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12 O'Clock High is an American military drama television series set in World War II. It was originally broadcast on ABC-TV for two-and-one-half TV seasons from September 1964 through January 1967 and was based on the 1949 film of the same name. The series was a co-production of 20th Century Fox Television (Fox had also produced the movie) and QM Productions (one of their few non-law enforcement series). This show is one of the two QM shows not to display a copyright notice at the beginning, but rather at the end (the other was A Man Called Sloane) and the only one not to display the standard "A QM Production" closing card on the closing credits.

12 O'Clock High
Paul Burke as Joe Gallagher, 1965
GenreMilitary drama
Created bySy Bartlett
Beirne Lay Jr.
StarringRobert Lansing
Frank Overton
Paul Burke
Chris Robinson
Barney Phillips
Theme music composerDominic Frontiere
ComposersDominic Frontiere
Fred Steiner (one episode)
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes78
Executive producerQuinn Martin
ProducersFrank Glicksman
William D. Gordon
Running time51 minutes
Production companies20th Century-Fox Television
QM Productions
Distributor20th Century-Fox Television
Original networkABC
Picture formatBlack and white (61 episodes)
Color (17 episodes)
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 18, 1964 (1964-09-18) 
January 13, 1967 (1967-01-13)
RelatedTwelve O'Clock High


The series follows the missions of the fictitious 918th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF), equipped with B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers, stationed at Archbury Field, England (a fictitious air base). For the first season, many of the characters from the book and 1949 movie were retained, including Brigadier General Frank Savage, Major Harvey Stovall, Major Cobb, Doc Kaiser, and General Pritchard, albeit played by different actors from in the motion picture. In addition to these characters, several other infrequently reappearing characters were introduced, including Captain (later Colonel) Joseph "Joe" Gallagher, who appeared in two episodes (episodes 1 and 24) as well as being the central character for seasons 2 and 3.

At the end of the first season, the studio executives decided a younger-looking lead actor was needed.[1] In the first episode of the second season, General Savage, played by Robert Lansing, was killed in action and replaced by Colonel Joe Gallagher, played by Paul Burke. (Burke, though considered more youthful-looking than Lansing, was actually two years older, a fact that TV critics were quick to point out.) The decision to replace Lansing with Burke proved unpopular and the ratings began to drop quickly.

The character Joe Gallagher's father was Lt. General Maxwell Gallagher, played by Barry Sullivan. Burke and Sullivan had previously worked together in the TV series Harbormaster. In an interview given by Lansing on The Mike Douglas Show in 1965,[2] Lansing mentioned that had he known what a boost to his career 12 O'Clock High was, he never would have fired himself. Savage was killed off in a way so as not to require Lansing's participation. According to TV Guide, ABC moved the show from a 10:00 pm Friday time slot to a 7:30 pm Monday time slot for the second season to capture a younger audience.[3] It was hoped that TV viewers would identify more with a colonel rather than an Army Air Corps general.[3] Lansing, had he remained, would have received limited air time with Burke's addition.[3]

For the second season, most of the supporting cast from the first season was replaced, with the exception of Major Stovall, Doc Kaiser, and an occasional appearance by General Pritchard. Other actors who did reappear after the first season played other characters. Edward Mulhare appeared twice – as different Luftwaffe officers. Bruce Dern appeared four times as three different characters. Tom Skerritt appeared five times, each time in a different role.

Lansing (top) with Don Penny (left) in 1965
Lansing (top) with Don Penny (left) in 1965

The first two seasons were filmed in black-and-white, as ABC did not mandate prime time shows to be in color until the 1966-1967 season, but it also allowed the inclusion of actual World War II combat footage supplied by the U.S. Air Force and the library of 20th Century Fox movies.[4] The inclusion of combat footage was often obvious, as it was often quite degraded. Limited usable combat footage often resulted in the same shot being reused in multiple episodes. For the third season, the TV series was filmed in color, but this season only ran for 17 episodes, with the series being canceled in midseason. Some of the combat footage used for the third season seemed to be in black-and-white footage tinted blue. Film footage from the 1940s was also used for take-offs and landings since the one B-17 to which the show had access could only taxi. To simulate different aircraft, it was frequently repainted.[1]

