If any soldiers in the world can take it, we'll take the Ant Hill.
Stick to the stories you've told me, and don't let the prosecutor shake you out of them. Now remember, you'll be soldiers in the presence of superior officers, so act like what you are - soldiers! - and brave ones at that...When you answer questions, look the judges in the eye, don't whine, plead, or make speeches. That's my job. Simple statements, short, but make them so they can be heard all over the room and try not to repeat yourselves. I'll do that for you when I sum up.
There are times when I am ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion...I protest against being prevented from introducing evidence that I consider vital to the defense, the prosecution presented no witnesses, there has never been a written indictment of charges made against the defendants, and lastly, I protest against the fact that no stenographic record of this trial has been kept. The attack yesterday morning was no stain on the honor of France, but this court-martial is such a stain...Gentlemen of the court, to find these men guilty will be a crime to haunt each of you to the day you die. I can't believe that the noblest impulse in man, his compassion for another, can be completely dead here. Therefore, I humbly beg you to show mercy to these men.
[to Broulard] What would your, er, newspapers and your politicians do with that?...you are in a difficult position. Too much has happened. Someone's got to be hurt. The only question is who. General Mireau's assault on the Ant Hill failed. His order to fire on his own troops was refused. But his attempt to murder three innocent men to protect his own reputation will be prevented by the General's staff.
It's out of the question, George. Absolutely out of the question. My division was cut to pieces. What's left of it is in no position to even hold the Ant Hill, let alone take it. I'm sorry, but that's the truth.
Nothing is beyond those men once their fighting spirit is aroused...We might just do it!
Hello there soldier, ready to kill more Germans?
Looking over your rifle, I see? Well, that's the way. It's a soldier's best friend. You be good to it and it will always be good to you.
Naturally, men are gonna have to be killed, possibly a lot of them. They'll absorb bullets and shrapnel, and by doing so make it possible for others to get through...say five percent killed by our own barrage - that's a very generous allowance. Ten percent more again in no man's land, and twenty percent more again into the wire. That leaves sixty-five percent, and the worst part of the job over. Let's say another twenty-five percent in actually taking the Ant Hill - we're still left with a force more than adequate to hold it.
Miserable cowards, they're not advancing...they're still in the trenches!
If those little sweethearts won't face German bullets, they'll face French ones!
[about Rousseau] In cases like this, shells falling short, I-I always try to avoid an inquiry. It gets around among the men and makes a bad impression. Now, shelving will be the best discipline for him in my opinion.
Get off this fancy talk with me, do you understand? General Broulard seemed to think you were funny. I don't. I want you to drop this affair...Colonel Dax, when this mess is cleaned up, I'll break you...I'll ruin you. And it'll be just what you deserve, showing such little loyalty to your commanding officer.
[to Broulard] You're making me the goat. The only completely innocent man in this whole affair. I have only one last thing to say to you, George. The man you stabbed in the back is a soldier.
Maybe the attack against the Ant Hill was impossible. Perhaps it was an error of judgment on our part. On the other hand, if your men had been a little more daring, you might have taken it. Who knows? Why should we have to bear more criticism and failure than we have to?...These executions will be a perfect tonic for the entire division. There are few things more fundamentally encouraging and stimulating than seeing someone else die...You see, Colonel, troops are like children. Just as a child wants his father to be firm, troops crave discipline. And one way to maintain discipline is to shoot a man now and then.
[to Dax, about Mireau] Well, it had to be done. France cannot afford to have fools guiding her military destiny.
Narrator: War began between Germany and France on August 3, 1914. Five weeks later, the German army had smashed its way to within 18 miles of Paris. There the battered French miraculously rallied their forces at the Marne River, and in a series of unexpected counterattacks, drove the Germans back. The Front was stabilized and shortly afterward developed into a continuous line of heavily fortified trenches zigzagging their way five hundred miles from the English Channel to the Swiss frontier. By 1916, after two grisly years of trench warfare, the battle lines had changed very little. Successful attacks were measured in hundreds of yards - and paid for in lives by hundreds of thousands.
Lt. Roget: "It's impossible, sir. All the men are falling back.
Judge: This is a general courtmartial and we shall therefore dispense with unnecessary formalities. These men are charged with cowardice in the face of the enemy and will be tried for that offense... The indictment is lengthy and there's no point in reading it. The indictment is that the accused showed cowardice in the face of the enemy during the attack on the Ant Hill.
Saint-Auban: And I submit that the attack was a stain on the flag of France, a blot on the honor of every man, woman, and child in the French nation. It is to us that the sad, distressing, repellent duty falls, gentlemen. I ask this court to find the accused guilty...
Ferol: What do I have to die for, Father?...I'm scared, I'm scared!
Mireau: I am responsible for the lives of 8,000 men. What is my ambition against that? What is my reputation in comparison to that? My men come first of all, George. And those men know it, too.
Broulard: I know that they do.
Mireau: You see, George, those men know that I would never let them down.
Broulard: That goes without saying.
Mireau: The life of one of those soldiers means more to me than all the stars and decorations and honors in France.
Mireau: There is no such thing as shell shock!
Soldier: Yes, I have a wife...I'm never going to see her again. I'm going to be killed.
[Mireau slaps the soldier]
Mireau: Sergeant, I want you to arrange for the immediate transfer of this baby out of my regiment. I won't have any of our brave men contaminated by him.
Mireau: I never got in the habit of sitting. I like to be on my feet. Keep on the move...I can't understand these arm-chair officers, fellas trying to fight a war from behind a desk, waving papers at the enemy, worrying about whether a mouse is gonna run up their pants leg.
