Battle Cry (1955)

 

 

 

Director:  Raoul Walsh.

Starring: Van Heflin (Major Sam Huxley, CO, 2nd Bn., 6th Marine Regt.), Aldo Ray (Pvt./Pfc Andy Hookens), Mona Freeman (Kathy, later: Mrs. Danny Forrester), Nancy Olson (Mrs. Pat Rogers), James Whitmore (MSgt. Mac/Narrator), Raymond Massey (Maj. Gen. Snipes), Tab Hunter (Pvt./Cpl. Dan 'Danny' Forrester), Dorothy Malone (Mrs. Elaine Yarborough, USO manager in San Diego), Anne Francis (Rae), William Campbell (Pvt. 'Ski' Wronski), John Lupton (Pvt./Cpl. Marion 'Sister Mary' Hotchkiss), L.Q. Jones (Pvt. L.Q. Jones), Perry Lopez (Pvt. Joe Gomez aka Spanish Joe), Fess Parker (Pvt. Speedy), Jonas Applegarth (Pvt. Lighttower, Navajo Phonetalker).

the run up to and the Battle for Saipan, June 1944

 


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

 

January 1942.  The United States needs a lot of soldiers and marines.  And the new recruits start arriving from all over the United States.

At the train station in Baltimore, Maryland Danny Forrester is saying good-bye to his family and his girlfriend, Kathy.  Also saying goodbye to his girl is "Ski" Wronski.

The guys on the train heading for San Diego and basic training in the Marine Corps are a mixture of America's young men: a Texan with a guitar, a farmer, a Navajo, a slum kind, a book worm, a lumber jack, a joker and a trouble-maker. 

At San Diego they meet their drill Sergeant, Sgt. Beller.  They then meet Master Sergeant Mac and the Commanding Officer of the second battalion, sixth marine regiment, Major Sam Huxley.  Most of the guys will learn to be communicators, that is, readers of code (especially the Navajos). 

Private Marion is the bookworm and writer of the group.  But even he meets a girl: Rae (who is a bit mysterious about her life).  Pvt. Danny Forrester falls for a married woman, Mrs. Yarborough, who he meets at the USO cantina.  Danny gets so involved with Mrs. Yarborough that he forgets to write home.  Major Huxley intervenes in the situation: he gives him a furlough to go back home.  Once back home, Danny renews his devotion to Kathy and when he gets back to San Diego he breaks it off with Mrs. Yarborough.  Later, Danny and Kathy marry. 

News of fighting on Guadalcanal arrives. 

At a celebration at a bar, Rae shows up.  Marion finds out that she is Spanish Joe's girl and is devasted.

November 1942.  Wellington Bay, New Zealand.  The men are stationed at Camp McKay, 30 miles out of Wellington.  Andy meets and likes a young New Zealander, Mrs. Pat Rogers, a widow who lost her husband at the Battle of El Alamein in northern Africa and her brother Tim. 

Christmas 1942.  Soon after, the men head off for Skylark Channel off Guadalcanal.  The unit is very disappointed to learn that they will only be carrying out a mop-up operation.  They see it as a real blow to their pride.  They perform well, but were in just a few skirmishes. 

Back in New Zealand, Andy goes to see Pat.  He tells her the bad news that Ski was killed on Guadalcanal.  Andy has caught a touch of malaria and is down for three days.  Pat nurses him back to health.  Andy and Pat decide to marry after she reveals to him that she is pregnant.  But first Andy has to make a 60 mile hike to Foxton and back.  There is no time for Andy and Pat to marry.  But once back, they marry.

The unit is set to head out again, but this time Andy does not want to go.  He wants to stay with Pat and plans to desert.  The Major learns of Andy's plans and convinces Pat to convince Andy not to go A.W.O.L.  Pat succeeds and Andy heads out with the rest of his unit to Tarawa.  The marines take a beating on Tarawa, but once again Andy's unit is used to do just mop-up operations.  Marion the bookworm is killed. 

January 1944.  The unit makes a 2,500 mile voyage to rejoin the division.  They are placed on a remote Hawaiian island.  The big campaign to take the island of Saipan is about to start.  But once again, the unit is to be held in reserve.  The Major  (now Colonel actually) is mad as hell and speaks with his superior officer.  He demands to be reassigned to a beachhead at Tarawa.  The General is very unsympathetic and tells the Colonel to be happy to perform his part in the larger campaign that has taken so long to plan.  But when the Colonel announces that he will not lead his men again in another mop-up operation, the General relents and assigns him to the exposed left flank of Red Beach, the hot spot of the coming battle. 

June 14.  The Fifth Fleet opens fire on Saipan and 100,000 men hit the island.  The Japanese are well dug-in on a mountain top and are strong enough to launch a counter-attack.  The marine casualties are heavy.  The Major's unit becomes isolated and endangered.  The Colonel is killed by shrapnel from an artillery shell, while Andy is badly wounded in the leg.  The Japanese counter-attack is crushed and the men are soon leaving Saipan for stateside.

Andy has his wounded leg amputated.  He is very depressed about it, but finally snaps out of his doldrums  when he learns that he and Pat now have a son.  Andy comes home to Pat and their son.  Danny gets back to Kathy safe and sound.  As they celebrate their arrivals home, they hear the news of the marines on the island of Iwo Jima. 

 

Good movie.  These camaraderie movies can range a great deal in quality.  Fortunately, this is a good one. I enjoyed watching the beginnings of quite a few love affairs and their evolution over time.  There is not really that much action footage, even though the men are involved in such famous campaigns as Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan.  The emphasis is on the men and their loves along with their surrogate father, Major/Colonel Huxley.  In a war movie, it is an interesting approach and well brought-off.

Patrick L. Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

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