War is a Contact Sport
During the Vietnam War, half of all conscientious
objectors already in uniform were granted a discharge.
Deep in the boonies, Percell, Doc Hockenbury and Kuslits carefully wade down a stream, Danny in the lead. They work their way into the jungle, until Danny sees something and silently signals Doc and Jake into hiding. Edging up slowly, he slips in behind some ruins and then surprises a VC who's taking a leak on the wall. The VC turns to make a run for it, but finds Kuslits and Doc standing right there.
On the radio back to Goldman and the rest of the
squad, Danny tells Goldman that he got a prisoner. When Goldman asks if he can travel,
Danny tells him that they caught him with his pants down, literally. Zeke seems to think
the VC can tell them about the NVA spy trails they are searching for and Goldman tells
Danny to secure and maintain their position, the squad is coming to them.
On the radio back to Goldman and the rest of the squad, Danny tells Goldman that he got a prisoner. When Goldman asks if he can travel, Danny tells him that they caught him with his pants down, literally. Zeke seems to think the VC can tell them about the NVA spy trails they are searching for and Goldman tells Danny to secure and maintain their position, the squad is coming to them.
Sitting comfortably against the wall, Danny
tells Kuslits to tie the VCs hands. Danny is pleased and a bit smug with the capture
and not paying attention to anything around him.
Sitting comfortably against the wall, Danny tells Kuslits to tie the VCs hands. Danny is pleased and a bit smug with the capture and not paying attention to anything around him.
As Jake unwinds some rope to tie the VCs
hands, he notes to Doc that he doesnt know how these people survive. Shaking his
head and taking his glasses off, Doc tells him they survive by doing what they have to. No
one sees another VC slip in behind the wall and Danny. The prisoner makes eye contact, and
with a nod to each other, all hell breaks loose.
As Jake unwinds some rope to tie the VCs hands, he notes to Doc that he doesnt know how these people survive. Shaking his head and taking his glasses off, Doc tells him they survive by doing what they have to. No one sees another VC slip in behind the wall and Danny. The prisoner makes eye contact, and with a nod to each other, all hell breaks loose.
The prisoner shoulders
into Kuslits, knocking him to the ground as the second VC attacks Danny. Both Kuslits and
Percell lose their rifles as Danny grapples with his opponent. The prisoner grabs up
Jakes rifle and slams the butt into Jakes face. Doc scrambles back and snags
Dannys rifle, eyes wide. The prisoner aims at Jake as Danny finishes off his
opponent. Doc aims the rifle at the now armed prisoner.
The prisoner shoulders into Kuslits, knocking him to the ground as the second VC attacks Danny. Both Kuslits and Percell lose their rifles as Danny grapples with his opponent. The prisoner grabs up Jakes rifle and slams the butt into Jakes face. Doc scrambles back and snags Dannys rifle, eyes wide. The prisoner aims at Jake as Danny finishes off his opponent. Doc aims the rifle at the now armed prisoner.
Kuslits, still on the ground and his face
bleeding, along with Danny tells Doc that he has to kill the VC. Doc keeps the rifle on
the VC, but softly tells the man to go. Danny begs Doc not to let him go, but Doc
continues to carefully tell the VC to didi mau". Still armed, the VC backs up,
looking as if hes going to run for it. Danny and Kuslits continue to urge Doc to
kill the man. Doc tells Kuslits to shut up, hes shaking as he watches the VC
continue to edge back. Kuslits tells Doc to give him the rifle.
The VC starts to turn and make a run for it when
Kuslits lunges at Doc for the rifle. The VC shoots at Doc and Kuslits, both men going down
before he bolts into the jungle. Danny grabs up the rifle and chases after the fleeing
man. As the VC bolts through the ruins, hes killed by
Kuslits is shot, struggling to breathe as Doc
tries to tend to him. But hes not going to make it as Doc stares down in horror at
the man. He dies as the squad gathers around.
