EXT. VIETNAM – BLACKOUT
The end of a bloody fire fight.
The stage is empty except for the two ARCHES laid on their sides to represent HUEYS. As SMOKE begins to drift in from UC, MUSIC comes up – a Gregorian chant. A blood-red spotlight sweeps the scene.
The actors begin to drift in from all directions – the three stage right doors, the UL doors and the house center aisle.
A wounded VC lays down RC, with an ARVN soldier standing over him. A television news DIRECTOR shoots the scene.
MIKE and JOHNNY, in Air Cav fatigues and carrying M-16s, cover the scene with their weapons. They are in for the duration together. Their attitude is one of aggressive confidence.
The players freeze in tableau.
A PRIEST enters down the center aisle. He is well past saving anyone’s soul – even his own. He stands over the wounded VC, the spotlight bathing him in red. He spreads his arms in benediction.
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed
be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will
be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and
forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
those who trespass against us. Yeah,
though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death, I shall fear no evil,
for Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy
staff, they comfort me. Surely goodness
and mercy shall follow me all the days of
my life, and I shall dwell in the house
of the Lord forever.
The lights come up full. The sound of the BATTLE comes up hard. CAPTAIN WILLARD is heard in VO.
First of the Ninth was an old
cavalry division that’d cashed
in it’s horses for choppers and
gone tear-assing around ‘Nam
looking for the Shit. They’d
given Charlie a few surprises
in their time here – what they
were mopping up now hadn’t even
happened yet an hour ago.
Willard appears at the RC door, scanning the area. Trailing behind him is LANCE JOHNSON. He sees the director, and looks right at the camera. The director waves them by impatiently.
Just go on by – go on by! Don’t
look at the camera! Don’t look
at the camera! Just go on by,
like you’re fighting! Like you’re
fighting! Don’t look at the camera!
This is television! Just go by!
Willard stops a SOLDIER.
Where can I find the CO?
He’s over there!
The soldier indicates COLONEL KILGORE, who has just strode onto the scene. Dressed in black fatigues in contrast to the troop’s jungle camo, Kilgore takes a report from Johnny as Willard approaches him, orders in hand.
Captain Willard! I’m carrying
priority papers from COMSAC
intelligence – Two Corps! I
understand the Trang has briefed
you on the requirements of my
Kilgore takes the papers and glances without interest at them.
What mission? I haven’t heard
from the Trang?!
Sir your unit’s supposed to
escort us into the mouth of the…
Well, we’ll see what we can do,
but just stay out of my way ’till
this is done, Captain!
Johnny hands Kilgore a fresh deck of playing cards with the Air Cav insignia on them. He breaks open the pack and tosses them around the set.
Let’s see what we have, let’s see
what we have…two of spades, three
of spades, four of diamonds, six of
clubs, eight of spades… there isn’t
a one-eyed jack in the whole bunch!
Hey, Captain, what’s that?
Death cards. Let’s Charlie know
who did this.
Kilgore claps the soldier on the shoulder.
Cheer up, Son!
Fire in the hole!
Everyone dives for cover except Kilgore, who appears not to notice.
He strides over to where the ARVN is attempting to interrogate the wounded VC.
Hey, what’s this? What’s this?!
Ah, this man’s hurt pretty bad, Sir.
About the only thing holding his
guts in is that pot lid.
Kilgore turns to the ARVN.
Yeah? Wadda you have to say?
This man is dirty VC! He wants
water, he can drink paddy water!
Kilgore shoves the ARVN away in a rage.
Get outta here! Gimme that!
Gimme that canteen!
He snatches Johnny’s canteen over the ARVN’s protests.
He VC! He VC!
Any man brave enough to…
He just a dirty VC!
I’ll kick your fuckin’ ass! Any
man brave enough to lie with his
guts strapped to him can drink
outta my canteen any day!
He gives the VC some water. The PILOT of the other Huey approaches.
Hey, Colonel! I think one of those
sailors is Lance Johnson, the surfer!
Where, here? Where is he?
The pilot leads Kilgore over to Lance as Willard looks on in amazement.
What’s your name, Soldier?
Lance snaps to attention and salutes, which Kilgore returns desultorily.
Gunner’s Mate Third Class L. Johnson,
Lance Johnson the surfer?
Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you,
Lance! I’ve admired your nose
riding for years! I like your cut-
back, too! I think you got the best
cutback there is!
Thank you, Sir!
You can cut the “Sir” crap, Lance.
Name’s Bill Kilgore, I’m a goofy
This guy with you?
Kilgore beckons Johnny and Mike over.
Lemme introduce you to the guys.
This is Mike from San Diego,
Johnny from Malibu.
Handshakes all around.
We’re pretty solid surfers. None
of us are anywhere near your class,
though. We do a lot of surfing
around here, Lance. I’d like to
finish operations early, fly down
to Langkow for high tide!
They head for the Hueys as the Chaplain genuflects over them. Kilgore finally remembers Willard.
Whatsa matter, Captain? The Trang
forget all about your mission?
Willard, seeing an opening, produces a map.
Sir, there’s two places we can
get into the river – here and
here. It’s a pretty wide delta,
but these are the only two spots
I’m really sure of.
Well, that village you’re pointing
at’s kinda hairy, Willard!
Whatta you mean, “hairy,” Sir?
It’s hairy! Got some pretty heavy
ordnance. I lost a few recon ships
in there now and again!
He turns to the pilot.
What’s the name of that goddamn
village? Vin Din Drop, or Wop?
