Memorial Day Marathon of classic war films has become a TCM staple these last several years and this year in no exception. This three day Memorial Day marathon of 39 films runs from Friday May 27th to Monday May 30th and includes some of the greatest war films ever made. Naturally, it would be impossible to show every great war film ever made — Lewis Milestone’s All Quite on The Western Front (1930) and Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H (1970) come to mind — but the films they are showing represent a pretty good cross-section of some of the best and most intense war films of all time. Driving home the point is a well-written Memorial Day Marathon essay that can be read here.
Most of these Memorial Day Marathon films I’ve seen (several times), while some I’m very much looking forward to seeing for the first time, such as the underrated Jeffrey Hunter in Hell to Eternity (1960) in the true story of a Marine veteran at the Battle of Saipan. Those interested in Lee Marvin’s experience at Saipan and the USMC’s Island hopping campaign in the Pacific can read it in his own words in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Lee Marvin & fellow Marines in the Pacific during WWII.

All times listed below for the TCM Memorial Day Marathon are Pacific Standard Time….


                                         FRIDAY, MAY 27
5:00 PM Twelve O’Clock High (1949) The head of a World War II bomber squadron cracks under the pressure. Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Dean Jagger, Gary Merrill.
7:30 PM The Young and the Brave (1963) Three American POWs fight to escape from North Korea. Rory Calhoun, William Bendix, Richard Jaeckel.
9:15 PM Battleground (1949) American soldiers in France fight to survive a Nazi siege just before the Battle of the Bulge.  Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban, James Whitmore.
11:30PM Go for Broke! (1951) The true story of World War II’s all Japanese-American Nisei unit. Van Johnson, Lane Nakano, George Miki.
                                              Saturday, May 28th
1:15 AM Torpedo Run (1958) A submarine commander is forced to blow up a Japanese prison ship carrying his family. Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, Diane Brewster.
3:00 AM Darby’s Rangers (1958) An Army Major leads his men behind enemy lines during World War II. James Garner, Etchika Choureau, Jack Warden.
5:15 AM Flying Leathernecks (1951) A World War II Marine officer drives his men mercilessly during the battle for Guadalcanal. John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Don Taylor.
7:15 AM Thunder Afloat (1939) An old sailor is duped into joining the Navy, where he runs into a longtime rival. Wallace Beery, Chester Morris, Virginia Grey.
9:00AM For Me and My Gal (1942) Judy Garland (in her first adult role) and Gene Kelly (in his film debut) star in the classic WWI-era musical directed by Busby Berkeley. Judy Garland, George Murphy, Gene Kelly.
11:00 AM See Here, Private Hargrove (1944) A green recruit has a series of madcap adventures in the Army. Robert Walker, Donna Reed, Keenan Wynn.
1:00 PM Up Periscope (1959) A U.S. frogman infiltrates a Japanese-held island during World War II. James Garner, Edmond O’brien, Andra Martin.

3:00 PM Attack! (1956)

Lee Marvin as Col. Clyde Bartlett & Eddie Albert as Capt. Erskine Cooney in Robert Aldrich’s Attack!

Based on the play “Fragile Fox,” a cowardly captain leads his men into danger in WWII Belgium. Jack Palance, Eddie Albert, Lee Marvin, Willian Smithers, Buddy Ebsen, Richard Jaeckel, Robert Strauss.

5:00 PM From Here to Eternity (1953) Enlisted men in Hawaii fight for love and honor on the eve of World War II. Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine.
7:15 PM Fighter Squadron (1948) A dedicated flyer pushes himself and those around him during a perilous World War II campaign. Edmond O’brien, Robert Stack, John Rodney.

9:00 PM Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Henchmen Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin watch as Spencer Tracy gets off the train and prepare to confront him in John Sturges’ Bad Day at a Black Rock.

A one-armed veteran uncovers small-town secrets when he tries to visit an Asian-American war hero’s family. Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, Dean Jagger, John Ericson.

10:45 PM Breakthrough (1950) An American infantry unit moves from basic training to combat in Europe. David Brian, John Agar, Frank Lovejoy.

