How World War II dogfights influenced Star Wars

To a World War II history buff, the iconic Millennium Falcon from “Star Wars” resembles one of the most infamous bombers of all time.

The greenhouse cockpit configuration, as well as the gun turrets aboard the ship were lifted straight out of the blueprints of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber.

Lockie star warsScreengrabHere’s a look at the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and the the B-29 Superfortress.

The Superfortress was the workhorse of the US Army’s Air Force and infamous for dropping the most powerful weapon known to man on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

B29 superfortressUS Air Force PhotoB-29 Superfortress.

George Lucas is known to have studied 20 to 25 hoursof footage from World War II dogfights while doing research for the film.

Ian D’Costa of Tactical Air Network notes that Lucas became particularly enamoured with the B-29, and sought to recreate it’s signature greenhouse-style cockpit with the Millenium Falcon.

According to a 1997 interview with Willard Huyck, screenwriter and friend of Lucas, footage of World War II dogfights were used as place holders before the special effects were edited into the film.

“So one second you’re with the Wookiee in the spaceship and the next you’re in The Bridges at Toko-Ri. It was like, “George, what-is-going-on?,” Huyck said.

In his book “Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy,” visual effects artist Paul Huston said, “Joe (artist in charge of pyrotechnics) would show me a shot of a Japanese Zero flying left to right in front of a conning tower of an aircraft carrier and say, ‘The aircraft carrier is the Death Star, the Zero is an X-wing. Do a board like that.'”

“One of the reasons I started writing “Star Wars” was because I wanted to see starships having exciting battles in space,” Lucas said in Jonathan Rinzler’s “The Making of Star Wars.”

“I loved Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers serials when I was a kid, but I thought I could create an experience closer to watching a dogfight in a World War II film — with incredible ships diving and banking in a realistic manner,” Lucas continued, as noted by

Whether the new “Star Wars” films will continue this tradition, or look to emulate the tropes of more modern aviation is yet to be seen, but the team’s shared enthusiasm for “realistic” battle scenes paid off in some of the most memorable, exciting scenes in film history.

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