12 O’clock High:  Lessons Not Forgotten

By | March 22, 2023

[March 22, 2023]   I grew up around a bunch of World War II vets.  They thrilled me with tales of combat against the Nazis and Japanese.  I learned a lot from these men, and I also learned a few things from military drama television series that were set in WWII.  One show I enjoyed was 12 O’clock High (1964-1967).

I’m about halfway through re-watching the show.  The first series is in black and white and stars Robert Lansing, Frank Overton, and John Larkin.  The show follows the missions of the fictitious 918th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces, equipped with B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers stationed in England.  “Our mission, bomb the Germans and stay alive if possible,” as Brigadier General Frank Savage (Lansing) tells his bomber crews.

“Rights, Gately? You’ve got a right to explain to General Pritchard cowardice, desertion of your post, a yellow streak a mile wide!” – Brig. Gen. Frank Savage

Here are some of the simple lessons not forgotten:

  1. MISSION, get it done! That is the primary task.
  2. TEAMWORK matters because it keeps your 10-man crew alive.
  3. OBEY the commander, he has mission responsibility. Do your job!
  4. PRECHECK all your equipment, you will rely upon it to stay alive while flying.
  5. KNOW your men.
  6. STAY ALIVE, if you can.

I’ve read much about WWII and most wars to eke out a lesson so that I don’t have to repeat the failures of others.  That is what these men during air raids over Europe had to do.  It was about getting to the target, putting bombs in the right place, and getting home.  Simple?  Yes, but very difficult to do.  That is why these simple lessons were so important.

You can watch the entire series on the Internet (click here, on YouTube).  For those familiar with the USAAF during WWII, you will notice a number of discrepancies like different tail markings indicating different bomber groups, 50-star USA flags on crew uniforms, and smoking near aircraft which was never permitted.

You can also find an article I wrote titled “The Rat Patrol: Lessons Not Forgotten” back in early 2021 (link here).  Enjoy!


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

26 thoughts on “12 O’clock High:  Lessons Not Forgotten

  1. Liz at Home

    I really enjoyed this tv series as I enjoyed most of the ww2 war series on land or sea or in the air like this one. What I would like to see, down the line somewhat, is an update from Gen. Satterfield on these old series and the lessons he is able to pull from them. The ability to see life’s lessons is a great talent and one that Gen. S has in spades. Consider a new section to the blog as a possibility.

    1. Alexander H.

      Seventy-eight hour-long episodes, sometimes cheesy, sometimes lame, sometimes hackneyed, but usually acted out in the venue of a B-17, or at least a Hollywood-prop B-17, for the two and one half year run of the TV series 12 O’Clock High. CHECK. Watch yourself, bandits at 12 O’clock high.

  2. Scotty Bush

    12 O’clock High and many others that Gen. Satterfield has told us about are the kind of things our movie makers need to pay closer attention to. I surprised in our Woke culture that these films are “allowed” to be seen. Our “betters” – woke politicians and leftist activists say they know better than us. Hogwash. They are the future tyrants and they can’t see the destruction they put upon us all.

  3. Dead Pool Guy

    Great series. Now that Gen. Satterfield has highlighted “12 O’clock High”, I’m going to watch it. The last time I saw these, I was 30 years younger. Now I can better appreciate them.

    1. Veronica Stillman

      Loved the series and most of those that were about WW2 and the Korean War. They helped make me appreciate our veterans.

      1. Winston

        I believe if you asked those of us here on Gen. Satterfield’s Leadership Blog, most of us would agree. Actually, ALL of us would agree. That is why we are here. To understand ourselves and make us better and to do more for others. Yes, we do think a lot a like (and be careful when that happens).
        “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” George Washington

    1. Greg NH

      You bet, Yusaf. I watched the show when I was in college at least 5 times with friends. We would sit around on Saturday nights and watched it on tv along with other 1960 military shows. We did this instead of going out drinking and falling down the dormitory stairs. It was also less embarrassing than waking up Sunday morning with a headache and vomit all over you. Learn lessons, watch old military shows.

      1. Doug Smith

        My friends would do the same thing. Great comment that brings back old memories.

  4. Emma Archambeau

    I started watching the series 12 o’clock high on youtube this morning. I hope to see them all by next month.

  5. Wild Bill

    #5, KNOW your men.
    That is my favorite and one of the best lessons any leader should “never” forget.

    1. Jerome Smith

      I agree Wild Bill. This lesson is the same as Sun Tzu’s.
      “If you know the enemy and know yourself (and your men), you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
      ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  6. rjsmithers

    Gen. Satterfield has given us two older tv shows that provide some important lessons (not forgotten). I highly recommend them both but also I hope that if you really want to learn more about leadership that you get a copy of either of his two books … or both and leave a comment on Amazon or Goodreads.
    “55 Rules for a Good Life”
    “Our Longest Year in Iraq”
    Happy reading!

  7. USA Patriot II

    The exploits of World War II bomber pilots are re-created in this 1960s series adapted from a 1949 film, focusing on missions of the 918th Flyer Squadron in England. Appreciated the tv series and was a regular fan.

    1. Stacey Borden

      This action drama follows the high-flying adventures of the 918th Heavy Bombardment Group in World War II from mid-1942 through 1944. The group is first under the command of Brig. Gen. Frank Savage and later, Col. Joseph Anson Gallagher. The TV series is based on the 1949 film of the same title.

    2. Doug Smith

      One of the more unique things about this show is the use of actual military footage of bombings of Germany and occupied territories during the war. Some of this footage is from the bombardiers vantage point and some is shot from the planes nose cameras. This mingling of vintage war footage with newer film techniques was often very obvious but added even more reality to the series. The group is commanded of Brig. Gen. Frank Savage during the first season but changed to Col. Joseph Anson Gallagher for the second and third seasons. The series was entirely based on the 1949 film of the same title starring Gregory Peck as Gen. Savage.

  8. ZB Two Two

    If you watch the series, then look for Gen. Satterfield’s lessons.

    1. KenFBrown

      Yeah, me too Dale. I was born in 1947, just before the Korean War. But as I grew up there were a host of tv shows that glorified WWII and the Korean War. I was fortunate, my dad survived WWII. He was also in Korea. So, with that, I have always been enamored by these tv shows.

        1. JT Patterson

          As most of you know, I’m a long time and huge huge fan of this leadership wesbsite. I’ve been a happy reader because the site – by Gen. Satterfield – is both informative and entertaining. I get a big kick out of reading the articles and this leader forum where I can exchange ideas and bounce thoughts off others who are courteous and can make worthy responses. Happy reading and happy watching 12 o’clock high.

    2. Cat A Miss

      Most of us that are old enough did the same thing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.