Damn gook names all sound the
same. Mike, you know anything
about this point at Vin Din Drop?
That’s got a fantastic peak!
‘Bout six foot. It’s an out-
standing peak. It’s got both a
long right and a left side, with
a bowl section that’s just unbe-
lievable! It’s just Tube City!
Well, why didn’t you tell me that
before, “good peak?” There aren’t
any good peaks in this whole shitty
country! It’s all goddamn beach break!
It’s really hairy in there, Sir!
That’s where we lost McDonald!
They shot the hell out of us down
there! That’s Charlie’s point!
Sir, we can go in there tomorrow
at dawn. There’s always a good
offshore breeze in the morning!
We may not be able to get the boat
in there! The draft at the mouth
of the river may be too shallow!
Hell, I’ll pick your boat up and put
it down like a baby, right where ya
He addresses everyone now.
This is the First of the Ninth!
Air Cav, Son! Air Mobile! I
can take that point and hold it
just as long as I like, and you
can get any place on that river
that suits you, Young Captain!
He addresses the Air Cav Surfers in particular.
Hell, a six foot peak!
Now they’re ready to surf through hell for him. He motions to the soldier, who carries the squad’s radio.
Get on the horn to Division and
tell ’em to send out a gun ship
with a board for Lance, and bring
me my Yader spoon, the eight-six.
I don’t know, Sir…
What is it, Soldier?
Well, I mean, it’s Charlie’s point…
Charlie don’t surf!
They break for the Hueys. Kilgore addresses the pilot as he climbs into his ship.
How you feelin’ today, Son?
Like a mean motherfucker, Sir!
They climb aboard and the Hueys take off. As they fly towards their objective, Kilgore talks shop with Lance.
I never have gotten used to a
light board! I can’t get used
to it! I’m used to a heavy
I know! It’s a real drag!
You prefer a heavy or a light board?
I thought all the young guys liked
You can’t ride the nose on those
Kilgore breaks off as the other pilot hails him.
Big Duke Six, this is Eagle Thrust!
We’ve got it spotted!
Big Duke Six to Eagle Thrust! Put
it on heading two seven zero!
Assume attack formation!
That’s a Roger, Big Duke! OK,
we’re going in!
Kilgore briefs Lance.
We’ll come in low, out of the
rising sun, then about a mile
out, we’ll put on the music.
Yeah, I use Wagner! It scares the
hell out the slopes! My boys love it!
Hey! We’re gonna play music!
Johnny takes off his helmet and sits on it.
How come all you guys sit on
So we don’t get our balls blown off!
Lance reflects a moment, then does the same.
OK, Duke Six to Eagle Thrust.
Put on psy-war op! Make it
loud! Little Romeo Foxtrot,
“Shall We Dance!”
MUSIC up – “Ride of the Valkyries.” SOUND FX up – artillery and small arms fire – as they swoop in to land on a very hot beach.
I want my wounded out of there
and in the hospital in fifteen
minutes, is that clear?!
This LZ’s still pretty hot, Sir!
Maybe you oughtta surf somewhere
Whadda you know about surfing,
Private? You’re from goddamn
Troops dive for cover. Shells are exploding everywhere, but Kilgore remains oblivious. He motions Mike and Johnny over.
You mean, right now, Sir?
I wanna see how ridable that
stuff is! Now go change!
It’s still pretty hairy out
You wanna surf, Soldier?
That’s good, Son! ‘Cause you
either surf, or fight! Is that
clear? Now get going! And get
a board for Lance!
Mike and Johnny strip down to their trunks, grab their boards off the Hueys and run out the DR door. Kilgore motions Lance over.
Lance, I bet you can, when you
get out there, see how it breaks
both ways? One guy can break
right, and one left, simultaneous!
I dunno, I think we oughta wait
for the tide to come up!
Hey, Lance, c’mere! Look – the
tide doesn’t come in for six hours.
Ya wanna wait here for six hours?
Colonel, goddammit! Don’t you
think it’s a little risky for
R and R?
If I say it’s safe to surf this
beach, Captain, it’s safe to surf
this beach! I mean, I’m not afraid
to surf this place…
He takes off his jacket.
…I’ll show ya how ta surf this
The soldier approaches with the radio.
Got AWACS on the horn, Sir!
Kilgore grabs the handset.
AWACS, this is Big Duke Six!
I want this fuckin’ tree line
lit up like the Fourth of July!
I want F-One-Eleven’s swarming
this point like locusts in
Roger that, Big Duke.
(to F-111’s overhead)
They need some napalm down here.
Can you boys get over here and
put some down?
F-111 PILOT (VO)
Roger that. Here we come!
Don’t worry, we’ll have this
place cleaned up and ready for
us in a jiffy, Son! Don’t you
The napalm comes down and lights up the treeline like the end of the world. Kilgore pauses to admire his handiwork.
You smell that? You smell that?!
Napalm, Son. Nothing else in the
world smells like that!
He hunkers down to get closer to his boys, huddled out of harm’s way.
I love the smell of napalm in the
morning. You know, one time we
had a hill bombed, for twelve hours,
and when it was all over, I walked up,
and we didn’t find one of ’em. Not
one stinkin’ dink body! But that
smell, y’know, that gasoline smell…
The whole hill smelled like…victory!
Someday this war’s gonna end.
BLACKOUT. The Venture’s song “Pipeline” comes up loud as Johnny slowly sweeps the theatre with the laser sight on his M-16.