Story of G.I. Joe. The (1945): William Wellman’s Superb WWII Tale, Starring Robert Mitchum in his Only Oscar Nominated Performance

William Wellman directed The Story of G.I. Joe, a WWII film, starring Burgess Meredith and Robert Mitchum.

The Story of G.I. Joe
Poster depicting a soldier holding a small dog

Theatrical release poster

The film was nominated for four Oscar Awards, including Mitchum’s only nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This was the film that established him as one of the world’s biggest movie stars.

The story is a tribute to the American infantryman (“G.I. Joe”) during World War II, told through the eyes of Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle, with dialogue and narration taken from Pyle’s columns.

The film focuses on one company, (“C Company, 18th Infantry”), that Pyle joined into combat in Tunisia and Italy.

The friendships that grow out of his coverage led Pyle to relate the misery and sacrifice in their plight and ultimately heroic endurance. Although the company has the designation of an actual unit, it did not participate in the combat in Italy–it stands in for the units of the 34th and 36th Infantry Divisions that Pyle covered in Italy.

Sadly, the movie premiered two months after he was killed in action on Ie Shima during the invasion of Okinawa. In his February 14, 1945 posting, “In the Movies,” Pyle noted: “They are still calling it The Story of G.I. Joe. I never did like the title, but nobody could think of a better one, and I was too lazy to try.”

Critical Status:

In 2009, it was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant.

Cast
Burgess Meredith as Ernie Pyle
Robert Mitchum as Lt./Capt. Bill Walker
Freddie Steele as Sgt. Steve Warnicki
Wally Cassell as Pvt. Dondaro
Jimmy Lloyd as Pvt. Spencer
John R. Reilly as Pvt. Robert ‘Wingless’ Murphy
William Murphy as Pvt. Charles R. Mew

Credits:

Directed by William Wellman
Produced by Lester Cowan, David Hall
Written by Leopold Atlas, Guy Endore, Philip Stevenson
Robert Mitchum
Music by Louis Applebaum, Ann Ronell
Cinematography Russell Metty
Edited by Albrecht Joseph
Distributed by United Artists

Release date: June 18, 1945

Running time: 108 min.