On Thanksgiving Day, twenty U.S. servicemen lost their lives in Vietnam.
On the parade ground, Team Viking stands at attention as Colonel Brewster pins a Bronze Star on Ruizs uniform. A jeep pulls up during the ceremony and General Higgins jumps out, coming directly up to Brewster who salutes him. Higgins decides hes going to give Brewster a hard time in front of all his men and sarcastically asks where Brewster had learned to salute.
The colonel, still holding the salute, tells him he learned at the Point. Higgins notes Brewster seems to be marching to the beat of a different drummer these days, and continues to make an example of Brewster there on the parade ground. Finally Brewster asks, if the general has a problem, cant they discuss it in his office? With a last glance at Brewsters men, Higgins salutes back.
After Brewster and Higgins leave, Anderson asks Goldman what the generals beef was. Myron notes that he thinks its because the colonel pushed Command too hard on the Phu An massacre. Zeke replies that Brewster just plain pushed.
In Brewsters office, Higgins dresses Brewster down, telling him that if hes going to go to the press, to do it on the record. He tosses a newspaper down on the colonels desk. Carl notes that he filed a formal complaint with the Inspector General- how much more "on the record" could he get?
Higgins informs Brewster that in all his years of service hed seen many things, but that he could not imagine American boys massacring an innocent village. Brewster reminds him that Team Viking saw the tragedy. Higgins maintains it was a sweep of an enemy ville. That Bellar was under Brewsters command, and why didnt he believe him?
The colonel is furious and notes that Goldman was also under his command and he saw a massacre. The general cuts him off, wanting to know if this was the same Goldman who had been in "lock-step" with him from the beginning. And that Goldmans interpretation of the events was only one mans view, one that Higgins chose not to believe.
Higgins wants Brewster to back off. And if the colonel insists on making an issue of it, Higgins would make Brewster an orphan in "this mans Army".
At Tan Son Nhut, Zeke visits Danny and the two talk. Danny tells Zeke he had heard about what had happened with Brewster from McKay. And that Danny hoped he wasnt responsible for Brewster being in trouble with the higher-ups. Zeke assures Percell its not that at all and that Brewster goes above and beyond for all his men, that hes a good officer.
The two men end up outside of the psych ward, but Danny doesnt want to go back. He tells Zeke hes cleaned up now and why does he need someone messing with his head? Zeke tells him hes done the first step and got cleaned up. But Danny has a problem and the second step is figuring out what that problem is. He asks Danny to trust him and Danny says he does.
Back at Barnett, Doc Hock has called home and is speaking with his girlfriend. He finds himself defending Goldman and Anderson, saying they were great guys and not baby killers. And so are the rest of the guys in the unit. He continues to defend the men in his unit, but also states that he doesn't agree with the war and that he voted for McCarthy, not Nixon. He pulls out a black and white picture of four people standing and sitting under a sign that says Duke University. Doc tells her she looks beautiful, but wants to know who the guy is with her. He finds out that she has moved in with the guy. Doc becomes upset. He tells her that he thought since he had agreed to be monogamous that she had, too.
Back in Tan Son Nhut, Dr. Louie notices that Percell has not joined the other patients in Arts and Crafts. He goes over to speak with Danny, who is reading alone on his bunk. Dr. Louie tells Danny that Anderson told him that Danny is eager to get back to his unit. Danny says the guys need him. Dr. Louie notes that Danny needs the guys. He wants to know if Danny ever let the guys down. It takes Danny a long moment, but then he admits that yes, he let the guys down. Dr. Louie tells him its okay, but Percell reminds him its not okay, or he wouldnt be here.
Dr. Louie assures Danny that everyone handles fear and disillusionment differently. And, like in Dannys case, some turn to drugs. Danny is in the Pysch ward to understand that, and to talk. The doctor tells Danny its up to him to participate in the group activities or to stay on his bunk. After Louie leaves, Danny decides to join the others.
In Saigon, Brewster finds Sid Boyle. He accuses Boyle of printing a mess of inaccuracies. Boyle is just as angry and informs Brewster that since he couldnt substantiate any of the facts, his editor crucified him. Now he was covering a "holier-than-thou" congressman. Brewster reins in his temper and orders, in Vietnamese, a bowl of the same soup Boyle is eating. Sid shakes his head, saying there are not many officers in Vietnam with a command of the language. Brewster finally tells the reporter that hes willing to try this again, but this time he is willing to go on the record and substantiate the story.
Later, General Higgins sees the article in the paper and gives it to Elliot, who reads the headline out loud in shock. Higgins says it's Brewsters obituary and to send donations in lieu of flowers to Brewsters whores on Pasteur Street.
