Gianninni leaves. Maggione watches him go. The Voice gets louder.
Further up the line, GENERAL JAMES G. HARBORD walks along with a retinue of officers, including Colonels Catlin and Neville. General Harbord wears a French army helmet, which looks like a fancy football helmet. The men are absolutely amazed at seeing such high ranking officers - a general, for God's sake! They jump to their feet, or at least try to.
Maggione asks offhandedly.
Gen. Harbord looks up, tipping his helmet.
Gastovich holds up a can of rations.
Harbord and his retinue continue up the line. Maggione and Gastovich grin, getting slapped on the back by their buddies.
EXT. LUCY-TORCY ROAD - LATER THAT NIGHT
We move slowly along the protracted line of entrenched Marines. Most men are asleep, curled up in tight balls in their freshly dug holes, covered with green blankets, their Springfield rifles close at hand. As we pass Sgt. Daly we see that he's awake and smoking. Every twenty yards or so a sentry sits up with his weapon on his lap, peering intently into the dark. Distant artillery can be heard thumping. An occasional flash lights the sky. For the moment, it's all quiet on the western front. Cpl. Meyers sits awake on sentry duty. His eyes scan the horizon . . .
A TITLE READS: JUNE 6th, 1:30 A.M.
Cpl. Meyers sighs, shaking his head to stay awake on sentry duty. As we move along the line of our Marines, to the north, the artillery fire sounds like it's getting louder. Sentries turn and look. Yes, it's definitely getting louder and closer. The detonations can now be felt, the ground shaking, tin cups fall over, mounds of dirt slide back into the holes.
As the explosions become louder still, Marines begin waking up, rubbing their bleary eyes, stretching their cold, stiff muscles. Explosion by explosion, the artillery fire is progressively working it's way south, the line of fire reasonably consistent with the line of Marines - the Germans have the American's range.
Suddenly, high-explosive shells come whistling in, striking the tops of the trees to their immediate north. The treetops erupt in flaming fireballs, shrapnel raining down. The Marines crouch in their holes, their arms over their heads, their eyes tightly shut, grimacing with each explosion.
Next come high-explosive shells crashing into the ground all around them. Shrapnel, dirt, and debris fly everywhere. The whole world shakes violently as one shell after another after another whistle in and explode. Meyers lights two cigarettes and hands one to Daly. They both smoke with the cigarettes cupped in their hands, their faces in the dirt.
A shell lands in the line twenty yards north of Matthews and Daly - Wheeeeeeee . . . BOOM! - Where there were three Marines a moment before, there is now a smoking hole. Another shell lands ten yards away - Wheeeeeeeeee . . . BOOM! - Matthews and Daly are picked up and slammed down hard. The next shell comes sailing in - Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee . . . This one sound like it's coming right at them and . . . WHUMP! Matthews and Daly both open their eyes to see . . . A 155 millimeter shell stuck in the dirt five feet away - a dud. Matthews and Daly both sigh, covering their heads against the next explosion.
This is the loudest, most intense experience these guys has ever gone through in their lives. Argaut starts singing to himself in a frightened voice.
Suddenly, Pvt. Paul Bonner begins to scream hysterically, jumps to his feet, and takes off running in the opposite direction. The others see him go, but make no move to get up and go after him. The artillery barrage keeps going on and on and on, literally for hours . . .
EXT. LUCY-TORCY ROAD - DAWN
A TTILE READS: "5:45 A.M."
The artillery barrage finally stops at the crack of dawn. It's been over three hours, but it may as well have been a year. The landscape is pockmarked with smoldering holes and charred, splintered trees. Marines arise out of their holes, covered with dirt, shaken, twitching, and wide-eyed. Here and there lie the remains of dead Marines - an arm - a leg - an entire mangled body.
Not far up the line, a SOBBING MARINE has gone completely nuts.
Swenson and Hebel both emerge at the same time, dazed and trembling. They both look down at the body covered in dirt between them. Hebel reaches down, grabs the shoulder and turns over Maggione - the side of his head is blown away by shrapnel - he's obviously dead. Hebel yanks his bloody hand back. Swenson gasps. Matthews and Daly step up, then everybody else in the company. They all look down at Maggione's corpse silently. Argaut turns away gagging.
The Marines wander away slowly, rubbing their heads, their eyes glazed. This absolutely isn't a game anymore. Still without shovels, the Marines re-dig their holes with bayonets, mess kit lids and their hands.
