Saturday, November 29, 2014

HISTORY or HOLLYWOOD: Pork Chop Hill (1959)


     

1.       The plan was to frontally assault the hill with two platoons from King Co. with one platoon in reserve.  The artillery barrage was to be lifted and the assault force was to proceed rapidly up the hill.

2.        The Chinese artillery hit behind them.

3.        They ran into concertina wire and some Americans threw their bodies on it to serve as bridges.

4.        The Chinese were armed with bolt-action rifles, machine guns and grenades.

5.        American spotlights illuminated the Americans until Clemons radioed for them to be doused.

6.        Clemons had to deal with a soldier (Franklen) trying to avoid fighting.

7.        The Chinese evacuated the front line trenches.

8.        Survivors from Easy Co. were found in a bunker and the gathering was almost immediately hit by what was most likely friendly artillery fire.

9.        The remnants of Love Co.  arrived on the flank with only 12 men.

10.     Golf Co. arrived and was commanded by Clemons’ brother-in-law.

11.    Golf Co. was forced to withdraw because higher command thought the hill was under control.

12.    A public information officer arrived to get pictures of the “victory”.

13.    Gen. Trudeau decided not to reinforce failure.

14.    Clemons decided to make a last stand centered on the command bunker.

15.    A Chinese loudspeaker counted down the time left before their assault.

16.    The Chinese attacked in a human wave and the remaining Americans barricaded themselves in the bunker.

17.    The Chinese used a flamethrower on the bunker.

18.    Gen. Trudeau sent reinforcements that arrived in the nick of time.

 

1.        The plan was to frontally assault the hill with two platoons from King Co. with one platoon in reserve.  The artillery barrage was to be lifted and the assault force was to proceed rapidly up the hill.  HISTORY

2.        The Chinese artillery hit behind them as they advanced up the hill.  HISTORY   This was partly due to the speed of the American assault which unfortunately exhausted the Americans.

3.        They ran into concertina wire and some Americans threw their bodies on it to serve as bridges.  HISTORY

4.        The Chinese were armed with bolt-action rifles, machine guns and grenades.  HISTORY  They were famous for their notoriously inaccurate “burp guns” and weak grenades.  They used a huge number of grenades in the battle. 

5.        American spotlights illuminated the Americans until Clemons radioed for them to be doused.  HOLLYWOOD  Spotlights were used to light up hillsides, but I found no evidence of this incident.

6.        Clemons had to deal with a black soldier (Franklen) trying to avoid fighting.  HISTYWOOD  Franklen was a fictional character, but some Americans did show a lack of enthusiasm for the fight and there were incidents of panic.  The use of a black soldier to represent these men could be considered offensive.  Actually, the worst culprits were the ROKs attached to the American units (none of whom are shown in the film).

7.        The Chinese evacuated the front line trenches once King Co. reached them.  HISTYWOOD  It was not that simple.  The Americans had to work down the trenches to root the Chinese out of bunkers.

8.        Survivors from Easy Co. were found in a bunker and the gathering was almost immediately hit by what was most likely friendly artillery fire.  HISTORY

9.        The remnants of Love Co.  arrived on the flank with only 12 men.  HISTORY

10.     Golf Co. arrived and was commanded by Clemons’ brother-in-law.  HISTORY

11.    Golf Co. was forced to withdraw because higher command thought the hill had been “mopped up”.  HISTORY

12.     A public information officer arrived to get pictures of the “victory”.  HISTORY

13.     Gen. Trudeau decided not to reinforce failure.  HISTORY

14.     Clemons decided to make a last stand centered on the command bunker with some of the men in shallow craters in front.  HISTORY  The movie does not do a good job portraying the sheer exhaustion of the men since early in the battle.

15.     A Chinese loudspeaker counted down the time left before their assault.  HISTYWOOD  Although the Chinese did use loudspeakers, it was mainly to demoralize the Americans.  It is unlikely they welcomed King to the hill or counted down the assault.

16.     The Chinese attacked in a human wave and the remaining Americans barricaded themselves in the bunker.  HISTYWOOD  Before this, reinforcements arrived so there were more than 25 men left.  This attack was mainly broken up by American artillery.  Later when Trudeau committed another company, Clemons and King Co. were withdrawn.  The “Alamo” scene occurred later.

