Men in War (1957)
Director: Anthony Mann.
Cast: Robert Ryan (Lt. Benson (2nd Platoon, Co. D), Aldo Ray (Sgt. Montana), Robert Keith (The Colonel), Phillip Pine (Sgt. Riordan, radioman), Nehemiah Persoff (Sfc. Nate Lewis), Vic Morrow (Cpl. James Zwickley), James Edwards (Sgt. Killian), L.Q. Jones (Sgt. Davis), Scott Marlowe (Pvt. Meredith), Adam Kennedy (Pvt. Maslow), Race Gentry (Pvt. Haines), Walter Kelley (Pvt. Ackerman), Anthony Ray (Pvt. Penelli ), Robert Normand (Pvt. Christensen), Michael Miller (Pvt. Lynch).
Korean War, September 6, 1950; American troops nearly cut-off completely from their battalion have to reach safety
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Korea, September 6, 1950. (Shortly before the turning point of the war, the landing at Inchon.) A number of American soldiers are in the mountains of Korea. Among them are the smoking remains of destroyed vehicles and weapons. Sgt. Riordan, the radioman, cannot reach battalion headquarters. Maybe they lost the hill. Maybe they lost the battalion. A soldier known as Irish is found dead, bayoneted in the back. The enemy is close. Lt. Benson has quite a few dog tags of dead soldiers. They finally get through to battalion and are told to get to hill 465. On the other side of the Nakdong River, the whole division has retreated. The men of 2nd platoon, dog company of the 34th are now nearly surrounded. Cpl. Zwickley is very sickly and he is watched over by Sgt. Killian.
All of a sudden they see a jeep being driven fast over the fields. The two men inside are coming toward them. Lt. Benson steps out in front of the jeep to get the driver to stop. Sgt. Montana, however, does not want to stop. But Lt. Benson won't let him pass him. The Lt. tells Sgt. Montana that he needs the jeep to carry some of their supplies so they can make it to hill 465. Montana fingers his weapon, so the Lt. has to force him at rifle point to get out of the jeep. The man then pulls a knife. The Lt. is not going to give up, so Montana finally has to.
Lt. Benson talks to the Colonel in the jeep. Montana says he has to get the Colonel to the hospital at Pusan. Lt. Benson insists that his priorities trump those of the Colonel. The Colonel does not say a word. He seems to be suffering from shell shock (i.e., post-traumatic-stress-disorder). Montana has the Colonel strapped into his seat so he won't fall out. Lt. Benson has the jeep filled with the supplies. Montana has to walk with the other men. Cpl. Zwickley is the driver.
A sniper shot almost hits its target. Everyone looks in the trees for the sniper. All of a sudden, Montana shoots the sniper and he falls out of the tree. Montana tells everyone to look for a partner. Montana finds this sniper too and kills him. Lt. Benson has to admit that this man Montana, although a pain in the ass, is definitely useful.
Sgt. Killian is the man in the rear. He gets distracted, sits down, picks some flowers and puts them on his helmet. As he is doing this, two enemy soldiers in camouflage sneak up on him. They kill the sergeant with a bayonet. Wondering where Killian is, the Lt. and Montana go back for him. They find him dead. Zwickley tries to run to Killian, but is stopped. Montana finds and kills both of the enemy soldiers. But one of the men is not dead yet. He is able to call in his coordinates before he is finished off. North Korean artillery starts firing at the position in patterns of three shells. Two at a time the Lt. sends the men across the area just after the finish of a pattern of three. Everyone gets through, except one.
The men make it to the base of hill 465. They don't, however, see any friendly soldiers on the hill. They do, however, discover two enemy machine gun nests that will have to be taken out. The Lt. splits his men into two units. In a coordinated attack they take out the smaller machine gun nest without much trouble, but the other one proves very difficult. The Lt. sees many of his men shot and killed. The Colonel seems less concerned about himself than Montana is. He gets a moment of clarity, takes an automatic weapon and attacks. He kills some of the enemy but then is hit himself. He dies in the arms of the attentive Montana.
The Lt. is down to just himself and Montana. They are both thinking "of all people to be left with, it had to be him." Montana takes a flame thrower and the two attack the machine gun nest. The flame thrower turns the tide and they are able to kill the last of the machine gunners. Just as they are thinking they are the last men alive in the area, the radioman shows up alive. Lt. Benson says: "I was wrong. This war is going to last a long time." The army arrives with their big weapons.
It's an o.k. war movie. Not good, but not bad. I like that Robert Ryan (as Lt. Benson). He seems perfect for the part of the tough lieutenant. Aldo Ray was also very good in his role as the willful Sgt. Montana. And you don't learn much history.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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