Moderator: Nicole Marie
If you rent the film Apocalypse Now, they play Ride of the Valkyries on loudspeakers from helicopters swooping down to bomb a village during the Vietnam war.
The best known example is the use by the fictional 1/9th Air Cavalry helicopter assault in Apocalypse Now. The stirring tones play as the helicopters swoop in to annihilate a village, Viet Cong soldiers, women, children, livestock and all.
At the start of the film's most memorable, greatest set of sequences, Willard seeks the CO in charge of the attack. He encounters the commanding officer of the Air Cavalry as an American military archetype. Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore [Kill-Gore] (Robert Duvall) is a hawkish, lunatic, flamboyant commander, who wears a black horse soldier's Stetson cavalry hat with a cavalry sword emblem, sunglasses, and a yellow dickey (in the mode of Gen. George A. Custer and Gen. George S. Patton). The idiosyncratic, unflinching, war-loving Kilgore places signature cards ("death cards") over the bodies of the civilian (or VC) dead: "Let's Charlie know who did this." A soldier announces on a loudspeaker to the stunned Vietnamese: "We are here to help you."
Obsessed with surfing in a 'Dr. Strangelove'-like style, Kilgore breaks away from the operation (after generously offering water to a dying VC) to meet Lance Johnson, admire the surfer, and congratulate him on his ability to nose-ride and cut back: "It's an honor to meet you, Lance...None of us are anywhere near your class, though...We do a lot of surfing around here, Lance." In the meantime, the injured and women and children are being taken away. A helpless and frightened calf in a massive net is hauled away by a helicopter - an apt symbol of what is occurring.
That night, Kilgore presides over a nocturnal beach party on the China Sea for the troops - with imported beer and T-bone steaks. He "turned the LZ into a beach party." Willard questions making Vietnam like home: "The more they tried to make it just like home, the more they made everybody miss it." Kilgore strums unconcernedly on his guitar. Willard describes "Wild Bill":
Well, he wasn't a bad officer, I guess. He loved his boys and you felt safe with him. He was one of those guys that had that weird light around him. You just knew he wasn't gonna get so much as a scratch here.
Unsure about securing a Vietcong beachhead at a N. Vietnamese village so that Willard's mission can "get into the river," Kilgore balks: "That village you're pointing out's kinda hairy, Willard," but then changes his mind after learning from the California surfer that the surfing is fantastic there: "It's unbelievable, it's just tube city." He reconsiders an attack at "Charlie's point" since it has a "six foot peak" and is one of the Vietcong's best surfing areas in "Charlie's" territory. He is unperturbed about interference during the liberation of the beach area the next day: "Charlie don't surf!"
At dawn, after a trumpet cavalry charge is sounded on a bugle, Kilgore orders a massive helicopter air attack on an unsuspecting, seemingly innocent, quiet, peaceful Vietnamese village. The armada of choppers glide silently through the breaking dawn like a harmless flock of birds - it is one of the film's most impressive, memorable sequences. The crazed Kilgore has ordered the music: "We'll come in low out of the rising sun, and about a mile out, we'll put on the music...Yeah, use Wagner. Scares the hell out of the slopes. My boys love it." Chef reflexively imitates other soldiers by removing his helmet and sitting on it - to avoid having his "balls blown off." [Castration anxiety and fear is constantly on the men's minds.] Kilgore commands: "Shall we dance?" as the music is piped out from the swarm of helicopters - the front of his copter is painted with the motto adorned with crossed swords: "Death from Above." The choppers become menacing as rockets and gunfire spew out along with Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries (from Die Walkure) blasting over the helicopter-mounted loudspeakers to scare the enemy. Surfboards are loaded on the side of the command helicopter.
Innocent, uniformed schoolchildren who are attending school and other villagers are caught as peaceful non-combatants during Kilgore's senseless attack and amphibious landing. Some run for cover while others prepare for battle. Concealed Viet Cong counter-attack with their own weapons and shoot at the helicopters. Kilgore promises a reward for a direct hit: "Outstanding, Red Team, outstanding. Get you a case of beer for that." Kilgore barks orders: "Ripple the shit out of 'em," and wonders at the VC's resilience: "Don't these people ever give up?" The helicopters land and scores of soldiers hit the ground for the assault. One screaming black soldier has been seriously and painfully wounded in the leg, and is being treated with morphine by medics before evacuation. A young peasant Vietnamese woman in civilian dress throws a bomb concealed in her straw hat into the Medevac Huey that has landed to evacuate the wounded American soldier - it kills all onboard. Kilgore exclaims: "The f--king savages!" The fleeing woman is vengefully pursued by a chopper and shot down with strafing machine-gun fire. One seemingly-invincible OH-6 helicopter is blown out of the sky above the jungle.
After devastating the waterfront Vietcong-controlled coastal village with the pyrotechnic helicopter strike, Kilgore is intent on one thing - surfing the "six foot swells." The oblivious (or immune) commander doesn't duck when warned: "Incoming," casually unaware of the dangers around him. Kilgore gives one soldier a clear choice: "You want to surf soldier?...That's good soldier, 'cause you either surf or fight, is that clear?" Kilgore encourages Lance to get excited about the unusually great surfing conditions ("one guy can break right, one left simultaneous"). Willard thinks the gung-ho, zealous surf-lover Kilgore is crazy:
Willard: Don't you think it's a little risky for R and R?
Kilgore: If I say it's safe to surf this beach, Captain, it's safe to surf this beach. I'm not afraid to surf this place...(He rips off his own shirt.)
To make the surfing beach even safer from sniper fire, he orders an additional air strike with napalm along the tree line ("Bomb it to the Stone Age, son"). [Apocalypse Now Redux: A restored scene shows Kilgore helping to save a Vietnamese child brought to him by the distraught mother.]
With the jungle leveled and engulfed in flames behind him, he smells the napalm, squats on the beach, becomes rhapsodic, and exclaims to Willard - in a now-famous line of dialogue about the thrill of senseless murder:
You smell that? Do you smell that?...Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' dink body. The smell, you know, that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smells (or smelled) like - victory. [A bomb explodes behind him.] Some day, this war's gonna end.
Kilgore's last line in the film is uncharacteristically delivered in a matter-of-fact tone as he laments the war's end. The scene fades to black as Willard watches Kilgore walk off.
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