A Soldier's Story (1984) Movie Script

Look here, boy, I want you out.
Yeah! Play it, Luther!
Oh, honey, play it.
Play it soft now, Luther.
See, that's what I was trying to tell you...
He's so drunk.
He's drunk.
What in the hell does he think he's doing?
That drunken...
They still...
...hate you.
They still...
...hate you.
You can put your arms down
when the search team finishes with you.
We don't want anybody from this fort
going into Tynin looking for rednecks.
- May I speak, sir?
- Cobb?
Colonel Nivens must know
nobody colored killed the Sarge.
Well, this is precautionary, Cobb.
We can't have the Army
engaged in revenge on civilians.
- Sir, are there any suspects?
- None.
Come on, now.
Everybody knows it was the Klan.
Were you an eyewitness, soldier?
They lynched Jefferson the week
I got here. Two weeks after that it was...
Unless you saw it,
you keep your opinions to yourself.
Yes, sir.
- And that applies to everybody else.
- Yes, sir!
Tynin has been placed
off-limits to all enlisted personnel.
Come on, Captain.
Any man found in the town will be
immediately subject to court-martial.
Sergeant Waters' replacement
will be assigned in a couple of weeks.
Until then, Cobb...
...you're barrack's NCO. Any questions?
Carry on.
Now, what do you think?
Taylor and that goddamn colonel,
they know who killed Waters.
Anybody feel like playing with me
some Pitty Pat?
Wilkie, I thought all you could play
was flunky.
Yeah. Wilkie, whose ass
are you gonna kiss...
...now that your Number One ass is dead?
You know what you can do for me, Henson.
You too, Peterson.
- Take it easy.
- Look, I'm the one that lost three stripes.
I'm the only man here with kids.
So when the man said "jump," I jumped.
Come on, don't put your wife and kids
between you and Waters' ass.
I don't kiss nobody's ass, Henson.
I just wanted my stripes back.
You ain't never been no place.
You ain't never had nothin'.
You can't understand a man like me.
I was once top sergeant of this platoon.
Yeah? Well, now you ain't nothin'.
Nothin', Wilkie.
Recruits, over here.
Let me see your passes. Let's go!
Wake up, boy!
You said Tynin, didn't you?
Come on, boy.
Let's go!
Captain Davenport?
Corporal Ellis, at your disposal, sir.
I'm to take you to Colonel Nivens, sir.
- Well, let's get rolling, soldier.
- Yes, sir.
Yes, sir, Captain Davenport.
We're rolling, Captain.
This is where they killed
Sergeant Waters last month, sir.
Why did you say,
"They" killed him, Corporal?
Who's "they"?
The Klan, sir. They ain't too crazy
about us tan Yanks down here.
I suppose whoever drove you in
from the station...
...showed you the spot
where the killing took place.
Told you I had all the troops'
personal effects searched for weapons.
He tell you all that?
Is there a point
the colonel is trying to make, sir?
There's a point.
This thing has been blown
all the hell out of shape.
This is the Army's business.
Not the NAACP.
Not the Negro press.
Not those paper-shufflin'
desk jockeys in Washington.
I was brought up in the South, Davenport.
You ever hear of Threadgill County,
No, sir.
No matter.
I've been commanding colored troops
all my life, Davenport.
The worst thing you can do
in this part of the country...
...is pay too much attention to the death of
a Negro under mysterious circumstances.
Especially a soldier.
People get itchy. Uneasy.
White folk in the town,
colored at the fort...
...keep turning this thing over.
Sooner or later,
you're bound to have an explosion.
Now, I've lived here in Hunter Parish
for three years.
I'm fond of the place. I like the duty.
You get my meaning?
What is it you want, Colonel?
I want whatever you came here to do
completed in three days.
Sir, I request immediate permission
to notify Washington.
- Permission denied.
- I'm under direct orders...
I don't care if Roosevelt himself sent you!
I'm trying to keep my colored troops from
going into that town and killing somebody.
I don't care what you think.
You can always return to Washington
if you like.
No, sir. I was assigned this case
and I intend to file a report, sir.
Here are your instructions and our reports.
Captain Taylor's men will help you
get settled. Taylor was Waters' CO.
That'll be all, Davenport.
Remember, you're the first colored officer
most of these men have ever seen.
The Army expects you to set an example
for the colored troops...
...and be a credit to your race.
Is that clear, Captain?
Yes, Colonel.
Sir, are you all right?
- Would you like to go to your quarters?
- No, I'll see Captain Taylor first.
You don't want to unpack, sir?
Freshen up? It didn't go too good...
You got a hearing problem?
No, sir! My ears are big.
I was born with them.
It runs in my family.
My grandmother had big ears...
I used to drive a fire truck, Captain.
Then the Army took
and let me drive an ambulance.
I've been driving this jeep for six months.
Only turned over twice.
- Twice?
- Yes, sir.
Good afternoon, sir.
Sergeant Washington, sir.
Can I help you, Captain?
Captain Davenport to see Captain Taylor.
Just a moment, sir.
Captain Davenport to see you, sir.
Send him in.
Yes, sir.
Every member of the lodge
is rooting for you, sir.
- Have a seat.
- Thank you.
I like your flowers, Captain.
Where's he from?
He's from Washington, DC.
He's here on special assignment.
Yes, sir.
You gotta be shittin' me.
So, they assigned a lawyer
to the Military Police?
Where'd you graduate at law school?
Howard University.
Your parents rich or something?
No, my father's a mailman.
I graduated at the Point.
I didn't see any Negroes at the Point.
In fact, I never saw a Negro until I was...
...I think, 12 or 13.
Have you seen my orders, Captain?
Yes, as soon as Colonel Nivens
received them.
Look, I think it only fair to tell you...
...that had I known you'd be a Negro...
...I would have requested the immediate
suspension of the investigation.
- Now, look, may I speak freely?
- You haven't stopped yet.
