When Trumpets Fade

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When Trumpets Fade
When Trumpets Fade.jpg
DVD Cover
Directed by John Irvin
Produced by John Kemeny
Written by W.W. Vought
Starring Ron Eldard
Frank Whaley
Zak Orth
Dylan Bruno
Music by Geoffrey Burgon
Distributed by HBO
Running time 92 minutes
Country United States
Language English

When Trumpets Fade is a TV war film from 1998 directed by John Irvin, produced by John Kemeny and written by W.W. Vought. It is based on a true story of the Battle of Hürtgen Forest in Autumn of 1944 during World War II. A few days later, the Battle of the Bulge began, leaving the battle of Hürtgen Forest largely forgotten.

Overview[edit]

This film portrays the actions of an American soldier, David Manning (Ron Eldard), during the World War II Battle of Hürtgen Forest, a battle between the United States Army and German Wehrmacht which took place from September 14, 1944 to February 10, 1945 on the Western Front.

Plot[edit]

Private Manning is a soldier who, in order to survive, does just enough to stay out of trouble, but not enough to actually make a difference. Through the sheer bloodiness of the Hurtgen battles, Manning is left as the sole survivor of his platoon and is subsequently promoted to sergeant. He tries to get out of it, saying he is unqualified for the position, but his company commander, Captain Roy Pritchett, thinks otherwise. Manning then tries to back out of responsibility by asking to be filed on a Section 8 (mentally unfit due to combat stress), but is refused.

Manning now finds himself in charge of a squad of replacements, a prospect he is less than thrilled with. He meets with his new men, and during the evening, leads them into position on the line. The next morning, on patrol with his squad, Manning puts Private Warren Sanderson on point. Sanderson goes forward too quickly, getting lost and then narrowly avoids contact with the enemy. After some time, Manning decides that they must leave without Sanderson. At that moment, Sanderson returns. After the incident, Manning is scorned by his peers and berated by his platoon leader, First Lieutenant Terrence Lukas.

His company makes a push toward the town of Schmidt, to take and hold a bridge. However, they move into an enemy minefield and are shelled by 88s. They retreat and Pritchett comes to Manning with a mission that he requires volunteers for. Manning wishes him luck, so Pritchett offers Manning a Section 8 if he volunteers for the mission. During the mission, one of his men, Private Sam Baxter, routs and starts to run away, prompting the rest of the men to do the same. Manning shoots Baxter, hitting the flamethrower he is carrying on his back, which causes it to explode and burns him to death. Although the rest of his men are horrified by this, they stop running and assault the position where the two 88s are located, led by a crazed Sanderson, armed with another flamethrower.

Meanwhile, his company secures the bridge, suffering horrendous casualties, and after the 88s are put out of action, get shelled by German tanks. In the assault, Lukas is overcome with stress, and then, Sergeant Patrick Talbot, gives him a handful of dog tags from the dead soldiers in their platoon. When the battalion's commander, Lieutenant Colonel George Rickman, asks about the status of his platoon, Lukas snaps and assaults him. Manning confronts Rickman as Lukas is carried away, picking up the mass of dog tags Lukas dropped, and pressing them against Rickman's chest. Through Manning's insubordination, Rickman recognizes him and orders him to his command post. Manning is subsequently promoted to second lieutenant and given a platoon.

After an altercation with Talbot and Manning's friend, Corporal Toby Chamberlain, who is the platoon's medic, in which they confront him for shooting his own man, Manning tells them of a plan to destroy the German tanks the night before the assault. Chamberlain states they have no proof that Manning will not just shoot them, as he did Baxter, then Private Sanderson — who survived the raid on the 88mm cannons — defends Manning's conduct by acknowledging the fact that everybody would have run instead of fighting. Manning also silences them by telling them that their company is making another push in the morning, which will be more dangerous. If they don't attack the tanks, he knows that the entire battalion is in jeopardy.

He leads the three men (Sergeant Talbot, Corporal Chamberlain and Private Sanderson) in a pre-dawn raid on the German tanks. Manning clears the minefield and cuts the wire, enabling the group to continue on. The operation costs the lives of all but Manning and Sanderson — while Manning gets wounded. The film concludes with a wounded Manning being carried back to the American lines by the now battle-hardened Sanderson; a mirror image of his carrying back a wounded comrade at the opening of the film; Manning appears to die. The film closes with a little note that the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest was overshadowed by the Battle of the Bulge quite soon after.

Cast[edit]

  • Ron Eldard as Private, Sergeant and then 2nd Lieutenant David Manning, initially a private, then squad and platoon leader in C Company
  • Zak Orth as Private Warren "Sandy" Sanderson, a replacement in Manning's squad
  • Frank Whaley as Corporal Toby Chamberlain, a medic attached to C Company
  • Dylan Bruno as Sergeant Patrick Talbot, a squad leader in Lukas' platoon
  • Devon Gummersall as Private Andrew Lonnie, a replacement in Manning's squad
  • Dan Futterman as Private Doug Despin, a replacement in Manning's squad
  • Steven Petrarca as Private Sam Baxter, a replacement in Manning's squad
  • Dwight Yoakam as Lieutenant Colonel George Rickman, battalion commander of 1st Battalion
  • Martin Donovan as Captain Roy Pritchett, company commander of C Company, 1st Battalion
  • Timothy Olyphant as 1st Lieutenant Terrence Lukas, platoon leader of Manning and Talbot's platoon
  • Jeffrey Donovan as Private Robert "Bobby" Miller, a fellow soldier of Manning's
  • Bobby Cannavale as Captain Thomas Zenek, the new C Company commander
  • Frank-Michael Kobe as Oberfeldwebel, a German Army patrol leader

Production[edit]

The movie was filmed on location in Budapest, Lake Balaton and Lake Balentine, Hungary and in Calgary, Alberta Canada. US troops supporting Operation Joint Guard, stationed in Taszar, Hungary, were used as extras on the set.

Awards[edit]

In 1999, the director John Irvin won his first ever award for the film which was the Silver FIPA Award for Best Director at the Biarritz International Festival.

The film was also nominated for best cinematography (Thomas Burstyn) by the American Society of Cinematographers, best sound editing by the Motion Picture Sound Editors, and Ron Eldard was nominated for best actor at the Seattle International Film Festival.

External links[edit]