On Pasteur Street, Doc is drinking at a café across from one of the boom-boom bars. He watches some GIs come out with girls hanging onto them. Taking a look at the picture of his girlfriend, he takes a final swallow of beer and jumps over the railing to the street, leaving the picture behind as he goes over to the bar.
Inside, Doc is clearly enjoying a bath with two of the girls. He has a beer in each hand and tells them that they are looking at the number one lover out of Memphis. One girl strips down and joins him in the tub, asking if Doc had lots of girls back home, lots of "boom-booms," and Doc smiles and notes he lost track somewhere around 1967. These are some of the girls he gives shots to and the one tells him shed show him a good time, on the house, drawing him into a kiss. But after a minute, Doc pulls away, a bit embarrassed. She asks if Doc has a number one girl back home. Hockenbury smiles sadly and says he "had" a girl back home. She kisses him again, but he looks sad and says he guesses hes an old fashioned kind of guy. She smiles back and assures him they like old fashioned kinds of guys.
Back at Barnett, Brewster is in his office studying a large map when Anderson comes in to speak with him. Zeke approaches, asking if he is interrupting and the colonel quickly assures him no, and that he is simply working on a theory. The colonel then goes on to explain to Anderson about a truck- a Chinese six-by- that Team Thor had spotted, out of gas. A few days later, a Marine Recon saw the same truck, about 200 miles north. He theorizes that there has to be a major fuel depot nearby, but proving it is another matter all together. Brewster then asks what Anderson wants. Zeke tells him that what had happened on the parade ground the day before wasnt right and had left a bad taste in everyones mouth. He adds that the men were behind Brewster.
At Tan Son Nhut, Percell and several others are in a loose circle with Dr. Louie, as Bud Sills (from Bellars unit) explains how exhausted they had been. They had gone into a ville and had tripped a booby trap and he could still hear the screams. Bud notes that they were spooked and tired and needed a break. But they got assigned as OPCON to a SOG team. Bud is looking at Danny. Bud then explains they went into Phu An.
Bud tells how it became like a shooting gallery. How he and another man used one kid, who was trying to crawl away, for target practice. How the two men had made it a game until finally Bud went up and killed the child, shot him right between the eyes. When Dr. Louie asks why, Bud says he felt the need to succeed. That they were so tired and so ticked off, they would have killed anybody. Revenge and payback and that it was okay until they walked into the light of day and saw Percells unit. Bud then asks if Danny ever killed a kid.
Danny cant look at anyone, especially Bud. But Bud keeps on talking. He says that he shot the kid, but they both died. Hes dead and hes afraid. Afraid of what he is now capable of. That he wasnt this way before. He finally adds that he is not the kind of guy who kills babies.
Its after dark, and Goldman and Brewster are walking together on the crowded streets of Saigon. Myron tells Brewster that when he was pressuring the colonel about the Phu An incident, it had never occurred to him that Brewster would be jeopardizing his career. Brewster tells Goldman he did what he felt was necessary under the circumstances. Myron agrees, but then asks if maybe the colonel should have used a rifle instead of a shotgun when going to the press. Brewster holds them up, facing Myron. He tells Goldman he loves the Army and the system, but that sometimes the system needs a little jump start. Before Myron can say anything, Sid Boyle pushes up to them through the crowd.
After Brewster introduces Boyle to Goldman, Boyle asks if he can buy them a drink. They step over to an outside café and Sid asks Brewster how it felt to be relieved of command? The colonel is startled and Myron is silent as Boyle realizes Carl doesnt know. He apologizes, saying the rumor is all over town. Myron says then, its just that, rumors. Brewster excuses himself, though, and leaves. Boyle sadly notes that the Army will crucify Brewster. Myron notes, Boyle bought the hammer and nails, what did that make him?
Brewster shows up at General Elliotts and the general realizes Carl knows. Elliot apologizes, saying he wanted to tell Carl himself. But Brewster asks, how do you tell a friend that hes being reprimanded for speaking the unspeakable- the truth? Elliot notes it was more than just Phu An, but going to the press had been the final nail in the coffin. Elliot then added that every time Carl took a deep breath, he ticked someone off.
November 28th, 1968, 5 AM Thanksgiving Day.
Goldman, sleeping in his hootch, is abruptly wakened by Brewster, who asks if he wants to volunteer for a special mission. Myron, dazed and not completely awake, agrees, asking if it means the colonel is not being relieved of his command. Brewster says no, but if they can leave before his orders are delivered, they have a chance at locating and destroying a major fuel depot. As Goldman fumbles to pull on a pair of pants, Brewster tells him to gather up Anderson and his men and meet him on the helipad in ten minutes.
