The 15th Air Force Rallies Again

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LongShot Films, in conjunction with BBTFilms has released their documentary project on the 15th air force, titled On The Wing.

The film is an emotional look at the 15th air force 60 years after one of the shortest and most intensive air battles to occur over central European air space during World War II. On The Wing is a 90-minute documentary conceived and developed by Brad Branch of LongShot who is also serving as the Executive Producer. Bill Humphreys of BBT is partnered as director and editor. The project was shot entirely on location in the U.S., Austria, Canada, Germany and Italy. On The Wing – is the story of courage, survival and the B-24. Footage of the B-24 and B-17 in flight was gathered through the courtesy of the Collings Foundation of Stowe, Massachusetts who maintains and flies one of the few, if not only airworthy B-24 in existence.

In the midst of winter, 1944 – a two-minute air battle in the skies above Ehrwald, Austria involved several American and German aircraft – among them the B-24, the Messer Schmidt and the Folke Wolf. The resulting loss totaled 16 aircraft, 8 on each side and the lives of more than 30 men. On The Wing covers the lives of this fighting force during their tour of duty. Today, the relationship built between the men and their steady companion, the B-24 Liberator, is recalled each year as these patriotic airmen of WWII attend reunions – only to face the realization of their dwindling numbers. More than 1000 WWII vets pass away each day. Their stories, which detail the effect of war on their families and the families of their comrades, embody the root of this film.

The film returns us to what remains of the Pantanella air base in Southern Italy – which was home for members of the 464th and 465th bomb groups of 15th Air Force. The project also includes in-depth interviews with the remaining members of the 780th squadron, as well as those from the 781st, 782nd and 783rd and their loved ones. Senator George McGovern, who flew with the 741st squadron, of the 455-bomb group, is featured as he recalls the difficulty of keeping the B-24 aloft as well as his sense of responsibility to the safety of his flight crew and the successful accomplishment of their missions. Oscar Borche, a German fighter pilot, responsible for shooting down a number of the B-24's, talks about the Biberwald dogfight - the effect it had on him as an individual and as a member of the German forces. His comments appear in counter point to those of the late Lee Englehorn, whose plane was shot down by Borche during the attack.

On The Wing follows these men as they return to the villages around Ehrwald and the wreckage of their downed planes. We also return, with Mr. Englehorn, to the farmhouse in Strad, Austria where after surviving 14 days alone in the Alps, he surrendered himself to the German SS.

As the first entry in an ongoing series of documentaries on the 15th air force, we relive the stories of ultimate sacrifice by our countries oldest living veterans of world conflict. These lives and their commitment to freedom rekindle our strength and determination. The root of liberty, as seen through the eyes of those who upheld it 60 years ago.






© DiBello