Red Ball Express is a 1952 World War II war film directed by Budd Boetticher and starring Jeff Chandler. The film is based on the real Red Ball Express convoys that took place after the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944. The tag line for the movie is "From beachhead to battlefront! They carry the ammo for Pattons Tanks!"
August 1944: proceeding with the invasion of France, Patton's Third Army has advanced so far toward Paris that it cannot be supplied. To keep up the momentum, Allied HQ establishes an elite military truck route.
August 1944: proceeding with the invasion of France, Pattons Third Army has advanced so far toward Paris that it cannot be supplied. To keep up the momentum, Allied HQ establishes an elite military truck route. One (racially integrated) platoon of this Red Ball Express encounters private enmities, German resistance, minefields, and increasingly perilous missions.
Lt Chick Campbell, head of the platoon, clashes with Sgt Red Kallek over an incident when they were civilians where Kalleks brother died.
General Gordon, played by Howard Petrie, appears to have been based on General Patton, although Patton is also specifically mentioned in the film. Major General Frank Ross, who was in charge of the real Red Ball Express, acted as a technical adviser.
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Jeff Chandler - Lt. Chick Campbell
Alex Nicol - Sgt. Red Kallek
Charles Drake - Pvt. Ronald Partridge/narrator
Judith Braun - Joyce McClellan
Sidney Poitier - Cpl. Andrew Robertson
Jaqueline Duval - Antoinette Dubois
Bubber Johnson - Pvt. Taffy Smith
Davis Roberts - Pvt. Dave MCord
Hugh OBrian - Pvt. Wilson
Frank Chase - Pvt. Higgins
Cindy Garner - Kitty Walsh
Gregg Palmer - Tank Lieutenant
John Hudson - Tank Sergeant Max
Howard Petrie - Maj. Gen. Lee Gordon
Almost 75% of Red Ball Express drivers were African Americans, able-bodied soldiers who had been previously attached to various units for other duties. In the making of the film, Director Budd Boetticher claimed that:
The army wouldnâ€™t let us tell the truth about the black troops because the government figured they were expendable. Our government didnâ€™t want to admit they were kamikaze pilots. They figured if one out of ten trucks got through, theyâ€™d save Patton and his tanks.