Twelve O’Clock High

As a paradigm of the effectiveness of contrasting leadership styles
relating to a specific managerial environment.


Perry Saputo

Professor Thomas Schillar
February 1, 2000
BPA 395
Paradigms of Leadership

Twelve O’Clock High

Introduction to the paper’s subject, and primary objectives:

General information regarding the topic of this paper:

 The purpose of this paper is to identify and contrast the different styles of leadership exhibited by two characters found in the 1949 movie Twelve O’Clock High starring Gregory Peck as General Savage, Army Air Forces general. Based on a true story, Twelve O’Clock High is a inspirational account of the highly dangerous precision daylight bombing missions carried out by US Army Air Force’s 918th Bomber Group in England during the last part of World War II. In the beginning of the movie the squadron is commanded by general Davenport. It is very clear that General Davenport’s main concern is the wellbeing of his men. He obviously had developed close interpersonal relationships. The men of the squadron were completely devoted towards Davenport and they trusted any decision that he would make. General Davenport’s affection for his men comes to interfere with his ability to lead them. The squadron suffers heavy losses to planes and heavier losses to soldiers. One instance that clearly demonstrates Davenport’s incapability to uphold his responsibilities as the leader is when he jeopardizes the well being of the entire squadron by ignoring protocol and flying out of formation in the attempt to save one plane. When it becomes apparent to Davenport’s superiors that his emotional feelings have become an obstacle to his effectively leading the squadron they relieve him. General Savage who is ordered to take over the underachieving bomber group experiencing heavy losses because of poor technique and lack of focus. Savage takes a kind of tough love approach, holding his men to the highest standards. Savage makes the point that the ultimate objection of the squadron is to successfully complete the assigned missions. Throughout the movie Savage constantly makes it absolutely clear to the squadron that no one individual’s wellbeing will be placed ahead of the entire team and the success of the team. Initially the changing of the preceding General dispirits the squadron. They felt that General Savage was uncompassionate considering the men as nothing more then numbers that were dispensable at his convenience. After several missions that were marked by a remarkable turnaround in success the man eventually come to respect General Savage and his methods of leadership. Although Savage care very much about the wellbeing of his men he represses his feelings and presents himself in as being very cold and business-like. General Savage’s effort to maintain consistency in the way that he treats his Men eventually takes its toll. By the end of the film he’s driven himself into utter physical and mental exhaustion.

Background of daylight precision bombing:

 Daylight precision bombing was used during one of the most critical points of the war. The allies had been successful at eradicating Germany from most of France and the other countries that had formerly been occupied as a result of hostile invasion by the Axis power. Germany’s new primary objective was then shifted from an aggressive strategy to successfully defending their homeland in order to recuperate. This would allow them to extend the length of the war thus improving their chances of eventual triumph. The Allies had the opportunity to end the war quickly by successfully striking down Germany while they were in weakened state. The US knew that Germany’s weakened condition was temporary and would only last for a short time. Therefore the only way that they would be able to capitalize on this window of opportunity to cripple Germany was by swift and effective action. The Allies strategy to invade Germany involved two-parts. The first was the weakening of Germany’s internal defenses by bombing certain targets that were felt to be the most crucial to Germany’s ability to ward of an invasion. After this the Allied ground troops would follow in the attempt to conquer Berlin. This strategy, in theory, would allow for a much less formable German defense to the invasion of the allied ground troops thus precipitating an end to the war in the shortest amount of time possible. Before this time the use of