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"The Fighting 69th" is a First World War regiment of mostly New York-Irish soldiers. Amongst a cocky crew, perhaps the cockiest is Jerry Plunkett, a scrappy fellow who looks out only for himself. The officers and non-coms of the regiment do their best to instill discipline in Plunkett, and the chaplain, Father Duffy, tries to make Plunkett see the greater good, all to no avail. Behind the lines or in the trenches, Plunkett acts selfishly and cowardly, eventually costing the lives of many of his fellow soldiers. A final act of cowardice leads to terrible consequences, but Plunkett sees in them a chance to redeem himself...if only he can. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
(Some Spoilers) The movie "The Fighting 69th" follows that mostly Irish 165th infantry combat unit, also known as the Fighting 69th, from Camp Mills in New York State to the bloody fighting in the final and climatic battle of WWI in the Argonne-Meus Forest in France. It was in the battle of the Argonne Forest that the US Expeditionary Force suffered its greatest losses in all of WWI: 130,000 casualties with some 27,000 killed or missing.
The film centers around the beloved Chaplin of the Fighting 69th Father Francis J. Duffy, Pat O'Brien, and the arrogant and at the same time yellow-bellied Pvt. Jerry Plunkett, James Cagney, who despite his quick with his fists reputation was totally gutless when it came to put up or shut up under enemy fire. Plunkett earned the disrespect of everyone in his unit with his big mouth about he'll come home after the war with a chest full of battle ribbons and combat medals.
It was when Plunkett and the men of the Fighting 69th came under fire by the Germans that he froze and tired to wimp himself out of fighting by putting on a act, which wasn't that hard for him to do, of cowardice that in fact cost the lives of over a dozen of his comrades. It was Father Duffy's faith in Pluckett's ability in being a soldier that kept him from being transfered out of the unit for good as well as , which Pluckett always wanted, far behind the battle-lines.
Despite Plunkett's miserable record as a combat soldier Father Duffy got his commanding officer Major "Wild Bill" Donovan, George Brant, to give Plunkett another chance only to have him screw up again costing the lives of another half dozen of his men. Court-martial-led and sentenced to be shot at sunrise Plunkett is given a second, or is it his third or forth, chance to redeem himself when the Germans open up on the American forces with a deadly artillery and mortar barrage. This gives Plunkett the chance to escape and make his way back home, to Brooklyn New York, during all the confusion.
Making it to the local church Plunkett sees Father Duffy conducting services for the man of the Fighting 69th there and something clicks in the terribly confused Pvt. Plunkett's head. It's then with the encouragement of Father Duffy that Plunkett turns over a new leaf and heads straight to the front lines not to show how brave he is but to make up far all the damage he caused in his cowedly actions up until then. With the help of his former combat company sergeant "Big Mike" Wynn, Alan Hale, Plunkett holds off a determined German offensive blasting a hole through the Germans lines and at the same time saving Sgt. Wynn's, who up until then had no use for Plunkett at all, life!
Excellent men of war type of movie that shows that bravery and cowardice are motivated by one and same emotion:Fear. Pvt. Plunkett's bravado back in Brooklyn was short-circuited in the battle fields in France in that the worst that could happen to him back there, Brooklyn, was a bloody nose or a black eye. In France Plunkett not only was risking his life but the lives of his fellow soldiers in whatever, good or bad, actions he took. It took a lot of soul searching on Plunkett's part as well as Father Duffy's faith in him that brought Plunkett around and made a soldier as well as hero out of him. Something that Pvt. Plunkett never thought that he had in him until that one brief fleeting, as well as magical, moment in church that turned his entire life around.
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