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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Movie Critique: "THE GREEN BERETS"

Greetings and Salutations to All my Kith and Kin and All the Ships in Outer Space:

I just finished watching THE GREEN BERETS, starring John Wayne, on the American Movie Classics cable television channel.

Although FORREST GUMP, CASUALTIES OF WAR, and GARDENS OF STONE more accurately depict my own experience as a soldier in Viet Nam, those movies are definitely NOT family fare, and the purpose of my movie critiques is to review and recommend movies which the whole family, small children included, can enjoy watching together.

The first time I ever saw THE GREEN BERETS, it was 1968, and I had just completed my Basic Combat Training at Fort Lewis, Washington, and was undergoing my Advanced Individual Training (i.e., "A.I.T.") attending the Field Radio Relay and Carrier Equipment Repair Specialist (MOS 31 L 20) course at the United States Army Southeastern Signal School at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Have you ever attended a movie being shown in a military theatre?

It's a little different than going to a movie downtown.

For one thing, the admission is (or was?) a lot cheaper.

I think I paid a quarter, but it might have been a little more.

The first thing that happens is that everybody stands at attention while the National Anthem is played.

Then, we see coming attractions and a cartoon.

Then, the feature film starts.

Actually, I can remember a time when we saw even more than that.

There was a time when a news reel, a short subject, and a second feature film were also included in the evening's fare.

Anyway, when this movie was shown, I was a brand new soldier, and hadn't been to Viet Nam.

But, many in the audience had been there very recently, and they hooted and jeered at the obvious (to them) mistakes throughout the film.

Since I have also been to Viet Nam, I can now see why those guys were laughing.

No, this film appears to have been shot at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where I was a boy (my father was a career Army sergeant), and no, the terrain doesn't look anything remotely like Viet Nam.

Everything is too clean, and open, and organized.

The buildings and water towers are obviously at Fort Bragg, because everything is painted white, and there are no sandbags or concertina wire piled up.

Caucasians don't look like Vietnamese, not even when they wear Vietnamese clothes.

Toy guns made by Mattel don't look like the real M-16 rifles made by Colt.

I've walked on the beach in Da Nang, and the sun sets in the West, not the East.

The North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong use different flags.

The movie shows both forces using the National Liberation Front (i.e., the "Viet Cong") flag, and never shows the North Vietnamese flag.

All of the equipment in the movie is shiny and painted with bright colors.

Many of the aircraft are painted with orange markings, which means they are only used for training purposes within the United States.

In Viet Nam, our equipment was painted flat non-reflective olive drab, and deliberately allowed to be muddy and dusty, in order to blend in with the surroundings.

I did enjoy watching them jump from a C-7 Caribou, because I once flew on a C-7 Caribou, from Bong Xon to Chu Lai.

In the movie, guys wear suits and ties, or if in uniform, they are wearing Class "A" dress uniforms or Class "B" uniforms while in Da Nang.

During my two years in Viet Nam, I never once saw anybody wear a Class "A" dress uniform or a suit and tie.

We were forbidden to even possess any clothing except jungle fatigues.

There was only one exception.

When the 101st Airborne Division left Viet Nam, we were issued Class "B" khaki uniforms to wear on the flight from Da Nang back to the United States.

When we landed at Fort Lewis, Washington, we were issued a Class "A" dress green uniform to wear home.

Because our society was so divided against itself over the controversy of the Viet Nam war, with so many young men deserting the ranks or refusing to serve, THE GREEN BERETS was a blatant, if comical, effort to produce a gung ho propaganda film, and probably the only movie about Viet Nam that even attempted to put a positive spin on America's military policy.

Another thing that takes place in the movie is a sad commentary on how badly and how quickly our contemporary society has deteriorated, thanks largely to general acceptance of homosexuality in our midst.

In the movie, a Special Forces soldier invites a Vietnamese orphan to share his bunk, and the orphan boy snuggles up and drapes his little arm over the soldier's chest.

Remember way far back when something like that was totally innocent, and there was no sinister implication?

They couldn't show that in a movie today, could they?

How do we return to our former innocence?

How do we cleanse ourselves of the evil that pervades our midst and menaces the future of all posterity?

Shall we employ the tried and true techniques of organized vigilante night riding?

THE GREEN BERETS, even with its inaccuracies, is still a good commentary on a bit of American history.

I recommend this movie for the family, and urge both Mama and Daddy to watch the movie with their little ones, so they can answer questions and offer appropriate counsel.

It was my war, and I'm glad I went.

Please pass the popcorn.

Thank you.

John Robert "SAIGON" Mallernee, KB3KWS
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

NOTE: "My unpopular and controversial personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan."

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