60th Anniversary: Remembering 'The Forgotten War' Through Film — Part 4

Pork Chop Hill (1959): Unlike other films where Korea was used merely as a backdrop against which other issues are explored, Pork Chop Hill is a true Korean War movie. Based on historian General S.L.A. Marshall’s eponymous book Pork Chop Hill: The American Fighting Man in Action, Spring 1953, the movie depicts the bitter struggle for the rocky hill that raged just three months before the end of hostilities on the peninsula.


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The film follows a company of the American 7th Infantry Division led by Lt. Joe Clemmons, played convincingly by Gregory Peck, who are to recapture military prominence from the Chinese and then hold it, though they are depleted in strength and low on ammunition. The battle scenes are smart and riveting. But while the Americans desperately hold the line, they sense their impending doom in the face of overwhelming numbers brought against them by the Red Chinese if they remain unsupported.

Meanwhile in Panmunjom, the agonizingly slow armistice talks drag on with the Communist negotiators showing indifference to the fact that each day they argue over trivial matters more men die. It finally dawns on the frustrated American envoys that Pork Chop Hill’s true value is paradoxically its very worthlessness. That the Communists see the battle as a symbol of who has the stronger resolve. They are perfectly willing take heavy casualties to take a position of no military value.

Will the Americans be willing to show the same determination and fight for the hill?

Look for performances by then newcomers to the silver screen including: George Peppard, Harry Guardino, Rip Torn, Robert Blake, Norman Fell, Martin Landau, and Gavin MacLeod, with Harry Dean Stanton in an uncredited minor role.

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