During World War II, just about every American got on board the fight against Nazi Germany and Japan. We really mean it – it was just about everyone. A number of future Presidents helped with the war efforts, ranging from Dwight Eisenhower (Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe) to JFK (PT 109) to Ronald Reagan (filming stateside) to Gerald Ford (service on a carrier).
Reagan often played roles in various training films – including one on how to recognize the Zero – but he also once teamed up with one of Batman’s greatest enemies. Well, more accurately, he teamed up with the actor who played the Penguin in the 1960s TV series, Burgess Meredith.
This is not unheard of from Batman’s enemies. In one World War II-era comic that DC did in conjunction with Marvel in which Batman teamed up with Captain America, the Joker turned on the Red Skull when Cap’s nemesis turned out to be a real Nazi, saying, “I may be a criminal lunatic, but I’m an American criminal lunatic!”
In this film, called The Rear Gunner, Meredith played “Pee Wee,” a tailgunner on a B-24 Liberator. He is initially talent-spotted by the pilot of the plane (Ronald Reagan’s character), and trains to become a gunner. “Pee Wee” gets a kill when a Zero tries to bounce the plane as it is being ferried to the Southwest Pacific, where they will face Japan.
Things will come to a head when the B-24 is sent after a Japanese carrier. You’ll need to watch the film to see how it turns out. But you can see an icon of `60s TV and a future President team up to train tail gunners below.