- Guest Stars: Ving Rhames, Mark Rolston, Rob Knepper
- Story by: L. Travis Clark and Steve Duncan
- Directed by: Reynaldo Villalobos
Synopsis:The Armed Services were desegregated by President Harry S Truman on July 26, 1948- Executive Order #9981.
While in Sin City, Johnson, Taylor, Darden and Tucker, who are all black, go to a bar to meet up with Percell. But upon entering, they find they are the only blacks there. They don’t seem to mind and go up to the bar. But Innis, Allen and some other of the “good ol’ white boys” are not amused and step up, Innis taunting Darden and telling him they don’t have to socialize with blacks. He tries to prevent Darden from getting the four beers he orders and sweeps them onto the floor. The two immediately get into a fight, Johnson pulling back Taylor. Tucker then holds up a switchblade, telling Allen and the rest to let the two men fight it out for themselves. Darden gets the best of Innis and wins the brawl. But he is disgusted and refuses to get another beer, the four black men leaving.
The next day Goldman’s men are out in the bush. A sniper ambushes them, killing one man immediately and sending everyone else diving for cover. Innis, Taylor and Darden move into position in an effort to get at the sniper and Innis promises to cover Darden when the young black man makes his move to get to a better position. Unfortunately, Innis’s rifle jams and Darden is killed by the sniper. Taylor is able to finally get a clean shot and kills the sniper who was hiding up in the trees. Tucker comes running up, screaming for the medic. But it’s too late for his buddy. Tucker is distraught and bitter and turns his fury on the still stunned Innis, accusing him of racism. Goldman jumps in, telling him to back off, that Tucker knows that rifles do jam. But Tucker grabs the rifle, pulls off several shots at the already dead VC and then throws the rifle back at Innis.
Back at Ladybird, a chaplain holds service for the men killed, including Darden. Tucker is clearly in pain. After everyone else leaves he tries to explain to Taylor and Johnson. Explain why he and Darden came back for another tour, that Darden’s mother said they were fools. But there was nothing in the real world for them, so they came back to Vietnam. He blames himself for Darden’s death.
In the tent that Innis and Allen share with other members of their squad, the “good ol’ white boys” laugh it up over Darden’s death, Innis bragging that if he wanted Darden dead, he’d have shot him himself. He then pulls out a Confederate flag he had in his footlocker and they decide to hang it in plain sight on the front of their hootch. At the same time, Taylor is reading about the riots in his neighborhood back in Detroit. Johnson, Tucker and several of the other blacks are filling sandbags. Johnson looks up and sees that Innis and his band have hung up the Confederate flag and Tucker becomes furious.
Tucker, Johnson, Taylor and the rest of the young black men storm over to Innis and crowd, Tucker demanding the flag be yanked down. Innis is taunting and insulting, and finally it is Johnson who says he will take the flag down. But when he tries, Innis purposely trips him up. A full-scale brawl then erupts between both sides. Goldman breaks it up by shooting his pistol into the air. He then states the flag was to come down immediately.
Later, Wallace advises Goldman and Anderson of a mission to secure a village and hamlet where there has been recent NVA activity. Wallace wants Goldman’s platoon to set up a night defense position near the LZ with several LPs, then secure the hamlet the next day. Goldman and Anderson are concerned, asking if they could delay the mission a few days. Anderson states he isn’t sure they could control the men. Although Wallace understands there is a racial issue, he tells Goldman to get control of it and that they are to still go out.
That afternoon, while the men get ready to load up, Tucker starts to hassle Percell. Johnson and Taylor try to convince Tucker that Percell is a good man, not like Innis and his ilk. But Tucker makes it clear- if you are white you are not a friend of his.
In the late afternoon, as everyone settles into the defensive position for the night, Innis doctors up a cigarette. He tries to offer the cigarette to Johnson, who just wants Innis to leave him alone. Johnson finally just walks away, saying he does not smoke, but the little ARVN soldier who is with them, Tam, asks for the cigarette instead and Innis gives it to him with delight. When the smoke goes off in Tam’s face, the ARVN is furious and leaps at Innis. Anderson breaks up the squabble, furious with the laughing Innis. He gets directly in Innis’s face and tells him off, saying Innis has a bad case of the “white trash syndrome”.
Tucker, Johnson and Taylor get off by themselves, Tucker stirring up trouble. Taylor is easily on his side, but Johnson does not like the conversation and the talk of “fragging” Innis. He is not as easily swayed as Taylor and does not want to be taken in by Tucker’s growing rage.
That night Anderson checks the LPs. Taylor and Innis each man one, and Johnson is shown sleeping. Innis keeps a nervous watch, but someone comes up, grabs him and silently kills him. That morning, Goldman confronts Johnson, demanding to know if the knife found in Innis is his bayonet. Johnson finally admits it is his, but he clearly states that he did not kill Innis. Goldman tells him what will happen, that the body and the bayonet are being flown to Brigade. After Johnson leaves, Anderson tells Goldman that Myron knows that Marvin did not kill Innis. Myron is frustrated, saying he doesn’t know what to believe anymore and that the racial garbage has everyone’s blood boiling.
Percell tries to talk to a frustrated Johnson, who simply doesn’t want to hear it. Percell then bumps into Tucker, who demands to know what Percell wants. Danny is fed up with Tucker’s attitude and tells him so, saying he’s simply a hick from Montana who hardly ever saw a black man till he joined the Army. He snaps at Tucker, telling Tucker to explain to him what all the hate was about, that he simply does not understand. Tucker tells him about going home proud only to be treated like dirt back in the States, so he came back to Vietnam. He tells Percell, “I don’t know where I belong anymore. So forgive me if I can’t let go of my hatred. I got nothing else left to hang on to anymore.”
