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Thirteen U.S. soldiers risk their lives to hold a bridge against the Japanese.
As civilians and American and Filipino forces are being driven out of Manila by the invading Japanese, Sgt. Bill Dane and Corp. Jake Feingold of the U.S. infantry are assigned to assist cavalry captain Henry Lassiter in destroying a bridge along the Bataan penisula. The bridge spans a mountainous jungle ravine, and Lassiter's unit is stationed on one side, abutting a cliff. In addition to Dane and Feingold, Lassiter's ragtag unit consists of eleven disenfranchised men: pilot Lieut. Steve Bentley and his disabled plane; Corp. Barney Todd of the signal battalion; young, naïve Leonard Purckett, until recently a musician in the Navy; Pvt. Felix Ramirez of the tank corps, a former member of the California National Guard; Matthew Hardy of the medical battalion; Corp. Juan Katigbak of the Philippine Army Air Force; engineer Pvt. Francis Xavier Matowski; demolitions expert Pvt. Wesley Eeps, a black man; former boxer Pvt. Yankee Salazar of the Philippine Scouts; and Sam Malloy, a cook from the motor transport crew. Dane, a no-nonsense career soldier, explains to the men that they are expected to destroy the bridge as many times as the Japanese rebuild it, in order to buy time for General Douglas MacArthur's troops to the south. Later, in private, Dane questions Todd about his past, noting that Todd resembles a soldier he once knew named Danny Burns. Dane states that, years before, Burns was arrested for killing a man in a gambling dispute and when Dane, then an M.P., was assigned to guard him, took advantage of his trust and escaped. The recalcitrant Todd dismisses Dane's insinuations and advises him to "watch his back." Soon after, the men blow up the bridge, but their victory celebration is cut short when Capt. Lassiter is killed by a sniper. Although Dane discourages them from giving Lassiter a funeral, the men insist on a proper burial, and Eeps, an aspiring preacher, delivers a brief eulogy. Later, after Dane gives each man their assignment, which includes continuous manning of the unit's machine guns, he asks for a volunteer to climb a tree and scan for the enemy. Matowski volunteers and no sooner does he reach the top of the tree, than he is shot down and killed. With two men dead, Dane sends Felix and the multi-skilled Purckett to help Bentley repair his nearby plane. Dane and Todd then toss grenades at the bridge, which the Japanese have already begun to rebuild, and during their attack, Dane notices that Todd throws left-handed, just like Burns did. After Dane and Todd narrowly escape the Japanese's return fire, Salazar asks permission to search for more artillery. Dane denies his request, but Salazar sneaks off on his own, only to be found stabbed to death a short time later. At the same time, the jazz-loving Felix comes down with malaria and is ordered to bed. The Japanese then launch an aerial attack on the camp, and while Eeps and Malloy succeed in downing some planes, Malloy is killed. Afterward, through the jungle fog, the men see the slain, tortured body of Katigbak, who earlier had gone to work on the plane's carburetor, dangling by a rope from a tree. The next day, Felix, delirious with malarial fever, recites a Latin prayer in front of Hardy and Dane, then dies. Aware that their time is limited, Bentley announces he will attempt a takeoff that night and suggests that they all leave together. Dane refuses to give up the mission, but orders the feverish Hardy, a conscientious objector who gave the last dose of quinine to Felix, to accompany Bentley. When Todd threatens to leave with Bentley, Dane assures him that he will be shot if he deserts. That night, under heavy cover from Feingold, Todd, Purckett and Eeps, Dane helps Bentley to start the plane. Although Bentley's repair job proves successful, he is wounded by the Japanese before getting off the ground. Hardy stumbles back to camp and tells Dane that Bentley wants to load two boxes of dynamite on his plane. The dying Bentley then deliberately crashes his plane into the bridge, causing a huge explosion. Soon after, a delirious Hardy, feeling guilty about Bentley's sacrifice, runs madly into the jungle hurling a grenade, and is shot down. Later, at his machine gun, Purckett notices that the "foliage" is moving and alerts Kane. Dane waits until the camouflaged Japanese are close to their guns, then signals his men to begin firing. Although many Japanese are slain in the brutal, close attack, Eeps and Feingold are also killed. After narrowly escaping death, Purckett, whose only wish was to "kill a Jap," realizes his arm has been wounded, and Todd bandages the injury. At Dane's insistence, Todd then offers to help Purckett write an optimistic letter to his mother. Immediately after finishing, however, Purckett is killed by a sniper, and Dane deduces that the killer must be hiding among some Japanese corpses. While Dane and Todd inspect the bodies, Todd is shot in the back by the sniper. Dane finishes off the sniper, then takes Todd back to camp. Before dying, Todd admits that he is, in fact, Burns, but offers no apology to Dane, who earlier had offered to forget the past. Now alone, an exhausted Dane digs his own grave, then dozes off while waiting at his machine gun for the enemy. Suddenly realizing that the Japanese have surrounded him, Dane startles awake and, from his grave, opens fire on the swarming enemy, doing his duty to the deadly end.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: week of 3 Jun 1943|
|Release Date:||1943||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Loew's Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono (Western Electric Sound System)||Production Co:||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.|
|Duration(mins):||110 or 113-114||Country:||United States|
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