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The Anderson Platoon (1967)

La section Anderson (original title)
The director, a French veteran of the Indochina war (La 317e Section), returned to follow a platoon of American soldiers for six weeks at the height of fighting in Vietnam in 1966. The ... See full summary »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »
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The director, a French veteran of the Indochina war (La 317e Section), returned to follow a platoon of American soldiers for six weeks at the height of fighting in Vietnam in 1966. The documentary discusses the background and fate of the soldiers and emphasizes how much American culture pervades the soldiers' behaviors in the midst of jungle life and fighting. Written by <xaviermartin@hotmail.com>

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4 July 1967 (USA)  »

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The Anderson Platoon  »

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An Oscar Winning Documentary That Speaks For Itself
2 July 2013 | by (Isle Of Bute , Scotland) – See all my reviews

THE ANDERSON PLATOON is an Oscar winning documentary made by film maker and veteran of the French Indo-China War Pierre Schoendoerffer who made the earlier French feature film 317TH PLATOON in 1965 and the later epic DIEN BIEN PHU in 1992 . In short Scoendoerffer is a man obsessed with the various conflicts in South East Asia which is hardly surprising . A cameraman during the battle of Dien Bien Phu he spent four months in a Viet Minh prisoner of war camp . Here he documents the early stages of the American experience of fighting the Vietnamese in 1966 before Vietnam became a metonym for spectacular defeat

You have to be aware of the context of the setting . Nowadays you can switch on the television and see frontline action taken on Iphones by soldiers in Afghanistan via documentaries like the BBC's excellent THIS IS OUR WAR . Production logistics were entirely different in 1966 were a camera crew would have to carry bulky equipment through swamps and jungles and with it came all the dangers of the soldiers on the other side mistaking them as combatants in the distance

Likwise you also have to remember the socio-political context of 1966 . At this stage in the conflict there was little anti-war sentiment . Back home the war was perceived as a crusade against communism with the Viet Cong being communist stooges of the USSR and Red China . The fact that they were nationalists merely fighting to unify the country under a nationalist government didn't enter the minds of Americans . This possibly leads to an element of the documentary being under regarded by an average IMDb rating of 6.9 . If there's a lack of anti-war angst that's because it didn't exist until a couple of years later . That said it is refreshing to watch a war documentary devoid of anti-war statement ala Michael Moore

The director seems fascinated by the helicopter . Again in 1966 the helicopter was a new innovation in warfare and no other war in history has been so reliant on the machine . Indeed if you watch 317TH PLATOON you might find yourself questioning why the platoon didn't get evacuated by copter until you realise battlefield strategists hadn't thought of utilizing this new invention to its greatest potential until the 1960s . How reliant were the Americans on helicopters ? In ten years of conflict in Afghanistan in the 1980s the Soviet Union lost over 300 helicopters . In ten years of conflict in Vietnam the Americans lost almost 5,000

Some documentary purists may dislike THE ANDERSON PLATOON down to the soundtrack featuring a musical score and the soundtrack is noticeable . It does feature music way ahead of its time so much so I often found myself wondering if it was in fact the original score . But apart from that I was very impressed by the grunts eye view of the early stages of the Vietnam war and can testify to the misery caused by the constant driving rain of an Asian monsoon


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