- Guest Stars: Tony Carreiro, Pamela Gridley (Lieutenant Nikki Raines), Eugene Williams, Rob Garrison and Bruce Gray as Colonel Dalby.
- Story by: Steven Phillip Smith
- Directed by: Robert Iscove
Synopsis:”How can we justify sending our boys against a hill a dozen times or more until the soldiers themselves question the madness of the action?” Senator Edward M. Kennedy, May 1969.
On leave in Hawaii, Nikki sneaks up on Myron with a bucket of water as he rests on a blanket in the sunshine on the beach. She douses him and runs off, laughing, Myron chasing after her into the surf. The two are having fun, being carefree as they dunk each other and then run back for the beach, Myron chasing Nikki and tumbling her onto the wet sand. They kiss and then Myron teases that it’s just like From Here to Eternity. Nikki notes that she’s not Deborah Kerr and that no one would mistake him for Burt Lancaster. Myron tells her it happens all the time and she shoves him off of her.
As they lie at the edge of the surf, Nikki notes that it’s beautiful here. The lightness that Myron had slips away a bit as he restlessly takes a handful of wet sand. He tells her that he keeps thinking about the platoon. She reminds him that they’re only there until tomorrow, so they’re entitled to today. Myron smiles, draping an arm over her and tells her that it’s going to take some special effort to keep his mind occupied. She tells him that she thinks she can handle it, the two laughing and kissing.
Later that evening, they are having dinner together in a restaurant, Myron in a jacket and tie as wine is poured for them. They toast each other, Nikki saying, “To the real life. I think I could get used to this.” Myron adds that she would be with him.
Nikki’s smile dims a little as she looks away from Myron, saying that it’s hard to imagine a future after ‘Nam. That sometimes she feels she’ll be in a hospital the rest of her life.
Myron assures her that he’s going to make it back. That he’d been thinking about it on the beach earlier that day and that he’s going to get out of there. Nikki asks if he’ll still stay in the Army. Myron nudges closer to her, telling her she’s not listening to him. That he’s going to get out of there. He slips his fingers under her chin and softly tells her that he wants her to marry him. They lean in for a kiss but a man’s voice, raised in anger and anguish, causes both of them to turn to see what’s wrong.
Nikki asks if the man isn’t someone they saw on the plane, both watching the unfolding scene. Myron tells her yes, that he’s a captain from the 173rd.
It’s becoming a full scene now in the middle of the restaurant, the captain arguing that he’s been in the jungle for seven months and this was what he was coming home to? The woman he is with, apparently his wife, tells him she’s sorry, that the last thing she wanted to do was hurt him. He continues to shout at her and she tells him she can’t take it anymore, bolting from the room as he jumps to his feet.
The captain looks around and realizes everyone is staring at him and grabs up his glass of wine. He’s miserable, telling everyone that he came home from the war only to find out she’s taken up with another man. Myron, still sitting with Nikki, tells him he’s sorry. Broken and angry, the man yells at Myron that everyone’s sorry, but he’s not. Because he gets to go back to Vietnam and serve his county! And that now he doesn’t have to worry about anyone if he gets killed, ain’t life grand? Coming apart, he starts to trash the table. A waiter comes rushing up but Myron quickly rises to his feet, holding him off and then approaching the anguished captain, who dumps a glass of water on the carpet.
With careful respect, Myron tells the captain he doesn’t want to do this. The captain wants to know who the hell Myron is. Myron tells him, just a lieutenant from the 196th. The man is crying now, broken. Myron tells him not to do this to himself, but the captain only shakes his head, saying she’s done with him. He wants to know what he did to deserve this. Myron honestly tells him that he doesn’t know, but that messing up the restaurant isn’t the answer. He offers to buy the man a drink.
Eventually, back in their hotel room, Myron stands by the window, drinking and smoking as he stares out over the ocean. Nikki asks him to come back to bed and Myron tells her that he’s thinking about that guy. He’s upset about it, unable to look at Nikki. She tells him it’s sad, but that Myron did all that he could do.
There’s sorrow in Myron’s voice as he says that he put the guy to bed and talked to his wife. That she was really kind of nice.
