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Pilot #5

Pilot #5(1943)

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Remind Me

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In March 1942, on the island of Java, Major Eichel, the Dutch commander of a group of Allied troops, must choose a pilot to fly a suicide mission against the Japanese, using the squad's only working plane. Although four other Americans eagerly vie for the chance, Eichel selects Lt. George Braynor Collins, who plans to bomb not only the enemy's planes, but an aircraft carrier as well. After the seemingly fearless George takes off with a 500-pound bomb strapped to his plane, Eichel questions the remaining pilots about their cohort. Henry Willoughby Claven, George's longtime friend, recalls that when he first saw the hard-working George after he had graduated from law school, he seemed peculiarly serious but did not inquire as to why. Winston Davis then describes how he first met George while working as an Air Corps recruiter: Because of a bad recommendation from Barrett, George's college dean, Winston is forced to reject George's application to join the Air Corps. Winston is nonetheless struck by George's intense manner, and, on a hunch, tracks him to a bar in his home town. There, the bartender reveals that years before, when George's former boss, Governor Hank Durban, was exposed as a crook, George was ostracized by the town. George picks a fight with Winston and so impresses him with his combative spirit that Winston changes his mind about recruiting him. Back on Java, while Vito listens anxiously to George's radio reports, Henry continues his recollections, remembering a time when George was still a law student: After Dean Barrett informs the top-ranked George that Governor Durban has expressed interest in hiring him, an elated George proposes to his childhood sweetheart, Freddie Andrews. Freddie happily accepts, and together they begin building their dream house. Months later, Henry visits the couple at the half-finished house and senses that, despite their youthful appearance, they have suddenly aged. After Henry concludes his story, Vito S. Alessandro talks about his relationship with George, whom he first met just out of law school: In order to please his uncle, who works for Governor Durban, Vito, a brash but incompetent lawyer, offers George a partnership in his firm. Although Freddie, who is Vito's secretary, discourages George from becoming involved with Vito and Durban, the ambitious George accepts. Later, after Durban has revealed to the lawyers his latest land-grabbing scheme, Freddie realizes that George has fallen under the governor's seductive spell. Despite Freddie's warnings, George agrees to help the governor evict poor farmers by claiming that a valuable water project is to be constructed on their land. Soon after, Vito's beloved brother Nikola arrives from Italy, having barely escaped alive from the Facists. When the infirmed Nikola, who had been Vito's boyhood hero, sees a portrait of Benito Mussolini hanging on Vito's office wall, he explodes and accuses his brother of treachery. Later, Nikola, now half-mad, kills himself. Guilt-ridden, Vito seeks comfort from Freddie, whom he has longed loved, and is confronted by a jealous George. Freddie is disgusted by George's petty emotions and informs him that while she still loves him, she no longer likes him. After George slaps her for saying that he is no better than the Facists, Freddie ends their relationship and moves to California. Still on Durban's payroll, George and Vito then help to evict the Pritchard family, proud farmers who have refused to abandon their land. When Durban's thugs toss tear gas canisters into the Pritchards' house, the lawyers watch in horror as the Pritchards' mentally ill daughter Hanna crawls up the chimney in fear and is suffocated. Enraged by the tragedy, George accuses Durban of murder, but Durban smugly denies any responsibility. After George slugs him, Durban orders his bodyguards to beat George and leave him for dead. George survives, however, and supplies the U.S. Attorney with evidence to indict and convict the governor. For his efforts, George is spurned by the community and is forced to work at menial jobs until he decides to join the Air Corps. Back in Java, as George nears his target, Vito describes how he encountered George at pilots' training school and arranged for him to be reunited with Freddie during a three-day furlough: At the Los Angeles bus station, George spies Freddie and rushes to her side. Forgetting the past, the couple boards a bus for Las Vegas, marries and moves into a rental cottage. When George's furlough is up, Freddie says a brave goodbye and bids him to do his duty. Back in camp, after Eichel states that he now understands George's courage, he and the other pilots listen to the radio while George shoots down several Japanese planes, then dive-bombs into their ship. With George's sacrifice, Eichel proclaims that every Facist enemy, "our enemy," shall be destroyed.