Dax: I don't know, General. If I had the choice between mice and Mausers, I think I'd take the mice every time.
Roget: I thought you'd been killed.
Paris: You didn't wait around to find out, did you Lieutenant?
Roget: Now look here, what do you mean?
Paris: I mean you ran like a rabbit after you killed Lejeune.
Roget: Killed Lejeune? What are you talking about? I don't think I like your tone. You're speaking to an officer, remember that.
Paris: Oh, well, I must be mistaken then, sir. An officer wouldn't do that. A man wouldn't do it. Only a thing would - a sneaky, booze-guzzling, yellow-bellied rat with a bottle for a brain and a streak of spit where his spine ought to be. You've got yourself into a mess, Lieutenant.
Roget: Have you ever tried to bring charges against an officer? It's my word against yours, you know, and whose word do you think they're gonna believe - or, let me put it another way, whose word do you think they're going to accept?
Mireau: [ordering artillary fire on his own men] The troops are mutinying, refusing to advance!
[Rousseau refuses the order twice, before demanding to see it in writing]
Rousseau: Supposing you're killed. Then where will I be?
Mireau: You'll be in front of a firing squad tomorrow morning, that's where you'll be. Hand over your command and report yourself under arrest to my headquarters.
Dax: They're not cowards, so if some of them didn't leave the trenches, it must have been because it was impossible.
Mireau: They were ordered to attack. It was their duty to obey that order. We can't leave it up to the men to decide when an order is possible or not. If it was impossible, the only proof of that would be their dead bodies lying in the bottom of the trenches. They are scum, Colonel, the whole rotten regiment; a pack of sneaking, whining, tail-dragging curs.
Dax: Do you really believe that, sir?
Mireau: Yes, I do. That's exactly what I believe. And what's more, it's an incontestable fact.
Dax: Then why not shoot the entire regiment? I'm perfectly serious...If it's an example you want, then take me...One man will do as well as a hundred. The logical choice is the officer most responsible for the attack.
Saint-Auban: Did you advance?...How far did you advance?
Ferol: To about the middle of no man's land, sir.
Saint-Auban: Then what did you do?
Ferol: ...Well, I saw that me and Meyer, sir...
Saint-Auban: I didn't ask you what you saw. The court has no concern with your visual experiences...
Ferol: I went back, sir.
Saint-Auban: In other words, Private Ferol, you retreated.
Ferol: Yes, sir.
Saint-Auban: Did you urge your fellow soldiers forward?
Arnaud: Most of them were dead or wounded before they got three steps beyond the trenches.
Dax: Why didn't you leave the trenches?
Paris: Major Vignon was shot, and he fell back on top of me, sir, and knocked me cold.
Dax: And were you lying unconscious in the trenches during the entire attack?
Paris: Yes, sir.
Judge: Have you any witnesses to that?
Paris: No, sir. I guess everybody was too busy to notice me. There were so many others lying dead anyway.
Judge: But you have no witnesses?
Paris: No, sir. I only have a rather large cut on my head, sir.
Judge: That could have been self-inflicted later.
Paris: See that cockroach? Tomorrow morning we'll be dead and it'll be alive. It will have more contact with my wife and child than I will. I'll be nothing, and it'll be alive.
Ferol: [crushes the cockroach] Now you've got the edge on him.
Priest: Have faith in your Creator - Death comes to us all.
Arnaud: That's really deep! Death comes to us all. [holds up his whiskey bottle] This is my religion.
Sergeant: There will be a lot of dignitaries, newspapermen out there. You've got a wife and family. How do you want to be remembered?...Many of us will be joining you before this war is over.
Paris: I don't want to die.
Mireau: I'm awfully glad you could be there, George. This sort of thing is always rather grim but this one had a kind of splendor to it, don't you think?
Broulard: I have never seen an affair of this sort handled any better.
Mireau: The men died wonderfully! There's always that chance that one of them will do something that will leave everyone with a bad taste. This time, you couldn't ask for better.
Dax: Let me get this straight, sir. You’re offering me General Mireau’s command?
Broulard: Come, come, Colonel Dax. Don't overdo the surprise. You've been after the job from the start. We all know that, my boy!
Dax: I may be many things, sir. But I am not your boy.
Broulard:Well, I certainly didn’t mean to imply any biological relationship.
Dax: I’m not your boy in any sense.
Broulard: Are you trying to provoke me colonel?
Dax: Why should I want to do that?
Broulard: Exactly. It would be a pity to lose your promotion before you get it - a promotion you have so very carefully planned for.
Colonel Dax: Sir, would you like me to suggest what you can do with that promotion?
Broulard: Colonel Dax, you will apologize at once or you shall be placed under arrest!
Dax: I apologize for not being entirely honest with you. I apologize for not revealing my true feelings. I apologize, sir, for not telling you sooner that you're a degenerate, sadistic old man. AND YOU CAN GO TO HELL BEFORE I APOLOGIZE TO YOU NOW OR EVER AGAIN!
Broulard: Colonel Dax, you're a disappointment to me. You've spoiled the keenness of your mind by wallowing in sentimentality. You really did want to save those men, and you were not angling for Mireau's command. You are an idealist - and I pity you as I would the village idiot. We're fighting a war, Dax, a war that we've got to win. Those men didn't fight, so they were shot. You bring charges against General Mireau, so I insist that he answer them. Wherein have I done wrong?
Dax: Because you don't know the answer to that question, I pity you.