Cast & Crew
In 1944, immediately before the invasion of Dieppe, seven American commandos volunteer for the potentially suicidal mission of disabling a German communications center that controls the coastal guns. The men, led by Lt. Finch, are Sgt. Jack, Sgt. Jim Malloy, Pepy, Chief, Horse and Wetzel. In a small rubber raft, they land on the French coast at night and have only twenty-four hours to reach and destroy their target before seven thousand commandos and Rangers storm the beach. Believing that the waterfront is probably mined, Lt. Finch leads his men cautiously up the beach. The squad makes some headway by navigating the raft through a narrow tributary. At daylight, a lone German sentry spots them as they attempt to pull the raft up a bank. After the sentry shoots and kills Finch, Pepy seeks and stabs the sentry to death. Jack then assumes command of the operation and they advance inland. When they stop in a clearing to eat, Horse gives Malloy some liquor, prompting Jack to demote Malloy and order him to remove his stripes. Jack then informs Chief, a stoic, uncommunicative man, that he is now second-in-command and should take over if Jack is killed. Later, as they move cautiously inland, they ambush and kill a three-man German patrol. Jack sends Pepy and Horse ahead to reconnoiter while Wetzel follows them as rear guard. The scouts return with a goat they have found and the news that three Germans are guarding a hill up ahead. Jack assigns the men to approach the Germans from two directions, after which they kill two and capture the third as he tries to escape. After the German gives them some useful information, Jack is willing to let him live, but Pepy has a strong hatred of Germans and kills the prisoner with his knife. The six move on and when they rest, Malloy tells Pepy that he holds no grudge against Jack for demoting him. Later, at night, when they come upon a small farmhouse, Jack sends Malloy to investigate while the others cover him. Inside the house, Malloy discovers a blonde Frenchwoman entertaining a German officer. Malloy stabs the officer, then begins to seduce the woman. Meanwhile, Jack wonders what has happened to Malloy and sends Wetzel to find out. Wetzel observes Malloy and the woman kissing and reports back to Jack that Malloy will be returning shortly. Soon after, the wounded German officer regains consciousness and, before his dying breath, shoots Malloy. The gunshot alerts the others and they storm the building and find Malloy's dead body. With only five men left, the squad finally reaches the communications center that is housed in an old wine barn. Although the barn looks deserted, a volley of gunshots bursts after Wetzel loudly coughs. While the others create a diversion, Horse sneaks up to the barn and opens fire. Both Horse and Pepy die in a hail of enemy bullets. The Dieppe invasion is just beginning as Jack, Chief and Wetzel storm the building, kill the remaining German and destroy the communications transmitter. Although their mission is a success, Jack suffers an emotional collapse and refuses to leave his fallen comrades. Chief knocks him out, then carries him back to the beach, while Wetzel stands watch, and the Allied invasion continues.
Charles L. King Iii
Charles L. King Iii
Alexander J. Wells
J. A. Wenzel
The film's working titles were Dieppe Raid and Three Miles to Dawn. The film begins with the following written prologue: "1944. Hundreds of Allied Commando groups, under cover of darkness, silently infiltrated southern France-24 hours before the invasion...this motion picture tells of an American suicide patrol, whose assignment was to silence a German communications center. To those heroes who lost their lives testing the effectiveness of modern commando warfare-we dedicate this motion picture." The film concludes with the title: "This was the beginning of...THE END." The print viewed had an onscreen copyright statement for the year 1953, although the film was not registered until October 1954. Richard Bartlett's onscreen credit reads "Directed and Written by Richard Bartlett."
As noted in a Los Angeles Times news item of December 6, 1953, Earle Lyon and Richard Bartlett, who were both at that time under thirty, had recently completed their first independent production, Dieppe Raid [Silent Raiders]. Bartlett was reported to have based his screenplay on an incident in which he was involved during a pre-Allied invasion raid. The news item also stated that, in their striving for realism, the producers had cast seven ex-GIs, all veterans of the French invasion. A Variety story of December 23, 1953 added that the film was "based on an episode in World War II" and that the film had been shot in sixteen days with a cast of unknowns, on a budget of $65,000. Actual combat footage was used to depict the Dieppe invasion, which was in Northern France, not Southern, as the prologue suggests.
The producers encountered a roadblock when they submitted their completed film for PCA certification. A Daily Variety news item of February 18, 1954 reported that the Breen Office's Canadian Cooperation Project, designed to maintain a cooperative atmosphere between the United States and Canada, raised strenuous objections to the film. The Canadian representative pointed out that no Americans were involved in the Dieppe Raid, which was a Canadian, New Zealand and Australian operation.
Mindful of earlier criticism of films depicting American involvement in Allied operations such as Objective, Burma!, the Breen Office suggested that the producers make some changes. No additional shooting was necessary, but dialogue was replaced in several places and the lyrics of a ballad, heard intermittently throughout the film, were changed. Daily Variety reported that the changes had increased the budget by twenty-five percent and that the film was now titled Three Miles to Dawn. By the time the film was acquired for distribution by Lippert Pictures, Inc. in mid-1954, its title had become Silent Raiders. As noted in a February 18, 1954 Daily Variety article, David Kovar, a well-known Hollywood portrait photographer, supervised the film's lighting. The film was shot in Malibu (CA).