The Eagle Has Landed
Molly, my love... as a great man once said, I have suffered to see change
and yet nothing can ever be the same again.
Inspired by the rescue of Hitler's ally Benito Mussolini by Otto Skorzenv, a similar idea is considered by Hitler, with the strong support of Himmler. Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwher (German military intelligence), is ordered to make a feasibility study of the seemingly impossible task of capturing Prime Minister Winston Chrurchill and returning him to the Reich. Canaris considers the idea a joke, but realizes that although Hitler will soon forget the matter, Himmler will not. Fearing Himmler may try to discredit him, Canaris orders one of his officers, Oberst Radl (Duvall) to undertake the study, despite feeling that it is all just a waste of time.
An Unteroffizier on Radl's staff finds that one of their spies, code named Starling, has provided a tantalizing piece of intelligence. "At any other time, in any other place, this information would be useless", Radl said. "And then synchronicity rears its ugly head." Winston Churchill is scheduled to visit an airfield near the village of Studley Constable, where Joanna Grey, a South African woman and German spy, lives. Radl comes up with a scheme that could work. Himmler meets secretly with Radl and unofficially tells him to proceed, without notifying Canaris. An agent, a member of the IRA named Liam Devlin (Sutherland), is dispatched to contact Mrs. Grey.
Radl recruits a team of commandos to carry out the operation, commanded by a German Fallschimjager officer, Oberst Kurt Steiner (Caine). While returning from the Eastern Front, Steiner intervened when SS soldiers rounded up Jews at a railway station in Poland, and attempted to save the life of a teenage girl who was shot while trying to escape. For this, he was court-martialled, along with a platoon of his men. Rather than the firing squad, the men were allowed to transfer to a punishment unit in the Channel Islands, where they made suicidal attacks with manned torpedoes against British channel convoys.
Radl travels to Guernsey and, with the help of Devlin, recruits Steiner and his surviving men. The team will fly into the UK in a captured C-47 with Allied markings. The commandos outfit themselves as Polish troops, as few of them speak English. The plan is to infiltrate Studley Constable, complete their mission, rendezvous with an E-Boat on the nearby coast and make their escape.
The plan is ultimately foiled when a German paratrooper rescues a local girl from a water wheel. He is killed in the process and his German uniform (worn under the Polish uniforms as protection against being executed as spies) revealed to the village people. The locals are rounded up, but Pamela Vereker, the sister of Father Vereker, a local priest, escapes to alert US Army Rangers. Inexperienced, glory-seeking Colonel Pitt is killed trying to shoot Joanna in her house, while his poorly-planned assault on the church fails. Captain Clark then organizes a second, successful attack.
Steiner's men sacrifice themselves to delay the Americans while Devlin, Steiner, and his wounded second-in-command escape, with the aid of local girl Molly Prior, who was romantically involved with Devlin. Instead of boarding the E-boat, Steiner opts to make one last attempt at Churchill. Steiner succeeds in killing Churchill before being shot himself. However, when Captain Clark appears on the scene, he is informed that "Churchill" was actually an impersonator - the real Prime Minister is actually at the Tehran Conference. With the failure of the operation, Radl is executed by firing squad under the pretext that he was "acting without orders from Canaris." In this way Himmler distances himself from the failed mission
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