Look, these local people aren't going
to charge a white man in this parish...
...on your say-so.
Nivens knows that.
He doesn't give a damn about this killing.
Your being here proves it.
They're making a fool out of you.
Can't you see?
Will you take off those damn sunglasses?
I like these. They're like MacArthur's.
All right now, look.
Let me explain something to you.
You go near Tynin in your uniform,
sounding white and charging local people...
...and you'll wind up
just as dead as Waters.
This isn't Washington, Davenport.
I know where I am.
Do you know how many times
I've asked Nivens to look into this killing?
Every day since it happened.
- Do you suspect someone?
- Don't play lawyer with me, soldier!
With you on this case,
we are not going to get anywhere.
Like it or not, Captain, I am all you've got.
Your orders instruct you to cooperate.
...is there anything else?
- Ellis!
- Yes, sir?
Captain Davenport will need
some assistance with the men.
- You'll excuse me, won't you, Captain?
- I'm glad I met you.
I hope we get to fight soon, sir.
Next, they'll have us picking
this year's cotton crop.
Don't worry, Corporal.
They don't grow much cotton in Germany.
Yes, sir.
How long was
Captain Taylor's investigation?
Two days, sir.
Two days? Who did he question?
Well, mostly guys who had contact
with Sarge that day: guys in his platoon...
...then anybody who could've seen him
on the road. Wasn't but a handful.
- Did you see him that day?
- Nope.
No, sir.
Did your sergeant drink a lot?
I didn't know him well enough to say, sir.
All right, soldiers,
let's get back to those exercises.
Haven't you ever seen
a colored officer before?
No, sir. Have you, sir?
This is it, sir.
The captain instructed everyone
in the sergeant's platoon to be here.
As you were.
Sergeant Waters' room is right there, sir.
I think I ought to tell you, sir:
Captain Taylor questioned
two white officers from this fort that night.
How do you know?
I delivered his report to Colonel Nivens, sir.
And on the way over, the jeep hit a hole.
The papers flew all over the road, and...
I just happened to notice it, sir.
Who are they?
No names, sir. Just the mentioning
of the questioning.
It seems they were on the road that night.
...don't let any more reports
fly away from you, Corporal.
No, sir.
Sir, may I say something, though?
It sure is good seeing one of us
wearing captain's bars, sir.
Call in the first man, Corporal.
Yes, sir.
Private Wilkie, Captain wants to see you!
Yes, indeedy. On my way.
Private Wilkie reports as ordered, sir.
Close the door.
- Have a seat.
- Yes, sir.
- I'm Captain Davenport. I'm conducting...
- We all know that, sir.
Word went out on the grapevine
you were here the minute you hit the fort.
I'm conducting an inquiry into the events
surrounding the death of Sergeant Waters.
The report I file will be confidential.
How long did you know the sergeant?
About a year, sir.
You see, this company, sir,
was basically a baseball team.
Most of the guys had played
in the Negro League, so...
...naturally, the Army put us all together.
The Army sent Sergeant Waters here
to manage the team in the summer of '42...
...right after the invasion of North Africa.
He'd been in Field Artillery,
a gunnery sergeant.
He had a FEF and an ETO,
a Croix de Guerre from World War I.
What kind of man was he?
He was all spit and polish, sir.
He took my stripes, sir,
but I was in the wrong.
Sergeant Wilkie.
You're a noncommissioned officer
in the Army of a country at war.
The penalty for being
drunk on duty is severe.
So don't bring me no:
"Us colored folks can't do nothin'
unless they're drunk" shit as an excuse.
You're supposed to be
an example to your men.
I'm going to put you in the stockade
for 10 days and take those stripes.
- Wait a minute, Sergeant...
- Teach you a lesson.
You're in the Army.
Colored folks always talkin'
about what they'll do...
...if the white man give 'em a chance.
You get it, and what do you do with it?
You wind up drunk on guard duty.
I don't blame the white man.
Why the hell should he put
colored and white together?
You can't even guard your own quarters.
- Wait a minute, Sergeant...
- Where's your pride?
Where's your respect for this uniform?
Get out of my sight, Private.
How was he with the other men?
Sometimes the Southern guys caught hell.
Sergeant wasn't too big
on guys from the South.
Me, I'm from Detroit.
Did you know that Joe Louis
got his start in Detroit?
What about the Southern men?
Sarge didn't like 'em. Except for CJ.
It could've been because
CJ was the best ballplayer on the team.
He could sing, too. Boy, could he sing.
"Well, it's a low-down
low-down dirty shame
"Yes, it's a low-down
low-down dirty shame
"They say we fightin' Hitler
But they won't let us in the game, Lord
"Yes, it's a low-down dirty shame
"Yes, it's a low-down dirty stinkin' shame"
Sing it for Big Mary, you little sweet thing.
"Left home to join this Army
Won't somebody tell me who's to blame?"
I'll tell you something, CJ, right now.
"I'm gonna kill my man
"Then I'm gonna turn around
and kill myself
"I'm gonna kill him with a razor
Yes, I am
"And then I'm going to use it on myself
"I'd rather see us both dead and buried
"Than see him with someone else
"Well, it's a low-down dirty shame
"Yes, it's a low-down
"dirty shame
"You ain't nothin' in this man's army
Till Big Mary knows your name"
All right. Drink up, boys.
A man can't make no money
when the US Army stops sippin'...
...so drink up now, 'cause I need a new car.
I'm gonna ask that boy something.
Come on, Wilkie.
You ever heard of Blind Willie Reynolds?
Son House?
I knew it.
I bet you're from Mississippi, too, ain't ya?
Yes, sir.
I used to hear him at the...
...Bandana Club outside Camp JJ Reilly.
Folks came from everywhere, Wilkie.
Folks would be dancing, sweating...
Reminded me of a place
I used to go in France.
The whiskey, the women.
Place called the Cafe Napoleon.
