For details see the handout for Drums along the Mohawk (1939)
The short story "Mission with no Record" by James Warner Bellah.
Final film in the cavalry trilogy. Lt. Col. York plays a tough commanding officer at a remote SW frontier post during the Indian Wars who has to cope, on top of fighting the Indians, with an interfering wife from a broken marriage, a son who drops out of West Point and then volunteers for duty under his command in order to prove he is not a failure. In order to rescue a wagonload of fort children who have been captured by Indians led by Natchez, York approves an illegal incursion across the Mexican border.
1. Lt. Col. York's advice to his son - "Put out of your mind any romantic ideas that it's a way of glory. It's a life of suffering and hardship, an uncompromising devotion to your oath and your duty". Yet, Ford seems to suggest that there is another kind of 'glory" which the ordinary cavalrymen embody, viz. endurance and courage in carrying out their everyday tasks. One critic refers to the "prosaic nobility" of the troopers.
2. The contribution of the singing group "Sons of the Pioneers" to show the Irish background of the cavalrymen - "I'll Take You Home again, Kathleen"
3. The skill with which Ford shows everyday life on the outpost, the way the traditions of the cavalry are lived by the men and passed on to the next generation, the hard life on the post.
4. The theme of family - war destroys families e.g. York's marriage breaks down during the Civil War when the Northerner York is ordered to burn down the family home of his Confederate wife when Gen. Sheridan was marching through the Shenandoah Valley; war also reunites families, e.g. literally when Yorks orders the rescue of the abducted fort children, and figuratively when Yankees and Rebels fight together against the Indians in the post-Civil war period and when a new generation of soldiers comes of age to carry on the traditions of the cavalry/military in a re-united "United States".
6. The transformation of the US Cavalry from a "family" of misfits and social outcasts doing the "dirty work" of civilised Eastern society before Custer's defeat, into the "gallant knights" defending civilised values against savage hordes after Custer's defeat galvanised American society into putting an end to the Indian "problem" (McBride, p. 99).
7. Ford's Catholicism (the priest guards the soul like the US military guards the nation). The ending where a shoot-out takes place in a Catholic church across the Mexican border, with a trinity of soldiers firing their rifles through cross-shaped slit windows, while children huddle below.
8. Violations of international law, such as the illegal entry into Mexcio in pursuit of the Indians and their captured fort children, are permissible to Americans because they have right and God on their side, i.e. Manifest Destiny. Compare Nixon's illegal incursions into Cambodia and Laos in Vietnam War.
9. The Indians are always shown to be cruel and heartless, who rape women, kill and abduct children, all for no apparent reason other than inborn cruelty and savagery. There is no suggestion that they have homelands, cultural traditions, community life.