Robert Hemphill’s review of Platoon

7 09 2008

Here is an review at Amazon.com, it’s signed with “a Customer”, but from the content it’s clear it was written by Robert Hemphill. 

Stridently Antiwar Propaganda; NOT the Way It Actually Was!, January 26, 1999

QUOTE: Speaking from the experience of two full tours in Vietnam and as Oliver Stone’s company commander during his service in 25th Infantry Division (Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry), I take serious exception to his portrayal of our soldiers as spaced-out, cruel dopeheads who routinely smoked dope, committed atrocities and tried to kill each other. My soldiers — and soldiers in Vietnam in general — were not like that at all. During that time, Stone was a good soldier, attested to by the facts that, to the best of my knowlege, I never had to punish him, and that he departed Bravo on 15 Jan 1968 by medical evac helicopter after being seriously wounded trying to take a bunker with two other men. His radicalism seems to have emerged after his tour in Vietnam. Whatever the reason, this movie does a gross disservice to the vast majority of American troops who went to Vietnam as ordered by their government, did the job given them the best they could, and returned home to become normal, productive citizens. I won’t say that unsavory events did not occur in Vietnam — as they have in every war — but they were not typical. For example, My Lai occurred, a criminal act committed by a small group of soldiers who should have been soundly punished as the criminals they were. However, My Lai was an aberation, although movies like “Platoon” play it up as the norm. To give Stone his due, the really good part of the movie was the feeling of being there which he recreated: the heat and dehydration, humping heavy packs, red ant dances; the attempt to conduct an ambush while fighting fatigue, rain, mosquitoes, and having the VC sneak up on you because your lookout went to sleep. Those things were very real, and Stone did these better than anyone else. Stone ruins the film for those of us in Bravo Company (identified at the beginning of the film) — and real Vietnam vets in general — by throwing into this real ambiance all the antiwar images and rumors ever associated with Vietnam created by those violently opposed to the war.Stone says that he is a dramatist, and that he changes and shapes events to suit his views of those events; he says that he is not a documentarian, as I am. I guess that means that I record the true events, while he takes history and twists and shapes it into his kind of fiction. Therefore, if you want to learn the real history of Bravo Company during the time Stone and I were in the unit, and the truth about America’s Vietnam soldiers and veterans in general, I recommend that you read two books: my book, “Platoon: Bravo Company” and B.G. Burkett’s book, “Stolen Valor.” Don’t be afraid to find out the truth — you owe it to those who served and died there.

My post with the review of Hemphill’s book


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