One of the first Vietnam War action pictures presented anachronistic World War II-style heroics of the American Special Forces, featuring one-man USA propaganda machine John Wayne, who also co-directed the film (and who originally said he made the film to help re-elect President Johnson).
United States Army Special Forces troops (“Green Berets”) under the command of career soldier Colonel Mike Kirby (Wayne) defend a Da Nang firebase during the Vietnam war. Wayne is his wonderfully dated dauntless self, squinting through twin slits in his sunburned face and drawling, “I’d kinda like ta eyeball this situation.”
Cynical war correspondent George Beckwith (David Janssen) – who is always shown with a typewriter, never a pad or a pencil – accompanies Kirby and objects to both the war and the means by which it is executed.
Kirby’s firebase is overrun in hand-to-hand combat and his troops fight bravely to retake it and are then ordered on a special mission to capture a high-level Viet Cong officer.
The Green Berets had elements from every war film ever made: a parachute jump; Viet Cong soldiers in luxury, uniform, champagne and caviar – apparently based on the German high command; a little Asian orphan named Hamchunk; battle scenes right out of The Red Badge of Courage and The Dirty Dozen; the blowing up of an economy-sized Brige On The River Kwai; a dying dog . . .
The closest the actual production got to Vietnam was Fort Benning, Columbus, Georgia – which was chosen for filming because the surrounding countryside was considered a good facsimile of Vietnam.
Unfortunately, the leaves began to turn brown for autumn and the foliage had to be sprayed green to avoid a visual catastrophe.
Widely considered one of the worst movies of the 60s, actual Vietnam veterans were unanimous in their disdain for the version of the war that was represented in the film – and to top it all off, the (in)famous ending features the sun setting in the East!
Col. Mike Kirby
Sgt. Doc McGee
Raymond St Jacques