Dogfights is a military aviation themed TV series depicting historical re-enactments of air-to-air combat that took place in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, as well as smaller conflicts such as the Gulf War, the Six-Day War and the Falklands War. The program, which airs on the History Channel, consists of former fighter pilots sharing their stories of actual dogfights in which they took part, and uses state-of-the-art computer-generated imagery (CGI) to give the viewer a better perspective of what it is like to partake in aerial combat The series premiered on November 3, 2006.
Historical documentary format
The show has simulated not only air combat, but also surface sea combat, as in the case of Taffy 3's
stand against a Japanese
battle force, and the Royal Navy
's pursuit and destruction of the German battleship Bismarck
. These episodes have been cited as a source for several Wikipedia
articles, such as the Battle of Leyte Gulf
. Simulated models include views from the cockpit, pilots visible through canopies, and battle damage. Orders of battle
, comparisons of aircraft, and dissections of particular maneuvers are also presented. Jet and prop powered aircraft and ships from various eras from the First World War
to the late 20th century are featured. The series often presents interviews of pilots and experts, so far mostly Americans or their allies such as a survivor of the HMS Hood
, though the first episode of the second season showed interviews with Japanese and German pilots.
Like many popular historical programs, the show has technical and historical inaccuracies. For example, in several episodes Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 is said to be armed with .30 caliber machine guns, instead of 37 mm and 23 mm cannon that they were actually armed with. A trailer for "The Last Gunfighter" advertised the last Air Force fighter with guns, later changed to US Navy. The format also is too limited to give a complete picture of many of the campaigns, for example portraying the sinking of the US carrier St. Lo in the Battle off Samar in a later episode. Also in the episode "Long Odds" the Japanese fighters are stated to be A6M3 models of the Zero, but the animations show A6M2 model (A6M3 would have had clipped wingtips).
The stories are often told from one side. For instance in the episode "Night Fighters", USAF pilots Col. Rodriguez and Capt. Showers were interviewed in detail about their victories over Yugoslav Mig-29s but neither were the two Yugoslavian pilots involved, Majors Iljo Arizanov and Nebojša Nikolić interviewed, nor was the severe state of disrepair of their aircraft ever mentioned. However, a German and Japanese pilot were interviewed in two other episodes.
Creation of the series
The series was created after the airing of a one-time special called Dogfights: The Greatest Air Battles
in September 2005. That program's combination of realistic-looking CGI dogfights, interviews, period documentary footage, and voice-over narration proved so successful, that the History Channel requested the production of an entire TV series, which became Dogfights
. The original special continues to air occasionally and has been recently updated to reflect the current series logo.
In each episode, a true historical dogfight is played out. Pilots from the actual fights are brought in to re-tell their accounts of the battle. Along with the battle, there are occasional scenes that describe the pilot's living conditions and events that have happened outside the battle. Each battle is told by the pilot and a special narrator. CGI effects are used, providing a realistic simulation. Also, the show describes the planes. It takes some time to describe their advantages and disadvantages. It also describes air maneuvers and stunts pulled off by pilots. Usually, the battles told are the ones won by the American side of each war. Occasionally, there are other enemies brought into a dogfight, rather than planes. Sometimes, the pilots have to destroy ship fleets, or bomb enemy air fields, but the process is interrupted by enemy planes. After each battle, the show usually gives each pilot a short biography about future battles they might fight in, and then the credits role.
- 01. MiG Alley (11/03/06): US Air Force aces Robbie Risner and Ralph Parr fly the F-86 Sabre vs. MiG-15 in the Korean War.
- 02. Air Ambush (11/10/06): US Army Air Force P-38 Lightning vs. Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109. F4 Phantoms trick MiG-21s into a dogfight by disguising themselves as F-105 Thunderchiefs, natural prey of the MiG-21.
- 03. Flying Tigers (11/17/06): Flying Tigers squadron; Leading Tiger aces Tex Hill and John R. Alison's P-40 Tomahawk vs. Imperial Japanese Army Air Service Ki-27 Nate, Ki-21 Sally, and Ki-43 Oscar.
- 04. Guadalcanal (11/24/06): Guadalcanal campaign aces; Capt John Smith and Medal of Honor recipients Jefferson J. DeBlanc and James E. Swett pilot the Grumman F4F Wildcat vs. Mitsubishi Zero, F1M Pete, D3A Val, and Ki-43 Oscar.
