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drama / válečný, USA, , 80 min.

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In Europe, during World War II, three U.S. Army infantry soldiers--leader Carter, Small and Ferguson--who are trying to return to their squad's camp, are pinned down by an enemy machine-gun nest. Coke, another soldier who has become separated from the squad, arrives at the camp, which is in the basement of an abandoned building, and as sporadic gunfire continues outside, frets about the others. Soldier Collucci awakens from dreaming of a beautiful woman and advises the nervous Coke to remain calm. Near the machine-gun nest, Carter, Ferguson and Small make a planned dash, but Small goes the wrong way and becomes trapped in a huge crater just in front of the nest. Coke anxiously greets the other members of the squad, Sgt. Mooney, Sapiros and Muller, and Mooney complains about the squad having been split up during their patrol. Walsh, a messenger from the main camp, brings a package for Muller and reveals that rumors are circulating that after seventeen days the division will be pulling out that evening. The squad greets Muller's fruit cake from home with enthusiasm, then grows serious when Carter returns with Ferguson and reports that Small is trapped in the shell hole. The men reflect on why Small, a clumsy, well-meaning man, married with children, volunteered for the Army, and Muller insists on saving a slice of cake for him. Coke presses Mooney to return to rescue Small, but Carter explains that he and Ferguson tried to provide Small with ample cover, but his position was too precarious. Carter suggests that Small will have a better chance to escape at nightfall and can then easily catch up with the division. Unconvinced, Mooney reports to Lt. Crane to request permission to send out a rescue party. Unaware of the division's new orders to pull out, Crane tells Mooney that he must confirm the orders with Capt. Trelawny, and will then advise Mooney. Back in the squad's basement, Collucci falls into another reverie imagining himself irresistible to numerous beautiful women while Muller continues to guard the remaining piece of fruit cake. When an impatient Coke lunges outside, intending to go after Small, Mooney intervenes and Carter attempts to placate them both. A sudden burst of machine-gun fire in the distance quiets the bickering men. Crane sets off for Trelawny's headquarters but is shot down by an enemy sniper. As the afternoon wears on, Coke grumbles about their inactivity and the bad luck of breaking up the original squad, until Carter offers to go to Trelawny directly. Carter returns to inform the men of Crane's death and Trelawny's refusal to allow them to go after Small. Incensed, Mooney then goes out to confront the captain. Trelawny informs Mooney that he must consider the safety of all the men under his command, not just one, and refuses the rescue request again. Frustrated by the decision, Mooney nevertheless returns to camp, where he and Coke replace Sapiros and Ferguson on guard duty. While Collucci continues to eye the remaining piece of fruit cake, Ferguson falls asleep and dreams of marrying his hometown sweetheart. Mooney and Coke continue arguing about Trelawny's orders until they realize they have not heard the machine-gun in some time and wonder if Small is dead. Hunter, another messenger from the main camp, arrives to advise the men that they have thirty minutes before the official pull-out. Suddenly the men hear a burst from the machine-gun and, galvanized, Mooney orders Muller to get the mortar. Mooney places Sapiros and Ferguson back on guard duty, orders Collucci and Carter to remain in camp and goes after Small with Muller and Coke. A short time later, Trelawny hears the mortar and machine-gun fire and angrily goes to Mooney's camp. When an abrupt silence falls, Carter and Collucci listen anxiously. Trelawny arrives and demands to know why Carter allowed Mooney to disobey orders and risk more men to rescue Small. Carter admits he agrees with Mooney's decision and when Trelawny presses him, Carter declares that the men are bound closer than a family and feel an overwhelming necessity to remain together, whether dead or alive. Mooney and the others return to report that despite their efforts they were unable to get near Small. Coke is unconvinced that Small is dead, but Mooney wearily orders the men to pack, as they are already late for the pull-out. Unknown to the others, Collucci decides to go out to look for Small. When he kills the sniper, the others hear the shot and realize what has happened. Collucci throws several grenades at the machine-gun nest until, climbing atop an abandoned tank, he gets clear aim and hurls a grenade directly into the nest. Back in the camp, the other men stand about expectantly until Trelawny returns, furious, to order them to pull out. Collucci then arrives with a limping Small and, to the men's amazement, reveals that Small suffered a twisted ankle and slept the entire day in the shell hole, oblivious to the gunfire and excitement around him. Trelawny departs without further comment as the squad members grow infuriated at Small's passivity. As the incredulous men gather their equipment and prepare to leave, Collucci eats the last piece of fruit cake.
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