Courage Under Fire

1996 film directed by Edward Zwick

Courage Under Fire is a 1996 American action drama film about a US Army tank officer assigned to investigate a case of a deceased female medevac pilot whose heroic feat may put her in line as the first female Medal of Honor awardee.

Directed by Edward Zwick. Written by Patrick Sheane Duncan.
In wartime, the first casualty is always truth.taglines

Lt. Col. Nathaniel Serling

  • I work at the Pentagon, Sergeant, so I'll admit I'm a little slow on the uptake, otherwise I'd say that you just threatened me. Did you just threaten me, soldier? Because if you did, let me respond to you... [turns off tape recorder] Let me respond to you this way. I'm an officer, and therefore, by proclamation, a gentleman, but don't abuse that, son. Don't get in my crosshairs, because I'll have no compunction whatsoever about getting up to my neck in yo' ass. Do you understand me?

Staff Sergeant John Monfriez

  • Sir, if you get a hangfire on your weapon, what do you do? You wait, with your weapon pointed in a safe direction, 'cause sometimes the primer bursts, and if you open the chamber it blows up in your face. Leave this round in the chamber, sir.

Capt. Karen Walden

  • [to Monfriez, after she's been shot in the abdomen] I gave birth to a nine-pound baby, asshole. I think I can handle it.
  • [in letter to loved ones] Dear Mom and Dad, well, this is it - the big push. Looks like it's gonna really happen. And I'm afraid, not of being hurt or killed, well, kind of, but not much. My only regret will be to never see you two again and that I'll never see Anne Marie grow up. But I know she's in good hands, the best. What I'm really afraid of is that I might let my people down, my crew. These people depend on me. They put their lives in my hands. I just can't fail 'em. Now, I know if you get this letter, it means I'm dead. I only hope that I've made you proud, that I did my job, and I didn't let down my country, my crew, my fellow soldiers. I love you guys. Never stop telling Anne Marie how much I love her. Your daughter, Karen.


  • Specialist Ilario: It's not the doing shit that gets to you. It's the consequences. Imagine a life without consequences.


Nathaniel Serling: Will there be a public statement of the facts when the Al Bathra investigation is over sir?
General Hershberg: There's been a decision not to release any of these findings until every case has been thoroughly reviewed.
Serling: [pause] Well how long do you imagine that will be sir? I mean the next time I see Lieutenant Boylar's parents, I'd like to be able to tell them the whole truth.
Hershberg: Do you want to know how many grieving parents I had to deal with during Vietnam?
Serling: With all due respect sir, this is not Vietnam. Lieutenant Boylar's tank was hit by uranium-depleted shells. We're the only country in the world that uses them. We got these reporters from the Washington Post sniffing around his parents, looking for the truth, and the only person that knows the truth is not allowed to say it because these investigators are dragging their backsides. Someone has got to be accountable for this. [pause] Sir.

Monfriez: [grabbing a recruit leaving an obstacle] Just what the fuck do you think you're doing, soldier? Where are your men?
Recruit: Right there, sir!
Monfriez: Yeah? What do you call that? [gestures to one man who still hasn't made it through the obstacle] You see that man? You and he are brothers! He depends on you! You depend on him! You never leave a man behind!

[Serling and Monfriez go on a drive]
Monfriez: [points a pistol at the colonel while driving] You ever kill anyone at close range with a small arm, sir? [Serling shakes his head]It's messy. [they stop at a railroad crossing] No. We're not talking about one of your great big tank guns here. Oh, that's OK. I know what you did. Your own men. Guys under your command. How'd it feel? Bad, right?
Nathaniel Serling: Very bad, son.
Monfriez:[face becomes more distressed] Very bad. And you didn't even mean to kill them. [Serling shakes his head] I've been a good soldier. A good soldier. [hears oncoming] Listen to that whistle. Johnny "Night Train" Monfriez. Say it.
Serling: Johnny "Night Train" Monfriez. [Monfriez tries to keep his composure]
Monfriez: Now get out.
Serling: You don't want to do this, son. Let me help you.
Monfriez: It's too late.
Nathaniel Serling: It's never too late. Look at me. Things get fucked up in war. I don't give a damn what happened to you. You can't do this.
Monfriez: Wrong! I can't do anything else.
Nathaniel Serling: Yes, you can. You can put the car in reverse. Put the gun down. We can help each other. I don't want to lose another good soldier. [tries to hold the hand with the pistol]
Monfriez: [cocks pistol and aims it at Serling] I strongly urge you to dismount the vehicle, sir! [Serling gets down and Monfriez leaves to drive onto the train]
Nathaniel Serling: Monfriez. Monfriez!
Monfriez: Aah! [dies in a collision with the train]

[Serling and Hershberg listen to an audiotape of radio communications of a tank battle at al Bathrah, and Serling remembers how the battle turned out well]
Tony Gartner: General, Colonel Serling's order to activate lights, was that a standard response to enemy infiltration of the lines?
General Hershberg: At the critical moment, in spite of terrible losses, Colonel Serling didn't hesitate to act. Ordering those tanks to turn on their lights saved the lives of God knows how many of our men. Heroic acts arise out of desperate circumstances.
Gartner: I have no trouble at all believing Colonel Serling is a hero.
Hershberg: Like Captain Karen Walden. Did you know, Mr Gartner, that for the first time, a woman is being considered for the Medal of Honor for her performance under fire? And, um... Colonel Serling is just finishing up the inquiry. How's that going, Nat?
Serling: I think, uh... in order to honor a soldier like Karen Walden, we have to tell the truth, General, about what happened over there. The whole, hard... cold truth. And until we do that, uh, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. [stands up, walks over to General Hershberg and throws his very thick report on the desk to the general's surprise] My full report, General.

[Serling visits Captain Boylar's parents]
Don Boylar: I guess we've been expecting you.
Nathaniel Serling: Ahem. First of all, let me, um. Let me just say that, uh, there was nothing that, uh, Tom and I wouldn't do for each other. Nothing. He was a good soldier. He was like a brother to me. That night, uh, 25 February, there were enemy tanks in our lines. We thought... I... I thought that, uh, Tom's tank was an enemy tank. And, uh... I gave the order to fire. God help me. I, um... Yeah, I killed him. As for the funeral, the lies the Army told, and the lies that I told, to you, I can only beg for your forgiveness. As far as the, as far as that night, um, I guess there's no way that, uh, I can even begin to ask you to forgive me.
Boylar: I know that, but it's a burden you're going to have to put down sometime.
Serling: Thank you, sir.


  • In wartime, the first casualty is always truth.
  • A medal for honor. A search for justice. A battle for truth.


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