“Total Maximum Effort”

by Aaron Clarey
Captain Capitalism


In the movie 12 O’Clock High Gregory Peck takes over an underperforming bomber group during WWII to get them up to snuff. It not only entails the standard horrors the 8th Air Force endured during WWII, but focuses on what they call “Maximum Effort” as all war is economics and one can only win by putting forth the maximum effort. But what is “maximum effort?” How much can an already embattled bomber group take? And not so much in terms of physical causalities and injuries, but psychological limits as well.

Well they find out.

The bomber group is whipped up into shaped. They have improved success. With better tactics their casualties go down. There’s even the dividend of improved morale, increasing the “maximum effort” the group can put forth. But General Savage (Gregory Peck) himself finds out what the limits are as he succumbs to his own limitations. On the eve of the final bombing run he finally breaks down mentally, trying to recall the bombers that have already raced down the runway, forcing his adjutants to restrain him on a jeep. Thus learning the lesson that the only way to find out what a maximum effort is, is to push your point to failure and collapse, rendering you useless thereafter.

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