Synopsis by Bruce Eder
In an obvious attempt to recreate some of the power and impact of Henry King's Twelve O'Clock High, Lesley Selander's Flat Top tells its story in flashback as Dan Collier (Sterling Hayden), a senior officer, recalls from the bridge of the carrier Princeton during the Korean War, the first squadron he commanded on the ship during World War II. Arriving as green recruits, the men resent Collier's grounding the most dedicated man in the squadron (Keith Larsen) for ignoring a wave-off; even more so, they fail at first to understand his sometimes harsh efforts at preparing them for battle against the Japanese -- we also get to meet the various men of the squadron, who are mostly identified by what they did in civilian life -- William Schallert plays a poet-turned-pilot named "Longfellow"; John Bromfield plays an ex-football player nicknamed "Snakehips". Most of the conflict centers on Collier and his efforts to make a good executive officer out of Joe Rodgers (Richard Carlson), who was already in the navy when he transferred to aviation but is too concerned with being popular with the men to be a good commanding officer. Meanwhile, the pilots face various conflicts, psychological and personal, as they move toward the thick of battle.
commander, Navy, pilot, training, strict, war, rival