Finally, Bonner comes wandering up looking abashed.
Bonner steps up and sees Maggione's corpse. Bonner covers his face, takes a deep breath, then silently joins in the digging.
We hear the voice of a MARINE down the line.
The words "Stand to" are repeated up and down the line.
The Marines get into "Stand to" position, meaning they line up at the edge of the shallow trench and take aim in front of them, toward the wheat field and the dark woods beyond, and await an attack.
We see each one of our guys, tense, ready, frightened, clutching his weapon and waiting.
Suddenly, the sun appears over the wooded horizon and in an explosion of glare it shines directly into the Marine's eyes, momentarily blinding them.
The just as suddenly there are Germans running full speed at them that seem to have materialized out of nowhere. The Germans have crawled up through the wheat field and scream in unison as they attack through the open area directly in front of them.
The Marines immediately open fire, shooting at anything that moves in front of them. Machine guns chatter, expended shells fly through the air, fingers squeeze triggers, Springfield rifle bolts slam back and forth.
Germans drop right and left and almost as quickly as the attack began, it suddenly ends.
Everybody stops firing, sits and waits anxiously for the next attack . . .
EXT. LUCY-TORCY ROAD - DAY
We move along the Lucy-Torcy Road, the American line, where the Marines are all dug in, following two Privates carrying a big box of ammunition. They hand out 200 rounds of ammo to each man. Artillery explodes in the distance and, every sixty seconds or so, a shell comes whistling into the American line. Everyone ducks, the shell explodes, then everyone continues on with what they were doing. In most cases, what the Marines are doing is lightening their packs from 70 pounds to 20 pounds. Many Marines are cleaning their rifles, some are writing letters home. There isn't much unnecessary talk.
A TITLE READS: "2:40 P.M."
We arrive at our guys of the 6th Marines. They each take their 200 rounds of ammo and load it into their ammo belts.
Suddenly, an American artillery barrage begins. Shells start whizzing over their heads. Bonner and Hebel dive to the ground and cover their heads. Sgt. Daly shakes his head.
The shells keep whizzing over at a greatly increased rate, exploding in a line a half mile east of them. The Marines watch as explosion after explosion detonates along the German line. Each of our guys has his own thoughts and a serious expression on his face. This is it - no kidding, no backing out, no nothing. Hughes turns to Bill French.
The American artillery barrage continues for the next three hours . . .
The last fading rays of warm sunlight beam through the smoke and debris filling the sky. The American artillery barrage keeps going; thousands of shells have been pumped into the German lines. As suddenly as the artillery barrage began, it now ends. For one very brief moment there is complete silence. A bird starts to sing.
A TITLE READS: "5:25 P.M."
The Marines are all fully prepared, loaded, helmetted, tense, and as ready as they'll ever be. Those that were sitting now stand. Cigarettes and unfinished cans of rations are tossed. Gastovich, Hebel, Swenson, Argaut, Daly, Meyers, Matthews, Hughes, Arbuckle, Bonner, Zachio, Lt. Cates, and Captain Lloyd Williams, a steel whistle held in his hand, nearing his anxious lips. Gastovich glances back at a bedroll stenciled, "Maggione," then frowns. Sgt. Daly calls out:
Everyone affixes their bayonets to the ends of their rifles, then stares intently down at their wristwatches.
CLOSE-UP: A watch face - 5:27 - the sweep second hand goes around . . .
EXT. LA LOGE FARM/HQ - DAY
This is a storybook farmhouse that has somehow not been destroyed. Standing in front of the farm house are General Harbord, Colonel Neville, and several other officers. Everyone looks down at their wristwatches.
CLOSE-UP: Watch face - 5:28 - the sweep second keeps going around . . .
EXT. HILLTOP - DAY
On a nearby hilltop overlooking the Lucy-Torcy Road, as well as the wheat fields around it, stands Colonel Albertus Catlin, the big, sad, jowly, commander of the 6th Marines. Several other officers stand nearby. With an expression of great concern Col. Catlin looks back down at his watch.
CLOSE-UP: Watch face - 5:29 - and the second hand goes around . . .
EXT. LUCY-TORCY ROAD - DAY
German shells crash into the American line. Captain Williams looks up from his watch, puts the whistle in his mouth and blows hard. There is a weird pause, then . . .
Williams points his walking stick, Daly waves his hand and the line of Marines starts moving forward at a steady, deliberate pace, their weapons ready, bayonets fixed.
