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Film / Operation Crossbow

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Operation Crossbow is a 1965 World War II espionage film Very Loosely Based on a True Story about British efforts to spy on the Nazis' rocket production and make them vulnerable to bombings. A group of soldiers with mechanical skills are recruited to pose as collaborating scientists and infiltrate the rocket project.


  • Advertised Extra: Sophia Loren is on the movie poster, but her character only appears for about fifteen minutes.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Used when aviatrix Hanna Reitsch is recruited to test a piloted version of the V-1 missile to find out why they keep veering off course and crashing, a task said to have already killed several other test pilots. When her own V-1 suddenly veers to the right, the scene cuts from the cockpit to a control bunker as her radio transmissions start to break up, then to a row of recently dug graves, a flag-draped coffin resting atop the newest one... just before her aircraft soars overhead.
  • General Ripper: General Linz is very eager about the idea of the Nazis using the rockets to destroy London and then take over the world.
  • Hope Spot: Lots of them in a row. Bradley's mission to warn Henshaw that his cover identity belongs to a wanted murderer fails by a matter of seconds and Henshaw is arrested. Then the Nazis offer not to execute Henshaw if he'll spy on the other scientists, only for a returning Nazi spy to recognize and denounce Henshaw. Meanwhile Nora, the ex-wife of the man Curtis is impersonating, shows up wanting him to sign a document giving her custody of their kids. They nearly fool her into thinking that her ex-husband is away and Curtis is a different person, but then someone comes in and addresses Curtis by his alias. Curtis then tries to convince the resistance fighters that Nora isn't a Nazi sympathizer and he can ensure her silence by signing the custody document, which will be voided if it turns out it wasn't her real husband who signed it. His resistance contact acts reassured, but then kills Nora as soon as Curtis leaves.
  • Ignored Expert: Churchill's scientist son-in-law recognizes the threat of the V-2 rockets over a year before the Nazis utilize them, but Churchill's arrogant primary scientific advisor Dr. Lindemann disregards the claims and refuses to make any preparations to counter the threat (which ends up killing thousands of people).
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Done accidentally. Bradley tries to infiltrate the Nazi factory disguised as a scientist, but his hastily prepared credentials can't withstand scrutiny and he's only given a job as a porter and janitor (which he still uses for spying and sabotage).
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: The only surviving German test pilot for the rockets is a woman (although she is a Historical Domain Character) and a female member or La RĂ©sistance survives despite getting a very harsh Shoot the Dog moment. However, the most fleshed out female character, the ex-wife of one of the scientists the team is impersonating, does die as a result of the Shoot the Dog moment. Conversely, every prominent male character who isn't a Historical Domain Character dies.
  • Multinational Team: The three men selected to infiltrate and sabotage the Nazi rocket program are English, American, and Dutch.
  • Tempting Fate: When Bradley gets sent into occupied territory to warn Henshaw his cover identity is compromised, he's told that the mission will only last a few days. They end up needing him to stay there for the rest of the mission, which he accepts with a Stiff Upper Lip.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The movie acts as if the air raids to destroy the rocket sites were a rousing success. In real life, there were many bombing attempts which did little to damage the Nazi's production of the flying bombs, got lots of airmen and civilians killed, and diverted British bombers away from other important targets. The movie also acts as if everything hinges on Curtis and his fellow spies, who are inventions of the screenwriters.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Henshaw is exposed as a British spy, arrested and tortured. His interrogators make it clear that he will die if he doesn't cooperate, and that if he does resist them, no one will ever know about his loyalty and bravery. Henshaw continues repeating his discredited cover identity with a calm face right up until his execution.