                                                Sunday, May 28th

12:30 AM Hell to Eternity (1960) A young man adopted by Japanese-Americans becomes a hero in World War II. Jeffrey Hunter, David Janssen, Vic Damone.
3:00 AM Ace of Aces (1933) After he’s branded a coward, a sculptor travels to France to help fight World War I. Richard Dix, Elizabeth Allen, Ralph Bellamy.
4:30 AM They Were Expendable (1945) After a demonstration of new PT boats, navy brass are still unconvinced of their capability. Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed.
7:00 AM Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) Repeat of Saturday’s broadcast.
8:45 AM The Great Escape (1963) Drama based on Paul Brickhill’s factual account of the efforts of Allied P.OW.s daring escape. Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, James Garner, David McCallum, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, James Donald.
11:45 Am The Steel Helmet (1951) Americans trapped behind enemy lines fight off Communists during the Korean War. Gene Evans, Robert Hutton, Steve Brodie, James Edwards, Sid Melton.
1:15 PM Action in the North Atlantic (1943) A Merchant Marine crew fights off enemy attacks at the start of World War II. Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Massey, Alan Hale.
3:30 PM December 7th (1943) After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. fights to survive the early days of WWII.  Walter Huston, Harry Davenport, Dana Andrews.
5:00 PM Destination Tokyo (1943) A U.S. sub braves enemy waters during World War II. Cary Grant, John Garfield, Alan Hale Sr., Dane Clark, Robert Hutton.
7:30 PM The Red Badge of Courage (1951) A young Union soldier fights to atone for a moment of cowardice during the Civil War. Audie Murphy, Andy Devine, Robert Easton Burke, Douglas Dick.
9:00 PM The Big Parade (1925) In this silent film, a young innocent enlists for World War I service but soon learns the horrors of war. John Gilbert, Renee Adoree, Hobart Bosworth.
11:45 PM The Cranes Are Flying (1957) A Russian woman is tormented by fears that her boyfriend has been killed in World War II. Tatyana Samoilova, Alexei Batalov, Vasili Merkuriev.
3:00 AM Till the End of Time (1946) A returning World War II veteran falls for a troubled war widow. Dorothy Mcguire, Guy Madison, Robert Mitchum.
5:00 AM Battle of the Bulge (1965) A crack Nazi unit holds off the Allies during World War II. Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, Pier Angeli, James MacArthur, George Montgomery.
8:00 AM One Minute to Zero (1952) A U.S. colonel in Korea tries to evacuate American civilians. Robert Mitchum, Ann Blyth, William Talman.
10:00 AM Merrill’s Marauders (1962) Burma, 1944: The 5307th commanded by Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill is deep behind Japanese lines in the Burmese jungle. Jeff Chandler, Ty Hardin, Peter Brown, Claude Akins.
12:00 PM The Naked and the Dead (1958) A green lieutenant comes up against incompetent officers and a sadistic sergeant. Aldo Ray, Cliff Robertson, Raymond Massey. L.Q. Jones.
2:30 PM Sergeant York (1941) True story of the farm boy who made the transition from religious pacifist to World War I hero. Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias.
5:00 PM The Longest Day (1962) The Allied forces launch the D-Day invasion of German-occupied France. John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Peter Lawford, Eddie Albert, Sean Connery, Sal Mineo, Richard Burton, Richard Beymer, Robert Ryan, Rod Steiger, Red Buttons, Stuart Whitman, Steve Forrest, Mel Ferrer, Roddy McDowell.
8:15 PM Bataan (1943) Thirteen U.S. soldiers risk their lives to hold a bridge against the Japanese. Robert Taylor, George Murphy, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Nolan, Desi Arnaz.

10:30 PM The Dirty Dozen (1967)

An Angry Col. Breed (Robert Ryan) confronts rebellious Col. Reisman (Lee Marvin) in The Dirty Dozen.

A renegade officer trains a group of criminals for a crucial mission behind enemy lines. Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Robert Webber, Richard Jaeckel, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker, Trini Lopez.

