‘Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane’ Was A B-17 Gunner In WWII

James Best was an American on-screen character, who is best known for his principle performance as blundering Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in the CBS TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard”. He was also an acting mentor, craftsman, school teacher and a great performer.

He served respectably in the United States Army during the Second World War, he began his training in 1944 in Biloxi, Mississippi and trained up as a gunner on a B-17 bomber aircraft, but when he came to the end of his training, the war was nearly at an end, and so he chose to join the Military Police.

As an MP, he played his best role in conveying strength, firmness, and stability to a war-torn Germany instantly after their surrender.

While positioned in Germany, Best transferred out from the MP and joined a Special services unit of on-screen characters (actors) for the US Army that went around Europe performing plays for the troops. This was the real start of his acting profession.

Early years

His mom was the sister of Ike Everly. He was sent to the orphans’ house after his mother’s death. Afterward, he was received and taken up by Armen Best (1897-1984) and his wife Essa (1896-1988), and they start living in Corydon, Indiana.

The Dukes of Hazzard

Best played Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on CBS’s The Dukes of Hazard from the very first episode of the program in 1979 until it finished in 1985. This part was Best’s most noticeable achievement. He later revealed that the cartoon-like persona of Sheriff Coltrane was produced from a voice that he utilized when playing with his kids. On the set, Best was especially close to his brother-in-law as well the manager, Sorrell Booke.

Later Career

After a few years, he went to Florida and instructed at the University of Central Florida (Orlando). After semi-retiring, Best ran a production company and took intermittent acting parts. He additionally earned a name for himself as a craftsman and painter.

Best was a great acting coach. He taught drama as well as different acting skills for about 25 years in Los Angeles. He also taught dramatization and worked as a craftsman at the University of Mississippi (Oxford) for a long time preceding his spell on The Dukes of Hazard. In 2009, he finished his autobiography “Best In Hollywood: The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful”.

Personal Life & Health

Best got married to his 2nd wife, Jobee Ayers, in 1959 but unfortunately divorced in 1977. He had two daughters from his 2nd marriage and a son from his first. He got married to 3rd wife, Dorothy Collier, in 1986. He died on 6th April, 2015.

The Mighty Eight and the B-17

The US 8th Airforce arrived in England in 1942 with the sole mission of destroying Germany’s ability to wage war. They would use any means necessary, be it carpet bombing or precision bombing. On August 17th, 1942 18x B-17s launched a bombing raid over Nazi-held territory in Europe, hitting railway networks and strategic points. At first, the Luftwaffe was unprepared and didn’t know how to counter the raids but then improved tactics brought the loss ratio down to 10:15.

Here are some notable losses:

September 6th, 1943, 400 bombers sent out to attack a ball-bearing plant, 45 were lost.
October 4th, 291 B-17s sent to the same location, 60 were lost.
January 11th, 1944, 600 B-17s sent to various industries. Bad weather brought down this number to 238 out of which 60 were lost. The Luftwaffe found that attacking the B-17 Flying Fortress head on proved more fruitful and therefore the Americans developed the term “Bandits at 12 O’ Clock High” for oncoming Luftwaffe fighters.

Although various models of the B-17 Flying Fortress were produced, the B-17G was the one that was liked the most. Almost 9000 B-17Gs were produced, the most of any variant because of their superior specs. A B-17G weighed 65,000 pounds and could cruise at a speed of 150 mph, peaking at 287 mph. It could attain a service ceiling of 35,600 feet, and carry a 9600 pounds payload. The 4x Wright R-1820 Cyclone engines could produce 1200 HP each!