Reenacting the Vietnam War (Part 2/2)

Uploaded by vice on 04.01.2013




THOMAS MORTON: Let's fall back on our
survival training from--
DON WHITE: I'll see you all out in the field somewhere.
THOMAS MORTON: All right, thank you sir.
DON WHITE: Good luck guys.
THOMAS MORTON: OK, so, let's just cross real low.

THOMAS MORTON: Maybe we should just make a
fucking run for it.
What we hope right now is that the Americans still control
the fire base, and that we can hole up there
for a little bit.
Should we yell, don't shoot, reporters?
I'm kind of holding my hands out in a surrender gesture,
which I figure is definitely in keeping with the kind of
craven in nature of the role I've chosen for myself.
Maybe if we report a little louder they can hear our
voices, and I'll call out--
Don't shoot!
Lets go this way.

Well, this is definitely the base.
NARRATOR: The fire base was still under American control,
but barely.
The infantry unit had been whittled down to a skeleton
crew of one GI, and the only girl we'd seen without
a rice paddy hat.

THOMAS MORTON: Were you the one who shot at us.
THOMAS MORTON: OK, that's all right.
I would have done it to.

DON WHITE: There's a leg infantry unit
working its way up here.

DON WHITE: That's another American unit working their
way up here.
They should be coming from that direction.

THOMAS MORTON: So the soldiers we were waiting on the
infantry division just rolled up cool as day.
BILL BURGESS: There's another patrol out there.
This place is infested.

BILL BURGESS: I'm 4th ID, 4th Infantry.
THOMAS MORTON: What occurred to your unit tonight?
BILL BURGESS: Well, think mainly what we've
got is light VC probe.
They're just trying to find out how many we've got in
here, and how many are holding the position.
THOMAS MORTON: Does this happen often?
BILL BURGESS: Every night, yeah Charlie owns the night.
All we can do is hunker down and try to keep the body count
to a minimum.
What's going on back in the world?
THOMAS MORTON: Not much, there's a new Doors album
that's pretty decent if you like that kind of stuff.
How was Korea compared to here?
BILL BURGESS: The same, fighting communism, the
insidious evil, love to travel to distant lands and meet
exotic people and kill them.
THOMAS MORTON: Well thank you soldier.
I hope this goes well.

Excuse me, we're looking for a Sergeant Wilkes.
SERGEANT WILKES: That would be me.
THOMAS MORTON: Is there going to be another patrol tonight?
SERGEANT WILKES: We're going to do what's called a RON,
remain over night.
We're basically going to go find a spot, a hiding hole,
and hide, and lay out in the field all night.
THOMAS MORTON: Could we accompany you on this patrol?
SERGEANT WILKES: Are you gonna talk?
SERGEANT WILKES: Are you gonna talk?
THOMAS MORTON: Can I whisper?
THOMAS MORTON: So there's no talking whatsoever?
SERGEANT WILKES: When we leave here there won't be a single
word, except for a radio check every hour.

-That's a rocket!
THOMAS MORTON: So VC right at the perimeter of the base.
There's rockets on the other side too.
-It's a fire [INAUDIBLE].

THOMAS MORTON: Charlie's fucking everywhere.
Our fire base is under attack.
-Come on you fucking gooks!
THOMAS MORTON: This fox hole right here.
THOMAS MORTON: It's kind of weird because you struggle to,
like, remember to keep in character, and to, like, make
sure you pretend it's 1968.
And then when the actual fire fight happens it's as if it is
-Get down on your knees.
THOMAS MORTON: So we've basically been under fire for
the last 30 minutes.
And I've kind of had this suspicion it was four dudes.
We just killed two of them and then captured two.
And the fire fight has stopped.
Let's see what happens to them.
SERGEANT WILKES: The skinny one's a smart ass.
SERGEANT WILKES: Yeah, he's definitely a troublemaker.
And the other one looks like he'll talk.
BILL BURGESS: Well, do it the old way.
Just rub a butt out on their nut.
They'll tell you how their mama wipes their ass.
-How many of there are you?
-Two squads?
-Two squads of four?
Two squads of 12?
Two squads of what?
-Look, fuck with me once, I kill you.
BILL BURGESS: OK, I guess it's time to get
something going here.
Here, take this.
All right you little shit.
You going to start telling me something.
Want a cigarette?
BILL BURGESS: Talk to me!
THOMAS MORTON: One other thing that's tricky about Vietnam,
is to make the war accurate, you have to
make the racism accurate.
This may be true for other wars, but Kraut and Jerry just
don't carry the same weight these days as
gook and slant eye.
BILL BURGESS: You been around.
You speak English.
You want another cigarette?
-Fuck a you, GI!
BILL BURGESS: How about you ear there.
How about that?
THOMAS MORTON: It's a little bit grizzly.
It looks like two VC soldiers are coming out of the grass.
Holy shit, no, it's like four or five, God.
NARRATOR: Actually, this ties back to a much larger Nam
problem, of whether or not to re-enact soldier misconduct.
Nobody behaves exceptionally well in war.
That's the point.
But while it's natural to let the heroics of, say, Antietam
or the Battle of the Bulge take center stage over the
concurrent rapes and field burnings.
The public impression of the Vietnam War is colored by
things like my Malai and the Zippo Raids, not exactly the
US Army's proudest moments.

