''When Trumpets Fade'' is a 1998 HBO WorldWarTwo film directed by John Irvin (''Film/HamburgerHill''), the script of which was discovered by Steven Spielberg (who directed [[SavingPrivateRyan that other 1998 WWII movie]] and produced [[Series/BandOfBrothers those]] [[ThePacific other]] HBO WWII series). Set during the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest in November 1944, the film underlines its heavy casualties and relative obscurity (compared to the subsequent [[BattleOfTheBulge Battle of the Bulge]]), but is [[VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory not based on specific details of the campaign.]] Instead it follows the CharacterDevelopment of antihero Sergeant Manning, whose [[HowToSurviveAWarMovie attempts to escape the battle]] ironically only [[BadassUnintentional expose his competence]] and lead him into [[SurprisinglyEliteCannonFodder escalating exploits]].
Private David Manning, carrying a wounded comrade in from the line, finds himself the SoleSurvivor of his platoon's week in the Hurtgen Forest. This is [[ClosestThingWeGot sufficient reason]] for Captain Pritchett, whose company has sustained 75% casualties, to give Manning not [[ShellShockedVeteran the psychological discharge he begs for]], but a promotion. Placed, to general misgivings, in charge of a squad of [[NewMeat naive replacements]], Manning makes a deal with Pritchett: he will knock out the artillery threatening the assault on a critical bridge in return for a Section 8.
As the tagline ''"In the heat of battle, not all soldiers can be heroes"'' suggests, ''When Trumpets Fade'' is set unusually far to the nihilistic end of the SlidingScaleOfCynicismVsIdealism for [[AmericaWinsTheWar an American World War Two film]], [[GenreDeconstruction subverting]] redemptive tropes like the BandOfBrothers and NoOneGetsLeftBehind through the figure of its [[AlternateCharacterInterpretation ambiguous]] protagonist.
!!''When Trumpets Fade'' contains examples of:
* AFatherToHisMen: Captain Pritchett is interested in his subordinates' welfare. Manning... isn't.
* BadassUnintentional: Manning has not the remotest interest in heroics and believes himself to be unfit for duty.
* BadBoss: Manning, when unwillingly put in charge of a squad of replacements, endangers their lives for personal gain, loses Sanderson in the woods on his first day and plans to abandon him, bullies Despin, and [[spoiler: shoots]] Baxter.
* BandOfBrothers: [[UnfriendlyFire Inverted]]. Most of the cast is understandably certain that they ''can't'' rely on the protagonist.
-->'''Sgt. Manning:''' Look, if I can help you in any way without endangering my own life, I won't hesitate. If you want my opinion, I'll give it to you. But I'm not taking a bullet for anybody.
-->'''Lt. Lukas:''' That's not good enough.
-->'''Sgt. Manning:''' That's as good as it gets.
* BewareTheNiceOnes: Mild-mannered nerd Sanderson turns into a ScreamingWarrior when [[VillainousDemotivator properly motivated.]] (Of course, he also runs ''away'' screaming.)
* BookEnds: Opens with Manning carrying Bobby; closes on Sanderson carrying Manning. Further bookended by period pop songs playing over the beginning and end credits.
* BunnyEarsLawyer: Pritchett tolerates Manning's [[MilitaryMaverick disrespect]] because he's earned it and they need his experience.
* ColonelBadass: Colonel Hardass, at least. [[EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep They call him Lieutenant Colonel]], though [[YouMightRememberMeFrom viewers may know him as]] Music/DwightYoakam.
* CombatMedic: When conducting unauthorized raids, Chamberlain also moonlights with a bazooka.
* CrapsackWorld: The Hurtgen Forest.
* DeadpanSnarker: Manning.
* DirtyCoward: Manning, according to Talbot. Ambiguous, since he does in fact [[CowardlyLion expose himself to danger]] and [[TheSoCalledCoward shrugs off contempt]] (and [[UnfriendlyFire death threats]].)
* DownerEnding: [[spoiler: TheHeroDies and the battle that got him and others killed is now largely forgotten.]]
* DueToTheDead: Subverted. The division isn't even evacuating bodies, and while Talbot's accusing Manning of selfishness, Manning is helping himself to their boots.
-->'''Talbot:''' There isn't anything sacred to you, is there, Manning?
-->'''Manning:''' Warm dry feet.
* ElitesAreMoreGlamorous: Averted. The 28th Infantry is, for the film's purposes, [[CannonFodder a regular outfit]].
* EnsignNewbie: Lieutenant Lukas, but Manning refuses to be his SergeantRock.
* EstablishingCharacterMoment: The opening scene. Manning carries the mortally-wounded Bobby off the front. [[spoiler: Then he shoots him.]]
-->'''[[spoiler: 2LT]] Manning:''' I was a private ''three days ago.''
* HiddenDepths: [[spoiler: Manning was BrilliantButLazy [[BeautifulAllALong All Along]], according to Pritchett's recommendation for commissioning him.]]
* HomeByChristmas: Invoked by Baxter, the newsreel narrator, and Bing Crosby.
