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The Green Berets (1968) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • U.S. Special Forces troops ("Green Berets") under the command of Colonel Mike Kirby defend a firebase during the Vietnam war. War correspondent George Beckwith accompanies Kirby and objects to both the war and the means by which it is executed. Kirby's firebase is overrun and his troops fight bravely to retake it. Kirby and a select group of his men are then ordered on a special mission to capture a high-level Viet Cong officer.

  • Col. Mike Kirby picks two teams of crack Green Berets for a mission in South Vietnam. First off is to build and control a camp that is trying to be taken by the enemy the second mission is to kidnap a North Vietnamese General.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • At Fort Bragg, a U.S. Army training camp in North Carolina, cynical newspaper reporter George Beckworth (David Janssen) is at a Special Forces briefing about the American military involvement in the war in Vietnam. The briefing at Gabriel Demonstration Area (named for SGT Jimmy Gabriel, the first "Green Beret" soldier killed in Vietnam), includes a demonstration and explanation of the whys and wherefores of participating in the Vietnam War.

    Skeptical civilians and journalists are told that multinational Communism is what the U.S. is fighting in Vietnam; proof: weapons and equipment, captured from North Vietnamese soldiers and Vietcong guerrillas, manufactured in the Soviet Union, Communist Czechoslovakia, and Communist China. Despite that, Beckworth remains skeptical about the value of intervening in Vietnam's civil war. When asked by Green Beret Colonel Mike Kirby (John Wayne) if he had ever been to Southeast Asia, reporter Beckworth replies that he had not, prompting a discourteous acknowledgement of his opinion. Realizing his ignorance, Beckworth decides to go in-country to report on what he finds there so he may better his argument that America needs to stop participating in this unwinnable war.

    Colonel Kirby is posted to South Vietnam with two handpicked A-Teams of Special Forces troopers. One A-Team is to replace a team at a basecamp working with South Vietnamese and Montagnard soldiers while the other A-Team is to form a counter guerrilla Mike force. While selecting his teams, Kirby intercepts a Spc. Petersen (Jim Hutton) from another unit who is scrounging supplies from Kirby's supply depot. Realizing Petersen's skills, Kirby promotes him and brings him onto his SF team. The A team includes Captain MacDaniel (Edward Faulkner), a replacement for Captain Coleman (Jason Evers), Lieutenant Sachs (Frank Koomen), a Savoy 8 team leader, Master Sergeant Muldoon (Aldo Ray), the senior NCO, Sergeant First Class "Doc" McGee (Raymond St. Jacques), the teams medical Sergeant, Sergeant First Class Kowalski (Mike Henry), the teams communications specialist, Sergeant Provo (Luke Askew), the team's heavy weapons specialist, Sergeant Watson (Eddy Donno), the teams Mortar crewman, and Sergeant Parks (Rudy Robbins), a man from the Southern United States.

    Arriving in South Vietnam, they meet Beckworth whom Kirby allows to join them at the base camp where he witnesses the humanitarian aspect (irrigation ditches, bandages, candy for children) of the Special Forces mission. Still, he remains skeptical of the U.S.'s need to be there.

    Meanwhile, Petersen befriends a young native boy named Ham Chuck (Craig Jue), a war orphan residing at the Special Forces camp who has no family other than his pet dog and the soldiers at the base camp.

    One night on Coleman's final night of his tour, he spends some time in the Team House, writing a letter, announcing of his return, Beckworth, and several of the A detachments, Sergeant's Provo, Watson, and Lark are playing cards, one member Parks cannot play in the game as his reputation for cons, and luck-playing was well known, Coleman instructs the men to check their guard duty rosters before they turn in to rest, he bids everyone good night and Coleman returns to his own sleeping quarters, not long afterwards, the camp begins to get hit with Viet Cong mortars in a harassment action, the mortar fire strikes the dispensary, "communication bunker" and the team house, however the team house is in flames when other soldiers hastened to check on Coleman whom was known to be inside at the time of the attack. However, MacDaniel dispersed nearby soldiers on various assignments to check if they're is any damage done with the communication bunker as well forming a reconnaissance patrol, however Coleman is found dead by Sergeant Provo and a soldier amidst the flaming debris, after Coleman's death MacDaniel informs Colonel Kirby of his demise, Provo observed the fact that Captain Coleman was due to return home the following day,