A deuce and a half passes in front of them, and
when its cleared, Goldman, Anderson and the others find themselves looking at
Colonel Carl Brewster. Everyone but Scarlet immediately salutes as the colonel smiles in
welcome. But Scarlet shoves between Goldman and Anderson and before anyone even realizes
whats going on, hauls off and slugs Brewster squarely in the face. Horrified, Zeke
and Myron haul Scarlet back, demanding to know what the hell he thought he was doing.
Brewster just glares.
As the guys walk back to their barracks Griner
asks Percell whats going to happen to Pop. Danny tells him that itll be the
stockade, courts-martial, Levensworth. Griner notes that Pops bunk is going to be
empty a long time. Danny starts to reply about empty bunks when he sees Doc. Standing on
the step leading into the barracks, Danny looks directly at Doc and says that Kuslits
wont be needing his anymore.
miserable, Doc says hes sorry, and that hes sorry that Kuslits is dead, but it
wasnt his fault. Danny replies that it was the VC prisoners fault. Griner
quickly adds that Kuslits wouldnt be dead if Doc was doing his job. Doc quickly
points out Griner has nothing to say about this- as he wasnt there. Doc looks at
Danny and says what hes always maintained, that he does NOT kill human beings. Danny
points out the VC did, and that hed have killed more if they had let him go.
Doc tells him thats what Danny does. Danny
agrees, saying, yes, thats what he does, but because he has to. He wasnt born
to do it. Doc says that neither was he and he cant learn it. Danny snaps he
shouldnt be here, and Doc quickly adds that none of them should be there! Danny
reminds him that they are there, and that the only thing that keeps any of them is alive
are the men who watch their backs. Doc wants to know what he should have done.
Danny walks up to him and says that what he
should have done, when he got drafted, was to go to jail. Doc vehemently disagrees and
adds that hes here to make a contribution. Danny doesnt remember what he had
Doc replies that hes proven hes not
Danny wants to know to whom?
He walks away from Doc and into the barracks,
Griner right behind him. The rest of the men go in without even looking at the medic.
Knowing the last place hes now welcome is the barracks, Doc simply walks away.
Myron joins Brewster. It is one of the rare
times we see him smiling, that hes actually happy and its clear its
because Brewster is back. He asks Carl why he isnt pressing charges against Scarlet.
Carl slides a look at him, but says nothing. Growing a bit uneasy, Myron asks if Carl is
assuming command. Carl sighs deeply and tells Myron that in this mans army, he would
never assume anything again. He then tells Myron hes there because hes part of
a board of inquiry looking into the Phu An massacre and hes counting on Myrons
Myron doesnt hesitate and tells Carl that
he has it, along with the rest of Myrons men. Carl hesitates, then looks at Myron,
noting that hed heard that Ruiz and Taylor had been missing for three weeks. Sorrow
slips over Myron and hes unable to look at Carl for a moment. Hes trying to
find words and instead changes the topic, ducking away from the truth of his two missing
men. Instead, he asks how Carl managed to pull off a board of inquiry.
wont discuss Ruiz and Taylor, Carl notes that colonels dont pull off anything.
When he gets a hesitant smile from Myron, he admits that he knew some people in Congress,
had a powerful friend in the Pentagon, knew where some "skeletons" were buried.
Myron nods, saying that Carl is now the enemy. Carl agrees with him and that the Army
wants this over as quietly and quickly as possible.
Myron wants to know what happens when its
all over and Carl tells him that they will likely find a very small office with no windows
for him. Myron carefully notes that they could always use him back here. Carl sighs,
saying that if they killed every single Vietnamese, they still wouldnt win the war.
That its time for a different agenda.
Zeke leads Percell and Griner over to one of the
Hueys, telling them that they have some bodies to unload and bring over to Graves
Registration. Griner wants to know why they have to do it. Percell replies that they are
following orders, thats what they do. Griner continues to complain, saying he
doesnt understand the detail right after they lost a man, its as if
theyre being punished.
