The Battle of San Pietro

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The Battle of San Pietro
Directed byJohn Huston
Written byJohn Huston
Release date
  • May 3, 1945 (1945-05-03)
Running time
32 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Battle of San Pietro is a documentary film directed by John Huston about the Battle of San Pietro Infine sixty miles from Naples during World War II. It was shot by Jules Buck. It was released in the U.S. in 1945 but shown to U.S. troops earlier.

Huston and his crew - which included the British novelist and screenwriter Eric Ambler[1] - were attached to the U.S. Army’s 143rd Regiment of the 36th Division. Unlike many other military documentaries, it was claimed Huston’s cameramen filmed alongside the infantrymen as they fought their way up the hills to reach San Pietro. Huston's claim that the film was made during the battle was proven false by the research of Peter Maslowski in his 1993 book, Armed With Cameras[2]

The film is unflinching in its realism. One scene includes close-up views of the faces of dead soldiers as they are being loaded into body bags, a level of realism unheard of in both fictional portrayals as well as newsreel footage of the time.

The United States Army delayed its release to the public because it showed dead GIs wrapped in mattress covers; some officers tried to prevent soldiers in training from seeing it, for fear of damaging morale.[3] General George Marshall came to Huston and took the film's defense, stating that because of the film's gritty realism, it would make a good training film. The depiction of death would inspire soldiers to take their training more seriously.[3]

Huston quickly became unpopular with the Army, not only for the film but also for his response to the accusation that the film was anti-war. Huston responded that if he ever made a pro-war film, he should be shot.[4] The film was screened to U.S. troops in North Africa in 1944, where John Horne Burns described it in a letter as "almost more than any heart can stand".[5] Huston was no longer considered a pariah; he was decorated and eventually promoted to major.[citation needed]

In 1991, The Battle of San Pietro was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The Battle of San Pietro, documentary directed by John Huston for the U.S. Army, 1945.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Best World War II Documentary Was Faked", David Thomson, New Republic, 4 May 2014
  2. ^ Maslowski, Peter. Armed With Cameras: the American Military Photographers of World War II." New York: The Free Press, pp.83-94.
  3. ^ a b William L. O'Neill, A Democracy At War: America's Fight At Home and Abroad in World War II, p. 258 ISBN 0-02-923678-9
  4. ^ Mankiewicz, Ben (8 September 2015). "Five Came Back". TCM Spotlight. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  5. ^ Margolick, David (2013). Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns. NY: Other Press. p. 108.

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