Cast & Crew
Fred F. Sears
In June 1950, at an American Army base in Kimpo, South Korea, Capt. George Slocum, pilot of an L5 single-engine surveyor plane, receives orders delivered by his friend, Lt. Jerry Barker, to return to Japan briefly. Pleased at the opportunity to see his wife, George agrees to also meet Jerry's younger brother, Lt. Pete Barker, who is arriving from the States. Pete lands in Tazuke, Japan before George and, believing that Jerry is flying in to meet him, takes up one of the L5s to intercept him. George is confused by Pete's flying acrobatics and only on the ground does Pete realize his error. George gives Pete a mild reprimand but when the military police arrive to arrest the men for stunt flying over the city, both George and Pete insist they were practicing legitimate escape maneuvers. Later, while Pete attempts to romance Kate, an Army nurse, George surprises his wife Nancy, who is concerned over his sudden appearance. George suspects military action is imminent, but is unable to reassure Nancy. Soon after his arrival, however, George is recalled as the base receives news of North Korea's attack on South Korea. George and Pete are ordered to Pusan, Korea, but upon approach, are diverted to Seoul because of North Korean bombings. En route, the L5s pass over the smoking remains of Kimpo base and both planes land. Pete finds Jerry critically wounded and delirious. When Pete and George attempt to get Jerry to safety, they are attacked by armed civilian sympathizers. Jerry is killed and George and Pete fight off their attackers. George frees Korean teenager Clancy, the base mascot, and takes him on board. The planes take off and remain low for cover, but Pete drifts into a reverie while recalling Jerry and inadvertently gains altitude and the attention of an enemy fighter squad. George manages to divert the planes from Pete and, through dangerous flying, forces one to crash into the hills, dispersing the others. Despite successfully transporting the U.S. Ambassador and the Korean President to safety in Japan, Pete remains resentful over the uselessness of the unarmed surveyor planes, and wants revenge for Jerry's death. Pete has mechanic Swenson assist him in attaching a bazooka to one of his plane's wings. On the next mission, when Pete and George spot several enemy tanks, Pete disregards George's admonition and attempts to bomb one. Instead he is shot down. After flying over to verify that Pete is safe, George continues on his mission alone, to Pete's outrage. Upon returning to base, George asks Maj. Hacker to send men back to retrieve Pete, but Hacker refuses, explaining that their men have been cut off and are fighting for survival. Hacker orders George to drop desperately needed medical supplies at a nearby base and, taking a nervous Swenson with him, George complies. When George spots another tank brigade in a valley just beyond South Korean troops, he steers the Koreans over the river to make an unexpected rear assault. As George and Swenson return to base, Pete is escorted into camp by South Koreans, and George chastises Pete for wasting a plane through his recklessness. Pete grudgingly apologizes and over the next several weeks, he and George fly a series of missions dropping supplies and directing artillery fire and troops. While on guard one evening at another base, George spots a sneak enemy attack, but is seriously wounded in the assault. Pete volunteers to fly George out for proper medical attention and, despite George's feeble plea not to endanger the plane, daringly flies out. Airborne, Pete hears the transmission of American fighter pilots admitting they are disoriented due to heavy smoke and bemoans the lack of radio power that would allow him to guide them to their target. Upon landing at the medical base, Pete turns George over to Kate, before learning his home base has been over run. Later that night Kate tells Pete that George has died, but encourages him to see that his death was not in vain. When Swenson and his partner, Maxie Steiner, arrive with as much equipment as they could take from the base, Pete orders them to help him install a powerful radio in his L5. Although reprimanded for making an illegal flight getting George out, Pete receives orders for a mission to photograph key bridges for a possible retreat. Pete takes Maxie aloft with him and although Maxie laments their assignment, Pete orders him to comply. Just before returning, Pete spots a tank brigade through the battle smoke and radios the fighter jets to direct them to the tanks, which then are successfully destroyed. Pete is shot in the arm, forcing Maxie to fly the plane back to base. Pete and Maxie survive the crash landing, determined to put all their efforts toward fighting and winning the war.
Fred F. Sears
Martin M. Goldsmith
Capt. Paul F. Hopkins
Jesse L. Lasky Jr.
