A Walk in the Sun (1945)




Director:    Lewis Milestone. 

Starring:    Dana Andrews (Sgt. Bill Tyne), Richard Conte (Pvt. Rivera), George Tyne (Pvt. Jake Friedman), John Ireland (Pvt. Windy Craven), Lloyd Bridges (Sgt. Ward), Sterling Holloway (McWilliams), Norman Lloyd (Pvt. Archimbeau), Herbert Rudley (Sgt. Eddie Porter), Richard Benedict (Pvt. Tranella), Huntz Hall (Pvt. Carraway), James Cardwell (Sgt. Hoskins), George Offerman Jr. (Pvt. Tinker), Steve Brodie (Pvt. Judson), Matt Willis (Sgt. Pete Halverson), Chris Drake (Rankin).

 story of one platoon of Americans fighting in Salerno


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

1943.  The Texas Division at Salerno. 

The men just came from Messina. The 53 men of the platoon are in a boat being dropped along the coast.  Oddly, they seem to be all alone.  The lieutenant is a new to the men.  The fellow foolishly keeps looking out at the shore the whole time and is struck by shrapnel from a nearby shell explosion.  Sergeant Porter tells the medic McWilliams to to check on the lieutenant.  He is still alive, but won't be for long.  Now Sgt. Habersham is in charge of the men.

The men can walk onto the beach for they meet no resistance.  On the beach it is eerily silent.  Later they hear some weapons fire in the distance.  They are waiting for Sgt. Habersham, so they don't move from their position near the beach.  One of the soldiers says:  "Everybody forgot us."  They seem to be playing a waiting game.  Another of the men says:  "War is nothing but waiting."  After a long delay, the men get very restless.  Sgt. Habersham should have been back by now.  They decide to go ahead and that Sgt. Porter is now in charge.

Sgt. Bill Tyne stays behind to wait for the missing sergeant, while the rest of the troops head into the woods.  McWilliams arrives to tell Bill that the lieutenant is dead and that Habersham has been killed.  Six airplanes are headed toward the beach.  McWilliams crawls to a ridge to take a look at the beach.  An enemy plane strafes the ridge, killing McWilliams.   The plane also strafes the woods hitting a few of the men.  Trask got it in the mouth in the middle of a word. 

Sgt. Tyne is able to catch up with his unit in the woods.  He forgot the binoculars that McWilliams had, but does bring the map case.  The men decide to move out.  Two wounded soldiers have to be left behind.  One of them speaks to Sgt. Tyne and asks him to keep an eye on Sgt. Porter:  "He's going to crack."  The unit goes up and over a hill.  A plane attacks the unit, strafing the area.  More men are killed.  Luckily the plane is shot down by American airplanes. 

The men take a rest.  They then head out again.  American airplanes fly low over the men.  The forward scouts see two enemy soldiers.  A group goes to check out the men.  They turn out to be two Italian soldiers who have deserted and want to give themselves up to the Americans.  They say they ran away from a battle and that the Germans have tanks.  They also say that the Axis forces are all beaten and that they are not soldiers anymore.  They add that there are a lot of Krauts in the area.  One of the American soldiers says about the Italians:  ""Poor suckers, they don't even own their own country." 

Sgt. Porter does not fell well.  He asks Sgt. Tyne if he will take over, if it is necessary.  Bill says yes. 

The objective of the unit to to reach a farm house six miles into the interior.  They have three miles to go.  The men starts wondering if Sgt. Porter is breaking down.  Porter tells Tyne that he is afraid of the German tanks.  So Sgt. Tyne tells the bazooka teams to walk a mile ahead of the unit and destroy any tanks they might run into.  Porter thanks Tyne for thinking of the idea.  This, however, does not prevent the further deterioration of Sgt. Porter.  He says he cannot go on, falls to the ground and starts sobbing. 

An enemy armored car whizzes past the men.  The Americans hear the sounds of a fight between the bazooka squads and the German tanks.  Sgt. Tyne reasons that the armored car will be coming back.  They get ready to take it out of action.  When it returns they keep throwing grenades at it and Private Rivera shoots his machine gun breaking a track of the car.  The car goes off the road and turns on its side.  The American soldiers fire their weapons through the slots in the car's armor.  Porter is left behind with one soldier to watch him.  The bazooka men return to say that they knocked out two tanks and an armored car, although they did lose some men.   

The unit finally reaches their destination.  But the farm house looks too quiet.  Sgt. Tyne has four men crawl toward the house.  As the soldiers get closer to the house, windows are thrown open.   German machine gunners open up on the men.  The fire is so heavy that they men have to retreat.  One of the four soldiers, Tinker, doesn't make it back to his unit. 

Sgt. Tyne sits with a couple of his men to look at the map of the farm house.  One of the men has a bright idea.  So it is decided to send some men along the river.  The men will destroy the bridge over the river and then attack the farm house from behind.  Private Rivera will open up with machine gun fire on the farm house windows from a position away from the main unit.  The main unit will attack the farm house from the front.  The three-pronged attack will take place at the same designated time. 

At the determined time, Private Rivera starts firing his machine gun at the windows.  The men by the river then blow the bridge with their hand grenades.  Sgt. Tyne then starts the frontal assault.  Unfortunately, many of the American soldiers are mowed down by the German machine guns.  But the unit does succeed in taking the house from the Germans. 

My wife and I did not like the movie.  It was way too talkie for one thing.  There should have been more fighting and less talking.  The first scene on the boat heading to shore is too long and way too dark.  The movie starts as a big bore.  There are a few fighting scenes which are pretty good, but these only constitute a small part of the movie.   And the focus is on just one unit with no thought of relating it to the larger battle and campaign.  You don't learn anything about the larger picture, so historically speaking the movie is a dud. 

You can skip this one. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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