Everyman's War (2009) 

 

 

 

 

Director:     Thad Smith.

Starring:    Cole Carson (Sgt. Don Smith), Lauren Bair (Dorrine), Michael J. Prosser (Cpl. Starks), Sean McGrath (Pvt. Benedetto), Eric Martin Reid (Pvt. Robert Fuller), Brian Julian (Pvt. Heinrich), Lee Selmyhr (Don Smith - present day), Stacie Scales (Voice of Fuller's Daughter, voice), Brandon Smith (Talkative GI Jeep driver), Mary Anne Ward (Fuller's Mother), Kaylee Holmes (Fuller's Sister), Terry Ward (Fuller's Dad).

Don Smith is drafted and send to fight in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge;  he was in Nennig, Germany

 

 

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

A G.I. starts running across the snow. He has been shot and leaves a bloody trail behind him.

An elderly man named Don Smith of Hillsboro, Oregon receives a letter from a friend's daughter, Angie Fuller. He picks up the framed photo to look at four G.I.s serving their country during World War II.

Germany, 1945. Don remembers that the war for him started in 1943 at the age of almost 19. He says almost every day he thinks about the friends he knew and the friends he lost. Some memories are very good, but others he wants to forget.

Flashback. Fuller Farm, Norris Kansas. Mother tells Robert not to get himself killed.

In New York City, Angelo Benedetto faces the judge once again. His lawyer assk the judge to drop the charges and Angelo will join the army. Angelo is upset about this, but his lawyer tells him the army won't take him, as he has a 4F status. So, he goes along with the lawyer's request. The judge accepts and adds that Angelo's draft status will be changed to 1A.

Boston. a gas station attendee looks at the morning headlines in the newspaper and learns that Eisenhower has announced that the Allied invasion of Europe has started at Normandy, France.

Sacketts Harbor, New York. An army man, Cpl. Starks, now has a pregnant wife. She doesn't want him going overseas, but he says there is no getting out of going abroad. This is war. His wife cries.

Forest Grove, Oregon. Don Smith   gets off work at a lumber mill. He goes to a dance to meet his date, but it's almost midnight now and the dance is over. The young man apologizes to his date Dorrine for being so very late. The young lady asks him to dance with her even though there's no music. They dance.

Dorrine's brother yells to her that they are leaving now. Dorrine has to go. The young fellow seems crestfallen. His friend Bud comes over and says it looks like Dorrine really likes him. Yeah, but he just got his draft notice. So what can he do about it from overseas?

The next day Don calls Dorrine. She asks him to come over and visit her. Don beats around the bush for too long and Dorrine tells him she is heading for San Francisco to study music there. The operator cuts Don off because he doesn't have a dime for an extended call. Dorrine learns from his mother that Don has been drafted and he is probably already in Portland, Oregon. Dorrine is really upset that she talked so much she couldn't even tell him goodbye.

Back to 1945. Don's jeep driver says he heard that Don was at Nennig, Germany when the German Counteroffensive (Battle of the Bulge, December 16, 1944 to January 17,1945) began. He goes on to say that he hears that there is not much left of Nennig now.

Flashback. HMS Queen Elizabeth, September 1944. One of the sailors says there's too many bloody Yanks on this ship. Don catches up with Sgt. Starks and asks him if there is anything wrong? He says his wife came from Sacketts Harbor, but he had to miss her because he had to run an errand for the lieutenant. He says four words sum up much of his life: didn't see that coming.

Don asks Angelo and Ken if this bunk is taken? Angelo ignores him so Don calls him a grease ball. Angelo wants to fight, but Ken tells him to save it.

Ken says he's a farmer from Kansas, near Norris.

Corporal Starks tells Don not to play dice with Benedetto, because the guys a hustler. Try poker, he suggests.

Starks talks to his men. They want to know where they are going? We're going to war, says Starks.

St. Nazaire, France, October 1944. Around 50,000 German troops had been cut off when Gen. Patton pushed through after the Normandy landing. The Germans were stuck behind enemy lines.

Benedetto has already gotten a bad reputation for being a hustler. He doesn't like to follow army regulations and goes out looking to make more deals.

