It would be a pity to lose your promotion before you get it. A promotion you have so very carefully planned for.
Sir, would you like me to suggest what you can do with that promotion?
Colonel Dax! You will apologize at once or I shall have you placed under arrest!
[with building anger]
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!
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?
Because you don't know the answer to that question. I pity you.
General, according to first reports,
the attack has failed all along the line.
The men are falling back to our own trenches.
Major Saint-Auban, arrange for
the immediate relief of the 701st Regiment.
Have them sent to the Château d'Aigle.
Have Colonel Dax report to my headquarters.
- Yes, sir.
- Major Couderc, assemble
a general court-martial.
Have it ready to meet
at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon.
If those little sweethearts won't face
German bullets, they'll face French ones!
I ordered an attack.
Your troops refused to attack.
Our troops did attack, sir,
but they could make no headway.
Because they didn't try, Colonel.
I saw it myself.
Half of your men never left the trenches.
A third of my men were pinned down
because the fire was so intense.
Don't quibble over fractions, Colonel.
The fact remains that a good part of your men
never left their own trenches.
Colonel Dax, I'm going to have 10 men
from each company in your regiment...
tried under penalty of death for cowardice.
- Penalty of death?
- For cowardice!
They have skimmed milk in their veins
instead of blood.
Then it's the reddest milk I've ever seen.
My trenches are soaked
with that red skimmed milk.
- That’s just about enough out of you, Colonel!
- I'm not gonna mince words
and stand on protocol -
Colonel Dax, if you continue in this manner,
I shall have to place you under arrest.
I believe the colonel has a point,
even though he makes it rather bluntly.
This is not a trial,
but it does bear certain aspects of one.
And Colonel Dax, technically,
is cast in the role of the defense.
In view of the gravity of the charges...
a court of law would grant him
all possible latitude in presenting his case.
Latitude is one thing.
I am merely offering an opinion, General.
Please do not feel constrained to accept it.
I am perfectly willing to accept it,
I'm sorry, sir.
I certainly didn't intend to be insubordinate.
My only aim is to remind you
of the heroism these men have shown...
on every occasion in the past.
We're not talking about the past.
We're talking about the present.
But don't you see, sir?
They're not cowards.
So if some of them didn't leave the trenches,
it must have been because it was impossible.
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 at the bottom of the trenches.
They're scum, Colonel.
The whole rotten regiment -
a pack of sneaking, whining,
- Do you really believe that, sir?
- Yes, I do. That's exactly what I believe.
And what's more,
it's an incontestable fact.
Then why not shoot the entire regiment?
- I'm perfectly serious.
- Now, Colonel, you're missing
the point entirely.
We don't want to slaughter the French army.
All we want to do is to set an example.
Oh, well, if it's an example you want,
then take me.
- Take you?
- Yes, sir, if it's an example you want...
one man will do as well as a hundred.
The logical choice is the officer
most responsible for the attack.
Come now, Colonel.
I think you’re overwrought.
This is not a question of officers.
Paul, we don't want to overdo this thing.
Suppose we just make it a dozen.
I was talking of a hundred men,
and now we're down to 12.
Paul, let's not haggle over this thing anymore!
Let's get it settled once and for all
so that we can all live with it.
Well, perhaps I was a bit too anxious
to see proper justice meted out.
I've spent my entire life in the army.
I've always tried to be true to my principles.
That's the only mistake
I can ever be accused of.
I'll settle for this -
have the company commanders
select one man from each company
in the first wave...
Clip duration: 210 seconds
Movie: Paths of Glory
Genres: drama, war
Summary: After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them.