Frank [a.] Tuttle
Mission Over Korea
Shot in early to mid February 1953, as the three year old conflict in Korea was winding down (at a final cost of more than 36,000 American lives), Mission Over Korea originated with a script cobbled together by Martin Goldsmith, Jesse Lasky, Jr. and Eugene Ling from a story by war correspondent turned Hollywood scribe Richard Tregaskis, author of Guadalcanal Diary. To imbue the production with novelty and timeliness, producer Robert Cohn (nephew of Columbia top dog Harry Cohn) obtained permission from the United States government to film near the Korean front, the so-called 38th Parallel. With permission granted, Cohn, Sears and studio cameramen William Whitley (who had shot A Yank in Korea  and A Yank in Indo-China  for Sam Katzman) and Emil Oster, Jr., logged 18,000 miles of travel between Hollywood, Japan and Korea. Sometimes dressing the actual locations to look more dramatic, the crew shot a purported 85,000 feet of film, while dodging artillery from the North Korean Army and fearing sneak attacks by Red guerillas. Back in the States, Sears ordered the construction of sets to match the locations he and his crew had photographed while the script was rewritten to accommodate the location footage and "happy" accidents that had been captured on film. Whether good or bad for business, Mission Over Korea's premiere coincided, for all intents and purposes, with the signing of the armistice agreement on July 27, 1953.
At 85 minutes long, Mission Over Korea was Fred Sears' first feature-length film (most of his previous programmers were under 80 minutes) and benefits immeasurably from an above average cast. Star John Hodiak had seen an upswing in his fortunes during World War Two; with many Hollywood leading men enlisting in the armed forces, the glowering, Pittsburgh-born actor (classified as unfit for combat due to high blood pressure) snagged some important starring roles. Sadly, Hodiak died prematurely, of coronary thrombosis, only two years after completing his work on Mission Over Korea. Later a writer-director and photographer of note and arguably more famous for his roster of starlet wives (Ursula Andress, Linda Evans, Bo Derek) than for his artistic achievements, John Derek appears in an ingénue role as a greenhorn soldier and that's Todd Karns from Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) playing his doomed brother. Well cast in smaller roles are Rex Reason (on the cusp of his rebranding as a man of action for Universal-International), Harvey Lembeck (fresh from Stalag 17 ), Dabbs Greer and Maureen O'Sullivan, seen here between Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).
Seen (and heard) briefly in the film is Richard Bowers, a black Army NCO from Vauxhall, New Jersey. Bowers recorded the Japanese song ""Gomen-Nasai" ("Forgive Me") with the Columbia Tokyo Orchestra. As a single (paired with a reissue of Shizuko Kasagi's recording of "Tokyo Boogie Woogie"), the tune was heralded as "the new big hit" by Billboard in February 1953 before a subsequent version two months later became the first chart entry for rising star Harry Belafonte.
Producer: Robert Cohn
Director: Fred F. Sears
Screenplay: Martin Goldsmith, Jesse Lasky, Jr., Eugene Ling (writers); Richard Tregaskis (story)
Cinematography: Sam Leavitt
Art Direction: George Brooks
Film Editing: Henry Batista
Cast: John Hodiak (Capt. George P. Slocum), John Derek (Lt. Pete Barker), Audrey Totter (Kate), Maureen O'Sullivan (Nancy Slocum), Harvey Lembeck (Sgt. Maxie Steiner), Richard Erdman (Pvt. Swenson), Rex Reason (Maj. Jim Hacker), Richard Bowers (singing soldier).
by Richard Harland Smith
"The Passion of Fred F. Sears," Lost in the Fifties: Rediscovering Phantom Hollywood by Wheeler Winston Dixon
Billboard, February 21, 1953
Jet, February 26, 1953
Jet, October 29, 1954
Maureen O'Sullivan: No Average Jane by David A. Fury
Mission Over Korea
The following written prologue appears before the onscreen credits: "Dedicated to the Eighth United States Army, Fifth United States Air Force, Republic of Korea Army who made this film possible. To the men at Itazuki, Kwanju, Taego, Ouijanbu, Pusan, Inchon, Seoul where this story was photographed." According to a December 1952 Daily Variety news item, Mission over Korea's script was altered to include a portion of the 85,000 feet of location footage photographed by producer Robert Cohn and a camera crew near the Korean front lines. The song "Forgive Me," the English version of a popular Japanese song "Gomen-Nasai" was a hit record for Richard Bowers prior to making this film. Bowers, who appears as a soldier, also sings the song in the picture.