Cast & Crew
In Nov 1950, United States Marine Corp. captain Sam MacKenzie, head of Easy company, hopes that his men will be home for Christmas, leaving the rugged, snowy terrain of Korea behind. One afternoon, Sam orders that soldier Beany Smith be given punishment duty for drunkenly forcing his way through the door of a Korean woman's house, rather than a more severe punishment favored by his second-in-command, Lt. Lee Couzens. Sam later admonishes Lee for being a "nice guy" off duty but too hard on duty. As they are talking, Lee asks Sam about a bottle of Scotch he keeps in a monogrammed leather case. Sam reveals he has carried the bottle since 1942 and relates how he received it: In the early days of World War II, Sam is in San Francisco waiting to ship out for the South Pacific. While having a farewell drink with his girl friend Anne at the Mark Hopkins Hotel's Top of the Mark, she gives him the bottle and case, asking him to save it for a meaningful occasion. Although they are deeply in love, when Anne proposes to Sam, he declines, but says if she feels the same way when he comes back, they will marry. Hearing the story, Lee asks Sam if he was ever tempted to open the bottle and Sam laughs, saying "lots of times." Col. Toomey soon informs Sam that the Chinese Communist army has just crossed into Korea. Toomey shows Sam a map of the area and explains that Easy company must advance on a road parallel to Hornet company to relay information on enemy strongholds. Once alone, Sam looks at the bottle of scotch and thinks about a time when he almost opened it: In Melbourne, Australia, on the last night of his leave, Steve meets Kitty. At midnight, when liquor sales stop, Kitty suggests that he come to her place after Sam reveals that he has "a bottle." Later, when Sam and Kitty passionately kiss, Kitty, who has seen Anne's name on the leather case, whispers that she does not think Anne or her husband would mind. Now realizing that he and Kitty were only attracted to each other out of loneliness, Sam leaves with the unopened bottle. Back in Korea, hordes of Chinese soldiers appear on a ridge near Easy company's encampment, then charge forward. After a fierce battle, the Chinese retreat, leaving several of Sam's men dead and more wounded. Sam learns from Hornet company that many units have come under attack and is ordered to move his men out immediately. After making sure that they are taking as many supplies as possible, Sam leads Easy company out. When they encounter heavy enemy fire, Sam makes contact with American fighter planes, which destroy the Chinese mortars that have caused more deaths and injuries. The company makes camp for the night in a war-ravaged village, abandoned by everyone but an elderly schoolteacher. Feeling guilty about the destruction in the village, Sam instructs the company interpreter, Pvt. Kato, to tell the elderly Korean schoolmaster to spend the night in the bed that was supposed to be for Sam. The next day, a helicopter arrives to evacuate the wounded, but the pilot can only take five of the most serious cases and warns that he may not be able to return. After company medic Goodman reports on the remaining casualties, Sam lashes out at Lee for suggesting that they leave the litter cases behind while the rest of the company fulfills their mission, and insists that they will leave no one behind, no matter what. Later, Sam thinks about another time that he almost opened the Scotch: Arriving unexpectedly in San Francisco, Sam calls Anne, then goes to her apartment. He is annoyed and jealous that Maj. Bob MacKay, an Army Air Corps pilot is there and seems to know Anne very well. Sam leaves abruptly, then returns to his hotel room and gets drunk. When Anne later comes to his hotel, Sam breaks down and sobs that he had never opened her Scotch. Anne then confesses that she had been lonely and frightened, but that Bob was only a friend. The two then embrace and a short time later are married. When Sam's thoughts return to the present, he worries about his soldiers, who are "just kids." Easy company experiences three more days of fighting, during which their supplies run out and they sustain many casualties, among them Lee, who is badly wounded. The company has lost outside contact, their last remaining truck is not working, and Mongolian cavalry soldiers, part of the Chinese force, are on a nearby ridge. When Sam tells Sgt. Ekland that they will carry the wounded and march out of their encampment, Ekland reports that the men are too tired to walk. Knowing that staying where they are might result in their deaths, Sam announces that he has a bottle of Scotch and the men will share it equally, as soon as they complete the day-long, seven mile march to join Hornet company. Realizing that Sam is right to encourage the men by letting them know that no one will be left behind, Lee apologizes, but expresses doubt that they will be saved. After marching for three miles, the men stop to rest. Sam wonders what will be at their destination but keeps his concerns to himself. Although the men are exhausted, talk about the bottle of Scotch invigorates them and they march on. A short time later, they are again under attack. When Ackerman, the soldier carrying Easy's sole bazooka, is killed, another soldier, Tinker, volunteers to retrieve it, using his skills as a hunter to dodge enemy fire. Tinker successfully retrieves the bazooka, but in the process is badly wounded. Although Sam offers to open the Scotch for Tinker, the young soldier refuses, saying he only wants water, and his mother. After the shooting stops, Sam and Ekland scout the nearby hills and spot a Chinese tank. Speculating that the Chinese would be expecting a large force and thus would hold their fire until they see American vehicles, Sam devises a plan to have all of the ambulatory men march through a clearing as if they are advance scouts. Sam then gives the Scotch to Lee, explains the plan and lets the wounded men know that they will be left behind only for a short time. While some of the soldiers march through the sightline of the Chinese, Sam and a few others set up the bazooka, fire at the tank, then lob grenades to kill the remaining enemy soldiers. Sam is badly wounded, but Goodman assures the men that he will pull through. Shortly thereafter, a helicopter arrives to evacuate Sam, Lee and the other casualties. When the pilot assures him that Hornet company is just two miles away, Sam gives the Scotch to Ekland and asks him to share it with his men. After Ekland and the others meet the main force, they are given a ride into camp. They are about to open the bottle, but decide not to because it had brought them such good luck.
Richard M. Chaffee
Robert S. Eisen
John C. Higgins
Lt. Col. Harold S. Roise U.s.m.c.
Allen K. Wood
The following written prologue introduces the film: "This motion picture is respectfully dedicated to the officers and men of the United States Marine Corps, whose cooperation in its production is gratefully acknowledged." Following the written prologue, John Payne, as "Capt. Sam MacKenzie", gives a brief, voice-over narration that introduces himself and the men of Easy Company. He explains that the film is their story and also the story of a bottle of Scotch. Payne gives a running voice-over narration throughout the film, commenting on the action and giving a verbal frame for the story's three flashbacks. At the end of the film, Payne's voice closes the story by saying that he [MacKenzie] still has the bottle and is saving it "for an important occasion."
According to various news items, Allied Artists had anticipated producing the adaptation of Pat Frank's 1952 novel as early as November 1954. In late 1954 and early 1955, the production was to star Richard Basehart and Neville Brand and was to be directed by Thomas Carr. However, according to a March 24, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Allied Artists executive producer Walter Mirish announced that the picture was being taken off the studio's production schedule because some of the actors sought for leading roles would not be available before the heavy snowfall melted in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where much of the film was to be shot. The production went back onto the schedule in early 1956, with Allan Dwan directing.