"Good morning, Vietnam!!!" (Good Morning, Vietnam) Okay, you
most likely will not hear this quote very often these days. But if
you were alive in the mid-1960's. this phrase might sound familiar, especially
if you fought in the Vietnam War. Adrian Cronauer, a disc jockey
with the Armed Forces Vietnam Network, known then as the Armed Forces
Radio Station, made this saying very popular. (CNN-Chat)
So popular, in fact, that a movie with the same title was made. Starring
actor Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer, "Good Morning, Vietnam!" portrayed
the view of the Vietnam War through a disc jockey's point of view.
The movie, co-authored by Adrian Cronauer himself (CNN-Chat) used
many of his personal experiences, but it was definately not a biography
(Zernich). When asked how accurately the movie depicted his actual
role in Vietnam, Adrian Cronauer answered, "...anyone who has been in the
military knows that if I had done half the things Robin did in that film,
I would still be in Lavenworth instead of Washington." (CNN-Chat).
"Cronauer says the final script was about 45% true to real life" (Shweder)
But what is truth and what is fiction?
If you may recall from the movie, Adrian Cronauer transferred to the AFRS (Armed Forces Radio Station) in Saigon from a broadcasting station in Crete. This is all true. Croanuer was a 1960's volunteer for the Air Force in broadcasting and media, and in 1965, after one year at Crete, Cronauer went to South Vietnam to broadcast for Americans (Zernich). In the 1988 movie, the bosses at AFRS disliked Cronauer from the beginning, searching for any reason to get rid of him. But in all reality, they didn't hate him, they were only apathetic to the station's activities (Shweder). In fact, I was unable to find any real records of Cronauer being suspended after eight weeks on the air, as it happened in the movie. The men wanted Cronauer back, so many called in complaining about his departure. There were rows of phone booths with the phones ringing off the hook (Good Morning, Vietnam). This part of the movie must be fictional, because there weren't rows of phone booths at the radio startion for people to call in (Shweder).
As a very emotional part in the movie, Cronauer spoke to many troops right before they headed out to fight. One Vietnam veteran remembers hearing a broadcast of Adrian speaking live to soldiers preparing to go to the front line, but Cronauer claimed the event never occured (Shweder). Another emotional scene in the movie happened when a bomb exploded at Jimmy Wah's, a popular hangout for U.S. servicemen. Three men were wounded and two were killed. (Good Morning, Vietnam) This is another fictional episode. Jimmy Wah's was only a restaurant made by the director for entertainment (Shweder).
When Adrian came to the Armed Forces Radio Station, he pushed for reforms in the military broadcasting, but many people thought it was hopeless. Before Cronauer, military radio was very boring (Zernich). Announcements like "Don't forget to take your pill on 'Malaria Monday'" were read monotonously (Good Morning, Vietnam). Adrian tried to make news broadcasts more enjoying to listen to. "(Adrian Cronauer) increased the entertainment of (these) announcements by making them sound like commercials." (Shweder) Cronauer also used a lot of humor, but it was mostly pre-recorded, and he used very common material used by morning shows during the mid-1960's. This way, his show would sound more familiar to the troops. In the movie, Robin Williams used 1988-stye humor for the broadcasting scenes. If he had used the kind of entertainment the real-life Cronauer used, the movie would seem boring to the viewers. It would have been "old fashioned and mild by comparison." (CNN-Chat)
Military radio may have been boring, but it was very advanced for its time. The Vietnam War was the first American war where soldiers could hear music while they fought. Rock and folk music were very popular with the troops. As a matter of fact, rock was so popular that music terms took the place of some military slang, like 'rock and roll' replaced 'lock and load'. Rock music was very controversial though, because it was an "immoral defiance of authority, rebellious, and about sexual liberation and drug use." But Adrian Cronauer still played mostly rock music. Like in the movie, "there was news censorship but no music censorship. Each disc jockey could pull and play any records he wanted. That is, within the context of his show." Part of the reason music censorship didn't exist during Cronauer's radio time was because Cronauer left the station in 1966. Most of the war protest songs, the reason for having music censorship, were made after this time. (Through the Soldier's Ears)
There may not have been music censorship during Adrian Cronauer's time at AFRS, but there was definately news censorship. Like in the movie, certain types of news were considered 'unofficial'. "As a news source, the AFVN was subjective and selective in their reporting procedures. It was standard for all news pieces to be submitted to an artillery captain for careful review, a practice that led to documented cases of whitewashing and occlusion. It was not uncommon for a GI reurning from the front to hear an AFVN report and not recognize it as a description of the same battle had just been trhough." (Shweder) In "Good Morning, Vietnam", Adrian Cronauer disagreed completely with news censorship, but the real Cronauer gave some reasons for the importance of news censorship. "You have to consider the way news media was structured in those days. At that time, it was possible to differentiate between news for the troops and news intended for the consumption for the folks back home. A lot of the coverage in VIentam was censored because it was stuff that could not be aired in a war zone without compromising the mission of the men who were involved." On another not, though, Cronauer stated "But there was a lot of bureaucratic nonsense, too." (Zernich)
I think "Good Morning, Vietnam" paints an excellent picture of the significance of radio on the Vietnam War. Music enlightened the lives of the men who lived in such horrible conditions of violence and bloodshed. The toops loved Adrian Cronauer's show because it brought them a little closer to home, away from the fighting. "It gave them a piece of America." (Shweder) Some soldiers liked the music so much that they loved the movie about it. As one Vietnam War veteran remarked, "When people ask me what my favorite war movie is, thy are surprised when I say 'Good Morning, Vietnam'". (Through the Soldiers' Ears) Although the movie gave truthful examples and experiences, it of course wasn't all fact. "Theres' a lot of Hollywood exaggeration and outright imagination." (CNN-Chat) But I believe "Good Morning, Vietnam" was not produced to tell an exact story of one man's life, but to present an idea of the importance of music and humor on every man's life. And I believe it did that.