Pistol Packin’ Mama, the Missions of a B-17, a documentary film produced by Kenwood Productions.
Currently the production team of HBO, Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks, the same team that brought us Band of Brothers and The Pacific, are producing a $500 million dollar, 10-part series titled The Mighty Eighth to tell the story of the 8th Air Force, its men and planes, in the air war over Europe during WWII.
In 1990 Kenwood Productions produced to great acclaim Pistol Packin’ Mama, the Missions of a B-17, a documentary film. Winner of several film awards and recipient of the Joseph Addison Moller Medal from the 390th Memorial Museum Foundation, this film tells the story of a plane, Pistol Packin’ Mama, and its crew – featuring James Geary, Richard Perry, Shirl Hoffman, Gus Mencow, and Clifford Puckett. It traces the crew’s story from their enlistment through training through their 25 mission tour, including the missions they flew in the difficult early days of daylight bombing. As members of the 390th Bomb Group, they often led their squadron, their group, and sometime the entire 8th Air Force into action.
The life of a bomber crewman is shown here as never before . . . the strain of the cold, the fear, the sense of death and loss, and the bonds of camaraderie. Through the use of dramatic and moving oral histories, stunning combat footage, and rare personal photos, this film tells how it was battling fighters and flak 25,000 feet above Hitler’s Third Reich.
In their award citation, the 390th Foundation wrote of this film, “The graphic and realistic manner in which the documentary “Pistol Packin’ Mama” is presented is a tribute to all the fine men that served in the Air Campaign of Central Europe. The outstanding professional effort and technical presentation have recreated the excitement and adventures of B-17 aircrews during WWII. The production must be considered a classic and shall remain as THE 390th documentary forever.”
Reviewers have said it “ranks in dramatic impact with feature films like “12 O’clock High,” that it is “more than just a vivid documentary . . . it is a true emotional experience.”
In 1989 Kenwood Productions began producing WWII documentaries as part of a series of films titled The American Hero. The goal was to capture the essence of what it was like to be a combat soldier in WWII. Their first award-winning film, Fighting 17, the Jolly Rogers, tells the story of five Navy fighter pilots, led by Tom Blackburn, who flew and fought in the South Pacific. Their next film, 17th Airborne, the Bulge to the Rhine, tells the story of five members of the 681st Glider Field Artillery Battalion as they participated in the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Varsity. Pistol Packin’ Mama was next, and was followed by Pelelieu 1944, Horror in the Pacific, the story of Eugene Sledge, R.V. Burgin, Jay de l’Eau, Bill Leyden, and Roy Kelly as they fought the Japanese on the Island of Peleliu. Their story was the core story for HBO’s production, The Pacific.
After a broadcast run on select PBS stations and release into the video marketplace, the series went dormant until the broadcast of HBO’s The Pacific in 2011 which rekindled interest in these films. Now with the forthcoming release, rumored to be in 2019, of HBO’s The Mighty Eighth, people interested in the B-17 and its crews will appreciate the story of Pistol Packin’ Mama, the Missions of a B-17.
These films are available to purchase via download or DVD at the American Hero Film website.
They are also available through Amazon.