The Green Berets

At the end of December 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson L received a letter which began: 'Dear Mr President. When I was a little boy, my father always told me that if you want to get anything done see the top man – so I am addressing this letter to you'. The author was a fifty-eight-year-old John Wayne, the Hollywood legend, born Marion Michael Morrison and by then veteran of around 140 films including, most famously, westerns and war movies. He went on to propose a patriotic movie about America's growing involvement in the Vietnam War. The eventual result was The Green Berets (1968) directed by, and starring, Wayne. It was the most blatantly propagandist contemporaneous American feature film made about the Vietnam war.

Not that there were many to chose from. Apart from a number of documentary films made about the war and a very few later features dealing with crazed Vietnam veterans going on the rampage on the home front (The Angry Breed, 1969; The Stone Killer, 1973) or motorcycle gangs recruited to rescue a US diplomat from the Communists (The Losers, 1971), the reluctance of the American film industry to tackle Vietnam during what was, after all, a. period of at least ten years (c. 1965-73) is striking. All the more so when compared to the battery of Vietnam films produced after the war, of which the best known are The Deer Hunter (1978), Apocalypse Now! (1978), Rambo: First Blood, Part Two (1985), Platoon (1986), Full Metal Jacket (1987), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) and Hamburger Hill (1987). Even the North Vietnamese were more prolific producers of films about (he war while it was being waged, from The Young Woman, of Bai-Sao in 1963 to The Girl from Hanoi in 1975.

Such films, like anything a wartime enemy says or shows, could easily be dismissed as propaganda. But in his letter to the president, Wayne wrote:

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