The discussions in class have covered several aspects about the history and culture of Vietnamese people. Our discussions described the Chinese and French involvement in Vietnam, explained the political origins of the United States involvement, outlined various military strategies and tactics used by the Vietnamese, French, and Chinese, and expanded on the domestic impact it’s had on the United States and the Vietnamese society. The war in Vietnam has caused a very negative impact on the society of the United States and almost thirty years later, there’s still a lot of debate on why the United States stayed involved in the war so long.
As a part of our discussions in class, we watched and analyzed three different films relating to the war in Vietnam and read a book of our choice relating to the war in order to enhance our understanding of what went on during this twenty-one-year span. This has also provided us with a different perspective of the war and how its viewed by different individuals in American society. The main objective of this paper is to give a brief background about the Vietnam War, describe and assess the three films we watched in class, Platoon, The Green Beret, and (Final Movie), and describe and assess our book of choice. Finally, it’ll compare all these works with one another in order to explain their similarities and differences.
The Vietnam war, which is also known as the Second Indochina War, began in 1954 and lasted until 1975. Because the United States basically administered the whole war from 1965 to 1968, the Vietnamese normally refer to this war as the American War. The Vietnam war is considered a direct result of the First Indochina War, which took place from 1946 until 1954, between the French and the communist forces known as the Viet Minh. At the time, this was the longest war in United States history until the Afghanistan War, which took place from 2002 until 2014. The Vietnam war mainly took place in North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. During the war, members of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, SEATO, and the United States joined forces with the Republic of South Vietnam to stop the spread of communism. They fought against the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong, also called the South Vietnamese guerrillas. Throughout the war, the United States lost over 47,000 men who were killed in action along with another 160,000 that were wounded and/or missing.
The Republic of South Vietnam suffered significantly more casualties compared to the United States. Its estimated that they lost roughly 415,000 civilians during the war along with 110,000 soldiers killed in action and over 500,000 wounded. Similarly, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army suffered roughly the same number of casualties. The Vietnamese government estimated that 1,100,000 soldiers were killed in combat with another 600,000 severely injured or wounded. They also lost roughly 2,000,000 civilians during the war. Even though the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army suffered many casualties, this war ultimately ended in a communist victory in April 1975. The Republic of South Vietnam was later taken over by North Vietnam and this was considered the only war America has ever lost.
Platoon is a war film that was directed by Oliver Stone and released on December 19, 1986. At the time of it’s release, it was considered one of the greatest war films out. Stone served in the military and was part of the war in Vietnam. He volunteered to join the military because he felt it was his duty as an American to support the war. During his time in the war, Stone was wounded multiple times and received both a bronze star and purple heart for his service to the country. After the war ended, Stone decided to produce Platoon, which is a semi-autobiographical movie, to enlighten those who didn’t serve in the war an idea of what it was like during the war in Vietnam. He also wanted future generations to understand the hardship and consequences of going to war. Platoon includes several historical events that took place in Vietnam and personal experiences that Stone went through while he served. The beginning scenes of the movie come from personal experiences of Stone’s memories during his first days in Vietnam.
The central character of the movie is Chris Taylor, who is played by Charlie Sheen, and Taylor is a young man who decided to drop out of college and volunteer for the United States Army. He chose to do this because he felt like poor people with no other options for a job shouldn’t be the only ones who must join the military and fight in the war. Taylor arrived in South Vietnam around 1967 and is immediately assigned to the 25th infantry division in Cambodian. Taylor’s very first mission is to go on a planned attacked against the North Vietnamese Army with a few of his comrades in his infantry division. Prior to this attack going out, Taylor and his comrades were ambushed, leaving some dead. Taylor was sent to the hospital with small injuries and was later sent back to his division. During one of Taylor’s patrols after returning, he witnessed three of his men brutally killed by several booby traps. Because these traps were so close to a village that was supposed to be cleared of Vietnamese, Taylor and several of his men go to the village to interrogate the Vietnamese because it was obvious that they should have been aware that the trap was there. During the interrogation with the chief of the village, the chief’s wife is killed for getting involved in the argument. This results in a fight between several of Taylor’s comrade. The fight is eventually broken up and they return back to base with the rest of the soldiers.
On Taylor’s next patrol, his platoon is ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army. During this altercation several soldiers are being killed and wounded. Several more men are killed and wounded after a failed airstrike was called on their location by one of their lieutenants. The airstrike was supposed to be against the North Vietnamese Army to give Taylor and his men an opportunity to escape but results in more chaos and distress for them. Eventually, Taylor and his group were able to retreat into the jungle to escape anymore ongoing assault. From here, Taylor and his comrades were later rescued by helicopters and taken back to base. Taylor witnessed more of his close friends killed during this attack. After recovering, Taylor’s platoon is sent back to the front line where they are eventually attacked again by the North Vietnamese Army. During this attack, a Vietnamese soldier suicides on their location and a major of Taylor’s platoon is killed during this attack. Another Airstrike is called to help Taylor’s platoon, this one being successful, and Taylor is knocked unconscious.
After awakening, Taylor goes searching for some of his comrades. While searching, Taylor finds one of his old comrades that he no longer likes and refuses to help him because he deliberately killed another soldier that was in his platoon. Taylor ends up killing him after the soldier demanded him to because he refused to help him. After, Taylor finds a close friend in his platoon and they make their way back to safety. At the ending of the movie, Taylor, his friend, and other wounded soldiers return home. It’s clear by the ending of the movie that Chris Taylor’s life was dramatically changed by the war, his comrades, and struggles he had to go through while in Vietnam.