    Also introduced is the ARVN base camp strike force leader Captain Nim (George Takei), who was a former Viet Minh officer from Hanoi during the previous war and is now fighting for the anti-communist South Vietnamese government. He obsesses with having to "kill all the stinking Viet Cong" to win this war. He also claims that there is a spy network within the camp and ARVN strike force.

    One day, Sergeant Muldoon, while supervising a group of U.S. Seabees clearing part of the jungle around the base camp and evacuating the civilians in preparation for a potential Viet Cong attack, notices an ARVN soldier pacing unusually outside the team house and mess hall and slugs him out. Upon interrogation by Captain Nim, the ARVN soldier denies being a Viet Cong spy, until Nim discovers a silver cigarette lighter in the ARVN soldier's possession, which belonged to a Green Beret medical specialist, a friend of Kirby's, recently murdered by the VC. After Beckworth sees Nim beat and torture the Viet Cong suspect to get a confession from him, he confronts Kirby about it. The Colonel justifies the interrogation by telling Beckworth about the cigarette lighter the Viet Cong suspect had and how the VC are ruthless killers who deserve no protection of any kind in this new kind of war.

    Another few days later, Beckworth accompanies Kirby and his team on a patrol to a local village in the nearby mountains. It is here that Beckworth changes his mind about the American involvement in the Vietnam war after witnessing the aftermath of a Viet Cong terror attack on a nearby Montagnard village in which the young grand-daughter of the village Chief he had befriended earlier, as well as the Chief and most of the male villagers, are tortured and executed by the VC for cooperating with the Americans.

    Another evening or two later, the Special Forces camp is attacked in a massed nighttime attack by thousands of enemy Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. Kirby and Muldoon fly out to assess the situation. Their helicopter is shot down by enemy fire, but they are soon rescued by a patrol where they secure a field as a LZ for US and ARVN reinforcements as a 'Mike Force' to aid the besieged camp.

    Meanwhile, the ferocious North Vietnamese Army attack upon the SF camp continues relentlessly. Beckworth is forced to take a rifle from a fallen ARVN sergeant and fights alongside the Green Berets as well as helping move the local villagers into the camp to protect them from the enemy onslaught.

    As the battle rages, Ham Chunk's pet dog is killed and the young boy tearfully buries his faithful companion. Symbolically, the boy uses the stick he had used to dig the dog's grave as the tombstone. He is found by Petersen who takes him to safety with the other refugees. As ARVN soldiers rush to their defensive positions, the stick is knocked away, leaving an unmarked grave.

    At this time, the perimeter of the camp is breached by enemy sappers who blow up holes in the barbed wire fences around the camp, and the Green Berets and ARVN soldiers are forced to fall back to the inner perimeter however though the battle costs the lives of Lieutenant Sachs, Sergeant Sooby, and many Americans and South Vietnamese troops and civilians are killed in the battle. Captain MacDaniel, (Seabee) Lieutenant Jamison, (Patrick Wayne), Sergeant Griffin (Chuck Roberson) are wounded. Provo, however, is mortally gunned down by double agents posing as South Vietnamese soldiers. Nim however sets off the hidden explosives which kill the double agents, Parks however finds Provo hit pretty bad but still alive. Just then, Kirby and Muldoon arrive with the Mike Force reinforcements, supported by a US airstrike in which A-1 Skyraiders drop napalm on the attacking enemy troops with little success. Nim is killed by enemy artillery as he is detonating claymore mines to kill more attacking enemy soldiers within the camp's lines.

