all costs, under every circumstance,
you protect the heavies.
We signed up to shoot Germans, not babysit planes.
You signed up to follow orders.
One bomber, that's ten men.
You getting one Jerry so you can put a cross on your plane,
that doesn't balance that.
We count our victories
by the bombers we get to their targets.
By the husbands we return to their wives.
By the fathers we get back to their children.
What has not changed, what will never change,
from the last plane, to the last bullet, to the last minute,
to the last man, we fight.
ALL: Yes, sir!
We've secured new aircrafts. P-51s.
The best the AAF's got.
As soon as we get the A-OK, we'll begin ferrying them in from Bari.
Say cheese, say cheese.
Woohoo! My, my, my!
Hey, Maurice! How are they flying?
I don't know any angels with six .50-calibre machine guns.
All right, men, get your manuals. Get familiar.
We'll need them all marked up and ready to fly.
It's taken care of.
The Major says paint their tails bright red, so they stand out.
Like the Red Baron.
-Loud and proud.
# Blue skies smiling at me
# Nothing but blue skies do I see. #
This will definitely make the group distinctive.
Bright red tails and Black pilots?
You can't call us nothing else but distinctive.
# From now on
# Never saw the sun shining so bright
# Never saw things going so right... #
What do you think?
It's like it's speeding even when it's sitting.
I never even met a girl as beautiful as this plane.
Well, take good care of her.
What do you mean?
I twisted the flight surgeon's arm.
Got you back on the roster. You going up with us next mission.
Sorry. Thank you, sir.
I'm going to tell the guys.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for this glorious day.
We ask that you send your angels down to surround us
as we fly through the sky.
We know that it's part of your master plan
that we've made it all the way from Tuskegee here to Ramitelli.
We are very confident in our abilities,
but we ask that you give us the vision, the sight,
and the speed and power to make it through this mission.
All the airmen say, "In Jesus' name we pray." Amen.
Nothing's difficult! ALL: Everything's a challenge.
-Through adversity... ALL:
-..to the stars!
From the last plane, to the last bullet,
to the last minute, to the last man, we fight!
Anybody got eyes on the bombers?
We are all by our lonesome, Red One. Think we screwed up.
Right on target, and according to my reckoning, 32 seconds early.
We're here. They're not.
Maybe the bombers turned back.
Damn! Maybe they went on without us.
Red One, there they are.
Nine o'clock low.
Junior, head on over to the bomber leader.
-'Let him know we're friendlies.'
Bogies! Three high.
'Everybody, on your guns.'
'Counting close to 70 chicks. We got one coming down.'
Hold your fire. They're ours.
Red tails? I don't recognise the markings.
Hell if I'm joking! Look.
Jesus Christ. They can't all be Coloured.
One fighter group of all Negro pilots? I don't believe it!
What the hell do we do?
Tacoma One to all planes. Everybody's eyes open.
'I don't think our fighter escort is gonna be much help this trip.'
Fighters, four o'clock.
They're not attacking. Let them go.
Let them go?
Our orders are to stay with the bombers.
Uh. What? What? You're breaking up.
You heard Colonel Bullard. Forget the prize, save the lives.
God, I hate this war.
Look at that. Those Red Tails are staying put.
They're giving up glory to save our asses.
Here we go, Lightning.
Right behind you.
Where did this jackass come from?
Get out of there, Lightning! Come on, get out of there!
Don't you worry about me. I'm just playing with him.
Stop fooling around! Damn it, I'm coming.
'No, you're not. Stay put.'
I'm gonna show him a little trick I learned.
Lightning, when are you gonna learn this is not a game?
Coming up on anti-aircraft guns.
Those Jerries are hightailing it out of here.
Flak's getting thick.
Break off. Circle clear of the flak until the bombers return.
Good luck, bombardiers!
All bombs away! Let's get the hell out of here.
Here they come. Form up.
Hey, Junior! You got a bandit on your left! Get out of there.
I'll take him.
'Junior, get out of there!'
Where is he? I can't see him!
Junior, where are you? Are you all right?
I'm all right! I'm all right!
Junior, you're on fire!
Junior, get out of the plane!
Come on, Junior, bail!
We didn't lose a single plane.
Well, that's a first.
Red One, Deke's trailing fuel!
Don't look good.
Deke, talk to me. What's your status?
I'm all right.
I got gas spraying everywhere, but I think I'm gonna be OK.
I'm a little dizzy, but other than that, I'm fine.
All right, listen up.
I'll give escort to Deke. Everybody else head back to base.
No, I'll stay. I'm his wingman. I'll stay.
Let me take him, Easy. God, I hate this mask!