Nikki, still in bed, notes that things happen. That it’s not really a matter of blaming anyone. Myron replies, “How about blaming the war?” and finally looks at her. He comes back and sits on the bed. She tells him that maybe this would have happened without the war. Myron hangs his head, tired and a bit lost and tells her that it’s not just him, guys losing their wives and girlfriends. But guys losing their lives and being torn apart emotionally. His voice chokes and fills with tears as Nikki sits up and comforts him. He tells her that it keeps getting harder and harder, and that he doesn’t see any good coming out of this.
Nikki whispers that they have each other; that something good came out of all of this. She takes his cigarette and sets it aside. Myron looks at her and tells her “Amen,” and the two lie back down, kissing.
Myron is back in Vietnam as the platoon works its way through the jungle, Johnson on point with Taylor, Ruiz and Baker right behind him.
A shell explodes nearby, everyone flinching. Myron comes up behind a nervous newbie, asking how everyone is doing up front. Baker says they’re fine, just sweating out those poisons. Myron chuckles and tells Mitchell not to listen to Baker, as he’d have him eating the local insects in with his C-rats.
Mitchell is edgy and nervous and says the only thing he’s listening to is all the gunfire. He wants to know where they are and Baker tells him it’s Hill 1000. 1000 feet from top to bottom.
Myron notes maybe more like 998 after the last napalm strike. Baker tells Mitchell they took it once before, and Mitchell wants to know why they’re taking it again. As if this is no big deal, Baker tells him that they left it after they took it.
Horn, who’s behind Myron, speaks up and tells Mitchell that’s how they fight this war. They give things up so that no one will think they’re the bad guys. Mitchell tells him to stop messing with his head.
Myron, who only a minute ago was tolerant and easy with Baker and Mitchell, has no patience for Horn and tells him that they can’t occupy every hill they take. Horn, who never knows when to back down from Goldman, flippantly replies that it seems kind of stupid to take them.
That pushes Myron’s buttons and he turns, glaring at Horn as they continue to walk, informing him that Horn could be on Westmoreland’s staff and then he could figure out how to win this thing. His tone makes it clear: end of discussion.
When Johnson hears voices, he signals everyone to get down and hold. It’s First Squad, carrying out their wounded. Taylor asks how bad it is up there and they are told that the squad has 3 KIA already, and hasn’t seen any of the enemy. That the jungle is so thick, you couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of you and that there could be ten or ten thousand up there, but you couldn’t tell. The squad starts to push past, the leader grumbling about why they are up there to begin with.
Johnson notes how creepy it is, but Taylor tells him it’s just another operation. Zeke tells them to take a break and that Percell is taking over point when they start out again. Percell moves forward as a Huey swings by overhead.
Myron looks up as well, watching the slick as he reaches for the cigarettes in his pocket. In doing so, he drops a picture of him and Nikki on the ground, unaware, as he watches the slick. Anderson picks it up, glancing at it and then asks Goldman if it’s his. Irritated, Myron snaps it from his hand. Zeke just smiles and asks how the R&R was.
Myron continues to watch the Huey and tells Zeke it was like the war- all right for the moment, but the future was cloudy. He then notes that he hopes that the slick above is seeing more than they are.
Command calls, asking for a sitrep and Myron gets on the radio, telling them they are about 200 meters from the summit. Command orders them to go another 50 meters forward and then to wait until First Platoon comes back down after softening up the area. Goldman wants to know what it looks like up there, and he’s told there can’t be too many of them and that the canopy is too thick as they can’t even see muzzle flashes. Myron acknowledges, giving the handset back to Horn and tells Anderson that it looks like he got back from R&R just in time. And it’s time to move out.
They move slowly up, Percell leading the way with Zeke behind him. He spots First Platoon coming back down, carrying their dead and wounded. They are pretty beat up. Myron’s platoon moves aside so that First Platoon can work past them. Pete, the platoon’s lieutenant, stops to talk to Myron when Myron asks what it’s like up there. Pete replies that he wishes he could tell Myron. That all they are getting is small arms fire and grenades, nothing big. Myron wants to know the size of the force.
Pete tells him he’s guessing, but maybe the size of a platoon. But it’s like fighting ghosts. He then adds that he didn’t know about Myron, but he didn’t sign up to fight ghosts. He tells Myron to go easy and continues to lead what’s left of his men on down the hill. Goldman tells Anderson they need another ten meters, and then to make sure the men got good positions as he doesn’t want anyone getting greased by their own artillery.
