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How real war footage lost '12 O'Clock High' a sponsorship

By: H&I Staff     Posted: September 29, 2020, 3:57PM

Image: The Everett Collection

Based on the acclaimed movie of the same name, 12 O'Clock High tells the story of the brave men in the 918th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Eighth Air Force during World War II. Stationed in England, the team is lead by General Frank Savage and then later Colonel Joe Gallagher as they depart on long-ranged bombing runs all across Nazi-occupied Europe.

The series was action-packed with scenes of the 918th’s B-17 Flying Fortress taking on numerous German fighters at once. The action scenes in the show were often stock footage of real bombers and dogfights from WWII. The use of actual war footage caused the show to receive high praise for its wartime realism, although not from everyone.

Looking for sponsorship when the series was first attempting to take flight, the producers of 12 O'Clock High approached the executives of Volkswagen. When discussing the offer, the executives were shown the pilot of the series, "Golden Boy Had Nine Black Sheep," which contained actual war footage.

During one of the bombing sequences, one of the Volkswagen executives recognized that a building being bombarded was none other than a Volkswagen factory producing cars in Germany during the war.

"There goes our plant," they said. And the deal was off.