Follow TV Tropes


Film / Battleground (1949)

Go To

Battleground is a 1949 World War II movie dramatizing the Battle of the Bulge, and specifically the siege of Bastogne.

December, 1944: The men of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne, are anticipating leave in Paris, but are instead hurriedly mustered and sent to the front. There they bivouac in the home of a pretty French lady and meet other American soldiers retreating through the town, who tell them that the Germans are mounting an offensive. The 327th then becomes part of the desperate American effort to halt the German drive to Antwerp.

Battleground was directed by William A. Wellman. It starred Van Johnson as Holley and John Hodiak as Jarvess. A young Ricardo Montalbán appears as Roderigues. Fans of The Shawshank Redemption may recognize James Whitmore, who played Brooks in that film and has a starring role as Kinnie in this one. Writer Robert Pirosh had been at Bastogne himself, and would later write Hell Is for Heroes and the TV series Combat!.

See also the 1965 film Battle of the Bulge, as well as the 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers, which dramatizes the siege of Bastogne in one episode.


  • Anyone Can Die: And the survivors do their best to ignore it.
  • Band of Brothers: Surviving encirclement by the Germans will foster a sense of comradeship.
  • Blowing Smoke Rings: Kinnie does this spitefully, right into the faces of two Germans that came under white flag as part of the surrender parley.
  • Book Ends: Kinnie leading the men in a "Jody cadence" march at the beginning of the film and at the end.
  • Brick Joke: The men of the 327th start to figure out that something has gone wrong when they see American soldiers streaming back through Bastogne as they enter it. A sarcastic GI says that the media will call their retreat a "strategic withdrawal". Sure enough, the men later besieged in Bastogne get hold of a newspaper that says "STRATEGIC WITHDRAWAL IN BULGE".
  • Call-Back: Abner sets his shoes outside his foxhole. When he's told to keep them on as he might need to leave in a hurry, he says that he can't sleep in wet boots. Later, Abner is slow to get out of a foxhole because his boots are outside, and he's shot and killed by the Germans.
  • Character Tics: Kipp clicking his teeth.
  • Crappy Holidays: Spending Christmas on the front in miserable weather with dwindling supplies and death all around? Yep, pretty crappy. It gets even worse when Bettis is killed in an air raid.
    • However, there is an impromptu service conducted by a chaplain, who gives an inspiring sermon about what they're fighting for.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: A villainous example with German soldiers who do this in order to blow up a bridge. (In Real Life, while the Germans did try this tactic, the infiltrators they sent into American lines were in the northern portion of the front, far away from Bastogne).
  • Fatal Family Photo: Surprisingly averted with Hansen, who shows the other men a photo of his wife and kid and somehow makes it to the end of the movie alive.
  • Friend or Foe?: Paranoia caused by the Germans infiltrating American lines in disguise as American soldiers leads Holley and his buddies to get in a Friend or Foe quiz with an officer and men in a jeep. The men in the jeep start quizzing Holley back before everyone figures out that they're real Americans.
  • Gunship Rescue: With the Germans closing in and all hope lost, Sgt. Kinnie suddenly notices that the trees around his soldiers' foxholes are casting shadows. It takes several seconds for his exhausted brain to work out what that means: If the trees have shadows, then the sun is shining. If the sun is shining, the clouds have broken. And if the clouds have broken, Allied aircraft can get off the ground! Cue the thunder of engines overhead, as Allied fighter-bombers rip the German forces to shreds while American transport aircraft practically bury the besieged GIs in containers of fresh food, fuel, medicines, and ammunition.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When three men of the regiment are killing three Germans in hand-to-hand combat, they are hidden behind objects like a bush or a wrecked jeep.
  • Incoming!: "That's incoming mail!", say the men of the 327th when they hear shells. American shells are outgoing mail.
  • Ironic Echo: During the siege, an American group listens to a German radio broadcaster as he, trying to break the Yanks' spirits, plays, "I Surrender, Dear". Later, as the Americans counterattack, a smiling Kinnie sees defeated Germans and sings, "I Surrender, Dear".
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: A German soldier somewhere in the forest is barking out orders when he is cut off with a gasp by American rifle fire.
  • Oh, Crap!: Holley's reaction when he recognizes the "Americans" he meets in the forest as actually Germans.
  • Ominous Fog: It certainly has an effect, like the scene where the men of the 327th are waiting in the trees, holding their fire until they see the German Alpine troops emerging like ghosts from the fog.
  • Second-Face Smoke: Kinney blows smoke rings right into the faces of two Germans who came as part of the surrender parley.
  • Sexy Sweater Girl: Denise (Denise Darcel), the Frenchwoman whom the men of the 327th bivouac with, puts some strain on her sweaters. This is played for a gag when Denise is busily slicing a loaf of bread for the men, knife repeatedly coming close to her prominent bosom, while Holley winces nervously.
  • The Siege: One of the most famous in American military history, as the 101st Airborne holds Bastogne.
  • Soldiers at the Rear: Bettis cracks under German bombardment, runs into the town of Bastogne, and gets himself put on KP duty. This backfires when Bastogne is surrounded and the "rear" disappears, and backfires even worse when Bettis is killed by a German bomb.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: The men of the company are not pleased to hear that they are surrounded by Germans.
  • Verbal Tic: Abner's habit of saying "That's for sure" all the time, which irritates Jarvess immensely.
  • Video Credits: Of most of the actors, with Denise Darcel being a notable exception.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: "Nuts!", says General McAuliffe to a German demand for surrender.

Alternative Title(s): Battleground