This Memorial Day, The Kinotech Blog salutes our departed servicemen and women for protecting our nation and freedoms.
When I was opening the IMAX theater at the new National Infantry Museum and Solider Center, Columbus, GA, 3D historian Ray Zone brought this little gem to my attention. Released in 1953, documentary filmmaker Owen Crump spent three years on the battlefront in Korea creating this docudrama starring Roy Thompson, Henry Goszkowski, and Richard Karl Elliott, actual soldiers who recreated their battles in the field. The film was produced by Hal Wallis.
The following synopsis is courtesy Turner Classic Movies and the American Film Institute:
In 1953, as troubled peace negotiations are under way in Panmunjom, Korea, American E Company platoon, led by Lt. Roy Thompson, Jr., is ordered to send a patrol to Red Top, a tall mountain the U.S. military suspects is under enemy control. No-nonsense Thompson selects thirteen men for the patrol, including Sgt. Richard Karl Elliott, a daredevil soldier with whom Thompson has a rocky relationship, and Pfc. Kim, a Korean from a nearby village, whose wife is about to give birth. After the men collect their gear and ammunition, Thompson explains that their mission is to sneak up the west slope of the mountain and gather intelligence on enemy activity. As the soldiers begin their march, many of them wonder aloud about the purpose of the mission, feeling confident that a peace treaty will soon be signed. Later, while crossing a field, Kim spots a farmer he knows and rushes to speak with him, earning a reprimand from Thompson. The farmer then runs to a nearby village, and the patrol continues on, dodging artillery fire as they go. The artillery fire increases, and Elliott suggests they take an alternate route up the steep mountainside. Along the way, they come across two dead Chinese soldiers, who, they worry, may have had time to radio the patrol’s position before being shot. The farmer, meanwhile, locates Kim’s pregnant wife in the village and tells her that Kim is well and expected home soon. At battalion headquarters in Panmunjom, Army officers are concerned because they have not heard from E Company and have their radio man check on the patrol’s position. Word comes that E Company is moving fast toward Red Top, soothing the officers’ fears. In the mountains, meanwhile, the patrol encounters two British soldiers, one injured, headed in the opposite direction. Taylor, the healthy soldier, warns the Americans that the trail is lined with mines and offers to show them the way. Taylor guides them to the point where his mate was wounded, then turns back. Aware that more mines lie ahead, Thompson orders Kim and another soldier to the front of the line, where they carefully probe for buried mines with knife points. One mine is narrowly avoided, but when a soldier stumbles down the cliffside, he hits another mine and is killed. Back at Panmunjom, war correspondents Powell and Bateman argue about the stalled peace negotiations. Bateman objects to Powell’s cynical view of the process, while the older Powell calls Bateman naïve. Upon learning that Powell was once an idealist like him, but became embittered about treaties after reporting on Versailles, Bateman admits to Powell that he is too trusting, while Powell concedes that his experiences have prejudiced him as a journalist. While crossing a river, the E Company patrol, meanwhile, is attacked by snipers and one man is wounded. Thompson orders Elliott and his sharpshooting friend, Sfc. Albert Bernard “One Ton” Cook, to circle around and locate the snipers, and Elliott and Wright come up behind the enemy soldiers and shoot them dead. At the foot of Red Top, as artillery fire suddenly increases, Thompson receives word that 300 Chinese troops have been spotted in the area. Sure that Red Top is controlled by the Chinese, Thompson leaves some of his men behind to provide cover and tend to the wounded, then leads the rest up the mountain. In the valley below, they see the Chinese troops and radio their position to headquarters. Just then, snipers begin firing on them and radio contact is broken. The message gets through to headquarters, however, and the Army, Navy and Air Force coordinate a land and air response. Back on Red Top, the patrol continues to scramble up the mountain, while exchanging gun and grenade fire with the enemy. Thompson is hit but refuses to allow Elliott to rescue him. Kim, however, goes after a Chinese sniper and is killed. Moments later, Navy and Air Force planes arrive and begin dropping bombs on the Chinese troops, while Army tanks shell the mountain. Thompson’s patrol finally takes Red Top, and the victorious lieutenant and Elliott grudgingly admit their mutual respect. After the armistice is signed, the surviving soldiers look forward to going home, while Kim’s wife embraces her newborn son and Powell and Bateman write hopeful reports about lasting peace.