As the film opens, veteran Sergeant Zack is seen crawling away as the only survivor of his squad (executed by the North Koreans). The hole in his helmet is proof of his luck, though this World War II vet is suffering from PTSD (known then as battle fatigue). Trying to get back to his lines, Zack meets up with a Korean boy he dubs Short Round (the inspiration for the boy of the same name in Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom) and a patrol also trying to get back to American territory.
The film includes scenes of an unarmed North Korean prisoner being shot (which infuriated the U.S. military), and frank discussion of race relations back home (black and Japanese). While the modern civil rights movement wouldn't get its catalyst until Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on that Montgomery bus for another four years, the Army was struggling with integration as ordered by President Harry Truman. Neither scene is the focus of the film, but they are startling considering that the war was currently raging and race relations were just not addressed very often by Hollywood.
The Korean War produced its share of flag-waving films, but more often the movies were grim, gritty depictions of war. World War II films were often intended as recruitment films. It was only after the war that war's futility and waste were addressed. Gene Evans is stellar as Sergeant Zack.
This film is considered one of the best war films of all time.
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