It's my call, Lightning.
Your calls have been a little off lately.
What? What are you talking about?
Junior shouldn't have been up here.
You got a problem with the way I'm running this squad,
you talk to Bullard about it, all right?
Until then, I'm in control.
And my order for you right now is to head back to base.
All right, Deke, you'll be all right.
I'll see you back at the ranch. You got Black Jesus with you, boy!
Well, get me home, Easy.
No, sir. You're going to get yourself home.
What the hell put the Captain in such a bad mood?
He gets like that sometimes.
He knows good and well he shouldn't have let Junior fly.
That boy was half blind.
We're almost home.
I hope we meet up with those Red Tails next time.
Listen, boys, the bombers have passed their safe point.
Our mission is over. Let's head back to base.
You guys are taking the long way.
I'm going to take a short cut down the coast.
Come on now, Lightning. Ain't no need to get all crazy.
You know you got to stay with your squadron.
You stay with the slow-ass squadron. I'm running low on fuel.
And what if you turn up missing?
Then I'll have to break it to Major Stance.
-Well, break it to him gently.
-'Great, great, great!'
One's a drunk and the other one does whatever the hell he wants to do.
Smokey, stay with him.
'And keep him out of trouble.'
Don't worry. I'll stick with him.
My head, it hurts.
We're almost there, Deke.
Stay with me.
Easy, I got blood all over me, but I'm not bleeding.
You're gonna be OK. I'm right above you.
Captain, I'm getting real dizzy.
I need to rest a minute.
No, no. Stay alert, Deke. I'm here with you.
I can't really see anything!
Everything's all blurred! I got double vision.
You're slipping, Deke! Deke, you're slipping! Steady up!
You're diving, Deke. You need to pull back on your stick.
Pull up, Deke, pull up!
Deke, listen to me! Pull back on your stick now!
'Pull up, Deke, pull up!'
Oh, I'm pulling up! I'm pulling up!
I must have passed out!
I need you to stay with me, OK? Stay with me.
-'Just keep talking.'
Lightning, look! German destroyer, moving to the north!
I still got ammo. How about you?
Nah. You need about a 500-pound bomb to put a dent in that thing.
Plus, that baby got very, very big guns.
Just watch me.
Lightning, no, all right? Don't be crazy.
If the big guns don't kill you, your plane will get messed up,
'and Coffee is gonna kill you.'
Relax, Smokey. Worrying too much will kill you.
SIRENS WAIL, SHOUTING
All right! That was fun! OK, come on now, time to go home.
Just one more pass.
How do you like that, Mr Hitler?
Lightning, you a damn fool! But I love you! Come on.
Ramitelli to Subsoil Red One. Do you read?
'I got Red Four with me, he's busted up pretty bed.'
Stay alert, Deke. Stay alert.
Ramitelli, have a fire truck standing by. He's leaking fuel.
I repeat, he's leaking fuel.
This is Major Stance.
Circle a half-mile out and have Red Four bail.
Flight surgeons will be there waiting.
You're gonna put it into a left bank, and you're up and out. All right?
I can't get the canopy open!
Listen, Deke, the only thing between you living and dying is that canopy.
Now, get it open!
I can't open it!
I can't open it!
Red Four cannot open his canopy. I repeat, he cannot open his canopy.
I'm gonna have to bring him in.
don't let this happen to me.
'All right, Deke. Flaps down.'
There you go.
Level off, level off!
Help me, sir. I'm covered in fuel!
I'm coming around behind you, Deke.
All right, now get your gear down.
Easy! I think I'm coming in too hot!
I don't want to die! I'm not ready!
Just relax. Just relax. Level off, Deke.
Too fast. I'm going too fast!
Nose up! Nose up!
Drop your throttle! Nose down!
Smoke cloud on the left.
You don't think that's Deke, do you?
-Who was it?
It was Deke.
-An engine fire.
Gas leak must have caught on the landing.
But I talked to the medics, they said he's gonna be all right.
-Must have been a spark.
You've been drinking.
-You're going to blame this on me?
-Tell me you haven't been drinking.
-I got him down!
I got him down alive! You don't blame this on me!
I did everything I could do!
All back, Colonel.
The good news is Lieutenant Watkins survived the fireball landing.
He's in critical.
Do they think he's gonna make it?
60% third-degree burns.
We're sending him back home.
I brought the background on the captured flyer,
Lieutenant Ray Gannon.
His mother's name is Dorothy. Father is Thomas.
His wife's name is Thelma. They have a little girl, Adele.
In particular, Ray loved to fly.
More than any pilot we have, he loved to be in the air.
TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWS
Here is the new prisoner your captain requested,
Lieutenant Ray Gannon.
A pilot with the 332nd.
Where the hell did you come from?
So, I bet you're wondering why I picked you to bunk with us.
It's not something I care to think about.
It's not so we can hang you or anything.
I chose you because I know you can't be a German spy,
being Coloured and all.
We're in the middle of a rather delicate operation,
and we don't need any new white faces.
You'll be treated no differently than any other man here.
Any problems, you tell me.
Come on! Let's go! Move, move, move!
Line it up! Let's go!
I welcome you to the 332nd Fighter Group. You're a long way from home.
Jerry's going down!
I'm telling you, Lightning sunk it.
-That is a destroyer.
-Shit, Lightning's crazy!
Here it comes!
I came around for a second pass. Watch this.
ALL: We fight! We fight! We fight! We fight! We fight!
SHE SPEAKS ITALIAN
My best friend.
He almost caused the death of one of our pilots.
I don't know what to do.
I am so glad I found you.
I want you to stop, Easy.
You can't drink on duty.
I told you, what happened to Deke wasn't my fault, all right?
No-one cares what you do when you're in town.
How you relax is your business.
This coming from a guy who flies like he's got some kind of death wish.
You're a piece of work, Joe.
You ignore me up there then all of a sudden you expect me
-to listen to you down here.
-All right, all right, all right.
Tell you what. I'll make you a deal.
You promise to ditch the bottle...
..I'll promise to fly right.
And follow my orders.
And follow your orders.
I can't wait to hear her sweet singing!
You guys can go chase skirt. I'm going to Sofia's.
What did you say, about three miles?
-Odds of us getting pinched?
-I won't even take that action.
MAN: Hey, flyboys!
That trouble. Keep walking. Come on.
Don't just walk away from me.
-He picked the wrong day.
Hey, come over here!
You're the Red Tails, right?
You know, Red Tails?
Coloured boy flyers?
Well, I wouldn't necessarily say it like that, but who's asking?
Chester Barnes, 98th Bomb Group.
You guys flew a little top cover for us about a month ago.
A little run over Ploiesti?
It was the best goddamn flying I've ever seen, gentlemen.
And we guys, well, we feel that we owe all you boys a drink.
Why don't you come and join us? Come on.
Come and join them?
What's he saying?
Come on. Drinks are on us.
Well, I'll be damned.
I guess the dance hall will have to wait.
-How you doing?
# He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago way
# He had a boogie style that no-one else could play
# He was the top man at his craft
# But then his number came up and he was gone with the draft
# He's in the army now a-blowin' reveille
# He's the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B
# They made him blow a bugle for his Uncle Sam
# It really brought him down because he couldn't jam
# The captain seemed to understand... #
All right, boys, listen up!
These fellas are the Red Tails.
They're the guys who have been giving us an escort.
First drink is on me, fellas. Whatever you'd like.
Hanson, Travis J.
Me and the boys over here are with the 463rd Bomb Group.
Glad to meet you, man.
You flew with us over Brux. Appreciate you getting us home.
Hey, have you guys run into any of those new jet pursuit fighters?
We haven't been that lucky.
Well, we've been that unlucky.
Those babies go so fast you can't even see them.
I got one spare one, sir. I got one...
we say "Coloured."
But that's not what you prefer?
No, no. The word is...
When you get upset, when you get mad, you turn red, right?
When you get envious or sick, you turn green.
When you become cowardly, you turn yellow.
And y'all got the nerve to call us Coloured.
INDISTINCT ITALIAN CHATTER
I want to ask you an important question.
HE SPEAKS ITALIAN
SHE SPEAKS ITALIAN
Will you marry me?
SHE SPEAKS ITALIAN
Time to think.
When you get to the other side, don't wait.
Just run for the woods, OK? Go!
Remember, run for the woods!
It's Ray Gun, he's back with the batteries.
They won't even know they're missing.
Divide the batteries among those who have flashlights.
You've been a great help, Ray Gun.
I guess there's a lot more to you Coloureds than I thought.
We want you to travel with us.
Oh, I can't. I'll stick out like a pig in a poultry shop.
I'll draw attention to you guys.
I'll go alone. But...
..here, take my dog tags.
Get them back to my unit.
You're a wily sucker, Ray. At least they won't see you in the dark.
Good luck, Lieutenant.
-Safe journey, Captain.
-Good luck, Ray.
Remember, run for the woods.
OK, let's go.
Was ist das!
-Run, Miller, run!
HE SHOUTS IN GERMAN
# Hot tamales, and they're red hot Yes, she got them for sale
# Hot tamales, and they're red hot Yes, she got them for sale
# I got a girl, she's long and tall
# Sleeps in the kitchen with her feets in the hall... #
Sticks on metal ain't music. It ain't.
