- Guest Stars: Pamela Gidley (Lt. Nikki Raines), Clyde R. Jones (Sgt. Clyde Edmunds)
- Story by: Rick Huskey
- Directed by: Randy Roberts
Synopsis:In WW II, the average age of a combat soldier was 26. In Vietnam it was 19.
It is nighttime at Ladybird. Ruiz, Percell, Hazzard and Ercolani are in a bunker and on sentry duty. Ruiz is watching the wire while Ercolani and Hazzard relax. Danny is reading a letter with a flashlight. No one sees the dark figures working their way through the wire onto the base. Hazzard is giving Percell a hard time about the letter, which is a “Dear Danny” letter from his girl back home. Ruiz tells Hazzard to knock it off, and then asks Danny to take a turn at watch.
As Danny watches the wire, which he can’t really see, he tells them how pretty his girl was. That while he was in ROTC she liked the uniform, but now can’t stand him. A flare trails down while one of the sappers is working his way through the wire. The light from the flare shows Danny that someone is in the wire and he calls out the alert. The base comes under attack as the sappers wreak havoc. Ercolani is killed in the attack.
The next morning, Wallace is pretty disgusted with the entire situation as Goldman, Anderson, and Edmunds stand there with him at the wire. He orders Goldman to take the platoon out and secure the local bridges despite Anderson’s warning that the men were exhausted and needed a break.
Danny is upset, kneeling by the body of Ercolani, holding his dog tags. Anderson joins him for a moment, understanding Danny’s pain, but warns him that he has to put it behind him or it will eat him up. But it’s not that simple for Danny. A chopper comes in to get some of the wounded and Goldman helps to load up one of his men as a nurse jumps off out of the way. He is startled and delighted when he realizes it is someone he knows- Lt. Nikki Raines- a lover of his from back in the States. Both excited to have found each other, she tells him she just transferred in and that he can find her at the hospital in Chu-lai.
Later that morning the platoon moves in to secure one of the bridges. On the truck ride over, Hazzard continues to harass Percell, mostly about his patriotism. Once at the bridge and as the men are unloading, Anderson tells Goldman he has a far away look about him, and that Percell had gotten a letter from his girlfriend. Myron wants to know if Hazzard is giving Danny a hard time. Zeke tells him Hazzard is giving everyone a hard time and is putting himself on the endangered species list.
They sweep the bridge cautiously, looking for mines but find nothing. At the other side, Anderson signals Goldman to let the trucks come across. As the trucks start to roll, Anderson sees movement below and realizes too late to try and stop the trucks that are already partway across the bridge. He starts yelling to stop the trucks, Edmunds running back across the bridge and screaming for the trucks to stop, when they hit the mines. The explosion drives everyone to their knees, killing Edmunds and destroying the trucks that are on the bridge. Everyone is horrified, Goldman calling for an immediate dust off. Taylor notes it was command detonated mines and the decision is made to look for the VC who did this in the nearby ville.
Goldman’s platoon sweep through the ville cautiously, asking the villagers if they know where the VC are. While checking the hootches and other structures, a movement catches Danny’s eye. He sees a figure in black and shoots, killing a VC, or so he thinks. But when he approaches and rolls the body over, he is horrified to realize that it is a very young boy. Hazzard comes up and sarcastically congratulates him, telling Percell he just greased a kid. The mother rushes up, carrying a screaming infant, and kneels beside her dead son, sobbing. Anderson tells Percell he can’t account for every bullet, to let it go and that they needed to leave the ville.
Percell is destroyed, though, saying he didn’t come to Vietnam to kill children. Anderson warns him that for all they know the entire ville was VC and that this kid could have detonated those mines. Matsuda tells them the baby is very sick and Anderson tells him to treat the child, but make it quick as they had to leave. Distraught, Danny kneels by the woman, and in tears tells her how sorry he is and that he didn’t mean to kill her son. But she only spits on him.
Back at Ladybird, Danny goes to confessional, but he can find no solace in the chaplain’s gentle reassurances. Angry and deeply hurt, he wants to know why they are even there. He is starting to come apart, completely unable to deal with what he had done.
Myron settles in for the night with a bottle of whiskey and a cigarette. He pulls out a picture he has of Nikki and himself, both in dress uniforms and lets his mind drift back to the last time they were together. They were in a hotel room, sharing a bed just before he was to ship out the next day from Travis. Nikki doesn’t want him to go, but Myron assures her that they will find each other over there. She notes that if they do, it would be special. Myron promises her he would look for her, but she doesn’t want promises.
Percell interrupts his memories, asking to speak to him. Myron is less than gracious or understanding when Percell tries to explain that they need to go back to the ville. There was a sick baby there and he wanted to help. Goldman impatiently tells him there is sickness and death all around them and to just deal with it and forget it. Something inside Danny breaks and he shouts at Myron that if he knew how to forget, damn it, he would. Myron is a bit stunned by the outburst as Percell storms out of the tent.
