We Were Soldiers

Sep 14, 2017 in Description

The film We Were Soldiers is based on the Vietnam War events, where two forces one lead by the United States Marines and the other by Vietcong pointed their weapons against each other. The film is based on the novel We Were Soldiers Once and Young which was written by two of those participated in the battle, reporter J.L Galloway and Lieutenant General H. Moore. Besides the war events, the movie depicts what was happening in the family setup of service men. When Moore and his 7th Air Calvary contingent arrived in Vietnam, they started hunting down the enemy over La Drang Valley unaware of the presence of the enemy or the numbers they had.

Fortunately, in their first landing they arrest a scout from Vietnam, who informed them of an enticement to have the US military engage with a Northern Division of the Vietnamese which consisted of about 4,000 soldiers. However, due to their exemplary military skills, artillery and proper coordination, American forces were able to win this round. As the war drew to an end, Lieutenant General Moore became the last American service man to vacate the battle field.

Despite depiction of the movie in relation to the war, question arises as to whether this was actually what had happened in the real war. The paper seeks to reexamine the occurrences in the real battlefield and compare them to scenes in the movie to clearly understand the differences. In some scenes, the movie is seen as having included some depictions to add excitement to the viewers as well as try to create an image of American heroism to the viewers. The paper, therefore, outlines and discusses the most fundamental differences between the two.

Comparison Between the Movie and Historical Evidence


While the real place of battlefield is covered with much vegetation and located on the Vietnam terrains, this has been found to be different in the film setting. The movie has been shot in an open ground with no terrains. Again while it was almost impossible for proper visibility in the real situation, this seems to have been different in comparison to the movie where huge patches of areas covered with no vegetation can be observed. Such scenes are precisely similar in the movies so as to allow the viewer to have visible images (Sterritt, 2002). Though at some point the movie seems to have captured the real situation of the hilly terrains, this has been disputed by the fact that the terrains little look like the actual location at the Hills of Orinda. Actually, the terrains in the movie resemble those of Tahoe or the ones which did not actually exist in Vietnam (Sterritt, 2002).

The Combat Techniques

Some of the war front techniques used in the movie are similar to what actually happened during the battle. For instance, Lt. Colonel Moore ordered his soldiers to shoot three times in the bushes. Despite the fact that they had not been aware of any presence of the Vietcong militia, the act prompted the Vietcong's to believe that they had been traced and, therefore, firing back. To the US marines, their trick had worked and they now knew the enemy hideouts who they defeated by heavy artilleries and machine guns (Schwarzbaum, 2002). Those, present have made confirmation to this occurrence and other acts of similarities that followed later.

This is highly credited to the fact that the two individuals who directed themselves were themselves in the battlefield and, thus, saw it happen. Indeed, most activities of the scene were true especially from the elimination of platoon at the start to their fight to avoid getting franked. However, the scene at the end of the movie where Moore charges at the Vietnamese again bringing destruction by the US helicopter gunships is far much exaggerated than the actual happenings.

Accuracy and Effectiveness of the US Military Equipment

From the movie, another exaggeration is exhibited by the use of firearms. For example, at one point, American artillery located five kilometers away from the enemy is able to hit the target so accurately and faster than expected. This indicates what American movie directors might have wished to portray for the viewers. Again, American army is at one instance shown to have won easily over the enemy despite the fact that they had been outnumbered. During the real war, it was highly unlikely that the American artillery despite their superior nature over that of the enemy could be so accurate and fast. This fact "is clearly supported by the fact that there was evidence of unintended bomb shelling from the US military." (Schwarzbaum, February 28, 2002).

Combat Nature of the War

From the movie, the battle was heavily done with bombs and firearms which is not far from the truth. However, the manner in which this actually occurred during the war itself was largely embellished in the movie setting to capture the attention of the viewer. It is also partly occasioned by the blunders emanating from the scenery but it would have challenged them to shoot the film smoothly should there have been accurate depiction of the landscape. Another thing that seemed to have been uncertain is the appearances of the enemies.

In several occasions, Vietcong fighters appear just from nowhere and the only thing that follows is their defeat after the firefight . From a real battle situation, this can only be described as being farfetched. The enemy ought to be known from what location they hide and appear, as well as their logistical arrangements.

However, depiction of the notion that Vietcong could be seen during the day was inappropriate. While the movie indicates that most of the fighting took place during the day and showing the night fights only several times, the truth of the matter is that the actual war largely took place at night (Sterritt, 2002). Such strategy is mainly stipulated by the fact that Vietnamese troops had to go into hiding since the only way to win against the Americans was through ambush and night raids. The strategy was also beneficial for the Vietnamese because they were able to avoid being traced by the Americans and could only be unearthed when it would be too late.

Finally, it was accurately portrayed of how well the helicopter gunships helped the American forces win the war. However, it is not true that the helicopter would land easily as depicted in the movie. Density of the forest where the war was taking place would not allow the helicopter to land.

Nature of Life for the US Service Men in Vietnam War

Away from the battlefield, the movie was able to capture the actual happenings that were occurring even on the family front. Different behaviors of the families of the soldiers were eminent in that while some lived in small communities and with the families of the other soldiers, at times they as well opted for a normal American life just as other Americans. The areas designated for these families resemble barracks a fact that the film was able to capture so well. The places where "the Vietnam War heroes lived still remain to date." (Schwarzbaum, 2002).

Apart from the families of the service men, these residential areas consist of a firm knit community, the members of which tend to assist each other. This tradition was adopted since the war times when the husbands were at war and the responsibility to run and manage homesteads belonged to the wives (Schwarzbaum, February 28, 2002). At one point in the movie, the wives in the camps are seen assembling the campgrounds to make them known to the surrounding environment. This fact also played another important role as the women pulled their understanding of the laundry and the top most grocery stores among other essential life necessities..

Emotional and Physical Anguish of the Soldiers

Just as have been expressed in the movie, being away from the family for the period of war was tormenting both the soldiers and their families. However, as unintentionally shown in "the movie, the Americans were willing to continue the way for as long as it would take, the actual response during the war was different. Many people were calling to the end of the war which they saw as causing heavy casualties for both sides."

The Overall Nature of the Film

The overall rating of the movie can be said to have 80 percent captured the real nature of the war and the environment within which it occurred. However, as indicated in this paper, the film has a few discrepancies that do not match the historical evidences of the war (Sterritt, 2002). Again, the fact that the film captures only one battle field of the war serves as clear evidence that this cannot be a better representation of the entire war as many would want to believe (Schwarzbaum, 2002). Moreover, in the 20 percent discredited part of the movie is the exaggerations done to show or express the unchallenged might of the United States army.

The fact that the movie shows the Americans as superior over the enemy posses questions as to whether this was a war or an attack on a defenseless country by a super power. While this is not well defined in the movie, history has stated otherwise, indicating that the Vietcong army had its superior tactics over the United States army during the war; which represents the major reason why they had posed a challenge to a mighty military like that of the United States of America.

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