The Story of G.I. Joe was based on the columns of Scripps-Howard war correspondent Ernie Pyle (Burgess Meredith). Though already past 40, Pyle insists upon marching along with an Army infantry unit during the Italian campaign. He befriends several of the soldiers, including commanding officer Lt. Walker (Robert Mitchum in his breakthrough role), family man Sgt. Warnicki (Freddie Steele) and would-be romeo Private Dondaro (Wally Cassell). The "plot" of the film is moved forward by the progression of the war itself; basically, however, G.I. Joe is an anecdotal collection of comic, dramatic and tragic vignettes. Some of the more memorable moments include: Sgt. Warnicki's ongoing efforts to listen to a recording of his infant son's voice; Walker's casual reactions to his many field promotions; and a wedding ceremony which is "punctuated" by an air raid. Many infantry veterans consider The Story of GI Joe to be the single most realistic Hollywood war film of the 1940s, eschewing big stars, phony heroics and overblown battle sequences in favor of the everyday trials and tribulations of the humble foot soldier. Ironically, Pyle, who acted as technical adviser when he wasn't busy on the front, was killed by an enemy sniper shortly before the release of this film.
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