BILL BURGESS: Grab another one of those grunts over there.
Tell him to come over here and stand on
this side with a rifle.
This mama-san here's got NVA equipment on.
THOMAS MORTON: What's going to happen
with all these prisoners?
SERGEANT WILKES: Well, if they make a push on it, they become
a liability to us.
So we're going to whack them.
-Speak Vietnamese?
-Speak English?
Speak English?
Speak French?
THOMAS MORTON: Why did you guys all surrender?
-No ammo.
THOMAS MORTON: Oh, you ran out of ammunition.
SERGEANT WILKES: Time for you to go now.
Really sorry, it's been fun.
Get up.
This is where bad things happen.
Turn around.
Turn around.

BILL BURGESS: I ain't got time for no courtroom out here.
BILL BURGESS: You've still got your little friends out there
popping at us from the damn trees.
You're going to tell me something.
I want something.
Give me something.
All right, that's fine.
You got exactly 60 seconds to let me know something.
If not, I'm going to give you a little
taste of American steel.

THOMAS MORTON: We've got a lot of prisoners
kind of lined up here.
They've been sort of taunting them for a little while.
And now appear to be ready to execute them,
summarily, which does not--
not really in fitting with, like, the best of image of US
soldiers in Vietnam.
BILL BURGESS: Cut the camera off.
Cut the camera off.
THOMAS MORTON: Why do we need to cut the camera off?
BILL BURGESS: Cut the camera off?
THOMAS MORTON: Why do we need to cut the camera off?
We're here of our own volition.
We're Americans trying to cover this war.
Keep rolling.

-I tell you what.
You see this?
How about this?
-Anybody want to say anything?
THOMAS MORTON: Did they just murder someone?
THOMAS MORTON: The soldiers we've been with this whole
time are summarily executing their VC.
Excuse me, excuse me, we're filming.
We asked to turn the camera off.
THOMAS MORTON: What's going on here?
Shouldn't these people be turned over to army
-They are being turned over to army intelligence.
THOMAS MORTON: How do you figure?
-See, we've got this nice piece of intelligence right
here-- this SKS.
That's all the Army needs to see.
THOMAS MORTON: Wouldn't these prisoners be more valuable to
the army alive?
-I don't see any prisoners.
I just see NVA shooting at us.
THOMAS MORTON: Do you worry about the effect that these
images will have on the broadcast back to America?
-I think we're doing everything we
need to over here.
Doing good work over here.
-Good night, sweeties.
Did you see all those fucking gooks trying
to get up and leave?
Wow, just running out of here.

THOMAS MORTON: So we just witnessed a war crime.
You can see there are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, VC
soldiers who had surrendered.
Or just-- no, I'm sorry, 12, summarily executed by American
soldiers out here in the field with an
utter sense of impunity.
Kind of not a great look for the American Army, you know?
THOMAS MORTON: I'm trying to unpack everything we've just
been through in the last day.
I feel like the reenactment may have been effective in
really blurring the lines between doing this for play
and trying to fully recreate the historical reality of Nam.
On the one hand, it's a hobby, a way to hang out your buddies
and have a good weekend.
On the other hand, the whole point of that hobby is to
immerse yourself in the most awful experience most men will
ever live through, which kind of hits home at the
fundamental paradox of war itself.
That is to say, in the words of William Tecumseh
Sherman, it's hell.
Although, in the words of Spacemen Three, I think I'll
be in good company down there with all my friends.
All this reporter knows is that the things I've seen here
will stay with me until the end of my days, and forever
haunt my dreams.
From Vietnam in North Carolina, it's Thomas Morton
signing off.