As they carefully continue up the hill, they start to take small arms fire. Everyone takes cover. Mitchell shoulders in next to Taylor, nervous and wanting to know what the hell is going on. Taylor tells him to just follow the leader and they would take care of him. Mitchell wants to know what’s up there and Taylor replies that it’s Victor Charlie playing king of the mountain. Only they are about to run him off. Baker, shouldered up to the tree next to them, notes that Charlie will be back later.
A grenade goes off near them, forcing Mitchell and Taylor to duck. As the dirt settles around them, a snake bites Mitchell’s hand and he starts screaming in terror and pain. Taylor tries to calm the frightened man, but Mitchell starts to freeze and choke. Anderson crawls up, wanting to know what the hell is going on as Taylor tries to get Mitchell to hang on. He tells Zeke that the boy said he was bit by a snake, but Taylor didn’t see one. Mitchell passes out, and Zeke tries to get Taylor to let him go and pay attention to what’s in front of him.
Just below them, Horn is shouldered up with Goldman. He mutters that the vipers kill you faster than the electric chair. Command radios in and he gives the handset over to Myron as they remain pinned by the small arms fire. Command tells him to stay put, that artillery is coming in danger close. Myron tells them he has a man down from a snake bite, but Command tells them to stay where they are and bring the guy down after the assault. Myron is less than pleased but yells to everyone to keep their heads down. The shells start to come in.
A poncho is pulled over Mitchell. The shells come down, Anderson and Taylor hunkered down together next to the body. Nearby, Ruiz and Johnson are dug in, Johnson wanting to know how close they gotta get with that stuff as more debris rains down on them. Ruiz tells him close enough to shave with.
Danny crawls up next to Baker, who’s wide eyed and panting. Scott asks if Danny sees anything. Danny tells him nothing as a shell goes off right in front of them, dirt and debris showering down.
Myron gets off the radio with Command and quickly dashes up to Zeke. The two shoulder up by a tree. Myron tells him that they go after the next two rounds and how he wants it done. Anderson slips off to tell the men they’re going and when the second round explodes, Goldman shouts for everyone to go.
With Ruiz covering on the sixty and Anderson yelling at them to go, they charge the rest of the way up to the top of the hill, firing as they go. They run up through the trees, pausing only long enough to fire and toss grenades. Making it to the top of the hill, they find an abandoned bunker and no one there but themselves. Anderson tells him they are gone, there ain’t no BODY here.
Myron swears, frustrated, saying they were here, they were being shot at. Anderson angrily tells him, yeah, they were here, but they’re gone now. And that they were lucky. But maybe the next bunch that has to come up here and take the hill wouldn’t be. That they couldn’t pin these people down. Myron replies that they live to fight another day.
But Zeke is furious. He snaps at Myron, wanting to know what to do now. Raise a flag? They took the hill, but the only thing that got taken is them.
Myron is just as angry and snaps back at Zeke to put a lid on it. The two glare at each other before Zeke gets up and stomps off. The slick watching the operation with Command comes overhead and Myron waves Horn over so he can get on the radio. Command wants to know what he’s got and Myron tells him they got zip. Command asks him to repeat. With an edge starting to creep into his voice, Myron tells him he has nothing. An abandoned bunker and nothing else. Command wants a body count.
This pushes Myron’s buttons as he snaps that he has NOTHING! No dead bodies, no live bodies, no body parts. Nobody’s here and that he doesn’t even have any shell casings.
The men arrive at Chu-lai in Hueys. Horn gets off right behind Goldman, yelling over the rotors that he bets the Cong are already back up on the hill. Goldman tells him that’s their orders and there’s nothing he can do about it. Horn is furious and confronts Myron, saying that four men died on that hill and he wants to know why. The rest of Third Squad has climbed off the slicks, stopping to listen to the argument.
Myron tells Horn he understands that not every decision made is a good one, but they had to clear the hill so that it could be sprayed with defoliant and then Charlie would have no place to hide. That’s not good enough for Roger, who wants to know why that wasn’t done in the first place. Myron starts to walk away, saying he doesn’t know, that they failed to let him in on it. He has his back turned when Roger takes one last shot at him and snaps that maybe they could tell Mitchell’s parents and the guys in the first platoon. He wants to know what those guys died for.
