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What the Movies Taught Us About World War II Aviation

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What the Movies Taught Us About World War II Aviation

Chris Klimek

I wrote this fun piece for my day job. It appears in our May 2015 issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian, now on sale at Barnes & Noble and other fine booksellers and newsstands, as well as the National Air & Space Museum. It's our 70th anniversary of V-E Day issue, which – because it'll be out in time for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover on Friday, May 8th (the actual anniversary) – includes pull-out Spotter Cards you can use to identify the silhouettes of the two dozen vintage warbirds that'll be buzzing over your head a few minutes past noon if you come down to the National Mall on that day.

For the record, I do think William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives is the greatest of the films I surveyed – if not the greatest flying movie – save for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1943 masterpiece The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which I had occasion to mention only fleetingly. (The photo at the top of this post is of Roger Livesey and Anton Walbrook in that film.)

Mark Harris's book Five Came Back was an invaluable resource for me while writing this story.