Miller didn’t agonize, either about the initial decision to assault the machine gun nest, or its consequence. He knew he was taking the correct action; the movie made that clear. The death of Wade did not foil his decision, the movie also made that clear.
I don’t think that agonize is the correct word, he was decisive, but it’s clearly hard for him to deal with sending men to their deaths and he talks about that in the next scene I believe. 90 men are how many he lost up to that point.
That’s why military commanders are so worthy of respect. Civilian leaders, even those in high office, often think that life is as simple as “make the correct decision everything is awesome, make the bad decision everything sucks”, but people in the military know that the right call often has horrendous results.
It is indeed one of the, arguably the key scene of the film because it’s of course countered by the whole idea that their mission was to save one guy’s life (just not that guy). War is hell…
I guess we could argue over what’s the correct word, but I don’t think anyone would disagree that it was, as Quercus says, a tough call. And I guess we all bring our own things to it but I doubt there would be many people who in that situation would know what the right/best thing to do would be. Seems like a classic damned if you do damned if you don’t situation.
Since we’re on this: Another thing that happens in that scene is that, after the hill assault is over, the squad takes the time to bury the dead boys they first came across, even making the German gunner dig the graves. My question is, how true to form would this have been. That is, would it have been common for a squad on a mission like that to stop and take time out to bury dead friendlies? I know it is a decent thing to do, but given the circumstances, would it be advisable? And that brings up another question, if you’re OK with taking time out of your mission to bury the dead after the assault, why were you not OK with taking time out before the assault to go back to the rally point to notify others about the gun, or to get more fellows for the attack?
They should have had Barry Pepper just start sniping the position to cut down on numbers while the rest of the squad flanked. He was a good enough shot for it.
I suspect it’s because they intended to commit a war crime, and Capt. Miller seemed at first to be on the same page with them. Order the German to bury the bodies, then shoot him and throw him in the grave too, cover it up. That was the German MO in a lot of situations. But given some time to compose himself and the arguments of Upham, he does the right thing.
I just finished reading Audey Murphy’s book “To Hell and back”. In the book, he states that when his squad came across friendly bodies during a general advance, they would strip them of food and ammo, maybe cover them with a raincoat, bedroll, tablecloth, or something, but that’s it. Nearby, they would stick a rifle upright into the ground with a helmet perched on it, if necessary, as a marker for the graves personnel.
On a patrol into (or just behind) enemy lines, they usually left the dead were they lay, as they usually in close proximity to an angry enemy.
Rain ponchos or a shelter half if the deceased had one or the other.