Not one bit gracious about the duty, Griner
wants to know why the L-T put them out here and Zeke reminds him that these were American
soldiers and that someone has to start them on their way home. All three pause in front of
the chopper, staring at the bodies draped in ponchos before Danny strips off his hat and
reaches for one of them.
The poncho comes off and
Marcus Taylor sits up, grinning like a fool into Dannys stunned face. Ruiz pushed
back the poncho hes lying under and grins up at a shocked
Doc comes out of the dispensary with a box
under his arm to find Goldman waiting for him. Goldman doesnt dance around the
issue, he quietly tells Doc right there that hes transferring the medic out of the
unit after what happened the day before. That he couldnt afford to have Doc any
longer. Doc says nothing, setting the box aside as he shoves his hands in his pockets.
Myron quietly tells him that hes going to try to have him assigned to the
dispensary, but they wont know until tomorrow.
Doc finally looks at Goldman, telling him that
he never misrepresented himself, that Goldman knew who he was getting from day one. Myron
agrees and adds that he shares some of the blame for what had happened the day before.
Hurt and miserable, Doc tells Goldman that if they want to blame someone, to blame Nixon, Johnson and Kennedy. Myron starts to speak but instead looks down, giving Doc the rare chance to vent at him. Bitter, Doc continues his list of everyone whos to blame, right down to people who vote. Myron cuts him off there with just enough sharpness to get Docs attention. He adds that they arent responsible.
Defeated, Doc notes that its just him
Defeated, Doc notes that its just him whos responsible.
Myron notes that
everyone makes their own decisions. Defeated, Doc sinks down on the bench next to the box.
Even given the circumstances, this is a rare encounter for these two men who up until now
had almost nothing to say to each other. Rarer still, the hard edge that Myrons had
since Alexs death is gone here, instead replaced with real understanding and
sympathy for the shattered medic. He watches Doc for a long moment, then tells him that he
understands why Doc did what he did, but he doesnt happen to agree with it.
Doc shakes his head and tells Goldman that
its funny, he agrees with what he did. He just doesnt understand how it turned
out the way that it did. Myron asks if he minds an opinion and when Doc looks away in
misery, Myron sits down carefully next to him. Thinking carefully, he looks at Doc and
tells him: "I think that sometimes, when ideology and reality collide, you cant
base your decisions on the comfortable beliefs of the past."
Doc wants to know what you possibly base them
Myron hesitates for a long moment before telling
Doc it has to be something you can live with the rest of your life.
Brewster is on the phone, demanding to find a
Specialist Michael Kelman. Pop Scarlett watches him with a restless unease. Brewster gets
off the phone and with barely a blink of the eye, switches gears and tells Scarlett that
hes closing in on 20 years and that unless he wants to receive his pension checks in
Leavenworth, hed best learn to control his temper.
Neither man looks directly at the other as
Scarlett politely tells Brewster that hes sure Brewster would rather personally kick
his butt than have someone in
Carl wants to know what happened, that Pop had two more stripes the last time he saw him. Pop replies its just a different shirt, that the man inside is still the same. That theres a history between these two men is made clear when Pop addresses him as Carl and what did Carl expect, a hug? Carl notes that he had thought he deserved a measure of respect. Always blunt, Scarlett tells him that was gone, had been since Old Baldy.
It has the effect Pop
wants, and Brewster, hurt, walks away across the room. Unable to look at Scarlett, he
tells Pop that he doesnt understand what happened. Scarlett doesnt care and he
goes after Carl, telling him he knew damn well what happened. That they got the holy hell
chewed out of them in an assault that didnt mean squat to the guy up front yelling
With no conviction, Carl tells Scarlett that he
took it up the chain of command as far as he could.
Scarlett just keeps hammering at the other man,
telling him that they all believed in him. That if Captain Brewster cant do it, it
cant be done.
Carl reminds him that was exactly it. It
couldnt be done.
