The Second Wave
The Vicar has been to the movies and provided a couple more reviews and uses for some slightly less famous Vietnam movies, pass the popcorn!
John Wayne plays Colonel Mike Kirby fighting the dastardly Viet Cong in (what looks like) the early days of American involvement in Vietnam. David "The Fugitive" Janssen’s reporter is the eyes and ears of the audience in Wayne's roller-coaster support of US intervention. Mistimed in its year of release (the year that the US turned its back on involvement in Vietnam) and critically derided in the years since, *The Green Berets* is probably the closest anyone has got to a 'Delta Green in Vietnam' story line with a non-typical rollicking storyline that’s more Western than War movie.
It starts conventionally: introduction to the country, the problems the population are enduring, the problems US troops have countering the VC, how brutal the enemy is, etc. Then the plot crashes gears and turns into a kidnap-an-important-enemy-officer story thread involving commandos and a slinky South Vietnamese seductress. However it all ends like all 'Nam movies should: with a midnight massed VC assault on the compound.
The movie's final scenes of an Vietnamese orphan looking for his adoptive US father who has been killed in action is eerily prophetic of the US's eventual departure from Vietnam. Look out for Star Trek's George Takei in an early film role.
Watch It For:
Filmed on location in South Vietnam, with official military participation; the army provided a great deal of equipment and the sets used to film the scenes in the Vietnamese village were so realistic they were used for training troops destined for Vietnam. This is how the Joint chiefs and the Delta Green Steering Committee see the conflict. Sergeant Petersen's scrounging for the unit is a model of how it should be done. The film's plot could be lifted wholesale and dropped into a game with little modification. Wayne's Kirby character is easily Apocalypse Now's Kurtz without some of Brando’s extra weight and none of the sociopathic tendencies. If you want to know where Kurtz came from: he's Kirby after three years of madness in 'Nam.
An Odd Angry Shot is adapted from William Nagle’s book. Filled with stereotypical Aussie cobber type actors, it’s very definitely Australian: shagging, beer and mateship prevail. The actors seem to be cast as ‘Australian’ rather than ‘elite Special Forces’ types – perhaps our definition of Special Forces has changed in the last 40 years? John Hargreaves’ Bung is the case in point.
Ostensibly the story of a unit in the Special Air Service Regiment during 1967/8, its mostly a story of very short stints in the jungle with the very occasional fire fight with longer scenes back at camp or once on R&R. Action scenes are extremely brief but tense, and more men are killed in a night-time mortar shelling of the camp then we see in action in the field.
The film ends on a small note, with the survivors having a beer in Sydney but denying having served in Vietnam when asked.
Watch It For:
The only movie on Australian involvement in Vietnam, however the SASR are better examined in Osprey's *Vietnam ANZACs* book. The R&R scenes and the camp life scenes are excellent for filling in the 90% of characters' lives when they aren't being shot at or sweating in the jungle. The orang-utan story and the Yank vs. Aussie Deathmatch are capable of short diversionary scenarios by themselves. The pre-mission intelligence briefings by the shed-head is good. The jungle ambush and the bridge assault are good examples of squad team work.
A high ranking USAF officer Lt. Col. Iceal "Ham" Hambleton is shot down over enemy territory, unable to extract by helicopter, Ham must work with a Forward Air Controller Capt. Bartholomew Clark, to work out an escape route based on golf courses he has played.
The film is a Hollywood-ized version of a true story, the rescue of a US Navigator shot down over North Vietnam. The real Hambleton had Top Secret clearance and a great deal of knowledge about SAM countermeasures, so his capture and interrogation could have been disastrous to the US Air Force.
Watch It For:
Steal the dialogue between the downed airman, and Danny Glover's FAC, also witness the huge amount of effort the US Forces were willing to go to, to rescue one man, consider what forces DG may have brought to bear if an operative with access to a few hypergeometric formulae was at risk of capture by the NVA.
November 1966 Sean Penn leads a gang of soldiers in the gang rape and eventual murder of a young Vietnamese girl, only Michael J. Fox struggle to do the right thing against the indifference of his superiors.
The opening patrol scenes are very tense, and the vietcong tunnels make a brief but effective appearance.
Watch it for:
The Moral dilemma that should hit your players after they've carried out their DG classified mission, and the consequences thereof. The court-martial of the squad may also provide some inspiration.
Oliver Stone's take on a veteran's life post war, based on the autobiography of Ron Kovic. Tom Cruise played Ron Kovic, an enthusiastic young man whoserves in Vietnam only to come home in a wheelchair, then suffers terrible anguish and guilt over his actions, and his treatment when he tried to speak out against the war.
Watch if for:
The sheer visceral effect that combat has on soldiers.
Set in 1964 but released the same year as the Deer Hunter (1978), Go Tell the Spartans is often overlooked Vietnam war film. Burt Lancaster plays the commanding officer of a critically undermanned firebase about to be attacked by the Vietcong. The film received good reviews especially from those critical of the war for showing the irrelevance of the American presence in Vietnam.