In the false dawn, McKay's slick ferries Team Viking, who are briefed enroute about Brewsters theory that the enemy has several large fuel dumps along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The colonel feels he knows where one of them is, and they are going in to locate and destroy it.
The team works their way through the jungle, Taylor on point and Johnson carrying the radio. They manage to locate the Ho Chi Minh trail and continue on.
Back at Tan Son Nhut, the group is back together discussing what Bud did and who was really responsible. Percell agrees with Bud that he cant blame the Army for his problems any more than Danny can. Percell notes his buddies have been through the same things, but they didnt end up hooked on drugs. When Dr. Louie asks why, Danny says he doesnt know. Bud speaks up, saying they were the same. That they both cared too much. Another GI, Dave, agrees, telling Danny to listen to what Bud is saying. That Danny had been naïve and had bought into the line "My country, always right, never wrong." That maybe he realized that it really wasnt true. And realizing it that late in the game was what had destroyed Danny.
When the session is over, Danny stops Dr. Louie. He tells the doctor that everything he had been brought up to believe in has been taken away. What does he have left? Louie tells him what he has is what they all have. Himself and a few friends.
Team Viking edges their way into a clearing filled with old machinery, jeeps, trucks, and other odds and ends. Zeke tells Taylor its an old graveyard. Taylor notes, either that or Detroit after the riots. Zeke hears something, like someone crying out in pain. He follows the sound cautiously, everyone else following him. He eventually reaches what appears to be the source of the eerie wailing and reaches to move a stand of palm fronds out of his way. Pushing the fronds aside carefully, he startles what appears to be an egret into flight. Another bird remains, still making the same sad, wailing sound. Zeke smiles and shrugs in embarrassment.
At Barnett, McKay hurries to report to the CPT where General Higgins is angrily demanding if anyone knows where Colonel Brewster and/or Team Viking is. No one can tell him where they are or where they might have gone. Higgins rounds on McKay, who stands at attention, and asks if he has seen Colonel Brewster. McKay admits he had seen the colonel that morning. He also admits that he flew Brewster and Team Viking out to an LZ. But when pressed where, Johnny refuses, saying hes not at liberty to discuss it. This only further antagonizes Higgins and he informs McKay that he knows the pilot has to go back and pick up Team Viking. But unless McKay wants to spend the holidays in Long Binh Jail, it had better be the last thing he does for Brewster.
Team Viking is again moving through the jungle when Ruiz sees something. He spots some camouflage hung in the bushes and calls Anderson over to him. With Ruiz leading the way, they all walk cautiously into the area until Ruiz steps on something that clicks under his boot. As Anderson tells him to be still, he carefully checks around Ruizs boot and then smiles, telling Ruiz hes gonna live. Ruiz is relieved, stepping back, and the two uncover several fuel drums.
They have found the fuel depot and Brewster is pleased. The team moves into the area cautiously, uncovering fuel drums and looking around. As they get an idea of how much fuel is there, they spot a handful of NVA soldiers and all duck and hide before they are seen. Anderson makes the decision and, with hand signals, sets everyone into motion to dispatch the NVA as quickly and as quietly as possible.
McKay is in the air and on his way as Team Viking, including Doc, wires explosives to several of the fuel drums. They are too busy to see another NVA soldier walk into the area as they set the detonators. Doc sees the NVA first, crying out Charlie at 3 oclock. Taylor tackles the medic to the ground while everyone else ducks. But it is Ruiz who kills the man before he can kill any of the team. Grabbing Doc, they all run, having less than three minutes to get as far away as possible.
The resulting explosion is so big it throws everyone down to the ground. But they are all okay and quickly scramble back to their feet, continuing to run for the PZ. McKay can see the smoke and fire as he comes in over the destruction on his way to secure Team Viking.
It's after dark as McKay lands his slick back at Barnett. Brewster walks with Anderson and McKay away from the helicopter, Anderson saying hed be happy to help the colonel with any more theories he might have. Brewster notes that after today hed be lucky to be in the Army as a hootchmaid. McKay says the fuel depot is a big score and has to count for something with Higgins. Brewster says it will, and that hell be furious about it.
Back at the helicopter, the guys, along with the door gunner, realize theyve missed Thanksgiving dinner. Doc does a turkey imitation that has them chuckling. They all start to trade stories of home cooked dinners and gently try to one-up each other as Taylor just winces and sighs.
