|About Michael Lee Lanning|
Michael Lee Lanning retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel after more than twenty years of service. In Vietnam he served as an infantry platoon leader, a reconnaissance platoon leader, and a rifle company commander. He later served as public affairs officer for General H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
His other books include Inside the VC and the NVA: The Real Story of North Vietnam's Armed Forces (with Dan Cragg), The Battles of Peace, Inside Force Recon: Recon Marines in Vietnam (with Ray W. Stubbe), Inside the LRRPs: Rangers in Vietnam, Vietnam 1969-1970: A Company Commander's Journal, and The Only War We Had: A Platoon Leader's Journal of Vietnam.
He resides in Phoenix, Arizona, and Eastsound, Washington.
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I have asked a few questions of my own about where young people, and many older ones, have acquired their knowledge and understanding of America's longest and most unpopular war. Responses occasionally allude to a relative who served in Southeast Asia, school classes, and books, but the overwhelming majority of those to whom I've spoken admit that the major influence on their perceptions of the Vietnam War has been Hollywood's motion pictures.
The Vietnam War was a turning point in thought, culture, and values in every aspect of American life. It's influence on politics and U.S. world policy is obvious on the front pages of newspapers even today. Many of those who lived through the Vietnam Era are still confused about what really happened and why. For those who have come to maturity since the fall of Saigon, accuracy and facts untainted by propaganda or falsehood have been difficult to come by.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Only after the war did Hollywood finally turn its cameras to Vietnam. But when it did, because the war itself was so confusing and unpopular, directors generally focused not on the political aspects of the conflict but on the veterans who fought the war. If the war was unpopular and the military was considered a loathsome institution, then surely the uniformed warrior was equally unsympathetic.
From low-budget motorcycle films depicting Vietnam Veterans as killers and drug dealers to megabudget "epics" claiming a documentary-level approach to the war, Hollywood has turned out a barrage of movies portraying troubled veterans who neither fit in with society nor care to do so. Film companies have converted "loser" veterans into box-office winners.
|Written, produced, and directed almost exclusively by nonveterans and those actively opposed to the war during the conflict, the Vietnam movie has taken a narrow view of the war's combatants-and that portrayal seems to be concentrated on, at its best, an unemployed, maladjusted veteran who cannot cope and, at its worst, a crazed killer still wearing his U.S. Army field jacket.|
|Instead of asking how they could "help win the war," Hollywood decision makers mostly turned their backs on the conflict while it raged on the battlefield.|
*Several scripts were submitted to the Department of Department of Defense before and after THE GREEN BERETS, but either they were considered unsuitable or the producers were unwilling to make appropriate changes to secure military assistance. What the Pentagon was looking for by way of films was not secret. The requirements were outlined in Department of Defense Instruction 5410.15
This document, dated November 3 1966, stated in Paragraph V, "The production, program, project, or assistance will benefit the DoD or otherwise be in the national interest based on consideration of the following factors:
|Last Full Measure of Devotion|
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