Allen meanwhile tries to talk to Ruiz and Baker, trying to convince them that the blacks were out to get them all. Ruiz will have nothing of it, and Baker finally stands up and tells Allen to leave, that all of this was bringing him down. As they get ready to move out, Tucker tries to talk to Johnson and assure him that he’ll be all right. Johnson doesn’t want to hear it and tells Tucker to stay out of his life.
Outside the ville, Goldman quietly orders Anderson to take First and Third Squads and move in. But as the men try to slip closer to the NVA and the village, Allen ends up getting stabbed by a punji stick and screaming out loud. The shout immediately tips off the NVA, and with the element of surprise now lost, a firefight breaks out. Anderson eventually orders teams of two to go into the ville and clear the hootches, but no one will go. Johnson in frustration and disgust tells him no one trusts anyone to watch their back and then charges into the village by himself. Percell won’t let Johnson go alone and follows him in.
But the mission is now ruined and the NVA manage to get away. Goldman has nothing to show for it- no prisoners, and no intelligence. He is furious with everyone and tells them he is ashamed to have them in his command. That while they were having their own private little war they got several of their buddies greased. Tucker remains sanctimonious, saying it was Allen’s fault. Allen lashes back. Goldman is totally disgusted, but Tucker turns his rage on the young lieutenant. Myron doesn’t back down, telling Tucker his problem was he wasn’t happy unless everyone else was unhappy. Tucker is completely disrespectful, calling him just another white boy. Fed up, Myron simply storms off.
Back at Ladybird, Allen limps into his hootch and notices Innis’s flag folded up on his friend’s bunk. He decides he wants to hang it again and starts to take it outside when he comes up against Goldman. Myron quietly takes the flag away. He tells Allen he has a lot of respect for southern pride and courage. But the racism stops now.
In the hootch with Tucker, Ruiz, Taylor, Matsuda and Johnson, Tucker continues to stir the pot. Ruiz is fed up, demanding to know where he stands and Matsuda asks the same thing. Anderson arrives and tells Johnson to come with him. Tucker gets in Anderson’s face, but the angry man won’t intimidate Zeke. Anderson then escorts Johnson to the CP where Captain Wallace is waiting.
Wallace explains that the issue is out of his hands, and that he is sorry. Myron tells Marvin they will spend the night in the CP and the two will then catch a chopper ride back to Brigade in the morning. Myron regretfully takes Johnson’s rifle as Anderson watches in silence.
Back at Johnson’s hootch, Tucker is on a slow boil and he continues to stir up the other young black men. He convinces them to get their rifles as they were going to take matters into their own hands and free Johnson. Meanwhile, Allen and his gang hear what’s going on and they grab their rifles and make for the CP as well.
Both parties meet up in front of the CP, angry and taunting. The blacks want Johnson, the whites want Johnson hung out to dry. Anderson pushes out of the CP bunker into the middle of the two parties. Tucker immediately threatens Anderson. He makes it clear he is there to get Johnson. Anderson tells him that if he wants Johnson, Tucker was going to have to go through him. He then decks Tucker soundly in front of all of them.
Zeke then shouts: “NOT IN MY PLATOON! NOT IN MY PLATOON! THIS IS WHERE I LIVE!”
Allen starts to snigger, thinking all of it is amusing, only to have Zeke grab him into a punishing head lock and demand to know if Allen still thinks it’s funny. He then shoves Allen away from him and tells Taylor he is real disappointed in him. He grabs Taylor’s rifle and strips the clip. He then throws the rifle back at Taylor. Tucker by now is back on his feet, but his fury is undiminished. He still wants Johnson. Anderson then tells all of them that Johnson was innocent. That it was Tam, the little ARVN soldier, who killed Innis.
That night, Anderson approaches Tucker. Tries to talk to him, reminding him he is a good soldier. But Tucker is beyond caring and tells Anderson the same. And that he was transferring to a new LRRP unit that Brigade was putting together. He looks at Anderson, though, and warns him that the real storm is still on the horizon.
ToD Advisor’s Episode Notes:
By the time I was hired, the show’s creators, L. Travis Clark and Steve Duncan, were gone. After having done the pilot they had turned over their interest in the show to New Worlds in exchange for a credit in the titles and New World’s producing one additional script of theirs. “Burn, Baby, Burn” was that script.
Steve Smith, who got a lot of the drudge work of the show, was given the unenviable task of rewrite. He had to do all the little corrections that had to be made to the raw script before it could be shot. It concerned a depressing topic and no one was enthusiastic about it. One of the things that tore apart the nation in the 1960s, and the military in Vietnam, was the racial issue, and it had to be addressed. “Burn, Baby, Burn” was the first of several episodes to deal with this explosive issue. The script as shot had no major changes from the original, but it was rewritten several times for “tone.”
Worth another look:
When Tucker, Taylor and the rest of the black soldiers meet up with Innis’s friends outside the CP, Anderson comes out to stop what could become an even uglier situation. Angry and fed up with the entire situation and the fact that no one could trust that Johnson was not going to be railroaded, Zeke shouts at all of them that he will not have this going on in his platoon.
- Ball of Confusion – The Temptations. Starts when Johnson tells Tucker, “The time’s here, where we’re going on a mission together.” Continues through until Innis starts with “loading” the cigarette.
- Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival. At the end of the episode when Tucker climbs aboard the Huey and leaves Firebase Ladybird.