Battleground, 1949

Before Band of Brothers, there was Battleground. This movie tells the story of the US Army 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Some of the original “Screaming Eagles” of the 101st Airborne Division were hired to play themselves and train the extras.

Instead of going to Paris for a little R&R, the Screaming Eagles wake up to the sound of new orders. They must move out and dig in around Bastogne. The war was mean and dirty, but those who survived dealt with the experience in their own way.

This story was very much like Band of Brothers in that it was the same story told through the same eye witnesses. But there were many differences. It had the grit and pain a war movie should have, and it had humorous moments as well. There was a young one trying to fit in with those who already had relationships. There was a guy who had to put aside orders to go home to be with family because they were surrounded and had no way of leaving.

Van Johnson is Holley, and John Hodiak is Jarvess, the soldier who spoke French and German. They and their company battle the weather and the Germans with the few supplies they have. Ricardo Montalban is Roderigues, a soldier from Los Angeles who sees snow up close for the first time. James Whitmore is Kinnie, the sergeant who keeps them all in line. James Whitmore actually served in the Marine Corps during WWII, but the actor who had more WWII medals than others who worked on this film was James Arness.

Battleground won the Oscar for Best Cinematography in a Black and White and Best Writing of Story and Screenplay. It was also nominated for other Oscars: Best Supporting Actor/Whitmore, Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Picture. James Whitmore also won a Golden Globe for his supporting role. Another Golden Globe was won for the wonderful writing in the screenplay.