Bombardier (1943): Richard Wallace’s Oscar-Nominated WWII Drama, Starring Pat O’Brien and Randolph Scott

Richard Wallace’s WWII drama, Bombardier, depicts the training program for bombardiers of the U.S. Army Air Forces, focusing on six candidates.

Bombardier was nominated for the special effects Oscar, but did not win.

Grade: B (*** out of *****)

Bombardier movie.jpg

Theatrical release poster

It was shot at Kirtland Army Air Field, New Mexico, site of the first bombardier training school.

Brigadier General Eugene L. Eubank, commander of the first heavy bombardment group of the U.S. Army Air Forces to see combat in World War II, introduces the film: “I want you to know about a new kind of American soldier, the most important of all our fighting men today. He is most important because upon him, finally, depends the success of any mission in which he participates. The greatest bombing plane in the world, with its combat crew, takes him into battle, through weather, through enemy opposition, just so he may have 30 seconds over the target. In those 30 seconds, he must vindicate the greatest responsibility ever placed upon an individual soldier in line of duty.”

The tale begins in 1941, at a staff meeting in Washington, D.C.,  where two officers and old friends  debate the importance of bombardiers. Major “Chick” Davis (Pat O’Brien) argues that a bombardier, using the top secret will be the “spearhead of our striking force.” After a year of observing the Royal Air Force, Captain “Buck” Oliver (Randolph Scott) is not convinced a bomber can get “so close that a bomb can’t miss” and that new pilots are the priority. Davis challenges Oliver to a “bombing duel” to test their points of view. Oliver, using a dive bomber, misses the stationary target with all his bombs, while Davis, bombing from 20,000 feet, succeeds in hitting his target with his first bomb.

The movie served as training ground for several noted would be directors, such as Robert Wise (here as editor) and Robert Aldrich (credited as assistant director).

Equally significant was the inclusion of a supporting character, Chito, who was Mexican-American, and played by Richard Martin. Chito proved so popular that RKO used the character as a sidekick in a series of Westerns toplined by Tim Holt.

Premiering in the midst of the war, the deliberately propagandistic Bombardier was popular with audiences, earning RKO a profit of $565,000.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Special Effects: Vernon L. Walker, photographic; James G. Stewart and Roy Granville, sound.

Oscar Awards: None
Oscar Context:
The Special Effects Oscar went to another WWII film, “Crash Dive.”



Directed by Richard Wallace
Produced by Robert Fellows
Written by John Twist and Martin Rackin

Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Nicholas Musuraca
Edited by Robert Wise
Distributed by RKO Pictures

Release date: May 14, 1943

Running time: 99 minutes

Brig. Gen. Eugene L. Eubank as Himself
Pat O’Brien as Major “Chick” Davis
Randolph Scott as Captain “Buck” Oliver
Anne Shirley as Burton “Burt” Hughes
Eddie Albert as Cadet Tom Hughes
Walter Reed as Cadet Jim Carter
Robert Ryan as Cadet Joe Connors
Barton MacLane as Master Sergeant Archie Dixon
Leonard Strong as Japanese Officer
Richard Martin as Cadet Ignacius “Chito” Rafferty[Note 1]
Russell Wade as Cadet Paul Harris
John Miljan as Chaplain Charlie Craig
Charles Russell as Instructor