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For his first assignment on the front, war correspondent Ernie Pyle joins up with Company C of the Army's 18th Infantry, also on its virgin mission, in the North African desert. The company's seasoned leader, Lt. Bill Walker, informs Ernie that his recruits are not yet "an outfit," but will have a chance to prove themselves soon enough. That night, as lanky soldier Robert "Wingless" Murphy complains to his tent mate about being ousted from the Air Force because of his height, honey-throated "Axis Sally" of Radio Berlin cajoles her G. I. listeners to surrender to the Germans. From their bedrolls, the men loudly express their defiancé, but when the company suffers its first casualty the next day, they are stunned into silence. Touched by the young man's death, Ernie writes his first eulogy. Soon after, the company abandons its trucks and takes off on foot, and although he is poorly equipped and untrained, the forty-three-year-old Ernie chooses to follow the soldiers. During their first major battle at Kasserine Pass, the Germans heavily bombard the company's position with artillery, and when Sgt. Steve Warnicki stumbles into headquarters to announce that the Germans have run over their lines, the company is forced to pull back. The next day, the defeated men march on, and Ernie, having fully won their respect, continues to write about his experiences. Sometime later, after victories in Sicily and elsewhere, Ernie rejoins Company C in a camp in Italy. There, a long-awaited mail call yields a phonograph record of Warnicki's son uttering his first words and an insurance beneficiary form for Private Mew. While Mew, an orphan, contemplates who to name as his beneficiaries, Warnicki determines to locate a phonograph player in the next town. In the ruined village of San Vittorio, the Germans wage a fierce battle against the Americans. Despite the flying bullets, Private Dondaro, a ladies' man from Brooklyn, flirts with and kisses a young local woman in the remains of a café. Once the Germans have been subdued, the villagers rejoice and embrace the Americans. Warnicki then begins his hunt for a phonograph, but finds only a broken-down model, which he straps to his back and takes with him. After much-needed showers, the men prepare the sleep-deprived Murphy to marry his fiancée Elizabeth, a Red Cross nurse nicknamed "Red." Ernie is asked to give Red away, and the ceremony takes place in a bombed-out church. Although the celebration is cut short by an aerial attack, the newlyweds are escorted to their makeshift "honeymoon" tent, where Murphy promptly falls asleep next to his bride. The next day, as the company marches through the quiet countryside toward Cassino, Walker, who has been promoted to captain, senses danger. Moments later, the company is shelled by German artillery, and Walker deduces that a nearby hilltop monastery is being used by the Germans as an observation post. In their dugout headquarters, the men complain about the Americans' reluctance to violate wartime regulations and bomb the monastery, while Warnicki, fresh from a patrol, tries in vain to play his record on the phonograph. After another patrol, Warnicki and his men return to the dugout and report that Murphy has been killed. His death moves Ernie and the others to tears, and Mew crosses Murphy off his beneficiary list. Later, as he is composing a story about Murphy, Ernie learns from his fellow correspondents that he has won the Pulitzer Prize for his "G. I. Joe" columns. Ernie is unimpressed by the news and returns to his typing. At Christmas, Ernie and the exhausted men of Company C huddle in their dugout, desperate for distraction and hope. Walker gives orders to find a turkey and some cranberries, but then requests volunteers for another patrol. Although advised by Walker to rest, Warnicki insists on going and captures a German. Sharing a drink and some turkey, Ernie talks privately with Walker, who is writing letters to the parents and wives of men he has lost. Walker reveals that his own wife left him and that he dreads looking into the faces of the replacement troops, many of whom, he knows, will die under his command. Then as dawn breaks, Walker catches Dondaro sneaking into camp after a night out, and orders him to dig latrines for the entire company. Dondaro's digging is interrupted by the arrival of a squadron of American planes, which bomb the monastery. Unfortunately for Company C, the shelling does not eradicate the Germans, but turns the monastery into a rubbled fortress from which they can resume their assault. Warnicki once again leads a patrol, but when he returns, fatigued and alone, and finally succeeds in playing the record of his son's voice on the phonograph, he explodes in anger and begins to rave. Walker sadly directs the others to subdue the hysterical sergeant and sends him to the infirmary. Later, Walker commands the company to "slug it out" with the Germans, and the battle rages on. Eventually, Company C is victorious, but as the weary men head toward Rome, they see Dondaro leading a donkey with Walker's slain body slung across its back. Each man stops to bid a silent farewell to the captain, then trudges on. As Ernie later observes, "for those beneath the wooden crosses, there's nothing we can do except perhaps to pause and murmur, 'thanks, pal, thanks.'"