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12 O'Clock High

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Executive Summary

Under the leadership of Colonel Davenport, the 918 Bomber Group is an inefficient operation, unable to successfully complete its missions of daylight precision bombing. Internally, the group blames its problems on “hard luck”, but General Pritchard recognizes that the true source of ineffectiveness is Davenport himself and replaces him with General Frank Savage. As a result of General Savage’s leadership style, which varies widely from Colonel Davenport, the 918 is transformed into an efficient model of success.


Wholly and individually, the members of the 918th Bomber Group reflected the personality and leadership traits of its commanding officer, Colonel Davenport. This is evidenced by the despondent atmosphere emanating throughout the base. Following several unsuccessfully bombing runs, team morale is low and the group is hopeless. Davenport unwittingly encourages this behavior with his constant complaints aimed at superiors and with his assertion that the team’s poor results are because of hard luck. But hard luck is not the source of the problem, but merely a cover for Davenport’s poor leadership skills.

Davenport had many deficiencies as a leader. First, he lacked the vision to successfully lead the bomber group. His focus was on the smaller details, such as the individuals in his unit, rather than on the greater mission of successful daylight precision bombing. As a result, he grew too close with his men, or to paraphrase General Savage, “he over-identified with them”, often assuming blame for their missteps and refusing to discipline them for these mistakes. Additionally, he would not push his men to maximum effort, though this was an important goal conveyed by his superiors, as he was afraid of burning them out. Typically, compassion and loyalty in a man are viewed positively, but in these extreme circumstances, the consequences proved fatal.

Additionally, Davenport indirectly encouraged his men to break procedure. For example, it was quite obvious that his men were unaware of proper crisis procedure, relying instead on their own poorly developed instincts. Rather than instruct the men on the proper actions, Davenport would attribute their mistakes to the high stress of the situation, while overlooking the negligence. Also, Davenport often broke procedure himself, blaming the inflexibility of his superiors for forcing his hand. Again, the inability by Davenport to enforce these rules had disastrous consequences.

In acting this way, Davenport sparked a vicious cycle that guaranteed failure for the 918th. The lack of success lowered team morale which in turn made it more difficult to be successful in subsequent missions. Still, the men of the 918th were quite loyal to Colonel Davenport, idealizing him rather than blaming him for their failures. In fact, when he is finally relieved of his duties, the men are upset and react inappropriately. This results in Davenport’s final failure as the commanding officer. Since he never properly empowered any of his men to become leaders, no one assumes the role and instead they leave the base and get drunk upon hearing of Davenport’s dismissal. By the time General Savage assumes command, the 918th is in complete disarray and in need of an extreme culture shift.

General Savage is quick to be the catalyst for this shift, instantly asserting his authority to the first soldier that he encounters on the base, chastising the man for breaking procedure. Savage believes that to change the men, he needs to be harsh and a strict enforcer of the rules. He uses this tactic often throughout the initial part of his command. His harshness reaches its pinnacle during his first encounter with Gately, a pilot that refuses to realize his enormous talent. While referring to Gately’s proud military legacy, Savage berates the airman for being an underachiever and demotes him to the “Leper Colony”. Though the tactic was risky, he could have easily lost Gately, it provided almost immediate positive results. Gately’s sense of pride took over and proving Savage wrong was the only incentive that Gately needed to attain success.

Another tactic used by Savage was to stress the power of the unit as a whole. Savage saw no need for individualism, viewing it as an opportunity for error. He told his men to “consider yourselves already dead” and to “think of yourself only as a part of the team”. Synergy is a buzzword thrown around



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