Pork Chop Hill (1959)
Director: Lewis Milestone
Cast: Gregory Peck, Harry Guardino, Rip Torn, George Peppard, James Edwards, Bob Steele, Georgd Shibata, Biff Elliot, Woody Strode, Robert Blake, Norman Fell, Martin Landau, Bert Remsen, Harry Dean Stanton, Gavin McLeod
Shades of the complaints about the war in Vietnam, Lt. Gregory Peck is frustrated by politics in trying to take Pork Chop Hill in the Korean War. The war was nearly over, but that was scant comfort to the men dying on Pork Chop Hill. While arguing about peace negotiations. 135 men are cut off from reinforcements and regimental command.
The year is 1953. Lt. Joe Clemons (Gregory Peck) is stationed near Pork Chop Hill, 70 miles from the Peace Conference taking place at Panmunjom. The order comes in to the Lt. that he must retake Pork Chop Hill; the Chinese had taken it while inflicting a terrible toll on the 96 men of Easy Company (31 dead, 34 wounded, 22 captured and 9 missing).
The 196 men of first, second and third platoons, given that the war is almost over, don't understand the reasoning behind the order to take the hill. Many are thinking that they do not want to die in the last battle of the war.
The difficulty of taking the hill is made even worse by the extreme difficulties of communicating with headquarters down the hill. The men are running low on ammunition, water, radios and almost everything else, but they can't get this message to those who can help with the situation.
The Americans take a beating trying to take the hill, still wondering what is the point.
The point is hard for the Americans to understand. The North Koreans and Chinese are thinking differently. As they say in the movie, they chose the hill precisely because it was worthless -- the value is that the hill has no value. They are trying to demonstrate at the peace negotiations that the Americans will lose a test of strength against the Chinese and North Koreans -- that they are not as willing to sacrifice in a fight for nothing. They feel that this will give them a psychological advantage at the peace negotiations. But, of course, none of this is known by the ordinary soldier on the battlefield.
The movie is mostly battle scenes. Gregory Peck is good as the officer who struggles onward and upward despite not fully understanding the larger purpose for his unit's sacrifice.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
See Field of Honor (1986).
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