‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ meet ‘The Steel Helmet’

Date1950

Echoes of the controversy surrouding the depiction of torture in “Zero Dark Thirty” can be found in a Variety article published 62 years ago Friday.

The U.S. War Department gave its blessing to a story within “The Steel Helmet” that depicted the killing of a POW that would violate the Geneva Convention. Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos found the clip.

Steel Helmet 1

A key difference, of course, is that “Steel Helmet” was conceived as a fictionalized story.

“In World War II the Pentagon would have blanched at such an episode in fictional film form,” the article states. “The War Department made special efforts to refute Nazi propagandists who claimed U.S. Paratroops and ‘Hermans’ (airborne infantrymen) killed German prisoners they captured when they dropped back of the front during the Normandy Invasion.”

Steel2

Here’s a link to a Variety capsule review of “Steel Helmet.”

The Steel Helmet pinpoints the Korean fighting in a grim, hardhitting tale that is excellently told.

A veteran top sergeant is the sole survivor of a small patrol, bound
and murdered by North Koreans. He and a young native boy, who freed him,
start back for the lines. They are soon joined by a Negro medic, sole
survivor of another group. Trio encounters a patrol of green GIs, help
them out of an ambush and go along to establish an observation post in a
Korean temple. There they help direct artillery fire and capture a
North Korean major hiding out in the temple.

Film serves to introduce Gene Evans as the sergeant, a vet of
World War II, a tough man who is interested in staying alive, and
hardened to the impact of warfare. Robert Hutton, conscientious objector
in the last war but now willing to fight against communism; Steve
Brodie, the lieutenant who used pull to stay out of combat previously;
James Edwards, the Negro medic, and Richard Loo, a heroic Nisei, are the
other principals who add to the rugged realism.

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