The Germans open up on the Allied lines with their 88s. [An anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery gun that could also be uses as artillery to shell Allied lines. The first one in a series of artillery guns was officially called the 8.8 cm Flak 18.]

Benedetto has blood all over him. He has to run like hell to get back to his position. He makes it. The Germans have moved up very close to the American lines and Don's group does the best they can to stop them. The Germans retreat.

Now Corporal Starks really balls out Benedetto. The blood on Benedetto came from a Frenchman named Maurice with whom Benedetto was making a deal. And now, says the Italian-American, Maurice is all gone, hit nearly directly by an 88 shell.

The guys have been in France for three months now. Starks says they are in a stalemate with the Germans and neither of the parties are moving anywhere. Starks encourages Don to send the letter to the girl he likes already. Don has been working on the same letter for months now.

Starks tells Don that around Christmas and New Year's they are going to be moved up into German territory.

While bringing breakfast back to Benedetto, Don and Starks are almost hit by artillery fire. Starks is struck in the back from the artillery shrapnel. He tells Don: ""I didn't see that one coming." Don yells for someone to help him. Another soldier comes over to look at the wound and he tells Don that they can't do anything for this man, let's go.

Benedetto is being chewed out by one of the officers, who tells the young man that disciplined charges hardly ever reach his desk. But now Benedetto is before him, accused of stealing the things Benedetto found, won in a dice game or a card game or traded for. The officer thinks all this stuff Benedetto has is stolen property. Benedetto denies that anything is stolen property. There are other charges against the guy, including AWOL and desertion.

The officer asks Don what he should do about this man Benedetto who puts all his unit in danger because of his lousy attitude and behavior? Don admits that Benedetto has made a lot of mistakes. The officer sends Benedetto outside the tent to wait for them. He now tells Don that the 376 has broken through the German lines and their unit is moving out to reinforce those men.

Don still says to send Benedetto back to their unit. The officer says okay but now Don will have to take responsibility for this delinquent. To help in this task the officer makes Don a corporal.

The German-American lad from Boston named Heinrich is now put in as a replacement for Starks. Don says they don't have time to teach him all they've learned about staying alive, so, as the ammo man, he is to keep the ammo coming and don't do anything stupid. He reiterates the point about not doing anything stupid that will get himself and his buddies killed.

The guys move up in trucks. In private Don pulls out the newspaper photo of Dorrine from his wallet. At home, Dorrine wraps a Christmas gift, a watch, for Don. She listens to the radio telling the audience that the Americans have lost both Bambrik and Babelom in Belgium and near the French border, German soldiers have broken back into Belgium and Luxembourg. They are now within 29 miles of historic Sedoz.

Don and his men arrive five miles away from their indented target. He says he has a bad feeling about this.

The men get the order to relieve an American machine gun position on the south end of the hill. Three guys from another unit will relieve the other machine gun position on the north side of the hill.

The German general in the area says the American positions are threatening the southern flank of the German breakthrough in the Ardennes. Their orders are to "drive the Americans back through the icy marshes across the Moselle River and out of Germany." One of his advisers tells the general that the terrain around Nennig is not good for armored combat. The general says the Americans are rotating their troops and will be caught weak and unprepared. Furthermore, the Americans only hold one ridge in the area. Moreover, they will not think the Germans will be advancing amidst a snow storm.

The plan is to move from Nennig to Tettingen. The general tells Major Rupprecht that he will take his regiment and run through the ridge and proceed to the Moselle River. This action will cut off the Americans from their supply lines. In addition, the 110th regiment will attack the town of Tettingen to cut off any possible American retreat.

Don and his men get set up at the machine gun position. Don and Fuller are manning the machine gun. One of the guys comes over to say that they think the 11th Panzer Division has moved up to this area. And the guys have no bazookas to take the tanks out.

The tanks and the German soldiers arrive. The soldiers open fire on the Americans as they run from the shack they were staying in outside to retreat from the Germans. Quite a few of the men are killed. The tank now blows the shack completely to pieces. Smith is knocked down by the explosion but he is able to get back up.

More of the American soldiers are taking up positions on the ground to try and stop the Germans from advancing. Causalities are heavy on both sides. Heinrich and Benedetto are both badly wounded. Fuller gets badly wounded. He tells Smith to get going somewhere else because Smith can't help him.

