Scott Johnson 04/14/09 HIST. 1700 Term Project Film Analysis/Review WE WERE SOLDIERS It’s a known fact that that the Vietnam War was fought by young American soldiers that bled and died next to one another in the jungles of Vietnam. With many wins and loses throughout the war there were over 58,000 American casualties by wars end. The movie, “We Were Soldiers” focuses on the role of the United State’s 7th Calvary Regiment in the Battle of Ia Drang, which was the first large-unit battle of the Vietnam War. Lt. Col.
Hal Moore commanded the 7th Calvary Regiment that landed a helicopter in an area named “X-Ray” located in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam. LT. Col. Moore found himself and his men defending an area no bigger than the size of a football field surrounded by an overwhelming North Vietnamese army. For the most part, this movie portrays a factual and historical account of this battle; however, some parts of the movie were not found to be historically accurate. In the film “We Were soldiers”, the images were one of the most important keys in conveying the historical truth of the Battle of Ia Drang.
Many photographs taken during the actual battle by Joseph Galloway allowed Hollywood to visualize and recreate the battle scenes. These photographs reflected the pain and anguish of the soldiers; the bloodiness of the battle; and the landscape and vegetation of the area. The movie used graphic images to show how the American troops were outnumbered 395 to 4,000 North Vietnam soldiers and how they were fighting within feet of the each other. The film also showed some of Mr. Galloway’s black and white photographs of the actual battlefield. The black and white images of soldiers dying during combat help portray the actual events of the battle.
I felt a deeper understanding of the pain and suffering of those soldiers and what they had to do to survive. In addition, many Hollywood war movies portray the main character as much more of a heroic individual than what they really were. This film does not glorify war, but shows how bloody and gruesome battles during the Vietnam War really were and the small heroism that actually occurred. There are a couple of concepts that show up throughout the film that are not normally part of an action war movie but tell us that there are similarities between us and our enemies.
One concept shows the best and worst of humanity by showing us that just because someone is our enemy does not make them evil or less of a human being. The Vietcong are shown taking orders, just like their American counterparts. The film portrays both Vietcong and American soldiers, even though they were fighting against each other and dying for their countries, as human with their deaths bringing grief and sadness to the soldiers around them as well as their loved ones at home.
In one particular scene, a Vietcong soldier is writing a letter to his wife. At the end of the movie, the wife of the Vietnamese soldier is shown reading a letter from her husband along with a letter from her nation’s army about his death. These concepts in the film show the similarities and parallelisms that actually occurred in real life on both sides of the war. The movie also shifted occasionally from the battlefield to the home front depicting the reaction of the wives to the news they received about their United States soldiers.
The fear and anxiety that the women felt as the taxicab delivered messages of lost soldiers and the way in which two women strived to ease some of this pain. Lt. Col. Moore’s wife and another woman began accepting all the messages from the taxicab and hand delivered the bad news giving support to the women who lost their husbands. Although I think this diversion detracted from the film, I can appreciate that the film attempted to show another side of the War. The production team spared no expense when it came to the recreation and props of the historical era.
Everything from the planting some 600 hundred sycamore and beach trees in the middle of California valley to depict the actual Vietnam Ia Drang Valley, to the remanufacturing of the standard military issue uniforms that the Air Cavalry would have worn, down to the smallest details of patches and insignias that the troops would have worn on their uniforms. The production team also made sure the weapons and vehicles were historically correct as well. To me, those are two of the things I would notice when it comes to viewing historically re-enacted war movies.
I have seen too many movies where the weapons or vehicles that are from the wrong era ruin the movie and therefore destroying its historic value. However, in this movie, the production team hired a company called Cinema Weaponry who furnished and restored some 250 weapons for the Air Calvary soldiers including M-79 40mm grenade launchers, M-60 machine guns, 45-calibur pistols and M-16E1 assault rifles. The Vietnamese used anything from French and Russian surplus rifles including the MAT-49 submachine gun and PPS-43 rifles. Since few actual AK-47 were around, they made custom replicas of the Ak-47s.
Over all, the costume and prop departments for this movie did an extraordinary job to simulate and recreate the Battle of Ia Drang in 1965. One of the few differences I could find that historically never happened in the real Battle of the Ia Drang, but happened in the final battle scene of the film, was Lt. Col. Moore’s bayonet charge into the oncoming North Vietnamese. According to the book, “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young,” Lt. Col Moore and Joseph Galloway, journalist and photographer, make no claim that any bayonet charge took place at any time during the Battle of Ia Drang.
In fact, the last recorded American bayonet charge occurred in North Korea when Lewis L. Millett lead his 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Division against the North Koreans. In reality, Lt. Col. Moore and his soldiers did exactly what they were trained to do, “Hug the terrain and rely upon massed firepower to turn back the enemy. ” It is my belief that the filmmakers of “We Were Soldiers” found the historical truth unsatisfying, they desired a dramatic ending. They designed something with a heroic last battle scene, leaving the enemy destroyed and Lt. Col. Moore and his men standing victorious on the battlefield.
The bayonet charge fulfilled that dramatic ending to an otherwise historically correct film. Although primarily historically accurate, I felt that the movie had a few weak issues within the plot. One point is that the movie never really explained why or how the United States got involved in the Vietnam War. The film did not depict the controversial issues that politically surrounded the United States entering into a war with Vietnam. However, in the beginning of the film, it was mentioned that the Battle of Ia Drang was the United State’s first large-unit battle of the Vietnam War.
Previous United States conflicts in the area involved only small units and patrols. Another weak issue with the movie involved the music soundtrack and some of the expressions used by soldiers. I do not believe the music sound track for the film reflected the time period of the mid 1960s. The music sounded a bit more modern. In addition, I recall some of the expressions that the soldiers used to be more modern slang than what may have been used in the 1960s. This may draw the audience into the film but it is not an historically accurate depiction reflecting the time period of the movie.
The film, “We Were Soldiers” is not an imagined historical truth but rather a movie depicting an accurate accounting of our history that will show future generations of the war that took place in Vietnam. For the most part, this movie portrays a factual and historical account of the Battle of Ia Drang. Through accurate depiction of the pain and anguish of the soldiers; the bloodiness of the battle; and the landscape and vegetation of the area, the production team spared no expense when it came to the recreation of this historical era. In addition, the uniforms, weaponry and vehicles were also found to be historically accurate.
Although the ending was altered to meet the dramatic ending the filmmakers desired, I found that the film stayed very close in historical accuracy. The film, “We Were Soldiers” was simply based on fact and gave a deeper understanding of the Vietnam War without glorifying war. References Harvey, Fred, 2002. “We Were Soldiers. ” The History Place website: http://www. historyplace. com/specials/reviews/were-soldiers. htm Isserman, Maurice, 2002. “Hollywood: We Were Soldiers Once… But in Which War. ” History News Network website: http://hnn. us/articles/638. html Isserman, Maurice, 2002. We Were Soldiers Once… But Hollywood Isn’t Sure In Which War. ” History Matters website: http://historymatters. gmu. edu/d/6579 Moore, Harold and Galloway, Joseph, 1992. “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young: Ia Drang – The Battle that Changed the War in Vietnam. ” Random House Publishing Group, October 20. Nix, 2002. “We Were Soldiers (2002) Movie Review. ” Beyond Hollywood. com website: http://www. beyondhollywood. com/we-were-soldiers-2002-movie-review/ Owen, Gary, 2005. “We Were Soldiers. ” Epionions website: http://www99. epinions. com/review/mvie_mu-1112647/content_192010555012