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The B-Western Goes to War!

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

(From Old Corral collection)

Above left is a blurb from the pressbook for the Range Busters' LAND OF HUNTED MEN (Monogram, 1943), and mentions that John King and Dave Sharpe had departed for World War II duty ... and Dennis Moore had joined the series and Ray Corrigan was returning.

Ye Old Corral webmaster has received several e-mails asking about B westerns which had a 'war theme' as the main ingredient or plotline. Les Adams was kind enough to provide a starting point with a variety of western titles. And over the years, I've added a few more titles that tended to fit the 'war theme' category.

While there's no hard 'n' fast rules for this listing, there are a few basic guidelines:

Les was not aware of any sound-era westerns that dealt with World War I as the basic theme with the exception of several 1930s entries with Bob Steele and Buck Jones which started with the hero returning from World War I service to find that things hadn't gone well on the range during their absence ... such as Steele's step-dad selling his horse, etc.  Les also notes that western writers - obviously inspired by Warners CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY - penned several sword-rattling pre-Pearl Harbor entries and those films are included below.

There's a lengthy article titled "Soldiers in Stetsons: B-Westerns go to war" which was written in 2003 by R. Philip Loy for the Journal of Popular Film & Television.. There's a copy of Loy's article on the Nitrateville website:

(From Old Corral collection)

THE THREE MESQUITEERS (Republic, 1936) was the first of the Mesquiteers trio series at Republic Pictures. The plot had the intrepid trio returning from World War I to find crooks ruling the range.  From L-to-R are Bob Livingston, Syd Saylor and Ray 'Crash' Corrigan doin' battle! Saylor was there for this film only. Max Terhune arrived for the next and many others in the series.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from L-to-R are an unidentified player, Kenne Duncan, John 'Dusty' King, Max 'Alibi' Terhune, and Dave Sharpe in a scene from TEXAS TO BATAAN (Monogram, 1942). This was the 17th of 24 films in the Range Busters series and the plot involved the trio delivering hosses to the Army.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from left to right - and with sixguns at the ready - are Range Busters Dennis Moore and Ray Corrigan in a lobby card from the World War II themed BLACK MARKET RUSTLERS (Monogram, 1943).

The Films

TRAILS OF DANGER (Big 4, 1930)
starred Wally Wales as a World War I hero returning home.

MEN WITHOUT LAW (Columbia, 1930)
Buck Jones returns from the war and aids the sister of a friend killed in action. Some battle scenes included.

THE MIRACLE RIDER (Mascot serial, 1935)
Indian Agent Tom Mix vs. Charles Middleton who is mining explosive X-94 on the tribal lands and selling same to a foreign power.

This was the first of the Mesquiteers trio series at Republic Pictures. The plot had the intrepid trio returning from World War I to find crooks ruling the range.

LAST OF THE WARRENS (Supreme, 1936)
Aviator Bob Steele returns home from World War I service to find that everyone believes he had died ... and the family ranch has been taken over by Charlie King.

Lawman George O'Brien is on the trail of a gang who are violating the Neutrality Act by sending war material to foreign countries.

PALS OF THE SADDLE (Republic, 1938)
The Three Mesquiteers - John Wayne, Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune - get involved with government agents and munitions smugglers. (Remade as SONG OF THE RANGE (Monogram, 1944), with gold substituted for munitions, and Jimmy Wakely, Dennis Moore and Lee 'Lasses' White substituted for Wayne, Corrigan and Terhune.)

CHIP OF THE FLYING U (Universal, 1939)
Johnny Mack Brown is framed for a bank robbery by a gang of foreign agents dealing in munitions.

SOUTH OF THE BORDER (Republic, 1939)
Government agent Gene Autry gets involved with spies over oil, cattle and a submarine base.

IN OLD MONTEREY (Republic, 1939)
Army Sergeant Gene Autry is out to convince the ranchers that it is in the best interests of America that their land be used for bombing practice. Some European war scenes shown. The conclusion has Gene and Smiley Burnette attacking the baddies in a (very small) Army tank.

Ken Maynard vs. Baron Starkoff and his agents who are after a secret helium gas well to fuel airships.

Pre-war saber-rattler with Tim McCoy against unknown European power.

KING OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED (Republic serial, 1940)
Enemy agents after Canadian weapons secrets are thwarted by RCMP Allan Lane.

Tim McCoy and Art Davis battle a group called the 'League of Patriots' formed under the cloak of the national defense emergency.

KING OF THE TEXAS RANGERS (Republic serial, 1941)
Ahead-of-the-curve battle against saboteurs in the oil fields stars Washington Redskins quarterback Slingin' Sammy Baugh.

Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd, Art Davis and Lee Powell as the Frontier Marshal trio vs. range sabotage.

WHERE TRAILS END (Monogram, 1942)
Tom Keene, in his final series western, and sidekick Frank Yaconelli come up against William Vaughn, the head of a gang that is after ranches with tungsten. (William von Bricken changed his billing name to William Vaughn soon after the start of World War II.)

PHANTOM PLAINSMEN (Republic, 1942)
The Three Mesquiteers - Bob Steele, Tom Tyler and Rufe Davis - come to the aid of Westerners who are being blackmailed via threats against their kin in Germany.

Charles Starrett, Russell Hayden and Cliff 'Ukelele Ike' Edwards as Texas Rangers in Alaska (?) vs. enemy agents and an off-shore U-Boat.

KING OF THE MOUNTIES (Republic serial, 1942)
Japanese, Italian and German Fifth Columnists vs. Allan Lane and the RCMP.

TEXAS TO BATAAN (Monogram, 1942)
The Range Busters - John King, Max Terhune and Dave Sharpe - take horses to the Philippines and encounter Japanese spys, etc.

VALLEY OF HUNTED MEN (Republic, 1942)
The Three Mesquiteers - Bob Steele, Tom Tyler and Jimmie Dodd - hunt Nazis that escape from a Canadian prison camp into Montana (but the pressbook writer for Republic had them escaping from a Canadian concentration camp).

HEART OF THE RIO GRANDE (Republic, 1942)
This Gene Autry oater doesn't have a war theme (there's a dude ranch background for this Gene and Smiley Burnette entry). But the film includes a significant amount of patriotic dialog and chit-chat about putting your paycheck and savings into U. S. Savings bonds and stamps to help the War effort.

KING OF THE COWBOYS (Republic, 1943)
Roy Rogers and Smiley Burnette join a traveling show/circus to capture saboteurs.

German-raised twin causes problems for the Lone Rider (Bob Livingston) and Al 'Fuzzy' St. John. Dual role for Lane Chandler who plays 'Smoky Moore' and evil twin 'Hans Beckmann'.

COWBOY COMMANDOS (Monogram, 1943)
The Range Busters - Ray Corrigan, Max Terhune and Dennis Moore - vs. a Nazi gang after magnesium. And who can forget Johnny Bond singing "I'll Get the Fuehrer Sure As Shootin' ". (I can forget!) The beginning of the film features some amazing trick riding by Evelyn Finley. She then rides toward the screen with an American flag. And then does a verbal pitch to buy War Bonds and Stamps.

Title tells all. Another of the Range Busters with Ray Corrigan, Max Terhune and Dennis Moore.

COWBOY IN THE CLOUDS (Columbia, 1943)
Charles Starrett and Dub Taylor and the Civil Air Patrol.

Eddie Dew and Jennifer Holt in a tale of 'Rosie the Riveter out west'.

HAUNTED RANCH (Monogram, 1943)
Another of the Range Busters, starring John King, Max Terhune and Dave Sharpe. Around the mid-point of the film, Sharpe is written out using the excuse that his character joined Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders.  Rex Lease comes in to replace Sharpe for the remainder of the film. Off-screen, Sharpe left for real World War II service (and that's the reason this title is included in the listing).

This Texas Rangers adventure does not have the trio corraling the axis. But it does include Tex Ritter talking about patriotism and freedom.

COWBOY CANTEEN (Columbia, 1944)
Cowboy soldiers and Columbia's version of STAGE DOOR CANTEEN features Charles Starrett, Jane Frazee, Tex Ritter, Jimmy Wakely and his Saddle Pals, Roy Acuff, more.

SUNDOWN VALLEY (Columbia, 1944)
Another with Charles Starrett as cowboys overcome obstacles and win an Army-Navy E, which was was a pennant awarded to defense factories when they exceeded their quota.

Cowboy investigator Charles Starrett and sidekick Dub Taylor find a deaf mute and a blonde running an espionage ring.

Allan Lane, as a decorated World War II flyer, comes home and hears the story about his Civil War grandfather.

JEEP HERDERS (Planet Productions, 1946; re-released by Astor, 1949)
Returning vets utilize jeeps for herding cattle.

Foreign power tries to build a missile base in the Canadian wilderness to launch missile strikes against the U.S.

And, while it's out of the scope of the question, it's hard to forget HOOSIER HOLIDAY (Republic, 1943) where Indiana farmers George Byron (candidate for title of All-Time Most Insipid Leading Man) and his brothers, the Hoosier Hotshots singin' group, try to join the Army but are declared, as farmers, essential to the War Effort and denied entry.

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