Scarlett notes that one hundred good men died on
a frozen hill in
Carl only tells him long enough. Neither man looks at each other, both in the same room yet miles apart. Finally Pop asks if Carl were given those same orders today, would he lead them up that hill again? After a long moment of silence, Carl quietly tells him no.
That night the guys, including
Angry, Danny turns and faces him down, saying hed hadnt been in the mood since he got on the plane to come over there. That he wasnt in the mood since he killed his first human being, or when he got hooked on heroin. Doc reminds him that he walked him through that nightmare, that he held his hand. Danny knows Doc isnt going to let it go, so when Doc tells him he hasnt been in the mood since yesterday morning, Danny gives it back to him and points out that its true, because he watched Doc freeze up and a good man die because of it for absolutely nothing. He starts to shove by Doc, but Doc grabs him and slugs him square in the face.
The anger and the grief come out as he shouts at Danny, what the hell does he know? Still shouting and pointing at Danny, Doc tells him that what he did took more strength and more self control than Danny will ever have. To remember that the next time he squeezes off a few rounds when he hears the bushes rustle.
Back at the camp, Ruiz and Taylor are outside in
clean robes and smoking cigarettes. Ruiz is planning on surprising Suzanna the next day.
Marcus glares at him and tells him that for
someone who just survived 21 days in a hellhole, he sounds like a quitter. The two fall
silent for a few moments, then Ruiz shrugs and notes hed have to run the kitchen.
Its way past curfew and Pop creeps over to Doc, who is passed out in a tangle of blankets next to a hooker. Pop wakes him and warns him they have to go, that theres a VC tax collector out at the bar. Doc, groggy and confused, wants to know where the hell they are. Pop tells him its "Suzies Supermarket of Love" and theres no need to thank him, but they have to get moving. Doc slowly looks next to him to see the girl in the bed with him.
Quickly climbing out of the bed, Doc joins Pop, the two shouldering up against the wall. They peer into the bar, where a VC is laughing and getting ready to come into the room where they are. Pop tries to give Doc a pistol, but Doc flatly refuses. Muttering under his breath, Pop waits until the VC comes into the room and drops his pants. Then he grabs the guy from behind and eventually breaks his neck as Doc watches, horrified. With the VC now dead, Pop grabs his rifle and then tells Doc hes on his own.
Bursting out of the room, Pop sprays the bar with gunfire on his way to the street. Another VC takes aim at him, but Doc emerges, shoving the guy aside before he can shoot Scarlett, giving Scarlett enough time to shoot the VC instead. Telling Doc to run like hell, the two race down the street, Doc with his pants in his hand, Pop shooting off several rounds above them as people duck and shout.
The next day, Brewster enters a hospital ward filled with wounded men. He pauses to talk to one of the doctors before approaching one of the patients. The man has his back turned to Brewster, a book wrapped tightly in his arms. When Brewster asks if hes Specialist Kelman, Kelman tells him hes not a Specialist anymore. That hed given his rank back. Carl wants to know to whom, and Kelman tells him the sinners, the Army. He rolls over and looks at Carl who notes Kelman has a leg injury and that he was very lucky. He wants to know how Kelman got the wound and Kelman informs him, God. As a punishment. Carl asks if thats Phu An. Kelman tells him hes paying his debt.
Carl wants to know how, was it by limping? And were the 43 massacred civilians any better off because of it? Kelman asks what Carl would have him do and Carl tells him that the Army wants Kelman to tell them what happened. Kelman disagrees, saying that it isnt what God wants. Carl tells him its a good act, but to stow it. Kelman replies that hes a prophet, not a Judas, and that they must come to the Lord in their own time.
Carl decides to leave him with some wisdom and tells Kelman that if he really were a servant of God, he would help those less fortunate to the right path. To do anything less was a disservice to all.
Back at the camp, Goldman calls to Johnny who is out by the choppers. Johnny tells Myron that judging by the friendly expression, he must have found out. Myron confirms that Colonel Stringer had told him the news. Johnny grins as the two meet over a wall of sandbags, Johnny telling Myron to be thankful its not Johnny giving him the orders. Everyone else was out on Ops.
