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Film / Beyond the Line of Duty

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Beyond the Line of Duty is a 1942 short film (22 minutes) directed by Lewis Seiler.

It is the story of Capt. Hewitt Wheless. Wheless, who stars as himself, was an American bomber pilot. The short sketches out his decision to join the Army and his qualification to become a bomber pilot. Having already joined the peacetime army and qualified as a bomber pilot, Wheless is in the Philippines when the Japanese strike in December 1941. Wheless's bomber is one of five sent to bomb Japanese troop transports. Wheless's mission becomes highly hazardous when Wheless's bomber is delayed, forcing Wheless to attack the Japanese troop transports alone.

Typical of the propaganda shorts made during the war to bolster American morale. Future President of the United States Ronald Reagan, himself judged unfit for combat service due to poor eyesight, provides narration.


  • Autobiographical Role: Hewitt Wheless, in his only film appearance, plays himself.
  • The Bet: Cal, another cowboy, bets a pair of fancy new boots that Hewitt can't get into Army Air Corps training at Henderson Field. Cut to Hewitt, arriving at the field with other recruits, wearing a pair of shiny new boots.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: A boy shows Wheless the victory stamps that he's been buying and collecting. Wheless then looks straight at the camera and delivers a little monologue about how buying stamps and bonds really does support the armed forces.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: A cowboy shows perfect timing, turning on a radio just in time for a recruiting commercial for the Army Air Corps. This inspires civilian Hewitt Wheless to join up.
  • Conversation Cut: Starts out with FDR recounting Wheless's flight. Cuts to a couple of announcers picking up the story of Wheless's flight. Then shows various groups of people listening to the radio announcers recounting Wheless's flight.
  • Floating Advice Reminder: We see various trainers giving trainee Wheless advice on how to conduct himself in combat, how to fly the plane, how to make a landing on a short runway. Later, as Wheless is trying to get his bomber back home with a horde of Zeroes on his tail, we see all those people pop up again as floating reminders in the corner of the screen.
  • How We Got Here: Opens with Franklin Roosevelt's "fireside chat" in which he recounted Wheless's flight to a grateful nation. Then jumps back to civilian Hewitt Wheless deciding to join the Army.
  • Narrator
    • Ronald Reagan, for most of the movie, telling Wheless's story.
    • But the original fireside chat by Franklin D. Roosevelt is used to describe the details of Wheless's flight.
  • Pun: Narrator Reagan does this to get some innuendo past the censors. As the film demonstrates Wheliss's tail gunner target shooting, Reagan says "it's shooting like this that will knock them on their axis."
  • Title Drop: The last line has Reagan describe Army flight trainers as "guiding those boys who are smashing their way to victory, beyond the line of duty."