"You play the gutless wonder just once more and I lose men because of it, I'll come back and I'll get you, Cooney. I'll shove this grenade down your throat and pull the pin!"
Description: Jack Palance as Lt. Joe Costa threatens Captain Erskine Cooney (Eddie Albert) in the World War II war film Attack! (1956).
Lt. Joe Costa is part of Fox Company, a National Guard Infantry Unit fighting the Germans in 1944 during the close of World War II. His commander, Captain Cooney, an inexperienced, incompetent, frightened shell of a man often clashes with Lt. Costa who is battle tested and respected by all of his fellow soldiers.
"This is a story of men at war...The story every soldier knew, but none dare tell...this is war as you've never smelled it...tasted it...seen it before...This is the raw, naked face of battle...where not everyone is a hero...and not every gun is pointed at the enemy!...This is war, stripped of everything but TRUTH! The war story so hot that no one dared film it till now. " - Movie Trailer
Lt. Col. Clyde Bartlett (Lee Marvin) oversees the operations. He knows that Captain Cooney is a coward, but he ignores Cooney's incompetence because he knows that Cooney's father is an influential judge who could benefit his own post-war political ambitions. Meanwhile, Executive Officer, Lt. Harold Woodruff (William Smithers) knows that Cooney is not fit for service and tries to get him re-assigned to a desk job behind the lines.
"When you salute them two, you have to apologize to your arm." - Pvt. Bernstein [referring to Bartlett and Cooney]
After Cooney refuses to send reinforcements to support troops in combat, as promised, Costa's sets out to fulfill his promise to shove a grenade down Cooney's throat and pull the pin. But before Costa has the chance for his revenge, he becomes MIA during the confusion of a retreat.
"We don't drink with another man unless we respect him." Sgt. Tolliver [to Capt. Cooney]
Meanwhile, the Germans force American troops to hold up in the Belgian town of La Nelle. Costa finds his way back to the fight and grabs a bazooka to disable a German tank. As he does, he is knocked down and a tank tread crushes his arm. But Costa is determined to find Cooney and kill him. He uses his last ounce of energy and enters a basement where Cooney and some other soldiers held up. But before he can kill Cooney, he collapses and dies. Cooney mockingly kicks away Costa's gun which angers Woodruff and the other soldiers.
When Cooney suggests they surrender to the Germans, Woodruff says he will kill Cooney if he tries. As Cooney exits the cellar, Woodruff shots and kills the cowardly Captain. Supportive of Woodruff, the rest of the soldiers fire more bullets into the already dead man's body.
When Col. Bartlett arrives with Allied reinforcements, he finds Cooney dead, kicks his carcass and remarks, "So the old judge wanted a son, huh? Looks like he had to lose one to get one."
With some suspicions, Bartlett buys the story concocted by the soldiers that Cooney was killed by the Germans. Later, Bartlett promotes Woodruff to Captain and advises against going to General Parsons with stories about what may or may not have actually happened in the field. But when Bartlett suggests nominating Cooney for the Distinguished Service Cross, Woodruff can not allow the memory of Lt. Costa and the other fallen men to be insulted by such an act and so he calls division headquarters to report the true story of Cooney's death and Col. Bartlett's involvement in the whole affair.