Where'd you learn to play, son?
My daddy taught me, Sarge.
You play pretty good, boy.
Wilkie, wasn't that good?
That was good, Sarge.
Take it easy, son.
I mostly agreed with the sergeant, sir.
He was a good man.
Good to his men.
Talked about his wife and kid all the time.
As a matter of fact,
he wrote home to his wife everyday.
I just don't see why anybody
would want to kill the Sarge.
See this?
My wife let a neighbor take this
just a couple of weeks ago.
Army's not for my son.
See, when this war is over,
things are gonna change.
I want him to be ready for it.
I'll send him to some big white college.
Let him rub elbows with the whites.
Learn the white man's language,
how he does things.
White don't rub off.
Well, what are we gonna do?
Stay behind in everything?
Hell, you can see it in the Army.
The white man's running rings around us.
Lot of us ain't had the chance
them white boys had, Sarge.
That ain't no excuse.
My daddy shoveled coal
from a wagon all his life.
Couldn't read or write,
but he saw to it that we did.
Now, not having
is no excuse for not getting.
You can't get pee from a tree, Sarge.
You're just like the rest of them, Wilkie:
ignorant, scared.
- Stop thinking like a nigger!
- Take it easy.
- All I said...
- Is the equipment ready for the game?
- No.
- Then see that it gets ready.
Here's to the war, gents.
To the war.
Two people, sir.
Mr. Warm and Mr. Cold.
But, deep down, a real nice guy.
You could always borrow $10 from him
if you needed it.
Did you see him the night he was killed?
I saw him in town, at the club, earlier.
But I left around 10:00.
He was juicin' pretty heavy.
Is it true, sir, that when they found him...
...his stripes and insignia
were still on the uniform?
Something's wrong, ain't it, sir?
I mean, those Klan boys, they can't stand
to see us in these uniforms.
They usually take the stripes
and stuff off before they lynch us.
That'll be all, Private.
Yes, sir.
Sir, can you do anything
about allotment cheques?
My wife didn't get hers last month.
Did you see the finance officer?
Yes, I did, sir.
Well, I'll...
I'll speak to Captain Taylor.
Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Yes indeedy.
Would you like me to send
the next man in?
Private First Class Melvin Peterson,
reporting as ordered, sir.
Sit down, Private.
Where are you from, Peterson?
Hollywood, California...
...by way of Alabama, sir.
You see, I enlisted in '42.
I thought we'd get a chance to fight, sir.
Did you know the sergeant well?
No, sir. He was already with the company
when I got assigned and...
...PFCs and sergeants,
we don't mix too well, sir.
You played ball for him.
Yes, sir. I played shortstop.
Did you like the sergeant?
No, sir.
It goes back to the team.
- Stone-ass felt that...
- "Stone-ass"?
I'm the only one who called him that, sir.
Sergeant Waters, sir.
Didn't mean no offence, sir.
When I got here,
the team had already won...
...9 or maybe 10 games in a row.
It was even rumored we'd get the chance
to play the Yankees in exhibition.
Anyway, we were playing
the 35th Ordinance this particular day.
It was a real big game, too.
The YWCA sent
a whole busload of women to see us.
A real big day, sir.
Let it fly there. Let's go, Pete.
Come on, batter, hit the ball.
That's a hell of a ballplayer.
Come on, hit it!
Throw another one up here.
Come on, CJ, next county.
Hell of a ballplayer! Did you see...
All right, CJ.
Come on, boy.
Did you see that ball?
I mean, did you see it go?
We played fairly well. I had two hits.
Smalls had a couple and CJ...
CJ was incredible.
We beat 'em something like 9, 10-0.
Like we always did after a game,
we went to the mess hall to celebrate.
Who was that fine river-hip thing
you was talkin' to before the game?
The woman had tits like two helmets.
- Did you see the size of them knockers?
- No, he didn't.
Smalls couldn't even see
a ball go right in his glove.
How the hell he gonna see CJ by the truck?
I saw CJ, man.
Will you all let CJ tell me
about this woman?
She looked mighty good to me, CJ.
All she asked me for was my autograph.
She looked like she was askin'
for more than that.
Moved in close.
Breathin' heavy.
Wavin' them tits all in your face.
He's right on that, CJ.
If I'd given that gal
what she asked me for...
...she'd give me somethin' I didn't want.
Around home, there's a fella
folks used to call Little Jimmy One-Leg...
...on account of his thing was so big.
A couple of years ago...
...a young pretty thing
laid clap on Jimmy so bad...
...he lost the one good leg he had.
Now folks just call him Little.
That pretty young thing talking
to me ain't look too clean.
Them dirty ones'll give you
the clap every time. Right, Henson?
I hear tell they're on the verge
of gettin' all of us together.
The colored, the white.
Say they want one army.
You can forget that, CJ.
White folks ain't never gonna integrate
no army.
I don't know.
If they do, I'm gonna be ready for 'em.
"Get me a bright red zoot suit"
"And a pair of patent leather shoes
"And the woman sittin' at home waitin'
"for the day we get the news
Lord, Lord"
"Lord, Lord
"Look out, Adolf Hitler
You and Tojo gonna be singing the blues"
All right.
"Gotta little problem
It's about 5-foot-2
"And they call him Sarge
And he's after you
"Got to watch what you're sayin'
Got to watch what you do
"'Cause that low-down dirty Waters
is gonna roll all over you
"Lord, Lord"
Knock it off.
We don't need no more guitar-picking,
sittin'- around-the-shack music today.
I want all you men out of those baseball
uniforms and into work clothes.
You'll report to me at 16:00.
We've got a work detail:
painting the lobby of the Officers' Club.
Why can't those officers
paint their own club?
Hell no, Smalls.
Let the Great Colored
Cleanup Company do it.
Our motto is:
"Anything you don't want to do,
the colored troops will do for you."
