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“The Battle of San Pietro” is a 1945, black and white, documentary film directed and narrated by famed Hollywood director John Huston (“The Maltese Falcon”) for the U.S. Army Pictorial Service about the 1943 Battle of San Pietro Infine. (TRT 32:25). It was shot by Jules Buck alongside troops in the field, and while it appears documentary in style many portions are re-creations shot with actual G.I. participants. The film caused controversy during the war, as some in the U.S. Army felt its unflinching realism might damage morale. In the end the film was shown to troops and released in the USA, in no large part due to the efforts of General George Marshall. It became widely known as one of the most important documentaries to emerge from the war. (Note: Different versions of the film exist at various run times. At 32 minutes, this is one of the longer versions; a complete version can be seen at this link: )
A U.S. Army officer in a garrison cap speaks in closeup (0:10). Opening titles: “San Pietro” (1:52). Sun shines onto mountaintops of the Italian midlands through a break in the clouds. Wide shots of the hills in the Liri Valley, situated between Rome and Naples (2:31). Bare trees of winter show evidence of destruction (2:54). Crossfade to barbed wire, a montage of landscapes (3:12). Zoom on a map into San Pietro (3:29). Destroyed buildings along the rocky landscape (3:41). A broken statue of St. Peter (3:56). A ruined cathedral with its roof open to the sky (4:04). US trucks drive flooded, muddy roads (4:24). A line demarcating the battle front is pointed out on a map (4:34). Scenes of flooding rivers (4:37). Aerial view (4:46). A canon is raised into position (4:53). Explosions in the hills (5:06). Loading up on grenades. Soldiers marching with rifles in hand (5:15). A view of San Pietro before the battle. Trucks drive toward the camera (5:50). A map shows Nazi flags in the northwest, surrounding San Pietro (6:03). A body is carried away on a stretcher, then piled onto a truck (6:22). Soldiers in helmets look over the valley (6:49). On patrol, climbing and crawling (7:00). Pointing to Mount Lungo and Mount Sammucro on the map. Arrows show attack routes of the 143rd Infantry (7:23). Soldiers sit at rest. Smiling and talking (9:02). Advancing on Mount Lungo (9:28). Explosive artillery reports flash across the hills at night (9:38). Soldiers walk through a grove of trees and into a haze of smoke. A man is gunned down (10:06). Diving for cover. The hand-held camera shakes (10:58). Fallen soldiers in contorted positions (11:16). Dead bodies are bagged (11:56). The 1st Battalion is depicted successfully taking Mount Sammucro (12:14). A man on a stretcher is carried down the mountainside (12:49). Black smoke rises over a mountain ridge. Explosions. Machine guns fire and mortars are launched from long range (13:04). Dead soldiers from multiple angles (13:43). Throwing a grenade (14:03). Climbing through smoke (14:20). Reinforcements arrive. Bodies lining the ridge (14:52). The 2nd and 3rd Battalions struggle amid explosions raining from above (15:50). Examining a map. A convergence on San Pietro (16:28). Montage: Shells are loaded and fired repeatedly from tanks and heavy artillery (17:30). Five men synchronize their watches. Advancing over open valleys under continued fire (18:39). Tanks roll into the town and up winding mountain roads (19:21). Destroyed tanks and another casualty. More explosions (20:10). Men on stretchers. Lifeless bodies (20:55). Firing rifles. Reaching the summit of Mt. Lungo (21:45). Counterattacks from the retreating enemy (22:20). Charging forward into San Pietro (23:12). The 2nd and 3rd Battalion survivors carry the wounded (24:37). A mass gravesite. Digging and tombstones. A young man nails dog tags on grave markers (25:24). Italian townspeople emerge from the town’s ruins. Women carry burdens on their heads. Men pull livestock (26:43). Italian elders. An explosion. A body is pulled from the rubble. Mourning. A montage of Italian children (27:36). Italians return to work. Measuring flour rations (29:51). Peaceful farmland (30:35). A procession of Catholic altar boys (31:11). A “V” over the Liberty Bell. End credits (31:36).
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This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD, 2k and 4k. For more information visit