The Marines steps over a pile of dead Germans, then enter a field of waist-high wheat sprinkled with read poppies. As our guys steps forward, five yards apart from each other, we realize that this line of Marines advancing goes on for miles! The line of Marines snakes over a hill, goes down, then back up the next hill, down, then back over the next hill in the far distance. German shells land in front of, behind, and occasionally in the American line. Nevertheless, the line moves forward. No one is running, no one is screaming.
Ahead of the Marines is an undulating, open, 400-yards of wheat. In the middle of the wheat is a 50-yard island of woods on a rise, all by itself. All of a sudden, there are flashes of fire and the ratchety chugging of four German Maxim guns spitting streams of hot lead from the wooded island into the line of approaching Marines. Stalks of wheat begin to drop around the Marines as though cut by a scythe.
Three bullets slam into the chest of Pvt. Knute Swenson. His helmet flies off, the rifle falls from his hands, and Swenson drops to the ground, 99% dead. All the Marines in the vicinity of the wooded island hit the dirt. On either side of Swenson are Hebel and Argaut. They watch as Swenson coughs blood, his eyes go glassy, and he mutters to himself.
Meanwhile, bullets are whizzing right over their heads. Many other Marines have been hit up and down the line and painful moans are heard. Sgt. Daly has his face in the dirt, his rifle in hand.
The Marines all simultaneously stand, scream, and charge.
EXT. HILLTOP - DAWN
Colonel Catlin and his entourage of officers watch with field glasses as the Marines make their bayonet charge on the wooded island.
EXT. WHEAT FIELD (WEST OF WOODED ISLAND) - DAWN
The Marines scream as they charge. Several unnamed Marines are hit and go down. Everyone else makes it to the woods, converge on the German machine gunners and skewer them with their bayonets. Two GERMAN GUNNERS jump to their feet, their hands in the air.
The guys are about to stick them, too, when Lt. Cates steps in.
Argaut steps forward.
Gastovich turns to Zachio and whispers:
Zachio's whole body shakes. He looks down at his rifle and bloody bayonet.
Matthews and Bonner step up to Zachio with the same expression. Captain Williams blows his whistle.
EXT. WHEAT FIELD (EAST OF WOODED ISLAND) - DAY
Our guys exit the cover of the wooded island, stepping back into the swaying wheat speckled with red poppies. Shells whistle in regularly, and every minute or so one comes close - or kills you.
200 yards ahead lies the foreboding darkness of Belleau Wood - a mile long strip of hilly woods with an old, round, stone hunting lodge, with its roof now blown off, at the north end - to the left. Gripping their rifles tightly, as wary as they've ever been in their lives, the Marines continue walking forward . . .
Belleau Wood is completely filled with German machine gun emplacements. There isn't a clear number to this day, but the Germans had been in possession of the wood and were digging in for an entire day, so - a couple of hundred machine guns - a thousand, possibly - let's just say a sufficient number to defend a piece of real estate this size from an infantry attack, which is what is presently occurring. The Germans wait in grim anticipation for the Americans to step into range . . .
EXT. WHEAT FIELD (WEST OF BELLEAU WOOD) - DAY
Meyers turns to Daly and mutters.
As does everyone else. This is crazy. Walking right into heavily fortified, well-concealed machine gun emplacements . . .
The Marines march steadily through the wheat, shells exploding all around them, Belleau Wood getting closer and closer.
Inevitably, the machine guns in Belleau Wood all open fire. Suddenly, thousands of bullets and tracer rounds are flying through the air. High-speed, red hot nails. The wheat is cut down in columns, many Marines along with it.
Several bullets hit Pvt. Ernest Arbuckle directly in the face and his head evaporates. Hughes and Bonner, on either side of Arbuckle, are spattered with his brains.
Everybody hits the dirt. Bullets and tracers whiz directly over everybody's heads, hitting their packs. Bullets puncture the canteen of Pvt. Bill French and he thinks he's bleeding until realizes it's just water. Bullets are thumping into the dirt everywhere. Shells are exploding. Stalks of wheat are falling over as streams of hot lead cut them down. All the Marines press their faces into the dirt. This is a tough situation.
EXT. HILLTOP - DAY
Colonel Catlin stands out in the open on a nearby hilltop and watches the action with binoculars. The other officers with him have all edged behind vehicles to avoid stray bullets.
As if to reassure the other officers of their good sense, a bullet slams into the radiator of one of the trucks. Steam hisses out. The officers look from the steam to Col. Catlin standing there in the open with his binoculars.
