Battleground is a 1949 American war film that tells the story of the 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon of Item Company, 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, trying to cope with the Siege of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. It stars Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban and George Murphy, and features James Whitmore. It was directed by William Wellman from a script by Robert Pirosh.
The film is notable for portraying American soldiers as vulnerable and human, as opposed to just inspirational and gung-ho. While there is no question about their courage and steadfastness, each soldier has at least one moment in the film when he seriously considers running away, schemes to get sent away from the front line, slacks off, or complains about the situation he is in. Battleground is considered to be the first significant film about World War II to be made and released after the end of the war.
In mid-December 1944, Jim Layton (Marshall Thompson) and his buddy Hooper, replacement soldiers fresh from the United States, are assigned to separate companies in a battalion of glider infantry in the 101st Airborne Division. Holley (Van Johnson) returns to the company after recuperating from a wound. Layton discovers that as the new man in the squad, he is ignored and unwanted.
Instead of going on leave, the squad is trucked back to the front to help stop a surprise German breakthrough in the Ardennes. They stop that night in the town of Bastogne. The platoon is put up for the night in the apartment of a local young woman, Denise (Denise Darcel), with whom Holley hopes to fraternize. Their comfort is brief. The next morning, led by Platoon Sgt. Kinnie (James Whitmore), they march to the outskirts of town and are ordered to dig in. As Layton is the odd man he is forced to dig his foxhole alone. Just as their positions are nearly prepared, they are moved abruptly to a new location and have to begin digging again.
Holley, Layton, and Kippton (Douglas Fowley) stand guard that night at a roadblock. A patrol of German soldiers, disguised as American G.I.s, infiltrates their position and later blows up a nearby bridge. In the morning, the squad awakes to find themselves in a heavy winter storm. Roderigues (Ricardo Montalbán), a latino from Los Angeles, is delighted by the novelty of snow, but his foxhole mate Pop Stazak (George Murphy), awaiting a "dependency discharge" that will send him to America, rolls over and goes back to sleep. Layton discovers that Hooper's company is nearby, so he goes over to see his friend, only to find that he had been killed hours before by a mortar shell.
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