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Clint Eastwood Film Angers Korean War Veterans

July 1, 1986

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Korean War veterans are fighting mad about Clint Eastwood’s upcoming film ″Heartbreak Ridge,″ claiming it inaccurately gives the Marines credit for winning one of the Army’s bloodiest battles.

″It’s a pretty rotten deal″ because the script depicts Eastwood’s character as a modern-day Marine Corps sergeant who won a medal during the battle at Heartbreak Ridge, said Seymour ″Hoppy″ Harris of Macedon, N.Y., a member of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Regiment that captured the ridge.

″The Army fought very valiantly for that ridge and lost a lot of men,″ while only a few Marines were involved indirectly during the battle that raged in North Korean territory from Sept. 13 to Oct. 13, 1951, said one of the Marines, Edward L. Barker, of Crockett, Texas.

Barker, who won a Silver Star for his futile attempt as a helicopter pilot to rescue a Marine F4-U pilot who crashed on the ridge, called Eastwood’s film ″strictly fraud for portraying a Marine for getting a medal for fighting at Heartbreak Ridge.″

Because of the controversy, the Defense Department plans to ask Eastwood’s film company, Malpaso Productions, to consider changing the movie’s title, said Donald Baruch, a special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.

″The title is not appropriate for the script that they have,″ Baruch said in a telephone interview Tuesday from the Pentagon.

Joe Hyams, a vice president at Warner Bros. Pictures and spokesman for the film, said he couldn’t speculate on whether the title will be changed before Warner releases the movie this Christmas. The film company just completed scenes in the Caribbean and will resume filming near the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton, in California, next week, said Hyams.

He said that in ″no way would he (Eastwood) wish to misrepresent the services which were responsible for that battle.″

Barker’s son, Hal, of Dallas, is writing a book about the battle and said he received several calls from veterans who ″don’t appreciate the fact that history is being rewritten. If you saw 800 of your friends die on a ridge line, you wouldn’t want somebody to rewrite that story.″

The younger Barker said the battle probably was the ″last great attack″ by American and French troops and among the bloodiest of the Korean conflict, with a death toll of about 800 Americans and French, at least 200 to 300 South Koreans and ″thousands and thousands″ of North Koreans.

The original script of ″Heartbreak Ridge″ called for Eastwood to portray an Army sergeant, said Baruch and Hyams, who declined to reveal plot details.

But ″the Army just didn’t like the way the script was put together and some of the action and characterizations,″ so the film company ″took it to the Marine Corps,″ Baruch said.

Bill Temple, a Bryn Mawr, Pa., resident who was wounded before his regiment fought at Heartbreak Ridge, predicted that veterans would picket theaters showing the film if the title and inaccuracies aren’t corrected.

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