"Anything you don't want to do
The colored troops will do for you"
That's enough.
Let me tell all you fancy-assed
ballplayin' Negroes something.
The reasons for any orders
given by a superior officer...
...is none of you-all's business.
You obey them.
This country is at war.
You niggers are soldiers, nothin' else.
And something else: from now on,
when I tell you to do something...
...I want it done. Is that clear?
Yes, sir.
Now, get out of those baseball uniforms.
I could smell you suckers
before I hit the door.
What kind of colored man are you?
I'm a soldier, Peterson.
The kind of colored man
that don't like lazy, shiftless Negroes.
Well, sir, you ain't got to come in here
calling us names.
The Nazis call you Schwarze.
You gonna complain to Hitler
that he hurt your feelings?
It don't look like we could do
too much to them Nazis...
...with paintbrushes, Sarge.
You trying to mock me, CJ?
No, sir, Sarge.
Because whatever an ignorant,
low-class Geechee like you has to say...
...ain't worth paying attention to.
Is it?
Is it?
I reckon not, Sarge.
You're a creep, Waters!
Sarge's just jokin', Pete.
He don't mean no harm.
No, he does.
I mean,
we take enough from them white boys.
Yes, you do.
And if it wasn't for you Southern niggers...
...white folks wouldn't think
we was all fools.
Well, where are you from? England?
Looks like we got us
a wiseass Alabama boy here.
Yes, sir.
Now, don't you get smart, nigger.
Get your fuckin' hands off me!
You wanna hit old Sergeant Waters, boy?
Come on.
Come on, nigger!
At ease.
Now, what's going on here, Sergeant?
Nothing, sir.
I was going over
some batting techniques, sir.
Is there something you wanted?
Something I can do, sir?
No, nothing. I just wanted to congratulate
you men on the game you won today.
The way I figure it, only seven more...
...and we'll be the first colored team
in Army history to play the Yankees.
The entire regiment is counting on you.
As far as I'm concerned,
these men can have the rest of the day off.
Beg your pardon, sir.
Excuse me, sir.
They don't need time off.
They need all the work they can get.
Our fellas in North Africa
don't get time off.
Besides, they have orders
to report for a paint detail at 16:00.
- Who issued that order?
- Major Harris, sir.
- I'll speak to the major.
- Sir?
I don't think it's a good idea
to have a colored NCO...
...mixed up with your officers, sir.
I said I'd speak to him, Sergeant.
Yes, sir.
About that catch you made
in center field today:
How in the hell did you get up that high?
They say I got bird in my blood, sir.
I hope it's an American Eagle.
No, sir.
See, a man told my daddy
the day I was born:
He said, "The boy got the shadow
of crow wings in his chest..."
That's fine, Memphis.
Men, you played a great game today.
- Sergeant?
- Ten-hut!
Carry on.
How long a story were you gonna tell
the man there, CJ?
I ain't forgot you, boy.
It's time to teach you a lesson.
- Wilkie.
- Sir.
Go outside and make sure
everything is set up.
You want all the NCOs?
I'm going outside to wait for you, Geechee.
And when you come out...
...I'm gonna whup your black Southern ass.
Let the whole company watch, too.
You need to learn respect for these stripes.
The rest of you...
...get those goddamn uniforms off
like I said.
You ain't gonna fight him, are you?
Don't do it. He'll fight dirty.
You can't whup the Sarge.
You wanna fight in my place, Cobb?
Pete, I got some Farmer's Dust.
A pinch of this
will make you strong as a bull.
Would you get out of here
with that backwater crap?
You can't speak up for yourself.
You let him treat you like a dog.
Calling names ain't nothin'.
I know who I is.
Sarge ain't so bad. He's been good to me.
The man despises you.
You're wrong, Pete.
Plus, I feel sorry for him myself.
Any man ain't sure where he belong
gotta be in a whole lot of pain.
Look, don't you all even care
about nothing?
Don't none of us like it, Pete...
...but this is the Army
and Sarge got all the stripes.
I'll go get the captain.
You ain't got to go out there
and get your head beaten in.
Somebody's got to fight him.
Waters, what's going on?
I had a problem with one of the guys.
Don't worry about it.
Come on now, boy.
Let's take your whuppin' like a man.
Kick his ass, Pete.
Watch him, Pete.
Come on out here and kick old Sarge's ass.
Come on, Geechee.
You don't want the Sarge to grow old
waitin' for you, now.
Fight him!
Watch him, Pete!
He got him!
That got him!
Get up, Sarge!
You throw a pretty mean punch, boy.
But old Sarge is here to kick your ass.
- There you go.
- Get up, Peterson.
- Get up, Pete.
- Get him, Sarge.
That's enough.
Yeah, he beat me pretty bad that day, sir.
Did anybody report the fight to an officer?
No, sir, I never reported it.
I know I should have, but...
...he left me alone after that
so I just played ball.
I appreciate your honesty, Peterson.
Thank you, sir.
Did you see Sergeant Waters
the night he was killed?
No, sir. Smalls and I had guard duty.
- Thank you. That'll be all for now.
- Yes, sir.
Did the team ever get to play the Yankees?
No, sir. We lost the last game
to a sanitation company.
What brings you out to my neighborhood?
I wanted you to see the request...
...I've sent to Colonel Nivens
to have your investigation terminated.
Now, my reasons have nothing
to do with you personally.
My request won't hurt
your Army career in any way.
It's just that there are
other considerations in this case.
Only the color of my skin.
Now, hold it, Davenport!
I want the people
that killed Waters prosecuted.
So do I.
Then give this up.
White people down here,
they won't see their duty or justice.
They'll see you.
And you can't possibly get at the truth.
Why? Because two white officers
are involved in this?
You can't get them charged,
court-marshaled or anything else.
Why wasn't there any mention of them
in my report?
You think I'm gonna let you
get away with this?
I was ordered not to include it.
- By who?
- Colonel Nivens.
