The battle of San Pietro was a crucial event in the Allied Campagne to liberate Italy. The objectives of the Italian Campaign, executed by Generals Montgommery and Patton, were twofold. First, to secure the meditteranean which would permit the Allies to build up their strength for the Channel crossing in 1944. Second, to provide a mayor propaganda blow to the Axis powers by eliminating Italy from the war and liberating its capital Rome, which was conveniently presented as the World’s historic hallmark of democracy.
Style & quality
The Battle of San Pietro stands alone in the history of documentary filmmaking. Presenting the battle in the Liri Valley as a costly continuing campaign rather than in retrospect as a strategic victory, it is the only complete record of an infantry battle. Filmed with 35mm hand-held Eyemo newsreel cameras in the midst of gunfire, its camera angles are low and from the ground. Shots are grabbed, immediate, unexpected.
John Huston, director of Hollywood classics like ‘The Maltese Falcon’ and ‘Treasure of Sierra Madre’, joined the army to make government- sponsored films. He was originally assigned to document the liberation of Rome, which was supposed to be quite easy, and as it turned out, of course, it was quite difficult fighting Italy. So he was reassigned to make a film explaining to stateside Americans why it was so long and hard-fought.
The capture of Rome was an achievement of tremendous importance and symbolized more graphically than any other victory to that date the collapse of the Axis. The Italian Campaign with Rome as its grand trophy was part of a larger campaign to liberate Europe. The decision to liberate Italy before attempting a cross-Channel invasion of France was based upon the assumption that if pressure was taken of the Axis forces in the Mediterranean, they could be withdrawn from the Italian peninsula and sent to France where they would make the Channel crossing much more difficult.
‘The Battle of San Pietro’ and ‘Let there be light’ both by John Huston, were the only two films banned by the Army during WWII. In 1945, Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall viewed the film and reversed the ban: “This picture should be seen by every American soldier in training. It will not discourage but rather will prepare them for the initial shock of combat.”
After the the Allies had ousted the Axis Powesr from North Africa, the Italian campaign was supposed to be quite easy. However, as it turned out, it was quite difficult fighting Italy. The progress made was slow and tedious at the cost of many casualties.
- Producer: US Army
- Written: John Huston
- Director: John Huston
- Cinematography: Jules Buck,John Huston,and other Signal Corps cameramen
- Written: John Huston
- Music: Dmitri Tiomkin, performed by the Army Air Force Orchestra, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and St.Brenclan’s Boy’s Choir