Hurt and tired, Myron warns him to let it be. When Roger continues to argue, Myron snaps to let it be and finally walks away. They all come off the field, filing onto the base. Myron has his head down and isn’t paying attention to anyone as another junior officer walks by him. But as Horn walks past, the young officer is irritated that he isn’t saluted and starts pulling rank on Horn. The rest of the men, including Anderson, are behind the new second lieutenant.
Roger couldn’t care less who the man is. Insolent, he tells him that he doesn’t know what the lieutenant was doing today, but that he was out fighting the war. The arrogant lieutenant doesn’t care, he wants his salute and he’s going to get it. Zeke pushes forward, offering a stiff salute and then explains that the men are tired and that they lost some of their buddies and that they normally didn’t salute officers back at the firebase.
The young lieutenant isn’t impressed, informing Zeke and all the men that this isn’t a firebase and they can’t let all their discipline go just because they had a bad day. He then says that he wants Horn to render a proper salute to a superior officer. Roger shakes his head in disgust as Zeke tells him to do it. Zeke pushes up next to him, understanding, but tells Roger there’s no getting around this, to just do it so that they can get to the barracks and wash up and get on about their business. Roger, pure insolence on his face, finally gives what is barely a passable gesture for a salute and turns and walks away.
The lieutenant isn’t having it and tells Horn to come back. Zeke tries to intervene, but the lieutenant tells him to stay out of it. Horn comes back and the two men get into each other’s face. The lieutenant lays down the law, saying he doesn’t care how lax discipline is in his platoon. Roger is going to give a proper hand salute and hold it until the lieutenant returns it and they’ll stay there all damn day until he gets it right.
Roger snaps one off right there in the man’s face, stiff and angry, and the lieutenant returns it. Roger then stomps off as the rest of Third Squad files past the officer, each rendering a salute and a not so pleasant look as they pass.
The squad files into their barracks, pulling their gear off. Taylor says he’s going to go to the club, wash the funk off and get a case of beer. Zeke is in the doorway and tells Taylor that as funky as he is, that might take a few hours. They all chuckle, including Taylor who replies that he just wants to see the stripper. Then spread himself around to all the ladies in Sin City tomorrow.
Zeke comes all the way into the barracks and tells the men they may all have to wait until tomorrow afternoon for Sin City as they have an awards ceremony right before breakfast.
Roger is puzzled, but Zeke confirms it, saying with all the valiant warriors here they were going to pin some medals on their chests so when they go on back to the world they could impress the women.
Roger is not impressed and sarcastically wants to know what they’re going to get for today? The silver shaft with the cow pie cluster? Then he adds that the Army’s getting to be too much for him. Zeke tells him to lighten up, that he wants them to look their best as they’re all good soldiers, damn good soldiers. And it ain’t nothing to be ashamed of.
The next morning, a ceremony is held, Colonel Dalby handing out the medals. Zeke receives a Silver Star for his actions on December 9th, 1967 in the Binh Khe Valley. He also receives the Purple Heart.
Danny is next and receives a Bronze Star for Heroism for what he did during Road Runner, in bringing the pilot down off the cliff. Ruiz comes after Danny, receiving the Bronze Star for Valor for rescuing both Scott and Karl Baker. Taylor receives the Army Commendation Medal for Heroism. Roger gets the Army Commendation Medal for Valor, for rescuing Danny after he was shot in The War Lover. Johnson receives a Purple Heart for wounds he sustained in Brothers, Fathers and Sons on August 6th, 1967. Scott gets the Bronze Star for Heroism- for escaping from the enemy in The Battling Baker Brothers.
Myron receives the Bronze Star for Valor. In the background, Nikki watches the ceremony, smiling when Myron is given his award.
Later, during a light rain, Myron talks to Zeke. He’s frustrated, saying he’s supposed to be the platoon leader and that he’s supposed to know what’s going on. But he doesn’t know anything. Zeke tells him that the men don’t expect him to have all the answers, that they just expect him to do his job. Myron replies that he can’t expect them to have any confidence in what he’s telling them when he doesn’t even have confidence in it himself. He can’t keep sending them out on missions that have absolutely no purpose. Zeke tells him patiently that those are the orders. Myron’s unhappy, saying that he doesn’t believe in the orders, and neither does Zeke.