Now, look.
They took two.45 caliber slugs
out of Waters, Army issue.
Now, if my men thought
a white officer had killed him...
...there would have been a slaughter.
Who are the officers?
Lieutenant Byrd in Ordinance
and Captain Wilcox, 12th Hospital Group.
Private Seymour saw them on the road.
When I checked the officers' billet,
I found them both asleep.
They admitted they'd had an argument
with the sergeant...
...but said they'd left him on the road.
So, you never believed
the Klan was involved.
No. Now can you see
why this thing needs somebody else?
Tell me what they told you.
Look, hotshot.
They're not going to let you charge
those two men.
Tell me what they told you.
Left, two, three, four...
Left, two, three, four.
You wanna move your ass
off the goddamn road, Sergeant?
Well, I'll be damned.
If it ain't the white boys!
- Did you hear what he said? Shit!
- Let it go!
"Let it go," my ass!
Come here, Sergeant.
White boys, all starched and stiff.
Want everybody to learn
that symphony shit.
That's what you said in France...
...and you know, I listened to it.
Am I all right now? Am I?
You'd better straighten up
and salute an officer...
...or I'll take your fuckin' stripes, boy!
That's better.
Well, look at the nigger.
You come to attention right now,
and that is an order.
I ain't doin' nothin' white folks say do.
No more.
- I'll teach you...
- Leave him alone. He's drunk.
I want the nigger to do like I tell him.
Do it!
- I'll teach him to do it.
- Easy.
Look what it's done to me.
I hate myself.
Don't blame me. God's the one
who made you black, not me, boy.
My daddy said, "Don't talk like dis...
"...talk like that!
"Don't say heah...
I even killed for you.
You wanna kill him? The man is sick!
- Let me go!
- You're gonna kill him.
Come on.
Come on.
White men are killing for you, nigger.
Good men dyin' for you.
So, anyway,
they said they left Waters about 23:10.
Everyone in the barracks confirms
that they were in by 23:30...
...and that neither man left
till the following morning.
That's nothing but white officers lying
to protect their own...
...and you know that.
I'm arresting both of them, Captain.
Consider yourself under arrest
pending my charges against you.
What charges?
It was your duty to go over Nivens' head
if you had to.
You're going to arrest the colonel, too?
He's part of their alibi.
He was there in the officers' billet
when they came in.
Played poker till 3:30 in the morning.
Yeah, the colonel, Major Hines
and four other white officers.
They're all lying.
You just go out and prove it.
Sir, I intend to arrest
Lieutenant Byrd and Captain Wilcox.
You will do nothing of the kind.
Sir, I believe these two men had something
to do with Sergeant Waters' death.
No, I can't allow that.
You have no authority
to arrest white officers.
Then give me the authority, sir.
Your breakfast is ready.
Thank you, honey.
Can I have someone fetch you coffee,
No, thank you, ma'am.
I hope they're making your stay here
at Fort Neal real comfortable, Captain.
They're taking good care of me, ma'am.
It's very thoughtful of you to ask.
Good morning.
No, I can't give you that authority.
I told you. They were in by 11:30.
I was there.
Now, you've read our affidavits
on this thing.
Colonel, what will the Army say
when they find out two white officers...
...beat up the murder victim
not long before he was shot to death?
Their CO refuses to report
that they had anything to do with it...
...and he signs an affidavit
supporting their alibi.
These two are our best suspects.
How can you not have them arrested...
...or at least questioned
by the investigating officer?
Something like this is bound to get out.
I didn't say you couldn't question them.
But I want a white officer present.
And I want everything that's said
reported to me.
- Is that clear?
- Of course, sir.
You're dismissed, Captain.
Yes, sir.
Go with God.
Virge, same old sermon.
I didn't know you were
a religious man, Henson.
I'm not. I just play this organ.
If I play on Sundays, I get out of
a few work details during the week.
That's all.
- I want to talk about Sergeant Waters.
- Yeah?
There ain't much to talk about,
except for I didn't like the man myself...
...on account of what he did to CJ.
What did he do?
I don't mean you no offence,
but I ain't exactly crazy about...
...talking to no officer.
Colored or white.
You're gonna talk, Henson,
or I'll put your ass in the stockade...
...so long, you'll forget how to.
He was always on CJ's back
about somethin'.
Every little thing.
Least ways, that's how it seemed to me.
Then the shootin' went down.
What shooting?
The shootin' over at
Williams' Golden Palace.
Happened just last year
right at the end of the baseball season.
A whole lot of shots had gone off
right near the barracks.
I, myself, had gone over and gotten
a little juiced at the Enlisted Men's Club.
Somebody's shootin'.
They're shootin' over there.
- Everyone up. Wake 'em up, Wilkie!
- Come on, move it.
Unass them bunks.
Come on, you Geechees.
Off your asses, on your feet.
Everybody up.
Let's go.
Company, ten-hut!
There's been a shooting.
One of ours bucked the line at Williams'
pay phone and three soldiers are dead.
Two colored, one white MP.
Now, the man who bucked the line,
he killed the MP...
...and the white boys
started shooting everybody.
That's how our two got shot.
And this low-down nigger we're looking for
got chased down here.
And was almost caught,
until someone in these barracks...
...started shooting at the men chasing him.
...we got us a vicious, low-down
murdering piece of black trash...
...in here somewhere.
And a few people who helped him.
If any of you are in this...
...I want you to step forward.
All you baseball niggers are innocent?
- Wilkie!
- Sir.
Make the search.
Open those footlockers. Come on, Smalls.
All right, Peterson,
what are you waiting for, an invitation?
Open 'em up. Spread 'em out.
I want to see what's happening inside.
Memphis, you in this?
No, sir, Sarge.
Okay, guys,
you heard what the sergeant said.
How many of you were out tonight?
Sir, I was over at Williams'
'round about 7:00.
I got me a pack of Lucky Strikes.