I like music.
Aww! Coffee, were you always mean as hell,
or you just get like that with old age?
I once was a happy man. Never did not have a smile on my face.
That was before you guys started tearing up my beautiful planes.
I could tolerate the P-40s.
But these new babies getting beat up? It breaks my heart.
Come on, Coffee. I only came back with two holes this time.
Uh. Six. Six holes.
Well, that ain't nothing compared to what's gonna happen to you
when you run into those jets those bomber jockeys was talking about.
I ain't afraid of no jets.
Don't go trying your old tricks, Lightning.
If you end up too close behind one of those jets,
the turbulence alone will blow your Black ass right out of the sky.
Trust me, I'm gonna be the first one to shoot one of those things down.
And I'll be the second.
My advice is, you see one, you run like hell.
The only thing in life that makes me want to run like hell
-is you, Coffee.
That's gonna get you killed out there. I'm not dancing with you.
The target is a tank factory on the outskirts of Berlin.
Shut that down, you shut down Jerry's ability
to shore up a Berlin defence.
General Campbell's wing will be leading the bombardment.
You have recon on the area?
In the air, we're expecting everything the Luftwaffe's got,
100s, 109s, 190s.
A possibility of 262s, German jet fighters.
-The boys are gonna love this one!
The target area isn't your concern.
The 52nd will escort the General's planes into Berlin.
Is there a reason, sir?
1,600 miles to Berlin and back. The fighters need to take it in stages.
With external fuel tanks, the 51s can make it.
I guarantee our pilots can.
I'd prefer the Red Tails take the leg where we need protecting.
Our first major air offensive over Berlin.
From a propaganda point of view,
a lot of attention gonna be paid to this and a lot of ink spilled.
And Negro pilots aren't part of that story.
This is coming from way above me.
If you didn't have my respect,
I wouldn't be talking to you face-to-face.
But we don't win this war, all my regard,
everything that you and your men have done...
..none of it means a thing.
Please see to it that the General gets to his plane.
You like it?
I want you
stay in Italia.
You want me to stay?
Does that mean...
Does that mean you'll marry me?
I love you.
I can't believe it.
I'm getting married.
OK, we're going to throw it, all right? There you go.
There you go. All right. Throw!
I'm looking for Captain Julian.
You the one they call Easy?
I guess some people do. What can I help you with?
I'm Captain Miller. I was in prison with Lieutenant Gannon.
He asked me to give his tags to you.
Four of us got out.
The deal was, if we made it and he didn't,
I'd get his dog tags back to his unit.
Ray was a good man.
To whoever it matters, you tell them from me -
Ray was the best soldier I ever met.
A moment, Colonel.
What is it, Captain?
Ray Gannon's dog tags, sir.
A soldier brought it by today. He and Ray were prisoners together.
They got out from under the Germans but...
..Ray didn't make it.
Sir, Ray Gun wasn't fit when I put him back in rotation.
The flight surgeon wouldn't clean-bill him,
so I talked my way right past him.
I just don't feel like I'm fit to lead the squad any more.
I've made so many mistakes.
No, you've made one big mistake.
That self-pity of yours, that's your weakness.
But it ends right here, right now.
You man up, you lead your squad.
Every decision that you make isn't gonna always be the right one.
All right, this is it.
For the first time, the bombers are going all the way to Berlin.
They'll be up against 109s and 262s the new jet fighters.
LAUGHTER AND WHOOPING
Unfortunately, we're only going to escort them
on the first leg of their mission,
so I don't expect you'll see much action.
You will rendezvous with the relief escorts at 0830.
I know this is disappointing to you. It's not the job you wanted.
But those are your orders.
-ALL: Yes, sir!
Full briefing at 0400. On the flight line at 0530.
Spread the word, gentlemen.
Julian. A moment.
Captain, if your relief doesn't arrive,
as squadron leader, it's your call.
If you think you can make it.
That is all, son.
We're past the rendezvous point.
Tail gunner, has the 52nd squadron arrived?
No, sir. No sign of them.
Anybody got eyes on our relief fighters?
Not a dang thing, Red One.
Are we going all the way, sir?
Fuel-wise, we're looking good.
But I'm guessing the hours there and back,
it'll definitely be one for the record books.
Come on, Easy. It's Berlin.
Let's go. We can make it.
All right, gentlemen. Brace yourselves.
We're going the distance.
Yeah! We fight!
Ha-ha! Watch out, Hitler, here we come!
Just remember, we're here to protect the bombers.
