Bivouacked in a building’s torn-up basement during a fight with the Germans during World War 2, a squad of American GIs face a dilemma. One of their buddies, a clumsy man named Small, is stuck in a muddy foxhole in the middle of a street under the eye of an entrenched enemy gun position.
In the 1952 film “Eight Iron Men”, most of the group finds out about their trapped comrade as they are divvying up a fruitcake received by Muller, a fellow member of their squad. They spot Carter and Ferguson returning from patrol without Small.
The men debate what to do about the stranded man. It’s risky to try and retrieve him from that hot spot. The argument is complicated by the news that their outfit has been ordered to withdraw to the rear that evening. No one is really excited about risking their lives under such circumstances.
Even so, they can’t leave Small behind. He is a brother soldier, a comrade in arms.
One hothead named Coke lobbies squad leader Sgt. Mooney all afternoon to convince him to send out men to retrieve Small from his predicament. Mooney’s problem is that he is under orders to avoid losing any more men on what his captain calls a “wild goose chase. ”
Together on guard duty, Mooney continues his fight with Coke. As Coke lays into him once more, the sergeant tells him to shut up. “I’m thinking,” he says.
Finally, Mooney decides to send out a rescue party. He knows such an action could cause him his stripes, but he decides to do it anyway.
While the soldiers trying to help Small are gone, Trelawny learns of Mooney’s disobedience and shows up at the basement. He berates Carter for not stopping the sergeant.
However, Carter convinces Trelawny of the need the men have for rescuing Small. He tells the captain that if they didn’t try they would live with the guilt for the rest of their lives.
The rescue fails and the men return to the basement. They prepare to leave for the front lines but when they hear machine gun fire they realize that team member Colluci is gone. They also realize that he has gone out to retrieve Small on his own.
Colluci is the last man they would have expected to exhibit such bravery. Normally, he is a wisecracking GI who gripes about his plight in the war. Colluci presents himself as a nobody, an average citizen who somehow got put in the army and doesn’t want to be there. He is viewed as someone who tries to avoid real work or fighting. Colluci is more interested in dreaming about women and getting seconds on the fruitcake.
In the end, Colluci wipes out the machine gun nest and returns to the basement carrying the injured Small. Always the wiseacre, Colluci complains that now much will be expected of him in the future.
I watched “Eight Iron Men” this weekend, an eventful one in which 10 people were killed at a high school in Texas by another crazed lunatic student. For some reason, this particular shooting broke my heart. It wasn’t that I had become callous to these murders in schools, but this one just took all the air out of me. I realized I was fed up.
When one of my friends commented on the shooting, I told him that it was high time our society quit the political posturing and finally decide to do something about this epidemic of school killings. I also told him that I was not hopeful.
Where are the iron men today? They don’t seem to exist.
Sgt. Mooney was played by the hard-as-nails actor Lee Marvin, who is described by the website Celebrities Galore a born leader. Marvin had drive and determination.
His profile goes on to say of him: “Insisting on his right to make up his own mind, he demands freedom of thought and action, and does not let anything or anyone stand in his way once he is committed to his goal.”
Mooney’s character certainly fit this description.
In America today Lee Marvin seems like a complete anachronism. There is a distinct lack of courage among our leaders in 2018.
Our politicians in particular seem to avoid any action that might cost them. A good many of them are empty suits.
This type of leadership is nothing new. J. Vernon McGee observes that Saul, ancient Israel’s first king , was an actor. “He was not a king,” said McGee.
Saul lacked the character and skill to be a leader. He was only tall and handsome.
When someone was indeed heroic, Saul sought to take the credit or even have them killed. Such was the circumstance when his own son Jonathan won a military victory.
McGee notes that Saul was willing to put his own son to death because Jonathan disobeyed an order to fast in order to seek God’s favor during a battle. Jonathan ate some honey. In truth, he had already been victorious when he supposedly disobeyed Saul.
The average American does not appear to be willing to take risks either. Rarely do we see a Colluci type of citizen-soldier who takes the bull by the horns and attempts to solve a problem, even at great risk to themselves. When someone DOES try to solve a real-world issue, they expose themselves to human piranhas with political motivations.
Certainly few have been willing to rise to the occasion when it comes to actually doing something practical to stop these school massacres. Most of us seem to either shrug our shoulders, wondering what we can do, or just ignore the issue entirely and go on about our own lives.
The only folks who have made noise over actually doing something are America’s children, those most affected. However, their protests seem to have been co-opted by adults with an agenda.
Unfortunately, the world seems to have too many distractions to actually give it’s full attention to things like school mass murder. For instance, this weekend’s media coverage was mostly taken up with a royal wedding in England of a minor prince and an American actress to give the Santa Fe shootings the attention it really needed.
Our priorities are all wrong. Like the pre-heroic Colluci, we are more interested in dessert than opening a can of worms and dealing with real-world troubles.