But I didn't try to call home.
Got something.
Still warm.
- CJ, is this yours?
- You know it ain't mine, Sarge.
Probably not.
Probably just crawled in
through a window...
...passed everybody's bunk,
Peterson, Cobb...
...and just snuggled up under yours.
Must be voodoo, right, boy?
Or that Farmer's Dust.
That pistol ain't mine, Sarge. I hate guns.
Makes me feel bad just to see a gun.
Liar! Place this man under arrest.
Look, sir, CJ couldn't hurt a fly, Sarge.
You know that.
I found a gun, soldier.
- Waters, you know it ain't him.
- Who is it then? You?
Sarge, I saw somebody sneak in here.
You were drunk when you left the club.
I saw you.
Throw his ass in the shower.
Well, I was here all night.
CJ ain't go nowhere.
He was asleep before I got to bed.
You think he's innocent?
CJ Memphis...
...playin' cotton picker, singin' the blues...
...bowin' and scrapin',
smilin' in white folks' faces.
This man undermined us:
you, me, everybody.
That "yassuh-boss" is hiding something.
Are we like that today, in 1944?
He shot that white boy!
What did you go and do now, boy?
Hit a noncommissioned officer.
CJ just lost his head...
Shut up!
Get him out of here.
Sarge, I know I saw somebody.
Smalls, I saw somebody, really.
CJ was sleeping when I came in.
It's Waters. Can't y'all see that?
You know, I seen 'em before.
We had 'em in Alabama.
White man give him a small-ass job as a
servant and when the boss ain't looking...
...that old copy-cat nigger
act like he the new boss.
Shouting, ordering people around.
You see, arresting CJ,
that'll get Waters another stripe.
Next, it'll be you or you.
You see, he can't look good
unless he's standing on you.
Cobb told him CJ was in here all evening.
Waters didn't even listen, did he?
Turning somebody in.
"Well, look what I done, Captain-boss."
Only reason he's in the Army is 'cause
they know he'll do what they tell him to.
I've seen this kind of fool before.
Somebody's gonna kill him
one of these days.
You know, I heard they killed a sergeant
at Fort Robinson. A recruit did it.
Forget it, Pete.
With our luck, Sarge'll come through
the whole war, won't even get a scratch.
Yeah, maybe.
But I'm going over to them stockades.
Tell them MPs what I know:
CJ was in here all evening.
I'm going with you!
You all wait up. I'm coming, too.
Was Wilkie the only person
out of his bunk that night?
I guess. Wilkie came in with the Sarge.
But it's hard to say.
It's been a while and, like I said,
I was a little juiced that night.
- Ellis!
- Yes? Yes, sir?
Find out what's holding up
my investigation of Wilcox and Byrd.
Yes, sir.
The night Sergeant Waters was killed,
where were you?
I was in the barracks.
I played checkers with Cobb till 9:30
and then I went to bed.
Is there gonna be anything else, sir?
Dismissed, Private.
Let her go.
Let me know when it's full board.
Here we go. Let's go, baby.
Pick 'em up.
Pick your rifles up. That's it.
That's it. Move out!
Move your ass!
That's it, move out!
Goddamn it, keep going!
That's it, move it up!
Shake it up! Hit that wall!
Get your feet up!
Hurry it up! Move up!
Watch it!
Hold it!
Stop shooting!
Which one of you idiots is Cobb?
That's me, sir. You all right, Captain?
I want to talk to you.
What'd he want old Cobb for?
I don't know.
What did he ask you, Pete?
He just asked a couple of questions
about the baseball game...
...some about the Sarge.
Didn't amount to too much.
Yeah, we was homeys, me and CJ,
both from Mississippi.
CJ, from Carmella. Me, I'm from up 'round
Jutlerville, what they call Snake County.
How did you feel
when your best friend was arrested?
I hated Waters for it, sir.
CJ ain't killed nobody.
He hit Waters, didn't he?
Yeah, but the sergeant made him, sir.
He called that boy things
he ain't never heard before.
CJ was from the farm, a country boy.
That jail cell started doing
crazy things to CJ, sir.
It started closing in on him.
You all right?
It's hard to breathe
in these little spaces, Cobb.
What they doin' to you in here, CJ?
Man wasn't made for this here.
Nothin' was.
Don't think I'll ever see an animal
in a cage again and not feel sorry for it.
Rather be on a chain gang.
Come on, homey!
Don't think I'm getting out of here, Cobb.
Feel like I'm going crazy.
Can't walk in here.
Can't see the sun.
I try to sing...
...but nothin' won't come out.
Yesterday, I broke a guitar string.
And I lost my Dust!
Got no protection, Cobb.
Nothin' to keep the dogs
from tearin' at my bones.
CJ, stop talkin' crazy.
You know who come up here last night?
Sergeant Waters.
They talking about giving you five years.
They call what you did "mutiny," boy.
That gun ain't mine.
We know that, CJ.
We changed the charge on you
this morning.
You're in here
for striking a superior officer.
And everybody seen it, too.
Why are you doin' this to me, Sarge?
Don't feel too bad, CJ.
It has to be this way.
You see...
...the First War didn't change nothing
for the Negro.
But this one's gonna change everything.
Them Nazis ain't all crazy.
Whole lot of people just can't seem to fit in
to where things seem to be going.
Like you, CJ.
See, the Black race
can't afford you no more.
There used to be a time, we'd see someone
like you singin', clownin', yassuh-bossin'...
...and we wouldn't do anything.
Folks liked that.
You were good.
Homey kind of nigger.
When they needed somebody to mistreat,
call a name or two, they paraded you.
Reminded them of the good old days.
Not no more.
The day of the Geechee is gone, boy.
And you're going with it.
We can't let nobody go on believing
we're all fools like you.
I waited a long time for you, boy.
But I got you.
I put two Geechees in jail
in Camp Campbell, Kentucky.