The next morning, Goldman goes looking for Percell but can’t find him. He runs into Matsuda and asks him about the baby. Matsuda explains the child was in very bad shape and most likely going to die if it didn’t get help. Myron continues to look for Danny and finds Johnson and Taylor filling sandbags. They tell him that Danny used his pass and went into town to get good and drunk. Anderson now joins Myron and warns him that Percell was in a very fragile state of mind and needed some careful handling. Goldman agrees and the two men go into town to track down Percell.
The two end up at one of the local whorehouses. Goldman has never been there and is a bit shocked and fascinated. They go into the back and find Percell drunk and in bed with a hooker. Goldman tells him to get his gear, that they were heading back to base. But Percell will have none of it. Tells them he’s getting married to Brenda, who smiles and repeats the name. Anderson tells Danny he can’t marry her, he married her himself last week- only her name was Daphne. She smiles again and repeats the name Daphne. Danny doesn’t care and really isn’t listening. He tells them that his girl back home was a smart girl, that she thought they were all baby killers. Zeke tries to get Danny to come with them and Danny finally gets mad and slugs Anderson. The bartender rushes in with a baseball bat and takes a wide swing. Goldman steps up and slugs the man but practically breaks his hand in doing so. Anderson coldcocks Danny and then shoulders him up. Myron, still cradling his right hand, gathers up Percell’s gear and they leave the establishment, Myron thanking the madam on the way out the door.
The next day Goldman takes the platoon back to the area where the ville is located. He tells Anderson they are going back in to look for VC, but Anderson knows the real reason and says as much to Goldman. Myron tells him they are there to find VC and leaves. When Danny starts to walk by, Anderson pulls him aside, asking how he was doing. Danny looks pretty green around the edges and Anderson teases him gently, telling him he’d done the same thing a few times himself during his second tour. He also tells Danny they were going back into the ville, but warns him the baby could already be dead.
At the ville, Danny finds the mother and the infant, who is still alive. Matsuda looks the child over and tells Danny the baby is getting worse. The mother huddles with the child in the corner of her hootch, desperate and afraid. Meanwhile, Anderson and some of the men drag up a VC they found and drop him in front of Goldman. He tells Goldman that the guy won’t be able to talk, Taylor gleefully telling Myron his tongue was cut out. Hazzard wants to kill the prisoner right there but Myron tells him to knock it off. Wallace won’t approve a dust off for the mother and the baby, so Myron gets on the radio and outright lies, telling Wallace they had three VC who might possibly want to “chieu hoi” and so gets his chopper.
As Goldman gives his orders to Anderson on what he was to do, the VC uses the moment of distraction to make a break for it. He grabs Hazzard’s rifle and before anyone can blink, kills Hazzard. Anderson quickly kills the VC but it is too late for Hazzard.
Goldman still evacuates the mother and the child to Chu-lai, taking Danny with him. Once at the base, he escorts them to the hospital, looking for Nikki in hopes she can help out. The place is a mob scene, with doctors and nurses rushing to treat a load of wounded soldiers. Myron tries to get a doctor’s attention, but is simply brushed off. Nikki sees Myron and the sick child and rushes up, taking the infant. She then tells Goldman and Percell to take the mother outside as she starts to treat the child. Goldman remains for a few minutes, watching her in fascination.
Out on the steps in front of the hospital, Danny hands the silent mother a cup of something to drink, then joins Goldman. He tells Myron that he felt he had to enlist, that he had a job to do. His father fought the communists in Korea and he felt he had to do the same. He asks Goldman why he was there. Myron tells him he was born to it, that he was an Army brat. That he had nowhere to run to and a father who dared him to fill his boots. Myron can see how much pain and confusion Danny is in and that he is having a hard time trying to sort it out for himself. He assures Danny it’s all right to be afraid, that they are all afraid. But Danny is more afraid that he didn’t feel anything for Hazzard when he was killed. And he fears what is happening to him. Myron can offer him no easy answers.
Nikki comes down the steps and tells them they operated on the child, and she feels he is going to be all right. Relieved, Danny goes over to the mother and kneels down, assuring her that her baby was going to be all right, that everything was going to be fine. As Danny reassures her, Myron tells Nikki he doesn’t have much time and that they have to get back to the firebase. She tells him she is off in half an hour and to meet her at the Officer’s Club, but to please take a shower first.
Nikki meets up with Myron at the Officer’s Club. He is now cleaned up and dressed in scrubs. They catch up on things, tease each other lightly and share a drink. Nikki tells Myron about the hours she works, Myron about his life out in the field. Nikki tells him that when she gets back to the world, she wanted to work in the VA. Myron laughs, calling her a masochist.
The two continue their conversation outside. Myron tells her he is sick of the way things are done and of the higher-ups. The brass was only concerned with body counts and not the men themselves. She counters, saying that for every officer who turns his back there were ten that did care. Myron then tells her about Anderson and how he felt lucky to have him. He then asks her if there was someplace they could go to be alone.
