Pork Chop Hill
is a 1959 war movie starring Gregory Peck
and set During the War
— specifically, The Korean War
. Based on a book by army historian S.L.A Marshall, it is the true story of the eponymous battle in the closing months of the war, so named because the mountain looked like a pork chop
. It was directed by Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front
).Lt. Joe Clemons
, commanding officer of King Company, is given orders to attack Pork Chop Hill. His men are awaiting eagerly for news from the Panmunjeom peace talks, and Clemons worries about the effect the orders will have on the company. The attack goes wrong from the start, and his men charge up the hill, taking heavy losses, and upon capturing the summit await a Chinese counterattack. Clemons, dealing with low ammunition, low morale and lack of flank support, wrestles over whether or not to send ask to be withdrawn.
This film provides examples of:
- A Father to His Men: Lt. Clemons is this, despite some of his men worrying about him being regular army.
- Big Damn Heroes: Subverted. Love Company, who are supposed to be on King Companies right flank, are cut to pieces and reduced to twelve men when they finally link up with King. Not to mention that the company has already being counterattacked on their flank.
- Bittersweet Ending: King Company (what's left of it) survive the counterattack and withdraw. The battle continues until July, and the survivors must deal with the fact that they were essentially pawns in the peace talks.
- Book Ends: It begins and ends with a company of men forced to hole up in a bunker to survive a Chinese attack.
- Dirty Coward: Pvt. Franklin (played by Woody Strode), who feigns injury several times but is unable to fool Clemons. He ends up threatening to kill Clemons, but is convinced to join the defenders on the line.
- Dwindling Party
- Gone Horribly Wrong: The entire attack.
- King Company finds out the barbed wire they were told had been flattened by artillery is still in place. Then the Chinese start shooting at them.
- Then the battalion shines ridiculously bright lights directly on the company. This just improves the Chinese aim.
- King Company are attacked on their right flank because their reinforcements, Love Company, didn't arrive. Then Love Company arrives. With 25 men left.
- King Company find the survivors of Easy Company in a bunker. Then their own artillery shells them.
- The companies radios are jammed by the Chinese.
- Left with only a few men, the company defend against the Chinese, and are forced to hole up in a bunker.
- Not So Different: The Chinese radio propagandist claims the PLA soldiers are just like the Americans, pawns of a political game. One soldier comments on how ordinary the Chinese prisoners are.
- Retirony: Subverted. Forstman is introduced complaining about having enough points to go home, as well as having a new car to go home to. The Genre Savvy audience suspects he might get it during the battle. But it's his friend and fellow machine gunner, Fedderson, who is killed in action.
- Shown Their Work. Lt. Clemons rarely (if ever) fires his Carbine on screen. He spends most of his time giving orders, consulting with both superior and subordinate officers and assessing the situation as it develops. This is the main role of the Company Commander, but it is often glossed-over or reduced in war movies.
- Token Minority: There are a few black soldiers in the Company. Truth in television, as the army was still desegregating during the Korean war.
- War Is Hell: King Company is in much danger from their own commanders and support as they are from the Chinese. They take heavy losses for what is essentially a worthless position used as a political pawn. And to top it off, the soldiers keep hearing rumors the war is going to end soon. (It ended several months after the first battle).