He continues to vent, saying that Horn’s right, that now he has to write a letter home to the parents. That the letter home to Mitchell’s parents will say sorry, your son didn’t die due to the Viet Cong, but to a damned snake. Zeke tries to calm him down, telling Myron he’s going to make himself crazy, when Nikki comes up, asking if she’s interrupting. The two men pause, Myron reining in his anger and telling her after a moment that it’s okay. She asks if she can speak to him and Zeke tells her they’re done here. The two men exchange a brief look, then Zeke leaves.
Thunder rolls in the background as Nikki approaches Myron, her hands tucked in her pockets. She’s having a hard time looking at him. She tells him that this wasn’t how she pictured telling him, but he is there and she doesn’t know when he’s moving out. She finally looks up at Myron, telling him that she won’t marry him, can’t marry him. Myron tries to stop her, but she insists on talking first, that she needs to get this out. She tells Myron that she can’t get past the fear, the fear that the next dead guy she sees come in could be him. And that she can’t live every day in that fear. It wasn’t fair to either of them. Myron doesn’t know what to say. She then tells him that she’s put in for a transfer and that she’s leaving as soon as it comes in. That she’s sorry.
Myron, deeply hurt, tells her that he loves her. Nikki says she knows and twists away from him. She runs off into the rain as Myron watches her, wanting to stop her but knowing there’s nothing he can do.
The guys have gone into Sin City and now come out of one of the bars. They’ve been drinking and laughing, teasing each other as they come out. Horn has his arm around a prostitute dressed in a bright red dress, and a beer in his hand. He tells the guys that he’s going to go AWOL to stay with this “babysan.” Ruiz tells him there are going to be new girls at the Dixie, but Horn, drunk, replies that he doesn’t want any other girls, just this one. He pulls out his two new medals and says he’s a real war hero. He grins foolishly at the girl, saying he’s going to make her country safe for democracy. He starts to slide the medals into her cleavage when Danny steps up, telling him stop it, and to stop making a fool of himself.
Horn becomes angry and indignant. No kidding now, only hurt as he tells them this is the most sensible thing he’s done since he got in country. That he made a fool of himself walking up Hill 1000 and so did they all. He looks at the medals in his hand and adds that they all made fools of themselves winning these stupid little things.
Anderson pulls up in a jeep at that somber moment. He teases, saying they all look like a cheery bunch. Baker tells him that he thinks Horn’s going to get married. Horn says it’s so he can stay in this country because he loves it so much. Anderson tells him he has some good news and some bad news. Today is a nice day to get married, but he can’t get married today. They have to sober up as they’re moving out in the morning.
Half joking, Horn asks to where, Hill 1000? Anderson tells them yes and all the guys get angry. Danny shoves up, asking if it’s a joke. And Horn, livid, says he wants answers, and he wants them now. Anderson shakes his head, and tells him that this is the Army, you get orders, you don’t get answers. But he does tell them that the dinks shot down a chopper when they were spraying, so they’re going back. Because they know the terrain. Horn mutters that they’ll never forget it.
The next day, they are back up on Hill 1000, looking at the wreckage of the downed chopper. There are pools of the defoliant on the ground, some of the men standing in them. Taylor wipes it off his clothes and notes that it smells sweet. Baker replies that it’s serious poison and that he won’t be filling his canteen from the local stream. Taylor doesn’t think it’s any big thing. Baker replies that he thinks even Marcus Taylor would be afraid of something that kills 100 and 200 foot trees.
Horn wonders if they’re going to spray it all over the country as he sniffs at some of it on the tips of his fingers. Baker notes they’re going to turn it all into one big desert, no place for anyone to hide. Horn replies that they’d just go underground. Anderson walks through, telling everyone to come on and get out of this stuff. They’re heading on up as Recon has spotted NVA regulars.
Taylor wants to know how many, and Zeke tells him maybe a squad or two. This time they’re not just at the top, but in the valleys as well. It’s time for a major push. Taylor swings his rifle off his back and tells Anderson it’s time to kick their butts all the way back to Hanoi. Anderson grins, telling him that’s a point man’s enthusiasm, and to lead the way. Baker takes slack.