Three in Fort Huachuca.
Now I've got you.
One less fool
for the race to be ashamed of.
What happened to him?
CJ killed himself, sir.
The day after I saw him,
the MPs found him hanging from the bars.
We lost our last game.
We just threw it.
We did it for CJ.
Captain Taylor was mad
'cause we ain't get to play the Yankees.
Peterson was right on that one.
We needed to protest that man.
And the sergeant, what did he do?
They broke up the team and assigned us
to this smoke-generating company.
And the Sarge,
he just started acting funny.
He stayed drunk all the time.
What time did you get in
the night he was killed?
Between 9:20 and 9:30.
Me and Henson listened
to The Jack Benny Show, played checkers.
Who was the last man in that night?
Peterson and Smalls. They had guard duty.
- Is that it, Captain?
- Thank you, Corporal.
Yes, sir.
Eight ball, corner pocket.
- Whose idea was this, Charlie?
- Nivens'.
You're going to have to clear the area, Jim.
We're here to question these two.
He's got no business in here.
Take it up with the colonel.
Now, this is Captain Davenport.
You both understand you're to give
the captain your full cooperation.
You're a lawyer?
I'm not here to answer your questions,
Lieutenant. Sit down.
Sit down.
Yes, sir.
When did you last see Sergeant Waters?
The same night somebody killed him.
Of course, I should have done it myself,
by the way he spoke to Wilcox and me.
How did he speak to you, Captain?
Well, he was drunk.
He said things he shouldn't have.
I told the lieutenant not to make
the situation worse than it was.
So, we left him there,
on the side of the road, on his knees.
Exactly what did he say?
He said he wasn't gonna obey
the white man's orders anymore.
Then he starts blaming Wilcox and me
for him being black.
I mean, imagine that.
Hell, I didn't even know the man.
He said he killed somebody, too.
And some pretty insulting things about us.
I mean, white officers.
Did he say who? Mention a name?
Look, the goddamn nigger
was disrespectful.
No way does a colored soldier
speak to a white officer like that.
What are we doing, wasting time on this?
You answer him like he wants you to,
Byrd, or I'll stick it to your ass...
...every chance I get. You got that?
Yes, sir.
Captain, let me handle this.
Then handle it! Jesus.
You said he was disrespectful.
Is that why you killed him?
I killed no one.
Sit down!
- You hit him, huh?
- I knocked him down.
- Then you shot him.
- He was alive.
You beat him up then shot him...
No! Get outta my face before I kill you!
- Like Waters?
- No.
- He's trying to put it on me.
- Sit down.
Answer his questions, Lieutenant.
You were both coming off bivouac, right?
Speak up.
- You both had weapons.
- We didn't fire them.
- When'd you turn them in?
- Right away.
Colonel Nivens took our.45s to the MPs.
He kept it quiet so the colored boys
wouldn't know anyone white...
...was involved,
but those weapons cleared ballistics.
Besides, we've been short on
.45 caliber ammo for what, six months?
It's for MPs and special duty people only.
Look, nobody on that exercise
was issued any.
I said, sir, nobody on the bivouac
was issued any .45 ammo.
I don't believe you. Why wasn't I told?
The weapons had cleared
and the colonel felt if he involved you...
...you'd tell Washington,
which he thinks you did anyway.
Sir, we were not involved
in any way with the sergeant's death.
I'm a doctor.
We left that man on the side of the road.
You're both under arrest.
The charge is murder.
- Captain...
- Do you think I believe that crap?
Let them go.
- Are we being charged?
- Not by me.
What are you doing?
You've got a motive and a witness.
What more do you want?
This is still my investigation, Charlie.
We've both been had, Captain.
The colonel knew this all along.
- I've been going in circles.
- They are guilty as hell and you know it.
I'll back you up. Charge them!
I do what the facts tell me, Captain,
not you.
You don't know what a fact is, Davenport.
I'm the lawyer.
They teach you law at West Point?
You don't have to be a goddamn lawyer
to deal with those two assholes.
And if they didn't kill Waters, who did?
I don't know yet.
What do you know about CJ Memphis?
A great ballplayer.
Committed suicide.
It was a tragedy.
I think Waters tricked the kid
into attacking him.
No, I can't believe that, Davenport.
I mean, this man managed the finest
baseball team in the entire US Army.
Colored people aren't that devious.
Hell, we hadn't lost a game for two years.
And the finest player that Waters ever had
was CJ Memphis.
Now, if you'd have seen him,
you'd know what I mean.
Captain Davenport!
We found Wilkie, but we haven't located
Peterson and Smalls yet.
- Where's Wilkie?
- In the barracks, sir.
Wait a minute. Didn't you question
Wilkie and Peterson already?
I asked you a question.
This is still my investigation. Let's go.
That's been the problem all along,
you arrogant son of a bitch!
You nervous, Wilkie?
No, I just couldn't figure out
why you called me back, sir.
You said the Sarge busted you, right?
Yeah, he got me busted, sir.
He reported me to the captain.
- How'd you feel?
- Well, I...
You and the Sarge were good friends.
- He was a nice guy.
- Yes, he...
- Didn't you tell me that?
- Yeah...
- Would a nice guy get a friend busted?
- Well...
No, speak up.
- You lied when you said he was nice.
- No.
- What I said was he...
- Was Waters a nice guy or not?
No! He wasn't a nice guy.
You don't turn somebody in for that.
You give extra duty.
You chew 'em out. But three stripes...
It took me 10 years to get them stripes.
That's right. That made you mad, didn't it?
Yes. All the things I did for him.
That's right.
You were his boy, weren't you?
You took care of the team.
You ran his errands.
You policed his quarters.
You listened to his stories.
Put the gun under CJ's bunk.
Yes. No, I...
Sit down!
It was you Henson saw that night.
You lied about Waters, you're lying now.
You were the only one out that night.
Who else could've found
CJ's bunk in the dark? It was you.