Myron simply waves him over with a file in his hand to a table littered with parts and tools. He then tells Johnny its an insertion under his command as he opens the file and pulls out a folded map. Its going to be him, Anderson and McKay. He shows Johnny the three points on the map and adds that what theyre looking for is Charlies motorized supply route, based on information from S2. Myron puts the map back in the folder, slaps the folder on Johnnys chest and tells him not to fool around on him.
With the three teams now in the jungle,
its McKay who calls in first saying hes found tracks that are no more than 36
hours old. Myron wants to know what kind of tracks and McKay tells him wheels and tires-
looking like trucks towing howitzers. Scarlett shoulders in next to McKay and confirms
about two companies of foot traffic as well. Myron asks what Zeke has found, which is
nothing at that point. Goldman has
There is a harmonica on the floor underneath an
The two go outside, Doc fidgeting with the
They walk up to the Adjutant Generals
office as two soldiers unload from the back of a jeep. One comments to the other, unaware
of Doc and Taylor, that Kuslits never had a chance. That he was killed with his own
weapon. Doc stands in a miasma of pain as
Brewster finds Ruiz alone in the munitions area and goes up to greet him, genuinely glad to see the young man back. They shake hands, Ruiz telling him its good to be back, and to have Brewster back. Brewster notes that Ruiz doesnt look all that happy and Ruiz tells him that he just got back from Tan Son Nhut, where he went to see a friend. She had gone home.
Brewster makes himself comfortable next to Ruiz and tells him that he cant blame the girl for wanting to rotate back to the States. Ruiz tells him that it wasnt that; instead, she had cracked up- flipped out during surgery in the OR. She was pretty messed up and had to be sedated. Brewster asks how he feels and Ruiz replies with, "Helpless."
Brewster explains to him that its tough to sit back and let other people run their lives, especially when youre an expert at telling them what to do. It was a tough line to draw for himself, knowing when to bleed for someone you care about and knowing when to pull back. Ruiz wants to know if theres an easy way of knowing and Brewster shakes his head, adding that the truth is, he doesnt have a clue. That sometimes you just have to walk away and let it go. Otherwise youll become a martyr and you know how insufferable they can be! The two share a smile over that. Brewster suggests that Ruiz write her a letter, give her a landmark that hasnt changed and that might help to get her back on course. They share a long look and Ruiz thanks him sincerely for the advice.
Out in the bush,
With Goldmans and McKays teams finally joining him, Anderson tells Goldman that theyve scouted the perimeter for more than an hour and hes convinced its deserted, that the tire tracks lead right through it. McKay notes that even the animal pens are empty. This village isnt supposed to be here, S2 confirms it.
Myron notes thats because it doesnt
exist. Not only are there no animals, theres no dung and no feed, no anything. McKay
realizes thats whats missing, the smell. Myron orders
McKay is not the least bit thrilled with the
short straw hes handed and Myron reminds him that he wanted to be there.
Brewster comes up behind Kelman who is at a small chapel, and kneels. When he greets Kelman, Kelman jumps to his feet and tells Brewster to go away. Brewster asks why, since it was Kelman who called him back in the first place. But Kelman doesnt want to talk, and tells Brewster to get out, that he doesnt belong there in the chapel. Brewster notes that Kelman perverts the chapel with his presence. That the chapel was built for salvation, but Kelman uses it to hide.
Kelman stares that statue of the Mother Mary and then tells Brewster that hes admitted his sins in the presence of the Lord. Brewster reminds him that hes guilty along with the rest of his platoon if he refuses to face what was done and do something about it. Kelman explains that he cant squeal on them. Brewster is quick to note that he cant NOT squeal on them.
Back at the vill, the three teams move into position. Goldman gives the order to move in after McKay and Anderson confirm theyre ready. Pop is with McKays team and they cautiously slip into the silent vill with Pop leading the way. McKay and his men start to check the hootches as Pop keeps a watch, but they find nothing and move deeper into the vill.