Everyone falls in and they start to make their way up the hill with Taylor at point. As they start the ascent, another platoon of soldiers comes down the same trail. Many are wounded, all look exhausted and worn. As they pass, one slips and falls, but Zeke grabs his arm and helps him to regain his feet. Ruiz notes that it seems like they’ve been in this movie before. Percell, behind him, replies that it’s getting old fast.
They continue to push up the trail, easing their way along. Several NVA regulars lie in wait, and then ambush them, throwing a grenade. Everyone ducks for cover and returns fire. One man gets shot right in front of Horn, and dies there as Roger looks at him. Anderson directs Taylor to lob a blooper into the middle of the NVA and they take out most of the enemy with the explosion. One stumbles to his feet, but Percell takes him down immediately.
Anderson comes forward first, making sure it’s clear, then waves Percell and Taylor forward as Goldman kneels down by one of the dead soldiers. When Anderson tells him it’s clear, Myron throws his helmet down in angry frustration. He snaps at Horn to get the XO on the line, that they have two men down. He then orders that the two men, Dudley and McNair, be placed in the ferns and they will get them on the way back. They still are going to move up 20 meters and hold their position through an air strike. Yelling up to Anderson, Goldman tells him that he doesn’t want one single dink slipping past them.
They take cover further up as the air strike starts. As the debris falls around them, Myron and Horn glance up from where they are shouldered in. Myron notes that last hit was close enough to shake loose his fillings. Horn replies it shook loose his brains. Myron reaches up and taps Johnson, wanting to know if he’s okay. Johnson shakes his head, saying he can’t take much more of this. Myron tells him to relax, at least they aren’t up at the top.
Another nearby hit covers Taylor and Anderson in dirt and debris. Zeke spits out a mouthful and tells Taylor that there’s nothing shaking but the peas in the pod. Taylor replies that they wouldn’t be shaking if the old man had remembered to put the wood in the stove.
After the air strike, they continue back on up the trail to the top. More wounded soldiers come down the same trail. Two men, carrying a stretcher, slip and go down as Myron and Roger pass. Horrified, Roger stares at the body and asks what happened. One of the men replies that the poor boy lost his head, that’s what. Myron snaps that it isn’t funny.
The soldier snaps right back at Myron, saying that one of the 750 pounders dropped by the zoomies blew up in a tree and that the debris sliced the guy’s head right off. That six other guys took shrapnel, too, and that Charlie could just leave them alone, they’re beating each other to death. With the body back on the stretcher, they continue on down the trail, Horn standing with his head lowered. It’s too much for him and he makes his decision. Stepping off to the side, he starts to strip off his gear, Myron turning to see what he’s doing. He wants to know what Roger’s doing and Roger tells him he’s not going. He can’t do it any more. Myron tells him he doesn’t have time for this, and to get moving. Roger tells him he’s not going, no matter what Goldman says.
Roger turns as Anderson comes up and wants to know what’s going on. Roger tells him it’s so stupid, that they’ve taken the hill twice, and they’ve abandoned it twice. For what? Anderson starts to tell him it’s an order, but Roger cuts him off, saying it’s for nothing. He won’t sacrifice his life for nothing anymore. He shoves past Anderson, who pulls him around, telling him not to do this. That if he’s tired, or needs a break, Zeke will clear it with the L-T. Roger tells him he doesn’t need a break. He’s finished. Period. He looks past Anderson to Goldman and the others and apologizes, but he just can’t do this any more.
Zeke takes one last chance, asking if Roger knows what it means. Roger tells him he’ll take the consequences. Myron, losing patience, orders the men to get moving again and comes down to Anderson and Roger. As Zeke gets the men going, Myron confronts Roger, asking where he gets off leaving these men. That they’ve always been there for him through everything. He grabs up Roger’s radio, telling him to come on, that he doesn’t want to do this- he doesn’t want to ruin the rest of his life. Roger meets his eye and tells him he accepts the consequences.
Myron shoulders the radio and tells him to get on down the hill, they’ll deal with it back in Chu-lai. He turns away, leaving Horn without another glance. Another sergeant comes up, saying he heard someone was refusing to fight, wanting to know if it’s Roger. Roger tells him yes, and the man aims his rifle at Roger, telling him someone ought to shoot him right there. Zeke rushes between, shoving the rifle up and pinning the man back. Zeke tells the sergeant that this is family and to get on out of his house.