No, it was Sarge. He ordered me.
Said I'd get my stripes back.
He wanted to teach CJ a lesson.
Put him in jail for a few days.
Scare him. But CJ hit him
and he had CJ where he wanted.
And then CJ, he hung himself.
He died like he was spiting the Sarge.
And then the Sarge...
...he didn't figure that.
What did he have against CJ?
He despised him,
but he hid it 'cause everyone liked CJ.
Underneath, it was a crazy kind of hate.
A crazy kind of hate. You won't believe it.
I mean, sometimes you could just feel it...
He's the kind of boy that seems innocent.
Got everybody on the post
thinking he's a strong, black buck.
White boys envy his strength. His speed.
Power in his swing.
Then this colored champion lets
those same white boys call him...
..."Shine" or "Sambo" and he just smiles.
Can't talk. Can barely read
or write his own name...
...and don't care.
He'll tell you they like him...
...or that colored folks ain't supposed
to have but so much sense.
Do you know the damage
one ignorant Negro can do?
We were in France in the First War.
We'd won decorations, but the white boys
had told all them French gals...
...that we had tails.
And they found this ignorant
colored soldier.
Paid him to tie a tail to his ass and run
around half-naked making monkey sounds.
They put him on a big round table
in the Cafe Napoleon.
Put a reed in his hand,
a crown on his head...
...a blanket on his shoulders
and made him eat bananas...
...in front of all them Frenchies.
The white boys danced and passed out
leaflets with his picture on it.
Called him "Moonshine,
King of the Monkeys."
When we slit his throat,
you know that fool asked us...
...what he had done wrong.
My daddy told me,
we got to turn our backs on his kind.
Close our ranks to the chitlins,
collard greens, cornbread style.
We are men, soldiers.
I don't intend for our race...
...to be cheated out of its place
of honor and respect in this war...
...because of fools like CJ.
You watch everything he does. Everything.
And I watched him.
But Waters couldn't wait.
He wouldn't talk about nothing else.
CJ this, CJ all the time.
Why didn't he pick on Peterson?
They had the fight.
He liked Peterson.
Pete fought back. Sarge admired that.
He was planning to promote Pete.
You imagine that? He thought
Peterson would make a fine soldier.
What did Peterson do when CJ died?
Everybody blamed the Sarge.
Pete put together that protest
that lost our last game.
Afterwards, he kept to himself
or with Smalls.
- I didn't mean to do what I did.
- Ellis!
- It wasn't my fault.
- Ellis!
Yes, sir!
- What's going on?
- We're shipping out.
They finally letting us Negroes fight!
Hitler ain't got a chance.
And after what Joe Louis did
to Max Schmeling...
24-hour standby alert.
It's the invasion of Europe, boys.
Look out, Hitler, the niggers is comin'
to get your ass through the fog!
We gonna "goose" the goose step, daddy!
Heil Hitler!
We gonna turn them Nazis around, sir.
We're gonna teach them a thing
or two about them Schwarze.
- Ellis.
- Yes, sir.
Private Wilkie is under arrest.
Take him to the stockade.
You heard me.
Private Smalls, as you requested, sir.
Leave us alone, Sergeant.
Yes, sir.
Why'd you go AWOL, soldier?
Private Anthony Smalls, sir.
Answer my question!
I didn't go A-W-O-L, sir.
See, I got drunk in Tynin and I was just...
Weren't you and Peterson
supposed to be on detail?
Where was Peterson? Speak up.
I don't know, sir.
You just walked off your detail
and Peterson did nothing?
No, sir. See, he warned me, sir.
"Listen, Smalls," he said.
"Now, if you..."
Are you trying
to make a fool out of me, Smalls?
No, sir.
You two went over the hill together,
didn't you?
Answer me!
Yes. You went over the hill
together because Peterson knew...
...I'd find out the two of you
killed Waters. Didn't you?
What? I can't hear you!
You killed Waters, didn't you?
I want an answer!
Did you kill Waters?
It was Peterson, sir.
It wasn't me.
People are blind.
Smalls, look who's drunk on his ass.
Leave him be, Pete. He ain't worth it.
I'm gonna enjoy this.
Big, bad Sergeant Waters
down on his knees.
No, sir, Smalls.
No, I'm gonna love this.
Sarge, need some help?
Hi, Pete.
Here, come on now, here we go. Yes.
- That's the help I'll give you.
- Peterson!
Shut up!
Smalls, some people...
If this was a German, would you kill it?
If it was Hitler or that fucking Tojo,
would you kill him?
There's a trick to it, Peterson.
It's the only way you can win.
See, CJ could never make it.
He was a clown. A clown in blackface.
A nigger.
See, you got to be like them.
But the rules are fixed and...
Hear it?
It's CJ.
"Low-down, low-down dirty shame"
I made him do it.
But it doesn't make any difference.
They still hate you.
- Peterson.
- It's justice, Smalls.
It's for CJ.
They still hate you.
And you call that justice?
No, sir.
Then why the fuck
didn't you do something?
I was just...
...scared of him, sir.
He said everybody would think...
...white people did it.
God, I'm sorry.
I'm sorry. I was just so scared that I...
Caught this one on Old Bridge Road, sir.
That'll be all, thank you.
You told it, didn't you?
I didn't kill much.
Some things need getting rid of.
A man like Waters never did
nobody no good anyway, Captain.
Who gave you...
...the right to judge?
To decide who is fit...
...to be a Negro...
...and who is not?
Get these goddamn men out of here.
Yes, sir.
I hear they caught Peterson.
I guess that's it. Got your man.
Yeah, I got him.
I was wrong.
So was I.
Charlie, look, I could do with a lift.
Well, hop in.
I guess I'll have to get used to Negroes
with bars on their shoulders, Davenport.
You know, being in charge.
You'll get used to it, Captain.
You can bet your ass on that.
You'll get used to it.