-->'''Talbot:''' You [[spoiler: executed Baxter]]!
-->'''Manning:''' You're damn right I did... [[JerkassHasAPoint You'd have done the same thing.]]
* IDontLikeTheSoundOfThatPlace: The 28th know their section of the front affectionately as "the Death Factory."
* InTheBack: [[spoiler: Baxter.]] Actually, it's In The [[spoiler: [[ManOnFire Fuel Tank]]]].
* IronicEcho: "''If I can help you in anyway I can without endangering my own life, I won't hesitate''".
* KillItWithFire: When life gives you 88mm cannons, you make Manning take them out with flamethrowers.
* LandMineGoesClick: [[StuffBlowingUp Averted]] when the company enters the minefield; subverted when [[spoiler: Manning disarms one.]]
* LeastIsFirst: Sanderson is the first to agree to Manning's plan.
* LetsGetDangerous: Talbot, Chamberlain, and Sanderson throw in with Manning's raid; it's also the first time Manning faces danger on his own initiative.
* ManOnFire: Various German artillerymen. [[spoiler: And Baxter.]]
* NewMeat: Manning's entire squad, namely Privates Sanderson, Despin, Baxter, and Lonnie.
* NoOneGetsLeftBehind: Played straight, mostly by Sanderson, but also subverted all to hell, mostly by Manning, though the replacements don't cover themselves with glory in this respect either.
-->'''Sgt. Talbot:''' Where's your squad?
-->'''Sgt. Manning:''' [points at Sanderson] Over there.
* NotInThisForYourRevolution: Manning's sole motivation is survival.
* OminousFog: Ubiquitous, but especially atmospheric during the replacements' first patrol and the advance through the minefield.
* ProfessionalSlacker: Manning.
-->'''Talbot:''' See, your little routine isn't as seamless as you think it is. Always hanging back a little, never volunteering. Doing just enough to keep outta trouble, but never enough to really help out.
* RedshirtArmy: The U.S. 28th Infantry Division.
* SacrificialLamb: [[spoiler: Bobby.]]
* SceneryGorn: On your left, the blasted remains of the Hurtgen Forest. On your right, the medical clearing station. More literally, notice the incidental blood stains on the ground outside the C Company command post and the leg dangling from the cannon barrel. Mind the exploding trees.
* SergeantRock: Sgt. Talbot, who looks out for the replacements and organizes the bridge retreat. Sgt. Manning is a subversion [[spoiler: but also a reconstruction, since he does get the job done and earn general respect.]]
* ShellShockedVeteran: Manning, who requests a Section 8; more [[HeroicBSOD dramatically]], [[spoiler: Lukas]].
* ShootTheDog[[spoiler: [[IncrediblyLamePun face]]]]: [[spoiler: Twice.]] Manning, of course.
* SinkOrSwimMentor: Manning to the replacement squad.
-->'''Sgt. Manning:''' This is your first big chance to stay alive. Don't fuck it up.
** [[spoiler: MentorOccupationalHazard]]: [[spoiler: Specifically, as Sanderson's mentor, as Sanderson takes his place in the BookEnds.]]
* SoleSurvivor: Manning, of his platoon after a week in the Hurtgen Forest, and later [[spoiler: Sanderson, of Manning's squad.]]
* SoundtrackDissonance: "Over There", playing over the opening credits, is sandwiched between "Taps" and a scene of retreating survivors; Bing Crosby croons "White Christmas" over the closing credits as the camera pans over snow-topped anti-tank fortifications.
* SpiritualSuccessor: Averted with subsequent, better-known, rather less cynical HBO WorldWarII miniseries ''Series/BandOfBrothers'' and ''Series/ThePacific''. ''When Trumpets Fade'' was, however, retitled ''Film/HamburgerHill 2'' in some markets.
* StealthPun: The somewhat vague title, reduced to an acronym. Accidental? We like to think not.
* SuicideMission: Assaulting the Arbaley bridge in the face of 88s and tanks, according to Capt. Pritchett and Manning.
* SurprisinglyEliteCannonFodder: Manning starts off as the SoleSurvivor of a week in "the Death Factory" and subsequently survives a semi-disastrous exercise a day for the rest of the film, which does not escape his officers' notice.
* TankGoodness: Unless you're American.
* TemptingFate: The replacements' mantra is "[[TonightSomeoneDies Nobody dies.]]"
* ThereAreNoTherapists: Subverted. There is a mechanism for psychological help, the Section 8 discharge. They're just difficult to get.
* UnfriendlyFire: Talbot threatens to frag Manning if he lets his replacements get killed. Manning [[spoiler: actually does kill Bobby, Baxter, and pulls a pistol on Talbot.]]
* WarIsHell: Lampshaded:
-->'''Manning:''' No more room in hell.
--> '''Chamberlain:''' What are you talking about? There's plenty of room. All they gotta do is stack 'em higher.
* WeHaveReserves: The commanders of the 28th Infantry Division, in the view of Chamberlain and Manning.
-->'''Manning:''' You're just a bunch of guys in line to get shot, so they can send in a bunch of other guys. See how that works?