- 05. Hell Over Hanoi (12/01/06): American Fred Olmsted and Dan Cherry, and ace Steve Ritchie in USAF F-4 Phantom vs. North Vietnamese MiG-21.
- 06. The Zero Killer (12/08/06): Robert Duncan, Hamilton McWhorter and Alex Vraciu fly the US Navy Grumman F6F Hellcat in battle against the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero.
- 07. The Last Gunfighter (12/15/06): US Navy pilots Paul Speer, Phil Wood and Lt. Commander Richard Schaffert in the F-8 Crusader vs. North Vietnamese Air Force MiG-17.
- 08. Death of the Japanese Navy (12/29/06): The Leyte Gulf attack on Taffy 3, and the counter attack of destroyers and escort carriers against an armored main battle force in the Battle off Samar. Despite lacking suitable armament except for torpedoes, destroyers with carrier air support inflicted enough damage and confusion to send the Japanese force back without it accomplishing its primary goal. The episode also covers Operation Ten-Go, the last major Japanese naval operation in the Pacific campaign of World War II, and the sinking of the Japanese battleship Yamato.
- 09. Hunt for the Bismarck (1/05/07): The HMS Hood is sunk, then British Royal Navy Swordfish planes attack the German battleship Bismarck.
- 10. Long Odds (01/12/07): Showcases survival stories of bomber pilots battling fighter aircraft. US Navy SBD Dauntless vs. Mitsubishi Zero; US Army Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress vs. Mitsubishi Zeroes & Ki-46 Dinah; US Air Force F-105 Thunderchief vs. North Vietnamese Air Force MiG-17.
- 11. Dogfights of the Middle East (01/19/07): Israeli Air Force Mirage III vs. Egyptian Air Force MiG-17 & MiG-19; defection of an Iraqi Air Force MiG-21; Israeli Air Force F-15 Eagle vs. Syrian Air Force MiG-21.
- 01. Kamikaze (7/13/07): Towards the end of World War II, Japan sent volunteer pilots on suicide attacks against American naval targets. Kamikaze attacks covered include those against the escort carrier USS St. Lo on October 25, 1944, and the destroyer USS Laffey on April 15, 1945. Also discussed is the use of Japanese Ohka rocket planes.
- 02. The Luftwaffe's Deadliest Mission (7/13/07): German ramming of American bombers by the Sonderkommando Elbe, on April 7, 1945. Note: This episode was first released as "Kamikaze Part II", and is sometimes combined with the previous one and shown as a single, two hour episode also called "Kamikaze".
- 03. Jet vs. Jet (7/20/07): In the skies over North Korea, F-86 Sabres battle MiG-15s. American pilots such as James Jabara, Ralph "Hoot" Gibson, and Ralph Parr are in pursuit of a previously unknown achievement — the title of jet ace.
- 04. Thunderbolt (7/27/07): The rugged P-47 Thunderbolt, or "jug" as it was known, was the largest single-seat fighter plane of World War II. The episode portrays aerial battles fought by Robert S. Johnson, George Sutcliffe, and Ken Dalhberg.
- 05. Gun Kills of Vietnam (8/3/07): The era of missiles had arrived, and electronic warfare was coming of age. But when technology failed, pilots were forced to do combat the old-fashioned way — with guns. Clinton Johnson and Charles Hartman down a MiG-17 with propeller-driven A-1 Skyraiders; Robert Titus and Milan Zimer's F-4 Phantom shoots it out with a gun pod against MiG-21s; Darrell Simmonds and George McKinney's Phantom fights MiG-17s.
- 06. Desert Aces (8/10/07): Pilots of the Israeli Air Force. The episode covers combat missions flown by Ran Ronen and by "ace of aces" Giora Epstein. Ronen used the French-built Mirage III to engage Hawker Hunters. Epstein flew a Mirage against Egyptian Sukhoi Su-7s in the Six-Day War, and piloted a Nesher against MiG-21s in the Yom Kippur War.
- 07. The First Dogfighters (8/23/07): Dogfighting was invented by the fighter pilots of World War I. Ernst Udet's Albatros D.III vs. Georges Guynemer's SPAD VII. Werner Voss, flying a Fokker triplane, battles six S.E.5a pilots, including James McCudden, Arthur Rhys Davids, and Richard Maybery. Arthur Raymond Brooks and his SPAD XIII dogfights with eight Fokker D.VIIs.
