Flying Leathernecks (1951)

Film and Plot Synopsis

In Flying Leathernecks, Major Daniel Kirby takes command of a squadron of Marine fliers known as the Wildcats just before they are about to go into combat in the Battle of Guadalcanal. However, his troops are not only undisciplined, but are apt to take the easy route rather than do whatever is necessary to properly complete the task at hand. Kirby’s second in command, Capt. Carl ‘Griff’ Griffin is the source of this laziness. Even though he’s the squadron’s best pilot, Kirby finds him to be a terrible commander with the inability to make the difficult decisions that may lead to his subordinate’s deaths. That can lead to disaster as they head straight into the historic battle.

‘Flying Leathernecks’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Flying Leathernecks (1951)Flying Leathernecks begins when Major Dan Kirby (John Wayne) gets a new command. The command is a surprise to a group of “Wildcat” pilots who were hoping the popular and somewhat lax Captain Carl Griffin would lead their campaign. Kirby is your tough-as-nails career military man, and lets it be known he’s not going to take guff the moment he arrives.

Kirby’s assignment in the Guadalcanal campaign struggles with a lack of planes, daily attacks from the Japanese, and a group of young pilots that act like the young kids they are. To add to the conflict, Kirby’s executive, Captain Griffin doesn’t display a willingness to make the decisions that can lead to his pilots deaths, which he eventually blames on Kirby.

As the war of attrition continues, Kirby has to become more strict with his men as the become more tired from the constant missions. Griffin withdraws from Kirby even more.

In the climatic battle, Griffin makes the tough decision not to split from his formation to help his brother-in-law, Blithe, when he has engine trouble and is surrounded by Zeroes. That decision gets Blithe killed, but proves to Kirby that Griffin does indeed have the mental toughness to command.

During the melee, Kirby gets shot down, and his broken arm leads to him to a desk job while he recuperates. Kirby recommends that Griffin be promoted to his old command. The film ends with the two men promising to meet for drinks after the war.

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RKO Radio Pictures released Flying Leathernecks on August 28, 1951. Nicholas Ray directed the film starring John Wayne, Robert Ryan, and Don Taylor.

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