EXT. WHEAT FIELD (WEST OF BELLEAU WOOD) - DAY
The Marines are face down in the dirt. Bullets are crashing in, tracers streaming by, men are moaning and hollering as bullets hit them. The situation is clearly intolerable. Everybody is frozen with fear.
Sgt. Dan Daly has a mouthful of dirt, which he spits out. He looks around and sees bullets tearing his fellow Marines to pieces. A bullet hits the ground directly in front of him pelting him in the eyes with dirt.
Daly tries taking deep breaths. Bullets continue to crash in all around him, his buddies scream as they are torn to pieces.
Sgt. Daly gets up to his knees, bullets whizzing through the air all around him. He sights in on the southern-most machine gun in Belleau Wood and fires off his whole clip, then dives back on his face. He looks to his left and sees Bonner eating dirt, his Chauchat machine gun beside him.
Daly tosses Bonner his Springfield and grabs the Chauchat gun. He rises back to his knee, sights in and fires off a whole clip with the small French machine gun. Expended shells fly all over the place.
EXT. WITHIN BELLEAU WOOD - DAY
The four members of a German machine gun crew are ripped to pieces by Daly's well-aimed bullets.
EXT. WHEAT FIELD - DAY
Daly dives back on his face. He listens and realizes that the German machine gun that was firing right at him is silenced for the moment. Daly looks around and sees that this is the moment. He jumps to his feet and yells:
Daly begins kicking the men around him as hard as he can, getting them to stand, which they reluctantly do.
With that, the Marines do as they're ordered-they all rise to their feet, scream at the top of their lungs, and attack.
With bayonets thrust forward, the Marines run full speed toward Belleau Wood. The German machine guns chatter incessantly, bullets and tracers sailing every which way. But the Marines are crazed, wild-eyed, screaming, dashing straight into the dark woods filled with the orange bursts of firing machine guns. Many, many Marines go down.
A bullet clangs off the top of Lt. Cates' helmet which goes sailing. He drops to the ground unconscious.
Bullets strike Pvt. Bill French in both legs and he goes down screaming.
A bullet takes off Hebel's right earlobe, although he hardly notices.
Marines are dropping everywhere, with every sort of bullet wound imaginable. As the Marines continue on toward the woods, the wheat field becomes increasingly more littered with dead, wounded and screaming Americans.
Sgt. Daly, bullets ripping the air all around him, screaming at the top of his lungs, leads the charge into the southern tip of Belleau Wood.
END SLOW MOTION:
EXT. HILLTOP - DAY
Colonel Catlin smiles as he watches the bayonet charge.
More stray bullets hit the side of the vehicle the other officers are crouched behind. A CAPTAIN speaks up.
As if to point out the inaccuracy of Col. Catlin's statement, a bullet slams directly into his chest, spinning him around, and dropping him to the ground. The captain and several other officers crawl quickly out to the Colonel.
EXT. WITHIN BELLEAU WOOD (SOUTHERN TIP) - DAY
Sgt. Daly and his men come screaming into the southern tip of Belleau Wood, their weapons upraised, their bayonets out in front. They take on the four southern-most machine gun emplacements, with four Germans manning each. Daly runs up to the first machine gun emplacement spraying wildly with the Chauchat machine gun and takes out all four Germans himself.
Meyers, Bonner and Gastovich converge on the second machine gun emplacement. Bonner shoots a German point blank as he begins to raise his weapon, Gastovich and a German both fire and miss, then go at it hand to hand. Meyers goes to stick a German with his bayonet, only the German grabs it and with both hands stops the point from going into his face. Meyers pushes him onto his back and presses down on the rifle as hard as he can . . .
Williams and Matthews converge on the
second machine gun emplacement and each shoot one of the Germans, then
each bayonets the other German. The timing is perfect.
The point of Meyer's bayonet is touching the German's nose when it suddenly occurs to Meyers to pull his trigger, which he does, putting a big hole right through the German's face.
Sgt. Daly makes a quick tour of his men, many of whom are in the middle of hand to hand fights. Daly steps up and point-blank shoots the German each of his guys is struggling with the Chauchat machine gun. In every case his fellow Marines are very thankful for the assistance.
The next German machine gun emplacement just north of them, swings its Maxim gun around and begins firing at our Marines, starting the battle within Belleau Wood.
