— By Tom Engelhardt, Mother Jones, March 17, 2011
When men first made war in the air, the imagery that accompanied them was of knights jousting in the sky. Just check out movies like Wings, which won the first Oscar for Best Picture in 1927 (or any Peanuts cartoon in which Snoopy takes on the Red Baron in a literal “dogfight”). As late as 1986, five years after two American F-14s shot down two Soviet jets flown by Libyan pilots over the Mediterranean’s Gulf of Sidra, it was still possible to make the movie Top Gun. In it, Tom Cruise played “Maverick,” a US Naval aviator triumphantly involved in a similar incident. (He shoots down three MiGs.)
Admittedly, by then American air-power films had long been in decline. In Vietnam, the US had used its air superiority to devastating effect, bombing the north and blasting the south, but go to American Vietnam films and, while that US patrol walks endlessly into a South Vietnamese village with mayhem to come, the air is largely devoid of planes.