The Germans come out in the open to advance through the forest. For a moment Don gets caught by a German soldier. The soldier has to move on. He tells Don to stay there or he will shoot him. But as soon as the German soldier is far away, Don starts moving out again.

He finds the body of a soldier named Riley torn in half. And now he sees a sign in German saying the grounds ahead are mined. Don runs across the mined area but does not step on a mine. He gets across the open field but then is shot twice by the Germans.

He lies still for awhile, but feels he is strong enough to keep going. He drips blood as he goes. A German has a good shot lined up, but he doesn't want to shoot the bleeding man walking all bent over.

Don makes it to the American lines. A fellow American helps him make the last few steps to temporary safety.

Don writes to Dorrine that the 94th held the town against heavy fighting. But the American break through into Germany cost some 60,000 lives in less than a month. It was not until March that his wounds healed and he came back to M company.

Don's driver asks him if that letter is to his girl? He offers to mail the letter for Don. Don says no.

Don looks for his buddies but: "After that night, I never saw any of them again." The Americans pushed on into Germany through Düsseldorf.

German Czech Border 1945. Don and Starcher are trying to re-capture a German soldier who escaped from the Americans. When they bust into the barn from where they heard shots fired, Don finds a man named Anderson who wants to kill the escapee. Don puts a stop to that. He tells Starcher to take Anderson back to headquarters.

Don walks the escapee to the POW area. In German the guy says he hates Hitler and the uniform he wears. He is almost positive that all his family is dead. His wife was half-Jewish. He cries that now he has nothing. Bending down, the escapee finds a pistol in a lake. He picks it up and shoots himself in the head.

Don is on a train in Spokane, Washington. The train is waiting on the arrival of another train, so Don sits on a bench outside the station and drinks a coke. An old man sits down and thanks Don for his service in the war. He says he wants to go back to Germany to find any relatives of his that may still be alive. Don has a letter from the wife of the German soldier who shot himself in the head. He asks the man to translate it for him.

The man starts reading and says this is a very sad letter from a wife to her husband. Did Don know the people involved? Don says not in the way one would think. The elderly man reads the letter for Don.

Back to the present. Don's wife asks him what he's doing? He says he is the last man of his entire crew from the war still alive. He has been sitting and thinking, wishing that the men were still around.

Dorrine finds the letter Don wrote but never sent to her. He says: "I just needed it. It was my hope, a way home, something to hold on to. You and me seemed so impossible."

Flashback. Don returns home. He walks up the road to Dorrine's house. They just start talking like they had never been separated by the war. Dorrine gives him a big kiss.

"Karl Heinrick was wounded and hid for two days until the Germans were driven back. He was unable to return to duty and finished the war in England. He returned to Boston and became a minister. He was killed in an automobile accident in 1970."

"Angelo Benedetto was killed in action. St. John's Orphanage in Brooklyn where he had grown up was notified of his death. A mass was said in his honor."

"Robert Fuller was taken prisoner on his birthday. Although seriously wounded, he managed to survive the rest of the war as a POW. After the war he returned to Kansas where he married and took over the family farm. He and his wife raised six children. He died in 2006."

"After the war Don Smith and Dorrine Foelker were married. Don returned to school and the Mill in Forest Grove where he eventually became plant manager. Dorrine continued to sing professionally on radio programs. They raised five children. They have been happily married for over 60 years."

 

 

Spoiler Warning. Good film and emotionally touching. Don Smith, a worker at a saw mill, an ordinary guy, was drafted into the army. This really disrupted his life because he had just started what promised to be a great relationship with a young woman named Dorrine. He constantly thought of Dorrine while fighting the Germans. He kept adding on to a letter that he kept on writing to Dorrine, but never mailed. The letter kept up his hope and kept him going through some terrible fighting.

Don made it through the war and came back to Dorrine. They eventually married and were together for more than 60 years of marriage and five children. I was just glad that the fellow made it home and hooked back up with Dorrine. Nice, happy ending for at least one of the guys from his unit.

The war action was a bit brutal, but that's war from what I've read.

The acting was pretty good all around.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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