As a U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, "Gene" Hambleton commanded the 57first Missile Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, from 1965 to 1971. He is better known as by his tactical radio call-sign, "Bat 21", he used in Vietnam when he was shot down in 1972, while jamming enemy radar, and parachuted behind enemy lines. When on the ground, Colonel Hambleton found himself in the midst of an invasion force of over thirty thousand North Vietnamese troops. While evading capture for eleven days, he used his survival radio to call in air strikes against the invasion force. Rescue crews gave him coded instructions for where to go to be rescued, based on golf courses, on which he had played, at different Air Force bases. Hambleton's harrowing ordeal was recounted in the book Bat 21 (1980), which was made into this movie. He died from cancer on September 19, 2004 at age 85.
The true story's ending was quite different. Navy S.E.A.L. Lieutenant Tom Norris, and Vietnamese S.E.A.L. Petty Officer Nguyen Van Kiet took a sampan in to pick up Colonel Hambleton, after repeated attempts failed, with major losses of helicopters and men. Lieutenant Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
The true events, surrounding this story, were still classified at the time of production. Lieutenant Colonel Hambleton was rescued by Navy S.E.A.L. Lieutenant Tom Norris and Vietnamese S.E.A.L. Petty Officer Nguyen Van Kiet using a canoe to infiltrate to Hambleton's position, and rescue him. Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor for the rescue of Hambleton, First lieutenant Mark Clark, call sign NAIL 38 BRAVO And the failed rescue of First Lieutenant Bruce Walker aka.COVEY 282.
In this movie, Danny Glover's character (Captain Bartholomew Clark) commandeers an aircraft, against orders, to affect a rescue. In Flight Of The Intruder (1991), when his character (Commander Frank "Dooke" Camparelli, the commander of a carrier-based A6 Intruder squadron) gets shot down over Vietnam, one of his pilots commandeers an aircraft, against orders, to affect his rescue.
The transceiver used by Vietnamese operator to listen American traffic is a Hungarian version of originally Soviet R-108D VHF radio. The warning is clearly readable: "Vigyázz! Az ellenség lehallgat" (The enemy is listening.) Uti figura docet.
This movie's opening prologue states: "Lieutenant Colonel Iceal Hambleton was a missile intelligence expert in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. As such, he was privy to certain highly classified information. The film you are about to see is based on a true story."
This movie was made five years after Uncommon Valor (1983), which also starred Gene Hackman, who in that movie, was responsible for recruiting a band of brothers, to bring home several of their buddy soldiers, who were still missing in action from the Vietnam War. This movie represents the opposite of this. In this movie, Hackman is trapped behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War, and it is he who needs to be rescued.
When Gene Hackman is approaching the villager's hut, he startles a chicken. A string was tied to the chicken's leg & Gene Hackman "trips" the string which pulls the chicken out of the doorway. He then acts startled.