Tuesday, May 31st

1:15 AM Take the High Ground! (1953) A tough drill sergeant prepares green recruits for service in the Korean War. Richard Widmark, Steve Forrest, Maurice Jara, Robert Arthur, William Hairston.
3:00 AM Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) General Jimmy Doolittle trains American troops for the first airborne attacks on Japan. Spencer Tracy, Phyllis Kirk, Van Johnson, Robert Walker, Tim Murdock, Robert Mitchum.
5:30 AM The Letter (1940) A woman claims to have killed in self-defense, until a blackmailer turns up with incriminating evidence. Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson, Gale Sondergaard.
7:30 AM Objective, Burma! (1945) An elite team of paratroopers lands deep behind Japanese lines in the jungles of Burma. Errol Flynn, James Brown, William Prince, Henry Hull.
10:00 AM The Bridge on the River Kwai(1957) The Japanese Army forces World War II POWs to build a strategic bridge in Burma. William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins,  Geoffrey Horne, Sesue Hayakawa.

There you have it, TCM’s Memorial Day Marathon salute via some terrific films. Think of it as just one way to commemorate the holiday by honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice. As they say in The Dirty Dozen: “Those ho gave their lives in the line of duty.”

– Dwayne Epstein.

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From D-Day to Saipan, June is an amazing month for U.S. military and history buffs. Most Baby Boomers, such as myself, grew up learning about the incredible effort of the D-Day invasion both in school and in our homes, often firsthand from family members (my uncle Dave landed on D-Day + 3). Less known was the equally impressive effort and sacrifice in the Pacific made by the USMC during their island-hopping campaign against the Japanese.

USMC Private First Class Lee Marvin toward the end of his duty in the Pacific during WWII.

I gave myself a crash course in some of these events while researching and writing Lee Marvin Point Blank. My acquisition of information was limited of course to that which applied to Marvin’s involvement, which was considerable. His 21-landings included the likes of Eniwetok, Tinian, Kwajalein, and ended on Saipan before his regiment moved on to the bloody battle of Iwo Jima.
The statistics of these landings are of course available online and elsewhere and are quite staggering. From D-Day to Saipan, June 6th to June 15th 1944, the Allied losses were heavy in both theaters of operation but, lucky for us, they were ultimately successful.
Having never been in the military, let alone combat, I can’t begin to imagine what those experiences must have been like. Statistics, photos, and the like hardly do justice. So, being a believer in the creative image being superior in driving the point home, I thought the following graphics, depicted in real time, might serve the purpose best, at least it did for me. I have done so previously on this blog with the entries concerning The Art of War and they both garnered great responses. Here again, are more specific works of art. For the stories behind Lee Marvin’s firsthand account of those harrowing days and nights, read Lee Marvin Point Blank. Until then, these powerful images may help….
-Dwayne Epstein

A Marine, lost in thought as he approaches the beach landing, is depicted by artist Thomas Lea.

Marines landing and wading thru the surf as rendered by artist Tom Lovell.

Entitled “Flotsam and Jetsam,” USMC’s Charles Waterhouse depicts the death of his sergeant, killed on D-Day.

“Raider Fire Team” by Charles Waterhouse displays the Marines gun ho spirit in battle after landing and pushing on from the beach. Waterhouse retired as Lt. Colonel.

Marines fend off a surprise attack by the Japanese in Donald Dickson’s “Night Attack on Guadalcanal,” not unlike what Lee Marvin experienced himself and wrote about in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Wounded Marines are transported through nearly impenetrable jungle, in “Jeep Turns Ambulance,” by Kerr Erby.

Again, artist Kerr Erby depicts a poignant moment in battle. Marines bow their heads over their fallen comrade in, “Last Rites for the Sergeant.”


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The Battle of Saipan
A little more than a week after the massive attack by allies in Europe known as D-Day, came an equally decisive invasion in the Pacific known as the Battle of Saipan. Like D-Day, it also helped to change the course of the war. Much as been written recently — and deservedly so — about the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, but very little has been said in conjunction with the island-hopping campaign of the Marines in the Pacific. One of the bloodiest and longest battles of the entire war took place on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands.  Facts and stats of the battle can be diiscovered by Googling the particulars of the conflict, but as the author of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I thought something very special was needed to commerate the event.
I think I found it. The map below (from Wikipedia) gives the pertinent infromation of the lengthy conflict but what is missing from any such endeavor is the human factor…


Map of the Battle of Saipan: Lee Marvin was with the 4th Marine Division shown on the bottom right.