Daly and his men take cover behind giant boulders, scrubby brush, and blackened, splintered trees. Bullets slam in all around them, ricocheting off rocks and pelting trees and the ground. Daly raises the sights on his Springfield rifle.
All the Marines raise the sights on their rifles as well, aiming in on the muzzle flash. BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! - Springfield, bolt-action, .30 caliber rifles speak their piece. Bolts slam back and forth, expended shells sail into the air, dropping into piles in the dirt. Daly fires off another whole clip and the French Chauchat gun promptly falls to pieces.
There is a groan from behind the German machine gun, which begins spraying wildly through the treetops, then the shooting abruptly ceases. The gun has been silenced by the excellent marksmanship of the Marines. There are many more Germans and machine guns in the wood still firing at the Marines to the west, but for this moment the immediate vicinity is now quiet. Sgt. Daly stands up and looks around.
Captain Williams hesitantly stands up.
He points at Bonner who stands up.
Capt. Williams pulls out a map and looks at it.
Bonner takes off running. Daly waves his hand and yells.
One by one the Marines step out in the open: Meyers, Matthews, Hughes, Hebel, and Gastovich. Daly looks around.
They form a line and begin cautiously moving north through the woods. Daly tosses the Chauachat gun and picks up a Mauser rifle and some ammo off a dead German.
EXT. WHEAT FIELD (WEST OF BELLEAU WOOD) - DAY
Lt. Cates awakens in the wheat field with a trickle of blood running into his eyes from an enormous lump on his head. Cates touches the lump, quickly recoiling from the pain. He picks up his helmet and finds a big dent in it from the bullet hit. Putting on his helmet, which now sits crookedly, Cates stands and drunkenly staggers toward Belleau Wood. There are dead and wounded Marines everywhere. Machine guns continue to chatter from within the wood and bullets and tracers zip past Lt. Cates on both sides.
As Cates staggers past a shell hole, a hand reaches up, grabs him by the ankle and yanks him down. Cates falls into the shell hole to find PFC Argaut and two other guys crouched there. Cates blinks his eyes hard recognizing Argaut.
Argaut removes Cates' helmet, pulls out his canteen and begins pouring some kind of red liquid on Cates' head. When it gets to Cates' mouth he sticks out his tongue and tastes it.
Cates grabs the canteen, takes a mighty swig, sticks out his tongue and pants for air.
Lt. Cates grabs the rifle and ammunition belt from a dead Frenchman.
Argaut looks at the other guys, then at Cates skeptically.
Lt. Cates jumps out of the shell hole and firing from the hip, dashes toward the wood. The other three guys shrug and follow along. Miraculously, Cates and Argaut make it into Belleau Wood. The other two Marines do not.
Lt. Cates and PFC Argaut enter the wood, quickly taking cover behind a big boulder. German machine guns are firing all around, bullets and tracers whipping through the underbrush. Argaut whispers into Cates' ear.
EXT. WITHIN BELLEAU WOOD/ ANOTHER PART - DAY
Zachio crawls through the wood all alone, bullets and tracers zipping over his head, tearing through the leaves, thumping into the undergrowth. It seems to be coming from everywhere. Zachio is about to cry he's so scared. He suddenly comes upon a rabbit hole in the dirt next to a rock. Zachio scuttles into the hole like a small animal. Once inside, we can see his frightened eyes peering out.
EXT. WITHIN BELLEAU WOOD - DAY
Williams, Daly and the men move stealthily through the underbrush. A German machine gun crew firing west hears them coming, swings around and begins firing at them. They all hit the dirt. Daly turns to the guys beside him.
Sgt. Daly reaches into his pocket and takes out a cigar in a metal tube. He breaks off a hunk, clamps it in his teeth, and puts the rest away for later.
Meyers and Hebel crawl through the thick, thorny, undergrowth, bullets whipping by. They top a little rise and see . . .
A German machine gun aiming right at them! It begins firing. Bullets zing off both of their helmets and come through the dirt on either side of them. Meyers and Hebel both scramble away, bullets just missing their butts.
Meanwhile, Daly, Williams and the others attack, firing from the hip, screaming at the top of their lungs. At the last moment, the Germans jump to their feet and raise their hands, but it's too damn late. Daly, Gastovich, Williams, and Matthews have too much momentum coming in, and end up both sticking and shooting them. Meyers and Hebel crawl up. For another brief moment bullets are not flying everywhere.
Everybody checks their ammo belts.
Everybody crowds around the machine gun, facing in all directions, lighting cigarettes.
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