San Pietro (1945)

31 mins | Documentary | 1945

Director:

John Huston

Writer:

John Huston

Production Company:

The Army Historical Service
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HISTORY

This film is also known as The Battle of San Pietro and The Battle for San Pietro . Onscreen credits include the following designation: "Official Historical Film HR 2, War Department." Two members of John Huston's crew were killed while making the film, according to an 11 Sep 1985 LAT article. Huston originally edited the footage into a five-reel film but, modern sources state, exhibitors were reluctant to book such a long documentary. In a memo to the Chief of the Army Pictorial Services, reprinted in a modern source, Colonel Curtis Mitchell, Chief of the Pictorial Branch, states that the War Department would not release the film unless its running time was cut to thirty minutes. The three-reel version of the film was approved for unrestricted release on 23 Feb 1945, according to an 8 Mar 1945 memo reproduced in a modern source, and when the film opened in New York, it had a thirty-minute running time, according to the NYT review. On the recommendation of Frank Capra, the production supervisor, an introduction by General Mark Clark was added to the thirty-minute version, in which he states that losses during the battle were "not excessive" and stresses the importance of destroying "San Pietro, the key to the [Liri] Valley."
       Modern sources add the following information about the film: Some battle scenes included in the film were re-enacted for the camera. Jules Buck, Wilbur Bradley, Roland Mead, Sam Tischler, A. I. Moroshaile, Gordon Frye, Leonard Ryan and Huston shot the film, along with cameramen from the Signal Corps. Others who worked on the film include Edward Mann, ... More Less

This film is also known as The Battle of San Pietro and The Battle for San Pietro . Onscreen credits include the following designation: "Official Historical Film HR 2, War Department." Two members of John Huston's crew were killed while making the film, according to an 11 Sep 1985 LAT article. Huston originally edited the footage into a five-reel film but, modern sources state, exhibitors were reluctant to book such a long documentary. In a memo to the Chief of the Army Pictorial Services, reprinted in a modern source, Colonel Curtis Mitchell, Chief of the Pictorial Branch, states that the War Department would not release the film unless its running time was cut to thirty minutes. The three-reel version of the film was approved for unrestricted release on 23 Feb 1945, according to an 8 Mar 1945 memo reproduced in a modern source, and when the film opened in New York, it had a thirty-minute running time, according to the NYT review. On the recommendation of Frank Capra, the production supervisor, an introduction by General Mark Clark was added to the thirty-minute version, in which he states that losses during the battle were "not excessive" and stresses the importance of destroying "San Pietro, the key to the [Liri] Valley."
       Modern sources add the following information about the film: Some battle scenes included in the film were re-enacted for the camera. Jules Buck, Wilbur Bradley, Roland Mead, Sam Tischler, A. I. Moroshaile, Gordon Frye, Leonard Ryan and Huston shot the film, along with cameramen from the Signal Corps. Others who worked on the film include Edward Mann, Editor and Dimitri Tiomkin, Music . Huston had originally intended to have journalist Quentin Reynolds narrate the film. Huston returned for Italy to edit the film in Feb 1944, and editing was finished in late summer 1944. In an interview, Huston remembered his arrival in San Pietro. "We were in the town before anybody--my camera crew...There'd been an attack and a counterattack in the night, and there were just hundreds and hundreds of dead." Huston stated that this was the "first time real Infantry combat conditions, involving Americans, had ever been seen on the screen...Later there was a controversy about whether troops should see it." The War Department eventually decided to show the film to troops who had never been under fire to prepare them for combat conditions. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 45
p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
11-Sep-85
---
New York Times
12 Jul 45
p. 8.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
WRITER
MUSIC
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
SOURCES
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Battle of San Pietro
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 12 July 1945
Duration(in mins):
31
Length(in reels):
3
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

This film documents the 5th Army's December 1943 attack on the town of San Pietro, Italy, in the agricultural Liri Valley. There are two ways into the valley from the south--a narrow pass and a high scenic road over the mountains. Both roads converge near the village of San Pietro, a farming community with a population of 1,412. From the end of October to the middle of December 1943, San Pietro and the surrounding country is the scene of intense fighting that starts after heavy fall rains. Swollen rivers and steep mountains bar the Army's advance. The German soldiers are well-fortified and camouflaged, and the surrounding area is heavily mined and booby-trapped. The day before d-day, the artillery maintains intense fire all night long. Despite heavy rain during the night and at daybreak, the enemy attacks from a high vantage point, and many American infantry men are killed. Only the attack on hill 1205 is successful. The first battalion of the 36th Texas Infantry Division sustains especially heavy losses, and it appears doubtful that the battalion can continue fighting. The second and third battalions are kept from their goals by heavy enemy activity. Volunteer patrols attempt to reach enemy positions, but none return alive. Occasionally, the soldiers are strafed by enemy aircraft. On 15 December 1943, the 141st Infantry advances slightly, as do the second and third battalions. U.S. tanks are ordered to enter San Pietro and destroy the heavy weapons. Sixteen tanks begin the advance under direct enemy observation. Only three reach the outskirts of the town, then two of them are destroyed. Four tanks return from the ... +


This film documents the 5th Army's December 1943 attack on the town of San Pietro, Italy, in the agricultural Liri Valley. There are two ways into the valley from the south--a narrow pass and a high scenic road over the mountains. Both roads converge near the village of San Pietro, a farming community with a population of 1,412. From the end of October to the middle of December 1943, San Pietro and the surrounding country is the scene of intense fighting that starts after heavy fall rains. Swollen rivers and steep mountains bar the Army's advance. The German soldiers are well-fortified and camouflaged, and the surrounding area is heavily mined and booby-trapped. The day before d-day, the artillery maintains intense fire all night long. Despite heavy rain during the night and at daybreak, the enemy attacks from a high vantage point, and many American infantry men are killed. Only the attack on hill 1205 is successful. The first battalion of the 36th Texas Infantry Division sustains especially heavy losses, and it appears doubtful that the battalion can continue fighting. The second and third battalions are kept from their goals by heavy enemy activity. Volunteer patrols attempt to reach enemy positions, but none return alive. Occasionally, the soldiers are strafed by enemy aircraft. On 15 December 1943, the 141st Infantry advances slightly, as do the second and third battalions. U.S. tanks are ordered to enter San Pietro and destroy the heavy weapons. Sixteen tanks begin the advance under direct enemy observation. Only three reach the outskirts of the town, then two of them are destroyed. Four tanks return from the mission. After dark, two companies penetrate enemy positions, but are forced to retire. In company E, only eight riflemen survive. In the attack on Mt. Lungo, one man per yard gained is killed. On 16 December, foot soldiers gain the summit of Mt. Lungo, a key position. The enemy begins to withdraw, and as officers are killed, enlisted men take their places as leaders. Five hours later, enemy counterattacks cease, and San Pietro is taken. Greatly reduced, the second and third battalions push after the enemy in its new position, five kilometers away. Over 1,000 replacements are needed in the 143rd regiment. Many more men die as the Italian campaign continues. After the enemy is driven from the city, the residents of San Pietro, mainly old people and children, emerge from hiding. The earth, "where so many have died," is planted and sown. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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