Roger tells him it’s okay. That at least he’d know who shot him and for what reason. But if he dies on this hill, he won’t know who did it. And he sure as hell won’t know the reason why. Roger then turns and goes down the hill. Anderson orders everyone, including the sergeant, to get on up the hill.
As they near the top, they come under fire again by the NVA. They keep pressing forward inch by inch. Taylor makes a run for a new position and gets clipped in the shoulder. Zeke kills the NVA who got him, then comes up to see how badly he’s shot. Johnson is already pulling out a bandage to take care of his friend. Zeke tells Taylor to go on back down the hill, but he insists he can stay and fight. Zeke tells him to go, that he’d done good, but to go on down the hill.
Below, Horn is with the wounded and reading a poem aloud from a book. He looks up when Taylor walks up, cradling his wounded arm. Horn climbs to his feet, the two men facing each other. Horn wants to know if he’s all right and Taylor tells him he’ll be okay. They both sit down, Taylor’s bandage soaked through with blood. Roger wants to know what it’s like up there. Taylor tells him it’s bad, that Charlie’s going to try to hold onto it this time. He’s hurting and Roger pulls out his canteen, giving it to him. Roger asks how the guys are. Taylor replies that they’re fine, some others are down, though.
Roger looks down in misery, swearing under his breath. Reaching a decision, he grabs up his gear and starts to go back up the trail. Taylor wants to know what the hell Roger’s doing. Roger, hurting and confused, tells him that he never believed in this war, and never will. But that he did believe in helping his friends, and that’s worth fighting for. He then turns as Taylor watches, and charges back up the trail.
Above, Goldman’s men are still pinned and fighting. Ruiz covers Baker as he moves up to a new position. This time the enemy is really dug in. Johnson, Ruiz and Baker manage to get up behind a bunker of sandbags, but they stay pinned there, unable to move closer. Anderson, below them, yells up wanting to know what’s going on. They tell him they are pinned. Anderson lobs a blooper up, but it’s no good from where he is and he yells that he’s gonna try something else. Roger arrives at the same time and shoulders up to a tree, watching what’s going on.
He realizes his friends are pinned and decides to try and help. He slips off to one side, and pulls off a satchel charge he’s been carrying. Throwing a can of smoke into the machine gun nest that has them all pinned, Roger then charges forward. But they shoot him through the smoke and he goes down with a shout. Now wounded, he crawls the rest of the way to the bunker and heaves the satchel charge inside.
He stumbles back toward the others as they shout at him to get down. Collapsing just in front of them, Johnson leaps out and grabs him, hauling him back to their cover just in time. The bunker goes up with an explosion. Johnson, Baker and Ruiz want to know where the hell he came from. Roger, badly hurt, tells them that he needs some help. They call for a medic who starts to work on Roger as Anderson walks up.
Zeke orders Baker and Ruiz to move on up and then asks the medic how bad it is. The medic tells him that Roger will live, but his war’s over. As they put Roger on a poncho, Zeke asks him why he came back. Roger tells him that he knew they needed his help. Johnson kneels down next to him, telling him they took the hill, and it was because of him. Roger asks that they hold onto it this time and Zeke replies that the third time is the charm as they take Roger away.
Anderson tells everyone to get dug in but Myron tells him to forget it. Everyone is stunned for a moment and then the anger sets in. Anderson asks if it’s someone’s idea of a joke, but Myron tells him no. And to get the men saddled up, the colonel is coming up the hill. Anderson wants to know if the colonel gave a reason why, but Myron shoves past him, muttering that Zeke knows better. Disgusted, Zeke calls out that Second Platoon is to form up and that they’re going on back down the hill. Percell leads, and as they file past, Ruiz starts to demand an answer from Zeke, who cuts him off and tells him he has no answers. Johnson follows with a look of disgust.
As they come down the hill, it’s raining. Colonel Dalby watches as the soldiers, weary, frustrated and exhausted, file past with their heads down. Myron walks past, saying only “Sir” and Dalby acknowledges him and the others, saying it was a job well done. Percell and what remains of Third Squad come up to him, Danny asking to speak to him. He wants to know why they have to keep taking the hill, only to keep giving it back. The arrogant lieutenant who had the run-in with Horn earlier is there and he starts to snap at Danny, who cuts him off and asks the colonel, please answer his question.