The Green Beret is a war film that was released during the Vietnam war on June 19, 1968 and was directed by John Wayne, Ray Kellogg, and Mervyn LeRoy. This movie basically begins with a large group of civilians and journalists being informed about what is happening in Vietnam and why it’s happening. They’re told that the United States is fighting a war in Vietnam against North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong guerrillas in order to stop the spread of communism. They explained that China and the Soviet Union were promoting and spreading communism in Vietnam and providing their soldiers with weapons, ammunition, and equipment. They showed the audience all the weaponry and equipment that they obtained from fighting that were used by the North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong as well. A newspaper reporter, George Beckworth, wasn’t satisfies with this explanation about why the United States was intervening in the war and decided to go to Vietnam to see what was taking place and report it back to the American people.
Colonel Kirby is one of the main leaders of the Green Berets and he recruits and promotes a soldier named Peterson to his special forces squad. After recruiting Peterson and a few other soldiers, they meet the newspaper reporter in South Vietnam. While there, the newspaper report takes notes on what is going on in South Vietnam and is still unconvinced of America’s need to be in Vietnam. While this is going on, Peterson meets a very young kid named Ham Chuck. His parents were killed due to the war in Vietnam and he only has the soldiers at camp to look after him. Peterson also meets Captain Nghiem, a Viet Minh officer from Hanoi who’s fighting against communism in the Republic of South Vietnam. He informs Kirby and Peterson about double agents and spying that’s going on in the South Vietnam and they’re camp. Later, the camp is hit by several airstrikes and mortals. These airstrikes mainly destroyed the camps supplies but it does kill a few soldiers in the process. Shortly after this attack, a soldier notices an ARVN soldier pacing within their camp and accuses him of being a spy and causing the previous airstrike on them.
Afterwards, Captain Nghiem interrogates him and finds a silver lighter in the ARVN soldier’s pocket, which previously belonged to a deceased Green Beret that was killed by the Viet Cong. The ARVN soldier confessed to setting them up and was tortured and killed. A few days later, the Green Berets head to another camp and attacked by a large group of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers. During this unfortunate attack, the newspaper reporter that was with them was forced to join the fight and help defend the camp. This was his first time in live combat, and it changed his perspective about the war. During this attack, Ham Chuck’s dog was killed, and he buried him during the fight. He was later dragged away to safety along with the others by Peterson. Soon after, Kirby’s reinforcements drop napalm strikes on the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers. This slowed down the enemy attack momentarily, but it didn’t prevent the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong to retreat or give up. Kirby orders the troops to withdraw from the camp. Later, Ham Chuck, Peterson, and the other soldiers and villagers are rescued by helicopters.
Kirby later orders an airstrike called “Puff the Magic Dragon” on the base, that is now occupied by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers, and it kills all the enemy troops. Afterwards, the reporter explains to Kirby that he planned on reporting to the United States that he supported the U.S involvement in the Vietnam war and that he would probably be fired for doing so. Finally, Kirby, Peterson, and several Green Berets volunteer to go on a mission to capture the leader of the North Vietnamese Soldiers, General Ti. The purpose of this was to use General Ti as a bargaining chip in order to end the war. During the mission, they quietly kill all the guards surrounding the general’s mansion and slowly sneak inside. When they finally get upstairs, they catch the general by surprise, capture him, and throw him outside of the mansion. Almost everyone is killed during the mission but Kirby, Peterson, and a few others escaped safely with the general. The general was later airlifted out of the area while the rest of the group went through the jungle to meet helicopters that were supposed to pick them up.
During this trip through the jungle, Peterson is killed by a booby trap and his team was forced to leave him behind because they were running short on time. When they arrived back at the Air Force Base, Ham Chuck was waiting on Peterson to get off the helicopters because Peterson previously told him that they would meet back at this base. When Ham Chuck doesn’t see Peterson get off any of the helicopters, he quickly realizes that Peterson didn’t make it back alive and starts crying. Kirby walks over and informs him of Peterson death and reassures him that everything’s going to be alright. The movie ends with Kirby and Ham Chuck walking along the beach as the sunsets with “Ballad of the Green Berets” playing in the background.
Hearts and Minds is an American documentary about the Vietnam War. It was directed by Peter Davis. And released in 1974. Hearts and Minds mainly examines the opinions of the people who were involved in the Vietnam War and these people were, for the most part, opposed to the American policy and the war in Vietnam. The people that were against the war were presented in a much more favorable way versus the people who encouraged and supported the war. The documentary came out just before the fall of Saigon and the North’s victory over the South a year later. The title of the film came from a quote by Lyndon B. Johnson, president and vice president during the Vietnam war, that states “the ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there”. The overall purpose of the documentary was to present both perspectives of the altercation on America’s involvement in Vietnam.
The documentary Included over 40 interviewees who gave their perspective and opinions about the war. Several of the interviewees were strongly against the war, especially those who were in the war, and they honestly didn’t believe that America should have got involved in it. Surprisingly, many of the people being interviewed were well-known individuals, like Senator Robert Kennedy, Senator Eugene McCarthy, Clark Clifford, General Nguyen Khanh (President of South Vietnam), and General Maxwell Taylor (Ambassador to South Vietnam). The documentary also includes clips of George Thomas Coker, U.S Navy pilot that was held by the North Vietnamese as a prisoner of war for six and a half years with two years of those years being in solitary confinement. Hearts and Minds also describes the history and attitudes of the opposing sides of the Vietnam War and provided news footage as well. The film also attempts to give voice to the Vietnamese people and how the war has dramatically affected their lives. They also provided their reasonings for fighting the United States and many other western powers.