When Trumpets Fade

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When Trumpets Fade, Fire The Generals!

Oct 30, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

  • Action Factor:
  • Special Effects:
  • Suspense:

Pros:Good cast, acting, sets, directing, pace and camera work.

Cons:I didn't like one of the plot points, the deserter.

The Bottom Line: Most people would not regret seeing this one once. I would recommend this film to viewers of the military genre.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

Sgt. Manning, Hot chow, coffee, cigarettes, we’re making another push.

When Trumpets Fade 1998 HBO

The Story

When Trumpets Fade is set in the Hurtgen forest in the autumn of 1944. The Hurtgen Forest is was on the Siegfried line on the Belgium, Germany border. This battle was the forerunner to the famous Battle of the Bulge. The entire German defensive line was a masterpiece in defensive lines. They had excellent supply lines and reserves positioned to support in the event of a break through. Furthermore they had heavy artillery, eighty-eights, tanks and battle hardened infantry. Most importantly they had the better leadership in that area of the lines. One crappy general running an offense push in world war II could get thousands of men killed and they did. Attack after attack was literally tore apart by German heavy guns and land mines. After each attack no thought is given as to why these attacks are failing. The Hurtgen Forest was an area the German military knew well. The entire line was mined and pre-sighted for their outgoing heavy artillery. Pvt. Manning is a part of the Allied infantry being led by morons in to this living hell on earth.

After another failed attack Pvt. Manning is the only soldier to make it out from his platoon. He tells his company commander that he just can’t take it anymore and he needs out. His captain just lost half of his company and has no sympathy for him. In fact he believes that Pvt. Manning is a coward and promotes him to Sergeant and gives him a squad of replacements. Then he tells him to get ready for another push. Pvt. Manning tells the Captain that there is no way they can take the German lines without tank or air support. The captain tells him to get his men ready to head back in to the death factory. Sgt. Manning makes it perfectly clear to his C.O. that he will not take a bullet for anyone and he’ll do whatever it takes to get out alive. He even asks the Captain, “who’s fault is it when all of my squad gets killed, mine or yours?”.


The Actual Battle of Hurtgen Forrest

When Trumpets Fade is a despairing look at a grizzly battle with a twisted premise. The unit that the film portrays in the film is the 28th Infantry, Pennsylvania National Guard. They were known as the “Key Stone Division” because of their red Key stone shaped unit patch. The 28th Infantry was literally slaughtered after just two weeks of attacking the German lines in the Hurtgen Forest. They were also known for having the only deserter who was executed for desertion. When replacements are included in their casualties the 28th Infantry (also known as the Bucket of Blood by the Germans) suffered 167% Casualties.

The way the battle was fought and for the reasons the battle was waged have been called insane and even criminally stupid. Officers above the rank of captain were rarely seen anywhere near the front lines. They stayed in the rear warm and dry writing orders to attack with out ever assessing the enemy, the positions or the ground. From November 2nd to November 13th over 7,000 soldiers were killed following orders to attack. After the 28th Infantry was wiped out the 4th Infantry took there place. From November 7th to November 27th the 4th Infantry Division was wiped out and lost over 7,000 men. So they sent in the 8th Infantry and they were used up in less than a week. Then the 2nd Ranger battalion was sent in and took their objectives and cost them near 100% casualties. After they were replaced the ground gained was lost and flooded by the Germans. In the end over 24,000 soldiers fell in the Hurtgen Forest.

Conclusion

Having a coward go from a private to a commissioned officer in less than a week while trying to save his ass is a bit far fetched for me. When Trumpets Fade has a dark and drab feeling to it. The Hurtgen Forest was indeed a dark, wet, gloomy place referred to by the soldiers as the death factory or the valley of death. It does a good job of conveying just how deadly, bloody, desperate, and destitute the battle and the men were. These particular battles were a complete and absolute waste and misuse of life. These objectives were not critical. In that sense, the film does a good job of showing the total waste of life. It also drives home the stark madness of it all. Only a lunatic would send light infantry against fortified, heavy Armour and artillery with no heavy support of their own. Not only do they do this day after day, they do it division after division. How would you have liked to serve in that meat grinder? Their situation was destitute and it shows.

The loss of life is horrendous. The film does a very good job with the cinematography and special effects. The Battlefield scenes are very believable. The sets and pyrotectics are outstanding as well. The cast and acting are very well done. Ron Eldard really plays his character well. When I seen what a coward he was I wanted to slap a knot on his head! As the movie unfolds and you realize what is going on you start to feel for him and his men. In the end you may completely understand his predicament. Martin Donovan also aced his role as the captain just following orders in a no win situation. For the most part the script was well thought out. Some of it makes you think. The character development was good. You get to know the soldiers you need to understand. The directing was solid as well. John Irvin is no stranger to spectacular war films with a dark feel to them. He also directed the popular Vietnam war film, Hamburger Hill.

I think the film does just want he intended it to do. The only thing I didn’t like about the film was the deserter premise. He could have made it based on the actual events with the same message of futility. I think it would have been a better film for it as well. Other than that the film was very well made. I think the film just scratches the surface of what happened that cold miserable winter in the Hurtgen. I would like to see a film made someday based on the fighting of the soldiers from all five divisions that were wasted in the Battle for the Hurtgen Forest. When Trumpets Fade shows us what happened to just one of the divisions there. It was certain death issued by morons, the generals. When Trumpets Fade gives you a big taste of it. It left a bitter taste in my mouth and that’s what this movie intends to do. I give When Trumpets Fade three of five stars for showing us a small part of a huge battle gone wrong. If you thought Hamburger Hill was worth seeing, I would recommend this film to you. Any student of military history should see this one.

Directed by John Irvin (Hamburger Hill 1987)
Ron Eldard as Davis Manning
Martin Donovan as Captain Pritchett
Dwight Yoakam as Lt. Colonel


Rated: [R] Language / graphic war scenes
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Similar Films

~ The Lost Battalion
~ Porkchop Hill
~ Saving Private Ryan
~ Top Ten World War II Films
~ Top Ten War Films

Thanks for the read,
© 2006 Joe McMaster


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age


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