Cast & Crew
Cmdr. Stanley Blair heads a jet squadron, comprised of veteran and new men, stationed on an aircraft carrier engaged in battle manuevers in the Atlantic Ocean. Blair's second-in-command, Lt. Dick Huggins, intensely dislikes one of the new pilots, Ensign James Delaney, whose bravado and showy flying impress the other men. When reprimanding Delaney for a stunt that resulted in Huggins receiving a wave-off while trying to land, Blair reminds him that the squadron must act as one, and that no individual is more important than the team. In their quarters, some of the men wonder why Huggins has been so surly lately, and Lt. John Smith tells them that Huggins' wife Marg, a nightclub singer, is pressuring him to transfer to shore duty. Meanwhile, Huggins appeals to Blair, asking him to transfer the cocky Delaney, but Blair tells him that although he, himself, was undisciplined as a young ensign, thanks to the help of older officers, was able to straighten up and become a well-trained officer. Later, several of the men are conversing about their civilian lives and whether they want to become career Navy men. Anthony Perini states that he is only serving his term and then will return to law school, while Lt., j.g. Hal Alexander wonders if he "has the stuff" to become a career Navy man like his father, who received the Navy Cross during World War II. Smith reveals that Blair also received the Navy Cross in the war, during a fight near the Mariana Islands, where he bombed an enemy cruiser. The next morning, the squadron is assigned to a practice strafing run on an ocean target, and are advised to look for an unidentified submarine that has been spotted in the area. During the run, Delaney sees what he thinks is a periscope and notifies Blair, but by the time Blair reaches the coordinates, the object is gone. During the de-briefing aboard the ship, Delaney's uncertainty about exact details of the incident provides Blair with an opportunity to remind him that he must rely more on precision than on personality if he is to carry out important missions. The squad then celebrates the fact that Alexander made the 75,000th landing on the carrier, and although the others enjoy cake, Huggins stalks from the room. Later, Blair questions Huggins about his behavior, and Huggins reveals that before he left on the current tour, he and Marg had a bitter quarrel about his potential transfer to shore duty, and he worries that they will be unable to reconcile. Knowing how much Huggins loves both Marg and flying, Blair counsels him not to act rashly, and also to ease up on the new men. That night, Blair and Smith watch from the deck as the carrier practices shooting down a drone plane, and discuss how important maneuvers are to insuring the readiness of the United States's armed forces. The next afternoon, the squadron is making another practice run when a heavy fog sets in and Huggins, bringing up the rear, gets separated from the group. Blair calmly talks the other men into keeping their present courses and relying on their instruments, and soon they have all landed safely except for Delaney, who crashed into the ocean. While Delaney is picked up by a helicopter, Huggins' position is verified on radar, as his plane has developed electrical problems and his instruments are not giving accurate readings. Blair gives Huggins radio instructions on turns to bring him closer to the ship, while fears grow that his plane will soon run out of fuel. Huggins is unwilling to eject, as he does not know his exact altitude, and Delaney volunteers to go back up, establish visual contact with Huggins and lead him to the carrier. Despite the danger of the plan, Blair agrees, and Delaney soon makes contact with Huggins. After Huggins lands safely and is greeted by the men in the briefing room, he learns that Delaney was the one who volunteered to rescue him. When Delaney enters, Huggins shakes his hand, and asks the other men to forgive him for his gruff behavior. Just then, a letter from Marg arrives, and Huggins happily tells Blair that it is good news. The men then beam with pride as the ship's captain broadcasts an announcement about their successful flight.
E. B. "buzz" Gibson
Lt. Cdr. Leo R. Pierson
Captain Frank Turner
Before this film's opening credits, a written foreword reads: "With grateful appreciation for the cooperation of the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense." At the film's end, the following dedication appears: "The mighty air arm of the United States Navy with its control of the seas is a great part of this nation's security. Aggression can be stopped and peace maintained with a strong Navy. This story is dedicated to the men at sea with wings."
According to a November 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer Cy Roth had "obtained complete financial backing from San Francisco interests for his Coyt Productions schedule." The first film on the schedule was to be Air Strike, which was to roll "early next year." Coyt Productions was not the name of the film's production company, however, and the identity of Roth's financial backers has not been determined.
As noted in the onscreen credits and Hollywood Reporter news items, portions of the picture were filmed aboard the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Essex (CVA 9), which was stationed in San Diego, CA. The name of the ship did not appear on the fictional ship in the film, however. Some of the servicemen of the Essex appeared in the picture, as did the "Fighting Falcons" of VF 142 Cougar Squadron, which was stationed aboard her. The onscreen cast credit for the military extras reads: "The officers and men of the U.S.S. Essex (CVA 9); The "Fighting Falcons" of VF 142 Cougar Squadron." The interior sequences were shot at Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood, according to Hollywood Reporter news items. Although a September 15, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item includes Bill Phipps in the cast, his appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. The character of "Marg" appears in the picture only in flashbacks. As noted by reviews, the film contained a great deal of stock footage.