Cast & Crew
William "bill" Phillips
Shortly after the declaration of war between the United States and Korea, mechanical engineering college student Andy Smith inadvertently volunteers for enlistment in the Army while trying to impress his girl friend, Peggy Cole. Peggy is duly impressed and she and Andy are married just before he ships out. During the basic training period, Andy makes several friends in camp, including the melancholy Milo Pagano, who misses his wife and their new twin babies. Upon arriving in Korea, the recruits are placed under the command of fatherly Sergeant Mike Kirby, who dubs them the Peachfuzz Brigade because of their extreme youth. Although the men are green, Kirby takes them on a raid based on information gleaned from a captured Korean soldier, but the squad is ambushed. Overcome with rage when frightened fellow soldier Jinx Hamilton is killed in the attack, Andy recklessly leaps on a nearby abandoned tractor-plow and drives it into the enemy machine-gun nest. Praised for his heroism later, Andy is nevertheless deeply affected by the brutality of combat and, along with Milo, contemplates the futility of war. A few nights later, Andy is on guard duty with Powers, another raw recruit, who is suffering from a bad head cold. When Andy leaves his foxhole to offer Powers some cold medicine, Korean snipers attack the camp, allowing the Korean informant prisoner to escape. Soldier Sollie Kaplan is injured in the assault, and Andy is severely reprimanded for leaving his post and is shunned by the others. Kirby consoles Andy, agreeing that the war is confusing and stressful, but that, despite being a family man, he felt that he had to volunteer to support his country. Gradually, the recruits become hardened with daily fighting and the Peachfuzz Brigade remains intact. Upon arriving in a small village, Lieutenant Lewis summons Kirby with orders to dynamite an enemy ammunition dump. Kirby orders Andy, Milo and Stan Howser to accompany him on the dangerous mission. After successfully blowing up the dump, the men flee, chased by enemy soldiers. Surrounded near a river, the men spot a construction site and realize that the Koreans are building an underwater bridge to bring in heavy tanks. Kirby orders Milo and Howser to report the discovery at camp while he and Andy divert the approaching enemy troops. Kirby and Andy are captured, but Milo and Howser hide in the jungle until nightfall, then they make their way safely back to camp. Kirby despairs that Milo and Howser must have been killed, until an American Air Force attack destroys the construction site and kills the guard, allowing him and Andy to escape. A few days later, a recovered Sollie returns, and Lewis tells Andy that he has been transferred. When Andy learns that a train carrying wounded G.I.s has broken down nearby, he pleads with Lewis to allow him to stay, as he knows he is the only one that can repair the train's engine. Lewis suggests that if Andy were to board the wrong truck out of camp, he would not be held liable for missing his transfer flight. Andy departs with his squad and with Kirby goes to work on the damaged train. Just as Kirby and Andy restart the engine, another train appears on the opposite track, carrying enemy soldiers, who open fire on the wounded. Kirby is hit and as he collapses, calls Andy and, handing him a letter, asks him to deliver it for him. Andy drives the train away to safety as Kirby dies. Andy is transferred back to the States, where he visits Kirby's family and reads Kirby's letter out loud to his two young children. In the letter, Kirby apologizes for not being with his children as they grow up, but explains that he felt obligated to fight for freedom in order to give them a better future.
William "bill" Phillips
Ross Di Maggio
Sgt. Oswald Ornelas
A Yank in Korea
A Yank in Korea was directed by Lew Landers (who began his career under his birth name Louis Friedlander), a reliable B movie director, one of the most prolific in the industry; he was known to churn out as many as a dozen low-budget adventure stories, thrillers, and Westerns per year for just about every studio in Hollywood. Landers spent a great portion of his time working at Columbia, and it was there, in the mid-1940s, that he hooked up with producer Sam Katzman for the first of 14 pictures together.
