God Is My Co-Pilot (film)

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God Is My Co-Pilot
God Is My Co-Pilot (film).jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Robert Florey
Produced by Robert Buckner
Written by Abem Finkel
Peter Milne
Starring Dennis Morgan
Dane Clark
Music by Leo F. Forbstein
Cinematography Sidney Hickox
Charles A. Marshall
Edited by Folmer Blangsted
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates April 7, 1945 (Premiere: Macon, Georgia)
Running time 90 min.
Country United States
Language English

God is My Co-Pilot is a 1945 American war film based on the autobiography of the same name by Robert Lee Scott, Jr. The film tells the story of Scott's association with the Flying Tigers and the United States Army Air Forces in China and Burma during World War II.


God Is My Co-Pilot was based on the best-selling autobiography by fighter pilot Col. Robert Lee Scott Jr. (Dennis Morgan), who fought in the Pacific during World War II. At 34, Scott was considered too old to fly in combat, but he volunteered for a secret bombing raid from the Philippines against the Japanese capital of Tokyo. When the mission is cancelled after he arrives in India, Scott flies transport aircraft over The Hump into China.

Scott persuades Claire Chennault (Raymond Massey), the leader of the Flying Tigers to let him fly with the airmen such as "Tex" Hill (John Ridgely) who have been fighting the Japanese as a mercenary air force. Scott gets his chance to fight, ultimately engaging in combat with the deadly fictional Japanese pilot known as "Tokyo Joe" (Richard Loo).


As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified):[1]


In order to provide authentic aerial sequences, the principal photography took place in July–August 1944 at Luke Auxiliary One airfield in Arizona. The use of Training Command Curtiss P-40Es and Fs,[N 1] some one dozen North American B-25Gs and various other training aircraft helped create a busy sky, but unfortunately also led to the loss of five airmen in a midair collision.[3] [N 2] With as many as 60 aircraft committed to the production, the film was the most ambitious of its kind in wartime.[5] To portray the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters, the production used "Hollywood Zeros," the ubiquitous North American AT-6 trainers, painted in camouflage and Japanese markings.[6]

Colonel Robert L. Scott Jr. in his P-40 Warhawk in 1943 (USAF photo)

The Warner Brothers' Ranch near Los Angeles also became the airfield set for the film's opening sequence at the American Volunteer Group (AVG) base Kunming. There a trio of the full-scale P-40 mock-ups built several years earlier for the 1942 Republic movie, Flying Tigers, were evident in the background, along with two P-40Es reclaimed from the AAF Reclamation Depot in San Diego.[3] The film's air operations were directed by Hollywood "stunt pilots" Frank "Speed" Nolta and Major Frank Clarke.[7] Col. Scott served as a technical advisor and flew in a number of sequences, reprising his role as a Flying Tiger.[8]


Regarded as typical Hollywood fare by most moviegoers, the script nonetheless attempted to be mainly faithful to Col. Robert Lee Scott Jr.'s original story of his exploits over China, and bringing in enough of his backstory to let the audience feel they knew him. By basing the film on exploits of actual historical figures (only occasionally resorting to fictional characters such as "Tokyo Joe"), the film gained considerable credibility. However, by 1945 the American film-going public were wary of what was essentially seen as another in a series of patriotic, "flag-waving" films. Critics relegated it to an "also-ran" position regarding the sub-plot of Scott's inspirational message as forced. The New York Times reviewer, Bosley Crowther noted that the "pious injection of the spiritual in an otherwise noisy action film is patently ostentatious and results in a maudlin effect."[9]

Premiered in Macon, Georgia, Scott's hometown, the film went on to commercial success as one of the last of the patriotic productions to be screened during wartime.[10] In a modern context, the film has received a revival in interest as it is now considered one of the "classic" aviation films primarily due to its aerial scenes, which were even at the time, considered one of its assets.[11] Along with Scott's role in telling the story of the Flying Tigers, God is My Co-Pilot is now considered more as a historical record.[12]


  1. ^ The P-40F is easily distinguished from the P-40B actually used by the Flying Tigers, since its Merlin engine draws intake air from the underside. The P-40Es used also had a distinctive engine and cowling profile that was different than the earlier P-40B/C.[2]
  2. ^ A B-25 was struck by an AT-6 with the subsequent loss of three on board the bomber and the two pilots in the AT-6.[4]
  1. ^ "God Is My Co-Pilot (1945) Full credits." IMDb. Retrieved: May 12, 2012.
  2. ^ "Curtiss P-40 Warhawk." Warbir Alley. Retrieved: 31 December 2010.
  3. ^ a b Farmer, James H. "God is My co-Pilot (WB, 1945)." Flight Journal, August 2002.
  4. ^ Orriss 1984, pp. 113–114.
  5. ^ Orriss 1984, p. 113.
  6. ^ Orriss 1984, pp. 111–112.
  7. ^ Orriss 1984, p. 111.
  8. ^ Orriss 1984, p. 115.
  9. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "God Is My Co-Pilot (1945, Warner Film, Opens at Strand." The New York Times, March 24, 1945. Retrieved: December 31, 2010.
  10. ^ Orriss 1984, p. 116.
  11. ^ Hardwick and Schnepf 1989, p. 51.
  12. ^ Dolan 1989, pp. 136–137.
  • Dolan, Edward F. Jr. Hollywood Goes to War. London: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-86124-229-7.
  • Hardwick, Jack and Ed Schnepf, . "A Viewer's Guide to Aviation Movies". The Making of the Great Aviation Films, General Aviation Series, Volume 2, 1989.
  • Orriss, Bruce. When Hollywood Ruled the Skies: The Aviation Film Classics of World War II. Hawthorne, California: Aero Associates Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-9613088-0-X.

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