The Story of G. I. Joe (1945)

 

 

Director:   William Wellman.

Starring:   Burgess Meredith (Ernie Pyle/Narrator), Robert Mitchum (Lt./Capt. Bill Walker), Freddie Steele (Sgt. Steve Warnicki), Wally Cassell (Pvt. Dondaro), Jimmy Lloyd (Pvt. Spencer), John R. Reilly (Pvt. Robert 'Wingless' Murphy), William Murphy (Pv. Mew), Sicily and Italy Combat Veterans of the Campaigns in Africa (Themselves), Don Whitehead (Himself, A.P.), George Lait (Himself, International News Service), Chris Cunningham (Himself, U.P.), Hal Boyle (Himself, A.P.), Jack Foisie (Himself, Stars and Stripes), Bob Landry (Himself, Life), Lucien Hubbard (Himself, Readers Digest).

Ernie Pyle was a Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle, famous for living with soldiers on the front lines and telling their stories. The film follows Pyle along with Company C of the 18th Infantry going from North Africa to Italy.  True to life, the film shows the harrowing lives of the infantry soldiers in World War II.

 

 

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

Correspondent Ernie Pyle, 43 years of age, finds himself in the African desert with C Company, 18th Infantry.  The men listen to the jive music of Artie Shaw provided by the propagandist radio hostess Sally Axis.  Pvt. Robert 'Wingless' Murphy is so tall that his feet stick out of the tent.  The fellow in charge of these men is Lt. Bill Walker.  He is tough, but does relent to let the men keep their adopted mascot, a little dog named Arab.

Coming to the military front, Walker tells Pyle that this is the end of the line for him, a correspondent, but Pyle asks: "Mind if I go all the way."  Walker responds with "Well, it's your funeral.".  The unit suffers a defeat.  They have to suddenly pull out, burning military papers before they go.  "American boys beaten, beaten badly  --  a bitter, humiliating experience."  The men all agree that "Only battle experience can make a combat soldier."

 Pyle goes on to visit other units, but he seeks out and finds his "home" unit again.  They are on the road to Rome.  Mail Call inspires a lot of excitement among the men.  They take an Italian village.  Here Pvt. Murphy marries his sweetheart Elizabeth and they spent their first night together as a married couple in the back of an ambulance.  Sgt. Steve Warnicki spends a lot of time looking for a phonograph to play the recording of his son's voice on a record. 

The men must take Monte Casino before they can head on to Rome.  There is a monastery on top of a ridge that the Germans are using as an observation platform.  The soldiers discover that they can't get permission to destroy the monastery because it is a religious shrine.  Company C is involved in many night patrols in the area.  Private Murphy, the newly wed, is killed in battle. 

Pyle learns that he has earned the Pulitzer Prize for his war correspondence.  He wrote about the G.I.:  ". . . he lives so miserably and he dies so miserably."

The Americans finally decide to bomb the monastery on the ridge.  But once destroyed, the monastery rubble made a great fortress for the Nazis and they stopped the Allied advance cold.  Sgt. Wanicki finally cracks up and is sent to the medics.

The Allies finally take the ridge with the monastery.  Pyle rejoins Company C again.  The men of C Company shout to him: "Welcome to this side of Casino, Ernie."  He arrives at the time the body of now Captain Walker is brought down from the ridge to the military cemetery for burial. 

Eisenhower saw the movie and said it was one of the best war movies he had ever seen.  He liked the focus on the experiences of the everyday common soldier. 

I would not say it is a great movie.  I have seen many better war movies.  It is very choppy and uneven.  A celebration of the common soldier is nice, but it cannot match the focus on the entire picture, showing the defeats and triumphs of all involved.  Many war movies focus on the camaraderie between the men in a military unit and I don't think this movie is any better than these films and certainly worse than some. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

 

Ernest Taylor Pyle was a beloved journalist who covered World War II for the Americans from the perspective of the average soldier.

1900 (August 3)  --  Ernie Pyle  better known as Ernie Pyle, was born on a tenant farm near Dana, Indiana. 

World War I  --  Pyle joined the Naval Reserve, but the war ended before he could complete his training. 

1919-1923  --  Pyle began his journalism training at Indiana University.

1923  --  he left college before obtaining a degree in journalism to accept a reporter's job at the LaPorte Herald.

1923  -- after just two months at the newspaper, Pyle moved to Washington, D.C. He wrote a aviation column and was later a managing editor of the Washington Daily News, part of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain.

1925 (July 25)  --  Pyle married Minnesotan Geraldine Siebolds. The two quite their jobs to barnstorm around the country.

1927  --  Pyle returned to work at the Washington Daily News.

A number of his columns were compiled and published in the book Home Country.

1935-1945 -- he worked as a journalist, who wrote as a roving correspondent for the Scripps Howard newspaper. He wrote in a folksy style about out-of-the-way places and the people who lived there.  His articles were like a letter written to a friend.  The articles were so popular that he was published in as many as 200 newspapers.

His last home was in Albuquerque, New Mexico

1940  --  in England, he reported on the Battle of Britain. 

1941  -- publication of a collection of his articles in Ernie Pyle in England.

1941 --  WW II begins for the United States.  Pyle became a war correspondent. He wrote for and about the common soldier.

While Ernie Pyle was in Africa, his cabin mate was Life magazine reporter, Will Lang Jr.

1944  -- in Italy, Pyle wrote a column urging that soldiers in combat get "fight pay" and helped Congress decide to give soldiers 50 percent extra pay for combat service. The legislation was called "the Ernie Pyle bill."

He later served in Europe and the Pacific. His wartime writings can also be read in the books: Brave Men and Here is Your War.

1944  --  Pyle received the Pulitzer Prize.

1945 (April 18)  --  during the Battle of Okinawa, Pyle died on Ie Shima island off Okinawa Honto by machine-gun sniper fire. 

 

Sources: Wikipedia and http://www.indianahistory.org/pop_hist/people/pyle.html

 

 

Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)