The Green Berets (film)

Infobox Film | name = The Green Berets

caption = Theatrical release poster
director = John Wayne
Ray Kellogg
John Gaddis (uncredited)
producer = Michael Wayne
writer = James Lee Barrett
Robin Moore (novel)
starring = John Wayne
David Janssen
Jim Hutton
Aldo Ray
George Takei
Luke Askew
Mike Henry
music = Miklós Rózsa (as Miklos Rozsa)
cinematography = Winton C. Hoch
editing = Otho Lovering
distributor = Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
released = July 4, 1968 (U.S.)
runtime = 141 min.
country = USA
language = English
budget = $7,000,000 (USD)
imdb_id = 0063035

"The Green Berets" is a 1968 film featuring John Wayne, George Takei, David Janssen, Jim Hutton, and Aldo Ray, nominally based on the eponymous 1965 book by Robin Moore, but the screenplay has little relation to the book.

Thematically, "The Green Berets" is strongly anti-communist and pro-Saigon. It was produced in 1968, at the height of American involvement in the Vietnam War, the same year as the Tet offensive against the largest cities in southern Vietnam. John Wayne was prompted by the anti-war atmosphere and social discontent in the U.S. to make this film in countering that. He requested and obtained full military co-operation and matériel from President Lyndon Baines Johnson. The U.S. Army's strict control of the script's depictions and equipment were reasons why Columbia Pictures, (who had bought the book's pre-publication film rights), and producer David L. Wolper, (who also tried to buy the same rights), changed their minds about making "The Green Berets" themselves.

John Wayne had always been a steadfast supporter of American involvement in the war in Vietnam. He had entertained the soldiers in Vietnam, and wanted "The Green Berets" to be a tribute to them. He co-directed the film, and turned down the "Major Reisman" role in "The Dirty Dozen" World War II anti-Nazi commando action movie to do so. The film's first scene illustrates that contention when Green Beret tour guides at Fort Benning, Georgia, show civilian visitors to the U.S. Infantry School the Soviet- and Chinese-made weapons issued to the soldiers and guerillas of the communist NVA and VC.


At Fort Bragg, newspaper reporter George Beckworth (David Janssen) is at a Special Forces briefing about the American military involvement in the war in Vietnam. The briefing (at Gabriel Demonstration Area, named for Sgt. Jimmy Gabriel, first SF soldier killed in Vietnam) includes a demonstration and explanation of the whys and wherefores of participating in that Asian civil war. Skeptical civilians and journalists are told that multinational Communism is what the U.S. will be fighting in Vietnam; proof: weapons and equipment, captured from North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong guerrillas, originating in Communist Russia, Communist Czechoslovakia, and Communist China. Despite that, Beckworth remains skeptical about the value of intervening in Vietnam's civil war. When told by another Green Beret that he does not know whereof he speaks, as he has not been to Vietnam, reporter Beckworth accepts the soldier's challenge, and agrees to go and bear witness.

In South Vietnam, Beckworth arrives at an American Army camp where he witnesses the humanitarian aspect (irrigation ditches, bandages, candy for children) of the Special Forces mission, still, he remains skeptical of the U.S.'s need to be there. He changes his mind after a ferocious North Vietnamese Army attack upon the SF camp, admitting he probably will be fired from the newspaper for filing a story supporting the American war. After that battle, Beckworth temporarily disappears from the story, while Col. Mike Kirby (John Wayne) leads a team of Green Berets, Montangards(Degar), and ARVN soldiers on a top-secret kidnap mission capturing a very important NVA field commander, who lives, eats, and drinks very well, in a guarded mansion, while the common people go hungry, cold, and naked. Near the end of the story, Beckworth is briefly seen, carrying his portable typewriter and a duffel bag, joining a troop headed for the front.


Although the film portrays the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army as sadistic tyrants, it does, however, show them as a capable and willing enemy. The film also shows that unlike America's previous experience is foreign wars, this one had no front lines, meaning that the enemy can show up and attack at almost any position, anywhere. The film also shows the sophisticated spy ring of the VC and NVA that provided information about their adversaries.