In later episodes, Gallagher flew as "mission control" in a North American P-51 Mustang. This plot scheme was added to cut production costs. The single-engine Mustang costs less to fly than the four-engined B-17, and requires only a single pilot rather than two pilots and several crewmen. A wartime precedent for this existed, however: Maj.-Gen. Earle E. Partridge, the G-3 (operations) commander of the 8th Air Force, used a P-51 modified for photo-reconnaissance work to take photographs of his bomber group formations for training and critiquing purposes.[5]

12 O'Clock High was created in an episodic format, with no particular order for the episodes. A trio of episodes produced about a shuttle air raid to North Africa was in fact never aired in story order (episode 44 "We're Not Coming Back", episode 37 "Big Brother", and episode 38 "The Hotshot"). The stories were often based more on character drama than action, usually involving individuals who felt the need to redeem themselves in the eyes of others. Other story lines focused on actual war events, such as the development of bombing through cloud cover using radar, and the complexities of operating a large fleet of (often malfunctioning) B-17s.

Much of the filming was carried out on the Chino Airport, just east of Los Angeles County, California, in San Bernardino County. Chino had been a USAAF training field for World War II, and its combination of long, heavy-duty runways and (at the time) wide-open farmland for miles in all directions was rapidly turning the field into a haven for World War II aviation enthusiasts and their restored aircraft. Former Army Air Forces P-51 Mustangs, Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, B-26 Invaders, and former U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps F4U Corsairs and F6F Hellcats could be found, along with a vintage B-17[6] and the P-51 Mustang used in 12 O'Clock High.

The B-17 belonged to Ed Maloney's Air Museum, B-17E, F, and G models of the Flying Fortress (the latter with the chin turret) were used interchangeably. The inclusion of actual combat and crash footage often resulted in the tail designations of the bombers changing between film shots.

The segments in 1966 had the former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot Lynn Garrison coordinating the aerial footage. Garrison had been drawn to the project by his friend Robert Lansing. Garrison owned the P-51 used in the series.

As of February 2020, the Heroes & Icons channel broadcasts the series as part of its Saturday-night lineup.


John van Dreelen, Robert Lansing and Alf Kjellin in 1965
John van Dreelen, Robert Lansing and Alf Kjellin in 1965


Season 1 (1964–65)


No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"Golden Boy Had 9 Black Sheep"Don MedfordAl C. WardSeptember 18, 1964 (1964-09-18)
22"Follow the Leader"William GrahamBeirne Lay, Jr.September 25, 1964 (1964-09-25)
33"The Men and the Boys"William GrahamHarold Jack BloomOctober 2, 1964 (1964-10-02)
44"The Sound of Distant Thunder"Don MedfordEdward J. LaskoOctober 16, 1964 (1964-10-16)
55"The Climate of Doubt"Don MedfordHarold Jack BloomOctober 23, 1964 (1964-10-23)
66"Pressure Point"William GrahamJohn T. DuganOctober 30, 1964 (1964-10-30)
77"Decision"William GrahamStory by: Clair Huffaker
Teleplay by: Clair Huffaker & Jack Turley
November 6, 1964 (1964-11-06)
88"The Hours Before Dawn"Don MedfordDonald S. SanfordNovember 13, 1964 (1964-11-13)
99"Appointment At Liege"Don MedfordStory by: John McGreevey
Teleplay by: Charles Larson
November 20, 1964 (1964-11-20)
1010"Interlude"William GrahamDean RiesnerNovember 27, 1964 (1964-11-27)
1111"Here's to Courageous Cowards"Don MedfordAl C. WardDecember 4, 1964 (1964-12-04)
1212"Soldiers Sometimes Kill"Sutton RoleyStory by: Edmund H. North
Teleplay by: Edmund H. North & Charles Larson
December 11, 1964 (1964-12-11)
1313"The Suspected"Don MedfordStory by: Ken Pettus
Teleplay by: Jack Turley & Charles Larson
December 18, 1964 (1964-12-18)
1414"An Act of War"William GrahamDonald S. SanfordDecember 25, 1964 (1964-12-25)
1515"Those Who Are About to Die"Abner BibermanHarold Jack BloomJanuary 1, 1965 (1965-01-01)
1616"In Search of My Enemy"Don MedfordStory by: Jean Holloway
Teleplay by: Stanford Whitmore
January 8, 1965 (1965-01-08)
1717"The Albatross"William GrahamRichard LandauJanuary 15, 1965 (1965-01-15)
1818"The Lorelei"Don MedfordAlbert AleyJanuary 22, 1965 (1965-01-22)
1919"Faith, Hope and Sergeant Aronson"László BenedekCharles LarsonJanuary 29, 1965 (1965-01-29)
2020"To Heinie, With Love"Ralph SenenskyStory by: Ken Pettus
Teleplay by: Jack Turley & Charles Larson
February 5, 1965 (1965-02-05)
2121"The Clash"Josef LeytesStory by: Mike Adams
Teleplay by: Jack Turley & Mike Adams
February 12, 1965 (1965-02-12)
2222"The Ticket"Josef LeytesAl C. WardFebruary 26, 1965 (1965-02-26)
2323"The Trap"Ralph SenenskyRichard L. NewhaferMarch 5, 1965 (1965-03-05)
2424"End of the Line"Sutton RoleyDean RiesnerMarch 12, 1965 (1965-03-12)
2525"The Threat"Ralph SenenskyJack TurleyMarch 19, 1965 (1965-03-19)
2626"Mutiny at Ten Thousand Feet"Sutton RoleyHarold Jack BloomMarch 26, 1965 (1965-03-26)
2727"The Mission"William GrahamSamuel RoecaApril 2, 1965 (1965-04-02)
2828"The Cry of Fallen Birds"Walter GraumanStory by: Edward J. Lasko
Teleplay by: Edward J. Lasko & Charles Larson
April 9, 1965 (1965-04-09)
2929"V for Vendetta"William GrahamAl C. WardApril 16, 1965 (1965-04-16)
3030"P.O.W. – Part 1"Don MedfordAl C. WardApril 23, 1965 (1965-04-23)
3131"P.O.W. – Part 2"Don MedfordAl C. WardApril 30, 1965 (1965-04-30)
3232"The Hero"Ralph SenenskyAlbert AleyMay 7, 1965 (1965-05-07)