Dalby tells him that objectives change. And when you don’t have the big picture, it’s hard to understand. Angry, Danny tells Dalby that he pinned medals on him yesterday, that he’s proven that he’s willing to give his life for his country. But he has to know that it matters. Horrified, Dalby tells him of course it matters. Danny tells him that a lot of men lost their lives on this hill, that one of his best buddies got all shot up so that they could give it right back. It was all for nothing.
Dalby informs him that he thinks he’s out of line. Danny snaps, at the end of his rope and tells Dalby to remember that their lives mean something, too. Then with a crisp salute, Danny snaps “Good afternoon, sir!” to the arrogant lieutenant standing behind Dalby. Startled, Dalby glances behind him at the man who looks away in embarrassment. Everyone else files past, the last man being Zeke, who has stood behind his men and listened to the entire exchange. He says nothing, not even looking at Dalby as he walks past.
Special note: This is the last episode featuring the characters of Specialist Roger Horn, Colonel Dalby and Lieutenant Nikki Raines. Horn returns to the United States, and, in a letter read by Ruiz in the episode “Saigon”, tells of his plans to attend the University of California-Berkeley once the lead is mined out of him. PFC Scott Baker does not reappear until the third season, featured in a single episode, “Ties That Bind” – where he’s General Elliott’s driver. Myron never mentions Nikki again.
ToD Advisor’s Episode Notes:
The inspiration for this episode was the movie “Hamburger Hill”, the 1969 battle it was about, and several lesser known actions. It was the official policy of the United States government to target the North Vietnamese Army and VC Main Force battalions to attack. Wherever they were, wherever they went, the US would fight them. No particular piece of ground meant anything more than any other. If the NVA/VC were there, we would attack. After we won (we always would) then the objective was abandoned. Some bunkers might be blown up, tear gas grenades thrown into others, then we walked away. The NVA/VC soon learned they could reoccupy such positions almost at once. And the US would attack again. Note that this was the policy of the civilian government, principly Secretary of Defense Robert S. MacNamara, not the military.
The NVA and VC were masters of defense. They specialized in digging and camouflage. They tunneled into hillsides from the rear, constructing underground bunkers and pushing machine guns through firing slits between tree roots. Tiny camouflaged “spider holes” held snipers who connected to the main positions by slit trenches and tunnels. Point elements of US units might find themselves shot at or attacked in force from the rear. Approach routes were mined and booby trapped. Protected escape routes allowed enemy troops to safely withdraw.
One of the methods the US used to deny a captured position to the enemy was to defoliate it (kill the vegetation) with chemicals. The various defoliants (mostly commercial) were given color code names, Agent Purple, Agent White etc. One of the most effective was Agent Orange. Hastily developed, some batches were inadvertently contaminated during manufacture by the compound dioxin, a carcinogen which can cause long term genetic damage. The shootdown of a helicopter on such a mission triggers the Bravo Company attack.
The writer for this episode was Vietnam vet Stephen Smith. Other than providing the Agent Orange 55 gal drum markings, and some help with the citations, there was little need for my assistance.
Worth another look:
After taking Hill 1000 for the second time and then giving it back, Horn is disgusted and furious. When the men arrive at Chu-lai and get off the Hueys, Horn goes after Goldman in front of everyone. He tells Goldman that he bets the Vietcong are already back up on the hill. Goldman explains that orders are orders and there’s nothing he can do about it. Horn wants to know why four men were killed there and then they walk away. Goldman replies that not every decision the Army makes is a good one, but they had to clear the hill so they could spray it with defoliant so Charlie has nowhere to hide. Horn is clearly pushing for a fight, demanding to know why they didn’t do that in the first place. Irritated, Goldman tells him that they failed to inform him and starts to walk away. Horn won’t let him off that easy and shouts that maybe they could tell Mitchell’s parents, and the parents of the other dead kids. Goldman halts and turns around, hurt with the words. He tells Horn to let it be, and when Roger starts to argue, Myron cuts him off, yelling to let it be. Unwilling to listen anymore, Goldman then turns and leaves, walking away from Horn and the rest of the men.
- You’re All I Need to Get By – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. As Nikki and Myron spend some time at the beach on their R&R in Hawaii.
- The Weight – The Band. Plays as the platoon, having retaken the hill at great cost, is ordered to come back down, leaving it to the enemy again.