The two end up in Nikki’s quarters, making love. Afterwards, Nikki talks to him, telling him she knows what it’s like out there because she sees the kids who come in. She is worried for him. She also notes that when he was shipping out, he was determined to prove to his father that he could be a good soldier and a good officer . Myron assures her that he is a good soldier, and is learning to be a good officer, and he doesn’t care about his father’s opinion any more. He tells her he knows who he is now.
Back at the steps of the hospital, Percell is still very destroyed. He tries to talk to the mother, trembling and near tears as he attempts to explain how sorry he is. He begs for her forgiveness even though he feels he has no right to ask for it. The mother can see Percell’s pain is real and despite her own grief, tenderly reaches for Danny’s hand, silently letting him know she forgives him. Danny is stunned, but he covers her hand and lets his tears flow, thankful she can forgive him for something he will never be able to forgive himself.
Later, with Myron dressed in fatigues again, Nikki and Myron walk back toward the hospital. Myron asks if they might take their next R and R together, maybe go to Honolulu together. Percell walks up, uneasy and reluctant to interrupt, but tells Myron their ride was ready. Myron and Nikki say goodbye and she watches the two men as they walk out to the flight line. As they go, Myron tells Danny to do him a favor and not get him killed before his next R and R.
ToD Advisor’s Episode Notes:
This episode was the first episode written to bring female characters into the show.
The inspiration for all the First Season “hospital” shows was a powerful book called “365 Days” by Dr. Ronald J. Glasser, MD. Glasser served as a combat surgeon in Vietnam early in the “big war”, ’65-’66, I think. His medical details are horribly precise, his combat interludes somewhat less so. US soldiers had virtually no contact with any “round eye” women during their tour of duty, except for saying “hi” to a Red Cross “Doughnut Dollie” or a nurse if they were wounded. The Army PAO provided a woman colonel, Vietnam veteran nurse as medical advisor to the writers. Percell’s accidental killing of a Vietnamese child was a nightmare everyone dreaded. No one had raised their right arm and gone to Vietnam to kill women and children. This incident will come back later to haunt Percell in a later episode. On a costuming note, I provided a purple and white medical “pocket patch” insignia, worn by a soldier who opens a door in an early scene.
After the attack on the firebase, we get to see a sign put up by the helopad- WELCOME TO FIREBASE LADYBIRD, Home of Bravo Company 3/44th Infantry Please Wipe Your Feet.
3/44th Infantry was my invention.
The truck our guys are riding in has the name BIG ZEV painted on the door. An inside joke for producer Zev Braun.
We also get to see a morning ritual practiced throughout Vietnam, combat engineer minesweep teams at work, checking the roads for overnight VC “presents.” The engineers wear the patch of my own unit, the 18th Engineer Brigade, parent unit of Army engineers in the northern part of Vietnam during this period. Naturally their minesweep gear won’t work on a metal bridge, but that part is drama. The disappearance of the ARVN militia who are supposed to be guarding the bridge was the sort of thing US troops regularly encountered.
I wince when I hear anyone called “Corporal” in this show, as the rank was little used in the Army during this period, certainly not in a medical unit. (He’s the guy with my purple and white “pocket patch” on his uniform.)
One of my other contributions was Nikki’s room. I happened to have some photos, from another veteran, of a nurse’s room. I made xerox blowups of these photos and sent them to the set people. This use of the interior beams of the building for her personal items, for example, is right from these photos.
Goldman mentions his background as an “Army brat” in this episode. As we know from before, his father was a retired Army general and a Medal of Honor winner, both of which could have put Goldman into West Point, had he chosen. But Goldman is an OCS officer, indicating a serious conflict with his father’s belief system, and a recent reconciliation with it.
Worth another look:
Goldman and Anderson arrive at a whorehouse in order to get Percell and bring him home. Drunk, Percell doesn’t want to leave, telling the two men he wants to marry the hooker he’s in bed with. Zeke tells him he can’t, because he married her last week. After finally getting Danny on his feet, Percell gets angry and finally slugs Anderson. That brings the establishment’s bartender running in with a baseball bat. Myron slugs the man, practically breaking his hand. Zeke coldcocks Danny and then shoulders him up. They all leave, Myron thanking the madam on the way out the door.
- Your Precious Love – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. While Goldman sits in his tent and daydreams about his last night with Nikki back in the States.
- Baby, Please Don’t Go – Them featuring Van Morrison. When Anderson and Goldman step into Mama-san Linda’s, looking for Percell.
- Here Comes the Night – Them featuring Van Morrison. In the whorehouse, after Anderson knocks out Percell, and carries him out.
- Tell It Like It Is – Aaron Neville. When Myron and Nikki make love in her quarters.
- There’s Something About You – The Temptations. After Myron says goodbye to Nikki and he and Percell walk out to the chopper, to the end of the episode.