At the time of A Yank in Korea's release, Katzman was a 50-year-old motion picture veteran and already something of a legend. In 1952, Time magazine ran an article about him, noting a remarkable track record of nearly 125 films over the course of 21 years, all of them moneymakers. (He would keep that record up for another 20-plus years and close to double that number of films.) It helped, of course, that Katzman never spent more than a half million dollars on a movie, but the real secret of his success was a combination of factors; he specialized in surefire blends of sex and adventure; efficiently operating five sound stages at an old subsidiary studio at Columbia that constantly buzzed with activity. He also had an unerring knack for jumping on a hot news topic or popular trend, slapping a catchy title on it, then writing a story around it using a well-trodden formula. The results were quickie programmers that reached the public with lightning speed, playing to audiences before the topic or trend had time to fade.
Such was the case with A Yank in Korea. According to Time, the movie had its genesis in a Columbia executive's wish for a Korean picture shortly after the conflict began. Katzman responded with the title off the top of his head, no doubt influenced by the World War II Fox hit A Yank in the RAF (1941), another military drama with an arrogant hotshot hero (Tyrone Power) at its center. Katzman had his war story done and ready for distribution in six weeks and two days.
The story, filmed under the working title "Rookie in Korea," was apparently inspired by a real-life event, or at least Katzman found in it a good way to market his film. A Yank in Korea opens with the following dedication written on screen: "Early in August, 1950, PFC John J. McCormick, of Collindale, PA, wrote a letter to his wife and two children. On August 10, 1950 PFC McCormick was killed in action. The text of the letter is destined to become an historic document. While no events in this film are intended to portray the life of PFC McCormick, the picture was inspired by his letter, and is respectfully dedicated to his memory."
Lon McCallister, only 27 when he starred in this film, was already nearing the end of his career. A popular adolescent actor of the 30s and 40s, McCallister graduated to bigger roles in such pictures as Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948) and The Story of Seabiscuit (1949), in which his boyish looks and diminutive stature (5'6") served him well in the role of a jockey who wins the heart of a grown-up Shirley Temple. It has often been said that McCallister's enduring youthfulness and lack of height were responsible for fewer opportunities as he got older, but the same factors didn't hurt the career of Alan Ladd. Possibly, McCallister's sexuality played a key part as well. He was allegedly involved romantically with actor William Eythe, a relationship that reportedly incurred the wrath of 20th Century Fox head Darryl Zanuck and cost Eythe his contract with that studio. Whatever the reason, McCallister made only two more feature films and a few television appearances after A Yank in Korea. He did quite well for himself post-Hollywood, making a sizable fortune in real estate and investments, and died in 2005.
McCallister's wife in A Yank in Korea is played by Sunny Vickers, who only made four movies but whose private life kept her in the headlines for a few years. Around the time of this picture's release, Vickers was dating another former child star, Scotty Beckett. She became pregnant, and the two wed a few months later. Unlike McCallister, Beckett was never able to make a transition into a life beyond Hollywood, and he and Vickers slipped into a downward spiral of alcoholism, drugs, and run-ins with the law. She divorced him in 1957 shortly after checking into a rehab facility and died in 1968, not yet 40 years old.
Director: Lew Landers
Producer: Sam Katzman
Screenplay: William Sackheim, story by Leo Lieberman
Cinematography: William P. Whitley
Editing: Edwin H. Bryant
Art Direction: Paul Palmentola
Cast: Lon McCallister (Andy Smith), William "Bill" Phillips (Sgt. Kirby), Brett King (Milo Pagano), Larry Stewart (Sollie Kaplan), William Tannen (Lt. Lewis).
by Rob Nixon
A Yank in Korea
The working title of the film was Rookie in Korea. The film opens with the following written dedication: "Early in August, 1950, PFC John J. McCormick, of Collindale, PA, wrote a letter to his wife and two children. On August 10, 1950 PFC McCormick was killed in action. The text of the letter is destined to become an historic document. While no events in this film are intended to portray the life of PFC McCormick, the picture was inspired by his letter, and is respectfully dedicated to his memory."