Glorification of the war

The film is criticized for glorifying the Vietnam War, and, in 2005, Chicago newspaper movie critic Roger Ebert enumerated it in his list of most-hated films for being a "heavy-handed, remarkably old-fashioned film."See also United States Army Special Forces in popular culture

Technical errors

Three commonly-cited technical mistakes are (i) the sun setting in the wrong horizon, (ii) the pine tree forests, and (iii) the communist enemy's incorrect weapons.

*The film closes with the sun setting into the sea by Da Nang at the end of a long day. Critics frequently mention this, because the coastline in Vietnam is on the east, while the sun sets in the west, the size of the sun's disc indicates it is dusk. The scene was filmed near Fort Benning, Georgia.

*The story occurs in southern Vietnam, which does not have pine trees, so viewers think it does not resemble Vietnam. If it took place in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, it would be correct as that region does have pine trees and Georgian terrain like that of Fort Benning. [] []

*The weapons of the Vietcong guerrillas and NVA soldiers, while mostly American and British, are accurate, as Chinese copies of them were exported to the NVA and Vietcong. At the time, few modern Russian and Chinese assault rifles, i.e. the AK-47, were available to Hollywood studios or to prop rental companies.


*As the movie was made with the full co-operation of the US military, the filmmakers had access to authentic firearms. Early in the movie, John Wayne uses a US-marked M16 made by Harrington & Richardson, while later he uses a CAR-15, manufacturer unknown (presumably Colt). After filming, both guns were set aside because of their connection to the movie, and never issued. The H&R M16 has long resided in a private collection in the Northeastern US, while the CAR-15 is believed to have been retained by the US Army.Fact|date=February 2007
*In a climactic scene in which Wayne was scripted to break an M16 rifle against a tree, rather than break a real gun, he used a plastic toy replica of an M16, made by Mattel, as a substitute.
* Toward the end of the movie, when John Wayne's character meets Jack Soo's character, you can see traffic on a highway going by in the distance through the trees, including a bus.
* The defensive battle that begins the second half of the movie is very loosely based on the Battle of Nam Dong, during which two Viet Cong battalions attacked a small outpost defended by a mixed force of Americans, Australians and South Vietnamese. After the successful defense of the outpost, the commanding officer, Capt. Roger Donlon was awarded the Medal of Honor.
* The Wilhelm scream a famous stock sound effect is used 4 times throughout the siege on the fort.
* The two leading Vietnamese characters would have served in the ARVN army of South Vietnam. In the film, they were actually portrayed by Japanese-Americans Jack Soo, later seen on "Barney Miller" and George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu on "Star Trek".
* Comedian Richard Pryor is often credited with a small role in this film, and author Gilbert Adair even went so far as to point out Pryor's presence as an example of the underrepresentation of African-Americans in the film. In reality, however, the Richard Pryor in this movie is Texas newspaper columnist Richard 'Cactus' Pryor, a friend of Wayne's and a white man.
* This film is often identified as the "only film made about the Vietnam War during the Vietnam War" or as the "only pro-war movie made during the Vietnam War", but it is neither. At least two arguably pro-war films were made during the Vietnam War concerning American forces in Vietnam: A Yank in Viet-Nam (1964) (which was actually filmed in Vietnam) and To the Shores of Hell (1966).
* The character Col. Mike Kirby is based on the real life person Lauri Törni, who later on called himself Larry Thorne. Lauri Törni was a Finnish Army captain who fought in the Winter War (1939-40) and Continuation War (1941-44) against the Soviet Union. In 1954 he joined the US Army, and in November 1963 he joined the Special Forces unit A-734 in Vietnam and fought in the Mekong Delta. He disappeared during a mission in 1965 and was presumed dead.

External links

* [ Viet Nam War dot com review]
* [ Roger Ebert's Review]
* [ Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz]
*imdb title|id=0063035

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