Brewster suddenly appears and waves them all down, telling them to follow him. They all realize Brewster is leading them to the Mess Hall, but its well after 10 PM and the mess hall should be closed. Taylor asks if its leftovers for Thanksgiving and had the colonel ever seen those "Green Beanies" pack it away? But Brewster smiles and asks Taylor to go in first. The rest of the team crowds in to find a table set with candles and china and a turkey with all the fixings laid out for them. As the men eagerly sit down, Brewster asks the sergeant major where the turkey came from. The sergeant major will only hint that it is a "four star" bird and then tells the colonel his wife and son are cleared to go to the States before he leaves.
Myron steps up and sincerely thanks Brewster for giving his men a real Thanksgiving dinner. Brewster tells Myron he has an outstanding unit, top to bottom. That no matter what it takes, make sure they never go hungry for food or compliments. And to make sure of the same for himself.
After Brewster leaves, saying he cant stay and join them, the guys settle in to eat until Ruiz realizes there are no cranberries. Sighing, Anderson agrees to get them and goes back into the kitchen to find Danny filling a bowl with cranberry sauce. Anderson is glad to see Danny, who cant quite look at him. But Zeke wants to know what Danny is doing there. Danny tells him hes not AWOL, and that Dr. Louie had sprung him from the hospital to be with his friends for the holidays. Zeke is delighted, saying that the men will be real happy to see him. Danny says he doesnt want to go in there. He cant, not after what he did. Not after he let the guys down.
Anderson steps up to Danny and tells him that everyone lets someone down eventually, and that no one is perfect. Bottom line is that Danny is a good soldier and that everyone is waiting for the cranberry sauce. He leaves Danny and returns to the table.
Danny comes out behind him, still unsure and hesitant. But Zeke is right and his friends are glad to see him, wishing Danny a happy Thanksgiving and telling him to sit down. The only empty seat is across from a very silent Goldman, and Danny sits as Myron watches him. With no visible emotion, Myron quietly says "Welcome back", before someone passes Danny the platter of meat.
At another Thanksgiving dinner, General Higgins entertains several dignitaries when Brewster, still in tiger stripes, arrives. He apologizes for his attire and Higgins, furious, asks what the hell he's doing there. Brewster notes he had been invited and Elliott quickly adds that he had invited Carl last week. Brewster goes over to Higgins, noting he has some news.
The colonel explains that since 1966, the NVA has been carrying supplies down the Ho Chi Minh trail. MACV supports the idea that gasoline was also on those trucks. Brewster says he conceived the idea that the enemy had the fuel well hidden in a half dozen places along the trail.
Higgins scoffs, saying that if there were fuel depots, wouldnt he think theyd know about them? Brewster pulls out a map and quietly shows that there was at least one, which Team Viking destroyed earlier that day. He then shows where to look for other possible fuel depots. He adds, before leaving, that he wasnt wrong about the fuel supplies, and that he is not wrong about Phu An.
Later that night, the men are all calling home. Taylor speaks to his grandmother, and Ruiz to his mother. Johnson talks to his family as well, and tells them he will be home in time for Christmas.
The next day, as Brewster is leaving, the sergeant
major and Major Duncan tell the colonel they are requesting transfers. Brewster tells them
no, or he has failed and Higgins has won. But Major Duncan assures him he hasnt
failed. Brewster walks to the helipad in front of his men, who are all assembled and
standing at attention. As he walks up the ramp, Goldman steps forward and calls out
"Sir!" to him. Brewster turns and every man proudly salutes him. He salutes
back, head high, and then gets on board. But the men watching keep the salute in a gesture
of honest respect. After the Huey is in the air, the crew chief waves Brewster over to see
his men still saluting.
|Worth another look: Team Viking has returned from successfully blowing up the fuel depot, but its late and they have missed Thanksgiving dinner. Surprisingly, Colonel Brewster waves them all over to the mess hall, where a table has been set with everything including china, candles and a complete turkey dinner. Goldman thanks the colonel, saying the men were looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner. Brewster tells Myron that he has an outstanding unit, top to bottom, and to make sure that they never go hungry for food or compliments. And that it is the same for Myron, too. After Brewster leaves, Ruiz realizes there is no cranberry sauce and Zeke goes into the kitchen to find it. But what Zeke finds is Danny, who was released from the psych ward to join his buddies for the holidays. Danny does not want to join his friends, though, as he is ashamed. Zeke tells him that everyone lets someone down at some point, and that everyone is waiting for the cranberry sauce. After Zeke returns to the table, Danny comes out and is warmly welcomed by his friends and told to sit down and have some dinner with them. The only place left is a seat directly across from the very quiet Lieutenant Goldman and Danny sits down before him. With no emotion showing, Myron quietly tells Percell, welcome back.|
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