17.     The Chinese used a flamethrower on the bunker.  HOLLYWOOD  Americans used flamethrowers, I found no evidence that the Chinese used one against the bunker.
        18.    Gen. Trudeau sent reinforcements that arrived in the nick of time.  HISTORY

RATING  =  .78

CONCLUSION:  "Pork Chop Hill" is one of the most historically accurate war movies that I have seen.  In fact, since i have been doing this History or Hollywood series, it has the highest rating of any theatrically released war film.  This is mainly attributable to its fidelity to SLA Marshall's book.  The involvement of Clemons (Peck's character) as a technical adviser also added to the accuracy. Overall, you are not going to get a more accurate view of the trench type warfare that dominated the last year of the Korean War. Specifically, it is as accurate a depiction of one of the most famous battles of the Korean War as you could ask for. 

For the original review, go to:
Pork Chop Hill

   

7 comments:

  1. Yeah, I like this one a lot. Probably my favorite Korean War flick, not that it has much competition.

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  2. Totally agree. Not only is there not a lot of competition, but a high percentage of the subgenre is putrid. Have you tried any of the South Korean war movies? Several are surprisingly good.

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  3. There are several "Pork Chop Hill" threads, but I'm putting James Jones' critique on this one. Writing in 1963, Jones felt the Korea films weren't much different from those on WW II.

    Jones wrote that the films he studied for the article had a theme of either "The Individual Hero or The Misunderstood Leader concept." Of "Pork Chop Hill," James Jones wrote:

    "Two of them employed almost classically the now-worn, standardized Misunderstood Leader theme. And, indeed, in one of them, Pork Chop Hill, we find again our old friend Gregory Peck (whose solemn, humorless, Lincolnesque face must lend itself to this role) doing exactly the same routine we saw him do in the romantic Guns of Navarone--though it must be admitted, with considerably less box office. There is the Bitter Negro to whom Infallible Father Figure Peck preaches group-oriented togetherness with conspicuous success. And there is also (another of my particular pet peeves in war films) the Young Wounded Boy Who Refuses to Go to the Rear. This young man, who begins the film as one of the youngsters who refuse to fire their weapons for fear of enemy retaliation (of whom there were a good many in Korea, according to S.L.A. Marshall's excellent book, also titled "Pork Chop Hill), is still there with his wounded arm at the end to say, when asked by Peck why he hadn't left (and he actually does say the line) "I just couldn't leave and let them throw us off of Pork Chop sir."

    "Now I have known a fair number of wounded men. I have never--if we except the few Audie Murphys of this world--once known of one who was not, however unseriously wounded, damned glad to be wounded, because it gave him an excuse to get the hell back over the first hill to the rear as quickly as possible. If one stops for a moment to think that to his regiment, division and up, each infantry private is one of a large number of statistical risks, a fact of which every infantry private is well aware, then there is no other sensible thing to do but go to the rear; where there is a series of battalion aid stations, regimental field stations, and divisional hospitals all set up and waiting to patch up their investments so that they may be used again someday. So that, in a way, the wounded soldier who stays up on the line might very well be accused of damaging government property (himself) needlessly. Of course, with the boy in question here, his whole story is intended to show that, in and through the hell of combat, he grew up and became a Man. The truth, as I pointed out earlier, is usually just the reverse. But where does one find the war film which tells the story of the Man who grew up and became an Animal?"

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. Good stuff. I think SLAM's controversial conclusion that a low percentage of men fired their weapons in battle were not in his book about Pork Chop Hill.

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    2. I didn't find it either when I read the book in the 1980's. I think Jones confused it with SLAM's Men Against Fire.

      The movie was different from Marshall's Pork Chop Hill book (which Jones admired). Several fictional elements were put in the film.

      His main biographer wrote that James Jones had a "grand obsession" with war and men's reaction to it.

      My father and uncles, veterans of WW II, pretty much said the same thing James Jones did regarding war movies when I asked them. My Dad didn't like them.

      For one thing, the Germans and Japanese were more formidable in real life than they appeared to be in the movies.

      I gave my father copies of The Thin Red Line and The Pistol to read and he said Jones was exactly right about the American soldier of WW II. What type of men they were, how they talked, etc.

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