Girl for Joe, A (aka Force of Arms): Romantic War Drama, Starring William Holden and Nancy Olson

Force of Arms (reissued under the title A Girl for Joe) is a romantic drama film set in World War II, starring William Holden.

The film reteamed Holden and Nancy Olson in the third of their four movies together (Sunset Boulevard, Union Station, Submarine Command), all released in 1950 or 1951.


An American infantryman on leave and a Women’s Army Corps (WAC) officer fall in love.

Narrative Structure

After hard fighting in the Battle of San Pietro, the infantrymen of the American 36th Division are given five days of rest.  Sergeant Joe “Pete” Peterson (William Holden) meets WAC Lieutenant Eleanor “Ellie” MacKay (Nancy Olson) in a cemetery. However, his attempts to get closer to her are brushed off.

Later, Pete’s friend and commanding officer, Major Blackford (Frank Lovejoy), tells him he has been given a battlefield commission and is now a second lieutenant.

When Sergeant McFee (Gene Evans) becomes upset because he has not received a letter from his wife in a long time, Pete takes him to the post office to investigate, and finds Ellie working there.

Ellie reveals that she almost married another soldier, except he was killed.  She does not want to risk falling in love again. However, when the division’s leave is cut short, she cannot stay away, and she agrees to marry Pete on his next leave.

Blackford assigns Pete and his platoon to take out a German roadblock. Pete spots two deadly German 88 guns commanding the road on which American tanks are advancing. However, when urged to attack the guns, Pete rejects the idea; after meeting Ellie, he has become overcautious.

The 88s knock out the lead American tank, from which Blackford is directing the attack. The major is killed. Pete himself is wounded by an artillery barrage and wakes up in a hospital.

Blaming himself for his friend’s death, Pete sinks into a depression, but a visit from Ellie brings him out of it. Pete tells her that he has been given a three-day leave before being sent back to the US, safely out of combat. They get married, but Pete’s guilt makes him rejoin his unit. Afterward, Ellie discovers she is pregnant, and thus will have to leave the army.

Pete is hit when he reconnoiters ahead, and his men are ordered to retreat, leaving him behind. Unwilling to believe her husband is dead, Ellie searches for him without success.

When Rome is liberated, she finds him; he had been taken prisoner, but was freed when the Germans retreated.

reissued as A Girl for Joe) is a 1951 romantic war drama film set in the Italian theater of World War II.

It reteamed William Holden and Nancy Olson in the third of their four movies together (Sunset Boulevard, Union Station, and Submarine Command were the others), all released in 1950 or 1951.

William Holden as Sergeant/Lieutenant Joe “Pete” Peterson
Nancy Olson as Lieutenant Eleanor MacKay
Frank Lovejoy as Major Blackford
Gene Evans as Sergeant Smiley “Mac” McFee
Dick Wesson as Kleiner, one of Pete’s men
Paul Picerni as Sheridan
Katherine Warren as Major Waldron, Eleanor’s commander
Ross Ford as Hooker
Ron Hagerthy as Minto