Under all circumstances, we stay on mission.
What's that about?
I think we've got the Red Tails for the duration.
By my reckoning, we're deep into Germany.
It's a little creepy we haven't seen any fighters yet.
Maybe they found out we were flying escort
and decided not to show up.
That'd be nice.
Wouldn't mind that, would you, baby?
Colonel! It's from Mission Control.
The 52nd didn't make the rendezvous. They didn't join up with the 5th.
Did our boys turn back?
No, sir. They're headed on to Berlin.
I gave Captain Julian the option.
Headquarters wants to know if we're gonna call them back.
Oh, shit! Jets! We got jets!
What the hell?
What? Oh, no!
Break! Break! Break!
Here we go.
Nine o'clock low! Nine o'clock low!
I see them.
We're losing them!
I got the throttle wide open! They're too damn fast!
Son of a bitch! Those babies are gone.
I'm losing power!
Stay left! I'll get him! I'll get him!
This is for Maurice!
Brilliant! Smokey, brilliant!
Easy, we got one crossing in front of us.
Start firing, he'll fly right into it.
I know. I got him.
-These jets ain't nothing.
-'We need more speed.'
Let's get some altitude.
Easy, right there! Ten o'clock!
I got him! I got him!
Now that's how it's done!
I'm all right. I'm all right!
I'll be damned! They missed me!
No holes in me, baby! Whoo! Come on.
Now we're losing power on engine four.
That's it for us, guys. We're turning around.
We got a straggler. Two o'clock.
Oh, I see him!
I'm on it, Red One. We'll get down there and cover him.
Lightning, form up. I'm going back. We got a crippled bomber to protect.
Easy, you got Pretty Boy on your tail. I'm coming around.
Where? I don't see him!
Argh! Damn it!
I'm headed right for you!
I've got him! I've got him!
Get out of my way!
What the hell are you doing?
Dive right now! Dive.
That's the end of Pretty Boy!
Sure got him good!
Ha! You did it!
You got that son of a bitch.
Did you say Lightning shot down Pretty Boy?
Give 'em hell, Lightning!
You just might be the best pilot that ever lived!
'Now get your ass back here and help us with this bomber.'
'We're an our way back to you, Joker.'
It was a crazy move. You almost got yourself killed.
I think I did get myself killed.
What are you talking about?
I...I don't think I'm going to make it, Easy.
What do you mean, you're not going to make it?
'Don't talk like that!'
There's a lot... There's a lot of blood.
Listen to me. Just hang in there. I'm gonna get you back, all right?
'Just stay focused. I'm gonna help you.'
I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
'Come on now. We've gotten out of worse scrapes than this.'
I screwed up.
I screwed up.
I don't care about that. I'm right here with you.
We can do this together. Come on.
Lightning! Lightning, talk to me!
Lightning, don't you do this to me!
'Lightning? Lightning, look at me!'
I love you.
I'm sorry, Sofia.
Lightning, pull up! Pull back on your stick!
Lightning, pop the canopy! Pop the goddamn canopy!
Get out of the plane, Lightning, that's an order!
Get out of the plane!
Damn you, Lightning!
'Easy, do you read me?'
Stay on mission!
Do you copy?
We need you back here.
We need you.
'For God's sake, tell me you still out there.'
I'm OK. I'm on my way down.
Lightning's with you, right?
Lieutenant Little is dead.
The expectations placed upon you men are high.
exceeded those expectations.
We should not be discouraged by his death,
but be all the more encouraged by his life.
The acts of bravery by him
will make us stronger.
It will inspire us to fight harder,
to make this world free.
Because we are on the side of God Almighty!
Let us pray.
Hey! Hey, guys!
I know you didn't forget about me already!
I've been to hell and back...
..so you will no longer call me Junior.
From now on you will address me as the fabulous Ray Gun.
How'd you do it, man?
-I'll be damned!
Ray! Ray Gun!
Boy, you look good.
In the name of the President of the United States,
a Distinguished Unit Citation has been conferred upon
the all-Negro 332nd Fighter Group
for outstanding performance of duty in conflict with the enemy.
By the conspicuous gallantry,
professional skill and determination of the pilots,
together with the outstanding technical skill
and devotion to duty of the ground personnel,
the 332nd has reflected great credit on itself
and on the Armed Forces of the United States.
We salute you.
Action-packed depiction of a lesser-known aspect of World War Two.
Italy, 1944. Eager to prove themselves as top pilots and support crew despite prejudice, a segregated squadron of African American US airmen, originally trained at Tuskegee, finally get to face their formidable German foes in death-defying dogfights. However, the men also have individual desires and demons with which to contend.