    By dawn, with the enemy attack still continuing, Kirby orders the troops to fall back and withdraw from the camp which is then taken by the enemy. At a nearby LZ, more US Army helicopters arrive to evacuate the refugees and Petersen puts Ham Chuck on one of the helicopters and promises to return for him in Da Nang. With the base in VC/NVA hands, Kirby orders an airstrike of a C-47 on the camp, which kills more enemy troops forcing them to withdraw later that day. When the enemy departs, Kirby and his team re-occupy the destroyed camp.

    Afterwords, Kirby has a talk with Beckworth where the reporter admits that he probably will be fired from the newspaper where he works for filing a story supporting the American war. He then thanks Kirby for the experience and returns to Da Nang with the Mike Force reinforcements. Jamison tells that Provo is requesting Colonel Kirby's presence, however Provo starts to almost die of his wounds but tells Kirby to request for his memorial sign name to the public to be known as 'Provo Privy'.

    After that battle, Beckworth temporarily disappears from the story, while Kirby meets with his superior officer Colonel Morgan (Bruce Cabot) as well as Kirby's ARVN counterpart, Colonel Cai (Jack Soo), where he is told about a top-secret mission they have been planning to kidnap a very important North Vietnamese field commander named General Pha Son Ti who is currently living in North Vietnam. The capture of General Ti is seen as a bargaining chip to ending the war on South Vietnam's terms as well as disrupt the leadership of the Viet Cong. Colonel Cai uses his sister-in-law, a top Vietnamese fashion model named Lin (Irene Tsu), as a honey trap to lure General Ti to a guarded former French colonial mansion located in a well guarded valley deep in North Vietnam.

    Kirby, Muldoon, Peterson, and a handful of Green Berets, Montagnards (Degar), and ARVN soldiers are selected for this secret mission by Cai, who will be accompanying them. At nightfall, they are airlifted in a C-130 transport and parachuted into the North Vietnam jungle. After Kirby's point man, Kowalski, is killed by a patrol of local enemy militia, all of whom he kills single-highhandedly, the group continues on. Muldoon, the medical specialist Doc McGee, and two of Cai's men are to stay behind at a local bridge over a river to set explosives to blow it up to prevent the team from being chased by the NVA forces.

    At nightfall, Kirby and the group arrive outside the guarded plantation where they witness the enemy general arrive at his plantation with Lin. After Kirby and Cai and their men kill all the sentries around the mansion, they quietly enter, subdue the enemy general with Lin's help and hoist him outside, where they put him in the trunk of his car. Kirby, Cai, Petersen, and Lin pack into the car and drive off, but Watson and the rest of the team is killed in a hail of bullets by the North Vietnamese guards while attempting to escape.

    The next morning, the survivors drive over the bridge which is now fully rigged with explosives. Muldoon, Doc McGee, and the other two ARVN soldiers assisting them escape on motorcycles, but Doc McGee is seriously wounded after being shot in the back by a NVA guard during the escape. The bridge is blown up and the group is reunited in the nearby woods where they dispose of the General's car and successfully airlift the captured General out of the area by a Skyhook device.

    While Kirby and the group advance through the woods to the LZ for the helicopters to pick them up, Petersen is killed by an enemy booby-trap when he is gorily impaled to a trap of punji sticks. Kirby and his team are forced to leave his dead body behind.

    Back at Da Nang Air Force base, Beckworth watches as Ham Chuck awaits the return of the helicopters carrying the survivors of the raid. He realizes the toll of the war as Ham Chuck runs crying from helicopter to helicopter, searching for Petersen who is not there. Beckworth then accompanies a group of US soldiers whom have arrived in the country and are sent to the war zone area. Kirby, in a touching moment, walks over to the boy and tells him the sad news. Ham Chuck asks plaintively, "What will happen to me now?" Kirby places Petersen's green beret on him and says, "You let me worry about that, Green Beret. You're what this thing's all about." The two walk holding hands along the beach into the sunset.

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