2,709,918 Americans served in Vietnam, this number represents 9.7% of that generation (2,594,000 personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam (Jan. 1, 1965 – March 28, 1973). Another 50,000 men served in Vietnam between 1960 and 1964.) Of the 2.6 million, between 1-1.6 million (40-60%) either fought in combat, provided close support or were at least fairly regularly exposed to enemy attack. 58,202 of those soldiers did not return home. 61% of the men killed were 21 or younger. Another 75,000 were severely disabled. Vietnam Veterans were the most highly educated fighting force ever deployed, 79% of the men who served in Vietnam had a high school education or better when they entered the military service. 63% of Korean War vets and only 45% of WWII vets had completed high school upon separation. 97% of Vietnam-era veterans were honorably discharged. (1)
In “APACHE BLUES: The Soldiers Unknown”, this disconnect that Vietnam veterans continue to live with will be closely examined.
A quick internet search for whether the Vietnam War was wrong will return 13,800,000 results. An internet search for American atrocities during the war returns 503,000 results. Most prevalent among the images is that of a naked and screaming little girl running from her bombed out village and a handcuffed NVA fighter being executed at point blank range. Two of the most famous images of the war. Two images that turned the tide of American sentiment against the war. Two images that American soldiers had nothing to do with. We wish to discard these images as the first things people think about the war and replace them with the true stories of the men who actually served. Stories of friendship, bravery and sacrifice. The stories of the Apache Troop “Blues”.
The 1st Squadron of the 9th Cavalry Regiment (1st of the 9th) was the first Air Assault unit in history. The 1st of the 9th was made up of gunships (the Reds), scout helicopters (the Whites) and infantry (the Blues). The “Blues” job was to scout the countryside then insert the infantry to engage any enemy units encountered with the help of gunship support from above. Tasked as a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) they rescued downed helicopter pilots and units pinned down by enemy troops. By the end of the conflict, the 1st of the 9th was one of the most decorated units in the war. Or, as former member Joe Kelbus, said in a 2008 interview, “If you were Blue you were automatically going to get a CIB (Combat Infantry Badge), a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. It’s a gimme…”
Our film focuses on the Blues of A Troop, 1st of the 9th. Also known as Apache Troop.
Our story is told on two different levels. Overall, this is the journey for two filmmakers trying to reconcile what they learned growing up versus what they have heard from the veterans themselves. We will be traveling around the country, interviewing experts in the fields of psychology, sociology and journalism. We will talk with an art historian to discuss the Vietnam Memorial and the difference in message it conveys compared to all the other war memorials in Washington, DC. We will be talking to filmmakers of popular war movies like Randall Wallace (BRAVEHEART, WE WERE SOLDIERS) to discuss the role pop culture has had in driving public opinion and why the tonality of Vietnam War movies are so vastly different from any other war movies. We want to hear all these stories, learn from them and, in the end, have a better understanding of the Vietnam veterans who shoulder so much of the burden for a decision enacted by our government.
On a much more intimate level, we will interview the members of The Blues and put faces to the bravery of their deeds. We will ask about not only their time in Vietnam, but also their reception back in The States and see how they’ve adjusted to civilian life in the years and decades since the war.
By starting with the big picture and drilling down to the most intimate and personal level, we will separate the pop culture and media ideology from the faces of the war; the faces of heroism.