Their wounds may not always be visible, but every American GI who lived through Vietnam brought back scars from that experience, former Armed Forces Radio disc jockey Adrian Cronauer told Utah Valley Community College students Friday.
Cronauer, whose experiences were chronicled in the popular movie "Good Morning, Vietnam," recalled for students "the humor and the horror" that constituted his Vietnam experience in the mid-1960s."Every American GI came back from Vietnam with scars - visible and invisible," Cronauer told several hundred students packed into the student center ballroom.
Like many of his fellow Vietnam veterans, Cronauer said he suffered years of nightmares until he finally dealt with the experiences he had tried to block out while in Saigon. "One by one, the demons had to be exorcized."
Cronauer said he didn't realize the role his radio antics played in the lives of servicemen in Vietnam until after "Good Morning, Vietnam" hit the theaters. He said he has been moved by the gratitude expressed for the movie by Vietnam veterans.
Cronauer, who described himself as a "steelworker's kid from Pittsburgh," said he tried to boost troop morale by giving servicemen something familiar to listen to. He said DJs tried to pattern the Saigon station after a U.S. station by turning public service announcements into fully produced commercials and airing self-promotional spots even though "we were the only show in town."
In addition, the station aired ads for bogus contests in which GIs could win such prizes as a year's supply of chop sticks. The reception from servicemen just encouraged him to do more, Cronauer said.
Though Cronauer enjoyed "Good Morning, Vietnam" enough to see it three times, he said only about 45 percent of the experiences portrayed in the movie actually happened. And much of the dialogue by actor/comedian Robin Williams was ad-libbed and was never even part of the script, which had been rewritten five times before production.
"The man's a wild man under any situation," Cronauer said. "When he got it (the script), he took off."
Cronauer has worked in broadcasting and media management since returning from Vietnam. He is currently on the lecture circuit while on leave from law school, where he is studying communications law.
Only about half of "Good Morning, Vietnam" is based on factual experiences, Cronauer said, while the remainder is a product of Hollywood exaggeration.
"It's not a biography. It was never intended to be a biography," he said. "But it was based on a lot of things that happened to me."
As the movie portrays, Cronauer said, before going to Vietnam he was an Armed Forces Radio disc jockey on the Greek island of Crete, where he worked as many as six hours daily before heading to the beaches to recuperate. "If you have to defend your country, that's not a bad way to do it."
But no, he said, he was not transferred to Vietnam. He volunteered, because in the early 1960s, "Vietnam seemed like a pretty safe place to be."
Yes, he was in a restaurant shortly before it was blown up, but "to the best of my knowledge, I don't think I had any friends who were Viet Cong."
Cronauer said his "Good Morning, Vietnam" sign on at 6 a.m. was adopted by every morning DJ who succeeded him.
"A lot of troops did, indeed, get the irony" in his good-morning greeting. "On one occasion, a guy picked up his M-16 and blew away his radio."
Cronauer said he taught English to Vietnamese while in Saigon, as the movie depicts. However, "I did not teach my class how to swear and use New York street slang."