- 08. No Room for Error (8/30/07): Low-altitude dogfights are portrayed. Art Fiedler and his P-51 Mustang in World War II; James H. Kasler and his F-86 Sabre in the Korean War; Robin Olds and Steve Croker in their F-4 Phantom II in the Vietnam War.
- 09. Night Fighters (9/21/07): The history of dogfighting in darkness is covered. Radar equipped F6F Hellcats shoot down A6M2 Rufes, and P-61 Black Widows score kills in World War II. The F3D Skyknight downs a faster MiG-15 in the Korean War. USAF F-15 Eagles and F-117 Nighthawks oppose MiG-29s in Operation Allied Force.
- 10. The Bloodiest Day (12/03/07): May 10, 1972, was the bloodiest day of air combat during the Vietnam War. American F-4 Phantoms, A-6 Intruders, and A-7 Corsairs fought against North Vietnamese MiG-21s and MiG-19s. The episode includes battles fought by Bob Lodge and Roger Locher and by Charles B. DeBellevue.
- 11. P-51 Mustang (12/04/07): In the European and Pacific theaters of World War II, the P-51 Mustang became one of the conflict's most successful and recognizable aircraft. The episode includes interviews with Mustang pilots Donald S. Bryan, Robert Scamara, and Richard Candelaria.
- 12. Dogfights of Desert Storm (12/05/07): An EF-111 Raven is attacked by an Iraqi Mirage F-1 jet and American fighter pilots pit F-15 Eagles against Iraqi MiG-25s and advanced MiG-29s as part of Operation Desert Storm. American aviators James Denton, Brent Brandon, Larry Pitts, Cesar Rodriguez, Craig Underhill, and Tony "Kimo" Schiavi are interviewed.
- 13. The Tuskegee Airmen (12/06/07): The Tuskegee Airmen were African-American pilots of the 332d Fighter Group. They distinguished themselves as one of the most successful fighter groups of World War II, despite the bigotry and prejudice they faced from their own countrymen. Piloting P-51 Mustangs, they flew many missions protecting American bombers from the German Luftwaffe. The episode includes interviews with pilots Lee Archer, Roscoe Brown, and Charles McGee.
- 14. MiG Killers of Midway (12/07/07): Recalling Vietnam War battles involving F-4 Phantoms from the USS Midway. This episode portrays dogfights fought by J.C. Smith, Henry "Bart" Bartholomay, Pat Arwood, Mike "Taco" Bell, Ronald "Mugs" McKeown, and John C. "Jack" Ensch.
- 15. Supersonic (2/29/08): Often in a dogfight the faster plane is at an advantage. The episode includes aerial combat by James F. "Lou" Luma and his DH.98 Mosquito and Jerry O'Keefe and his F4U Corsair in World War II; Bruce Hinton and his F-86 Sabre in the Korean War; and Phil Handley and his F-4 Phantom in the Vietnam War.
- 16. Death of the Luftwaffe (3/7/08): The Luftwaffe's last great offensive, called Operation Bodenplatte, occurred on January 1, 1945. Bob Brulle, Sanford K. Moats, Alden Rigby, and Richard Creamer were American pilots of the 352d Fighter Group whose airbase, known as Y-29, was attacked by fighters. After this day, the Luftwaffe was shattered as an effective fighting force.
- 17. Secret Weapons (3/14/08): Secret weapons of World War II, including German Me 163 Komet rocket powered fighter planes, Japanese kaiten suicide submarines, and the American remote controlled airplanes of Operation Aphrodite.
Dogfights - The Complete Season One DVD set was released on April 24, 2007. Featuring all eleven episodes, it also includes the original pilot episode and a behind-the-scenes featurette called "Dogfights: The Planes." The picture format is 4:3 (1.33:1) even though the series was produced in anamorphic 16:9 widescreen.
Dogfights - The Complete Season Two 5 DVD set was released on June 24, 2008.
Starting with season 2, the History Channel produced, in conjunction with Kuma Reality Games, a free PC video game based on the Dogfights series. Dogfights: The Game puts players in interactive recreations of actual episodes from the TV show. As of now the game primarily concentrates on the World War II episodes of the series. This can be found on History.com
Notes and references