This is a pro-involvement Vietnam War picture filmed between August and December, 1967. John Wayne directs and stars, showing the professionalism of the U.S. Army Special Forces, whose mission is train and lead unconventional warfare and clandestine guerrilla operations in an unoccupied nation. Wayne wanted to make a patriotic statement of support for the Armed Forces at a time of rising opposition in the USA. He said it was not to seek to explain why American soldiers should fight in Vietnam. But, Wayne's letter to President Johnson before the film belied his inten because t schereenplay's first draft was rejected as being too strongly anti-Communist by the American government. The film portrayed the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army as sadistic tyrants, though many Vietnam army veterans on seeing the film felt the brutal tone was accurate.
When it was premiered on the 4th July 1968 nearly a year and half had passed since the Defense Department approved their script. There had been the Tet Offensive in January 1968, several atrocities including the My Lai Massacre in March 1968, and then Johnson's intention to stop bombing in North Vietnam, and his approval rating fell to 26%. Set against this, Wayne's film on release was seen by many critics as glorifying a war now even more unpopular and appeared righteous about the American cause.
The film is too long. The direction is pedestrian and the editing is lethargic. It is oriented mostly on the action sequences, of which many drag on. Much of the script is heavy-handed, with displaying old-fashioned bravado for a war that was complex and still happening. The hardware in the film was realistic, supplied by the U.S. army. Wayne staged the film well, and used men on their way to the actual theatre of combat, which lent an authentic feel, though military tactics shown weren't always technically correct and Wayne was often lost in the cast of hundreds and military gadgetry. While the script had standard cliché war movie elements, Wayne tried to show what was going on in Vietnam in the paradigm of what fans expected from a John Wayne movie. He plays his character in a vein not unlike a cavalry officer hero from a Western, and the morals are broad brush. Generally, the film doesn't have very good character development, an aspect denied to Wayne by producers. The skirmishes are fictitious events, though the film's large set-piece battle is loosely based on the Battle of Nam Dong, 5-6 July 1964.