Cast & Crew
Peter Van Eyck
Among the five new prisoners arriving at Dulag Luft, a German Interrogation center for captured American air crews, are wounded flier Ralph Cole; Capt. James N. Spencer, the pilot commander; First Lieutenant Frank L. Williams, the co-pilot; Cooper, a frightened, young flier; and Technical Sergeant Alfred Mason. The Americans were captured in Italy, where their B-99 crashed while on a sortie to destroy German communication lines, and the German commander is frustrated by the discovery that much of their equipment, including bombs and identification papers, has been destroyed. The Nazis know that one of the crew is missing, but have few leads on the identities of the five prisoners, other than a newspaper clipping about Williams' father, who is the founder of the New England League Against Nazism. Initial interrogations by the Nazis reveal that Williams is talkative, and that Macson is fiercely loyal to his commander. Hoping to get more information by breaking the will of the weakest prisoner, the Nazi commander sends Cooper to solitary confinement. Spencer, meanwhile, is interrogated by the Nazis, but he refuses to divulge any information beyond his name, rank and serial number. Herr Mahler, a Red Cross representative, asks Spencer to sign admission papers, but Spencer knows it is a trick and refuses to complete the form. The Nazi commander abruptly ends his interrogation of Spencer by calling him the "uncooperative type." Later, Williams carelessly discusses Cole's identity with a man who introduces himself as a fellow American, and who offers Williams his friendship. From his hospital bed, Cole is tricked by a German nurse, who, while presenting herself as a victim of the Nazi regime, manages to extract information from the wounded soldier. Cole foolishly tells the nurse that his unit is from the fighter base at Naples, Italy, and speaks freely about his military service. Later, the major uses Spencer's admissions to coax Williams into talking in more detail about the fighting power of the B-99 bomber. From the information extracted from the prisoners thus far, the Nazis conclude that the Allies intend to strike an industrial center in a populated area. Mason provides the Nazis with further information about the B-99 and the mission when the major engages the technical sergeant in an argument about the plane's capabilities. When the Nazi commander threatens to harm Spencer if Mason does not give him more information, Mason panics and tells him more about the Air Force mission, including the information that it is to begin the following day. With the help of Cooper's inadvertent admission that the bombers will be carrying incendiary bombs and delayed-action bombs, the Nazis deduce that the mission will be hitting one of three targets in Budapest, Munich or Belgrade. Only hours before the start of the planned bombing mission, the Nazis determine that the target will be a Munich oil refinery. The information given to the Nazis by the airmen proves fatal for American fliers, as German fighter planes intercept and shoot down twenty-eight Allied bombers. Back at an Allied base, an American officer lectures his fliers on the dangers of speaking to Germans, and uses the failed mission as an example of the consequences of talking too much.
Peter Van Eyck
Aside from brief voice-over narration at the beginning and a speech by Lloyd Nolan at the end concerning the dangers of talking too much to the enemy, the film is presented in dramatic form. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Feature Documentary. According to a modern interview with screenwriter Owen Crump, who was working for the First Motion Picture Unit, the secluded Bavarian chateau that appears in the film was a process shot based on a picture post card. After the war, Crump said, two aviators visited Warner Bros. studios and revealed that during the war, they were taken to the same chateau for interrogation. Recognizing it from the film, the two fliers were so amused that they kept breaking into laughter, completely baffling their captors.