Season 2 (1965–66)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
331"The Loneliest Place in the World"Richard DonnerHarold Jack BloomSeptember 13, 1965 (1965-09-13)
342"R/X For a Sick Bird"Richard DonnerWilliam C. Anderson & William D. Hamilton & Marc HuntleySeptember 20, 1965 (1965-09-20)
353"Then Came the Mighty Hunter"László BenedekJack ParitzSeptember 27, 1965 (1965-09-27)
364"The Idolator"László BenedekStory by: Gustave Field
Teleplay by: Gerald Sanford & Marc Huntly
October 4, 1965 (1965-10-04)
375"Big Brother"Jerry HopperJack TurleyOctober 11, 1965 (1965-10-11)
386"The Hotshot"Richard DonnerRobert LewinOctober 18, 1965 (1965-10-18)
397"Show Me a Hero, I'll Show You a Bum"Richard DonnerRobert HamnerOctober 25, 1965 (1965-10-25)
408"Runway in the Dark"Robert DouglasRobert LewinNovember 1, 1965 (1965-11-01)
419"I Am the Enemy"Robert GistAnthony SpinnerNovember 8, 1965 (1965-11-08)
4210"Grant Me No Favor"Robert DouglasAnthony SpinnerNovember 15, 1965 (1965-11-15)
4311"Storm at Twilight"Robert GistStory by: James Doherty
Teleplay by: Anthony Spinner
November 22, 1965 (1965-11-22)
4412"We're Not Coming Back"Jerry HopperPhilip Saltzman & Dan UllmanNovember 29, 1965 (1965-11-29)
4513"The Jones Boys"Robert DouglasWilliam D. GordonDecember 6, 1965 (1965-12-06)
4614"Between the Lines"Gerald MayerStory by: Coles Trapnell
Teleplay by: Andy Lewis
December 13, 1965 (1965-12-13)
4715"Target 802"Robert DouglasStory by: Sherman Yellen
Teleplay by: Sherman Yellen & Marc Huntly
December 27, 1965 (1965-12-27)
4816"Falling Star"László BenedekAndy LewisJanuary 3, 1966 (1966-01-03)
4917"The Slaughter Pen"Robert DouglasDave and Andy LewisJanuary 10, 1966 (1966-01-10)
5018"Underground"Robert DouglasStory by: James Doherty & Coles Trapnell
Teleplay by: Robert Lewin
January 17, 1966 (1966-01-17)
5119"Which Way the Wind Blows"László BenedekJames M. MillerJanuary 24, 1966 (1966-01-24)
5220"The Outsider"Don MedfordEllis MarcusJanuary 31, 1966 (1966-01-31)
5321"Back to the Drawing Board"Gerald MayerDave and Andy LewisFebruary 7, 1966 (1966-02-07)
5422"Twenty-Fifth Mission"Lawrence DobkinCarey WilberFebruary 14, 1966 (1966-02-14)
5523"The Survivor"Alan Crosland, Jr.Philip SaltzmanFebruary 21, 1966 (1966-02-21)
5624"Angel Babe"Robert DouglasPreston WoodFebruary 28, 1966 (1966-02-28)
5725"Decoy"Gerald MayerLou ShawMarch 7, 1966 (1966-03-07)
5826"The Hollow Man"Robert DouglasGustave Field & Marc HuntlyMarch 14, 1966 (1966-03-14)
5927"Cross Hairs on Death"Alan Crosland, Jr.Robert LewinMarch 21, 1966 (1966-03-21)
6028"Day of Reckoning"Alan Crosland, Jr.Halsted WellesMarch 28, 1966 (1966-03-28)
6129"Siren Song"Robert DouglasStory by: Ed Kelso
Teleplay by: Carey Wilber
April 4, 1966 (1966-04-04)