The human factor is provided by none other than Lee Marvin, himself. One of the few bits of information from my research that did not make it into the text of the book is the following short story written by Marvin. A year or two after the war, the ex-Marine took a typing class in night school and one of the assigments showed what was clearly still on his mind.  The future actor took it upon himself to recreate what the landing on Saipan was like by using a narrative voice (in italics) as he remembered his own words, thoughts and emotions just prior to landing on the beach with the 4th Marine Division. Three days after landing on the beach, Marvin was wounded and eventually earned the Purple Heart which he describes in letters home in the book. What is reprinted below has never been seen before!
A little background for the uninformed (such as myself) some of the references are rather obscure and are as follows:
LCVP =Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel
BAR = Browning Automatic Rifle
TBF = Torpedo Bomber Force, aka The Avenger
Tennessee = U.S.S. Battleship damaged at Pearl Harbor but utilized for shore bombardments in the Aleutians, The Marianas, The Marshalls, Iwo Jime, and Okinawa.

Now, having said all that, here then, seen for the first time ever, is Lee Marvin’s recounting of the invasion of Saipan cleaned up slightly for spelling and grammar. Other than that, it is as he wrote it. I find it a fitting tribute:

As the LCVP pulls alongside, the men, lined up in their debarkation order, check their gear to see that it is all secure and as they lower themselves into the boat, there is the all present bitching and cussing that makes up the best part of Marine lingo. Let us look in on the minds of these men and see what their thoughts are. Are they the thoughts of the storybook Marine or soldier, those of their loved ones? We shall take a look and see. Here is one. He is a BAR man with a 15 and a half pound rifle with a belt of ammo running about 16 or 17 pounds, plus all his personal gear. He is about 19 or 20 so let’s look in….


On board a Marine LCVP

Hey Jack, what the hell did they give us these god damn pills for? For Christ’s sake, they give us more god damn and then this pack. Well, I am going to throw this so god damn far the nips will think it is a satchel charge. Boy, I have seen some fouled up outfits but this Marine Corps takes the cake. Hey look, the Tennessee opened up again. Them god damned nips must be catching hell. Say, thee got a bunch TBFs with those 50 pounders. Jesus, I am glad I am on this side. Hey Shorty, if you’re gonna puke, for god’s sake get it over the side. That stuff stinks. Compared to what it will smell like in an hour or so it is sweet. There are our tanks. Yeah, that is them. It has our number on it.

The LCVP pulls alongside and they climb aboard their water buffalo and get settled again. The machine-gunners check the guns and sit back and relax. All hands are very well soaked by now and there is that grumble again…..

Hell, all my smokes are wet. Who the hell has one? Thanks. Got a light? OK OK, so there is a 100 octane on here. But I ain’t going to blow it with this smoke. Alright, OK, I’ll put it out. Well, here we go. Must be a thousand yards, yet. What do you see throught the glasses, Mac? Any Nips? No, I didn’t think you would. Jesus what a hell of a way to make a buck sixty a day. Let me use that raga minute. Gotta wipe this BAR off, thanks. What do you mean keep down? How the hell do you think I’m gonna see? OK. Hey, what the hell is going on out there? Still giving her hell eh, Well why the hell didn’ they knock that damn smokestack down? O for Christ’s sake, they ought to put the water in this god damn thing to start with. What the hell.

Four hundred yards off shore there is a sudden rise to the reef where the water is about four less deep and as the treads of the tank hits these she shifts into low with the bucking of the tank, Nip mortars and artillery are hitting all around and there is a look on the faces of these men….


The view from a LCVP just before landing.

Here we go again. I knew it would be like this but I couldn’t remember. Jesus, them god damn things is getting close. Hope to Christ we don’t get hit.Hell, you could ram an ice pick through this can. Old Mac is really singing with that machine gun. What the hell did you see? Just a few, eh? Jesus, there is that smell. Hey, they hit Mac. Don’t fool with him. He only has a few minutes.Le’ts get the hell out of here. Where the hell is the Second Platoon? For Christ’s sake, keep down. Hey, they got Phil, bad, too. For Christ’s sake, where are the Nips Can’t see a goddamn one. Here comes the mortars. Get down and stay put….

And so, into the fury of battle.

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