Adrian Cronauer is back in the movies again:
"Good Morning, Vietnam! It's 104 degrees, and if that doesn't wipe you out, a jammed weapon will. Remember, guys, keep it clean and keep your head low."This is the real Adrian Cronauer, not the Cronauer created by Robin Williams, who earned an Oscar nomination for portraying the former armed forces disc jockey in the current hit movie "Good Morning Vietnam."
Cronauer's radio rap is the sound track for the opening scene of "Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam," a documentary in which letters written by soldiers in Vietnam are read off-camera by actors including Robert DeNiro, Randy Quaid, Sean Penn, Howard Rollins Jr., Martin Sheen, Robert Downey and Williams.
The film will play during April on Home Box Office.
As a Saigon-based disc jockey for Armed Forces Radio in 1965, Cronauer made the station sound more like the Top 40 stations the soldiers had left behind. He originated the "Good Morning, Vietnam" sign-on, but his actions were nowhere near as outrageous as Williams' performance suggested.
"As far as I know, there was never any music censorship, but the censorship of the news (in the movie) was pretty accurate," he said.
The movie's portrayal could have strayed even further from reality. Cronauer said that at one time during the screen-writing process, there was talk of having him get married to a Vietnamese woman and be taken prisoner by the Viet Cong.
"The upside (of the movie) is that people I haven't talked to in 20 years or more have gotten in touch with me again," he said. "The downside is the people who call me at 3 a.m., holler `Good Morning, Vietnam,' and hang up."
Cronauer returned from Vietnam and left the Air Force in 1966, then went on to be a news anchor, program director, station manager, management consultant, freelance announcer and a teacher at the New School for Social Research. Today he is a second-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania and plans to specialize in communications law.
"Veterans have been enthusiastic about the film because it's good to show the other viewpoints of Vietnam," he said. "There was a lot going on besides combat, and all of us saw it from a different perspective.
"I don't know if there's ever going to be a definitive picture of Vietnam. If there is, it's going to be decades from now and it's not going to be a single picture, it's going to be a mosaic."
Even though he was a disc jockey, Cronauer said, "Somewhere in the back of your mind, you still know what the potential harm is. I was sitting at the console and there was a loaded .45 in there with me. That kind of thing comes back at you years later.
"One of my good friends who worked with me at a radio station was never able to put (the Vietnam experience) away, and one day he killed himself."
Where "Good Morning Vietnam" found humor, "Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam" focuses on courage, fear and the deaths of young men and women.
"Dear America" is a documentary of enormous power which overlays the soldiers' letters on a chronology of the war told through TV news footage and soldiers' home movies. It is a compelling, valid chapter in the renewed discussion about Vietnam that has been stoked by such movies as "Platoon" and "Full Metal Jacket."
"There's been a national conscious effort," said Cronauer, "to forget about Vietnam and pretend it never happened. That is part of our history, and people need to know what happened."