Percell is with Goldman, who orders him to take the lead and they move in. Anderson and his team do the same from the other side of the vill. As Andersons and Goldmans teams move in, Johnny and his men cautiously start to walk up the middle. Johnny doesnt see the huge gun pointing out of a hootch behind him until Griner asks him what it is. Johnny yells for everyone to get down as the gun fires, driving them all to the ground.
A tank bursts from the hootch as Johnny shouts for all of them to fall back. NVA, hidden before, now come out as well and a confused firefight ensues, as the tank rolls into the middle of it and takes aim. As McKays men try to flee ahead of the monster, the other teams move in quickly to try to help.
Danny moves in and takes aim with a rocket
launcher; although its a direct hit, it does little but set the debris on the tank
to burning. The tank continues to blow up hootches that Goldmans men try to use as
cover. Goldmans teams are taking on casualties. McKay desperately shouts to Goldman,
saying they need help as theyre pinned down. Myron radios to
As Zeke makes for the trench, Goldman asks for all the smoke that his radioman has on him. Myron starts to lob the smoke cans at the passing tank when the hatch on top opens and a NVA appears with a rifle and starts shooting. Myron continues to toss the cans onto the tank, enveloping it in wildly colored smoke as Zeke watches it approach.
When the tank passes, Goldman yells at
Several men try to flee
through a rice paddy when the tank takes a direct hit on them. Pop is shouldered up
against a wall, watching and trying to stay alive when he hears the cries for a medic.
Grumbling under his breath, he dodges out to get to one of the wounded men whos
trapped in the rice paddy as the tanks rolls toward them. At the same time,
Brewster is standing in Major General Higgins office as the man leafs through some paperwork. He notes that he understands Carl has convinced one of Bellars men to testify. Carl replied that the man in question convinced himself to do it. Higgins dumps the papers on his desk with a sigh and tells Carl that hes taking a swing at a hornets nest. Carl notes that sometimes the truth stings. Higgins tells Brewster that he hopes that this isnt an exercise in vindication and Carl makes it clear there was an egregious wrong and that those responsible must be held accountable. It's the Army way.
Higgins is displeased, telling Carl there were times when this would have been handled internally, and without the intervention of Congress. Carl notes that this isnt one of those times to be swept under the rug. Higgins dismisses him, no longer interested in discussing anything further. But Carl says he has a mission to propose.
Higgins climbs to his feet, looking squarely at Brewster and informs him that Brewster no longer has a command here and at the moment, he doesnt have many friends. Carl never backed down from anything before and hes not about to with Higgins now. He tells Higgins that he feels the general would be very interested in his proposal. When Higgins asks why, Carl replies that he will have a better than average chance of being killed.
Brewster hands over the file to Higgins, who reluctantly takes it. After studying it for several long moments, he straightens back up and stares at Carl, informing him that hes got to be out of his mind.
Its night now and raining. The men can be
heard talking and laughing in Team Vikings barracks. Doc pauses outside, hands
shoved in his pockets before he finally goes inside. The laughter and noise all die down
when they see Doc. He walks down the aisle to his rack, the men who were once his friends
either ignoring him or turning away except for
Then out of nowhere, he
lunges at the window and rips through the screen. Furious and hurting, he clears the top
of his foot locker, scattering things all over as everyone stares in shock. Doc dumps the
foot locker, painted with bright flowers and peace symbols, on his bed and then starts
heaving the contents out the window. Then he throws the foot locker out as well. His
bedding is next, all of it going out the window into the pouring rain.
We get to see a rare occasion here
when Doc comes out of the dispensary to see Lieutenant Goldman waiting for him. These two
men have rarely spoken to each other as Goldman had, in the past, kept the medic at a
distance. But its Goldman who comes to tell Doc that hes taking him off the
team when he could have had Anderson do that for him.
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