Season 3 (1966–67)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
621"Gauntlet of Fire"Joseph PevneyJohn T. DuganSeptember 9, 1966 (1966-09-09)
632"Massacre"Robert DouglasCarey WilberSeptember 16, 1966 (1966-09-16)
643"Face of a Shadow"Richard BenedictDave and Andy LewisSeptember 23, 1966 (1966-09-23)
654"Fortress Weisbaden"Joseph PevneyStory by: Michael Lalor Brown
Teleplay by: Carey Wilber
September 30, 1966 (1966-09-30)
665"A Distant Cry"Robert DouglasJack CurtisOctober 7, 1966 (1966-10-07)
676"Practice to Deceive"Robert DouglasWilliam D. GordonOctober 14, 1966 (1966-10-14)
687"The All-American"Joseph PevneyJack HawnOctober 28, 1966 (1966-10-28)
698"The Pariah"Josef LeytesRobert C. DennisNovember 4, 1966 (1966-11-04)
709"The Fighter Pilot"Robert DouglasE.B. AndersonNovember 11, 1966 (1966-11-11)
7110"To Seek and Destroy"Donald McDougallGlen A. LarsonNovember 18, 1966 (1966-11-18)
7211"Burden of Guilt"László BenedekRobert Longsdorf, JrDecember 2, 1966 (1966-12-02)
7312"The Ace"Robert DouglasOscar MillardDecember 9, 1966 (1966-12-09)
7413"Six Feet Under"Murray GoldenJames DohertyDecember 16, 1966 (1966-12-16)
7514"The Duel at Mont Sainte Marie"Josef LeytesR. Wright CampbellDecember 23, 1966 (1966-12-23)
7615"Graveyard"Robert DouglasWilliam D. GordonDecember 30, 1966 (1966-12-30)
7716"A Long Time Dead"Gene NelsonJames DohertyJanuary 6, 1967 (1967-01-06)
7817"The Hunters and the Killers"Robert DouglasE.B. AndersonJanuary 13, 1967 (1967-01-13)

Awards and honors

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1965Golden Globe AwardNominatedBest TV Show
Emmy AwardOutstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment - CinematographerWilliam W. Spencer
1967American Cinema EditorsWonBest Edited Television ProgramJodie Copelan (For episode "The All American")

Comic books

Dell Comics produced a comic book based on the series that ran two issues in 1965.[7] Both had photocovers and artwork by Joe Sinnott.


  1. "The Real Twelve O'Clock High". Archived from the original on 2012-12-24. Retrieved 2014-05-25.
  2. "Robert Lansing on why he left 12 O'Clock High". Retrieved 16 October 2022.
  3. Jerry D. Lewis, TV Guide (May 15–21, 1965),The General Died At Dusk p. 24
  4. Etter, Jonathan; Grauman, Walter (2003). Quinn Martin, Producer: A Behind-the-scenes History of QM Productions and Its Founder. McFarland. p. 48. ISBN 0-7864-1501-0.
  5. Roger Freeman, year?, Mustang at War, p. ?
  6. David Allen (June 9, 2009). "Chino home to retired 'actor'". Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011.
  7. "12 O'Clock High (1965)". Retrieved 2008-10-19.

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