Casualties Of War
She was ill and coughing from the abuse of you and your men. She shouldn't have been there
to jeopardize your position! You dragged her out and raped her! And then you blame
her for coughing, so you kill her! Does that about sum it up?
The story is presented as a fflashback of a Vietnam veteran. A squad of American soldiers is taking a well earned break outside a river village in the central highlands in November, 1966. While relaxing and Joking around, one of the squad members, Cpl. Brown aka "Brownie" is shot in the neck by Viet Cong across the river. The squad kills several enemies until they realize there's a Viet Cong running through a flooded field behind them. He throws a grenade. Eriksson panics but in a miraculous shot blows up the grenade with his grenade launcher before it lands close to him. Brownie is then evacuated but dies in the hospital. The squad then moves to the village which is believed to be an ally to the Viet Cong. In retaliation, the squad kidnaps a Vietnamese girl, Than Thi Oanh to be their sexual slave, much to the objection of one soldier, Private Max Eriksson who wants no part of it. His objections are quashed by the squad's leader, Sergeant Tony Meserve.
After the rapings, the squad tries to move down a railroad bridge overlooking a Viet Cong river supply depot. Meserve and Clarke realize Oanh's coughing might give them away. Meserve has Pvt. Diaz order air support for an assault on the depot. Then he orders Eriksson to kill Oanh. Eriksson staunchly refuses despite Sgt. Meserve's death threats. It seems no one is willing to kill her. To his horror, Cpl. Clarke looks out in the sky and sees a unit of Huey helicopters passing a mountain and then turning towards their position. Fearing the helicopters will somehow see their rape victim, Sgt. Meserve flat out orders Pvt. Diaz to kill Oanh. But before Diaz can kill her, Eriksson fires his rifle into the air exposing them to the nearby Viet Cong. As the battle rages, Eriksson who is carefully picking off Viet Cong hiding behind a supply Sampan on the river bank, doesn't realize that Cpl. Clarke has stabbed Oanh twice with his knife.
Things become desperate when the Viet Cong move mortars up to the river and begin lobbing shells onto the bridge trapping the squad. Fortunately, Sgt. Meserve is able to kill many enemies with his machine gun. But the situation gets worse when Oanh who wasn't killed by Cpl. Clarke, walks onto the bridge to try to escape. Eriksson tries to catch her but is hit in the stomach by Sgt. Meserve using his M-60. Completely winded and hurt, Eriksson watches helplessly as the squad shoots Oahn numerous times until she falls off the bridge. Then the helicopters (Hueys) Cpl. Clarke originally spotted, strafe the supply depot with missiles blowing it up but accidentally setting a passing US Navy patrol boat on fire killing all the crewmen. The squad had killed the girl so as not to risk getting caught by their superiors.
After the battle, Eriksson wakes up in a hospital having been "wounded." They cover up the murder but Eriksson refuses to let the secret die. He jeopardizes both his life and military career (thanks in large part to indifferent superiors who prefer to bury the matter) to expose the crime. Eventually, there is an investigation and the four men who participated in the rape and murder are court martialed and receive long sentences. Sergeant Meserve received ten years of imprisonment and hard labour and was dishonorably discharged. Corporal Thomas E. Clarke (Don Harvey) received life in prison. Private Herbert Hatcher received 15 years in prison and hard labour. Private Antonio Diaz received 8 years in prison and hard labour. Privates Hatcher and Diaz were later retried and acquitted on appeal.
At the end of the movie, Max wakes up from the flashback he was having of the entire incident only to find himself on a tram just a few feet from a Vietnamese American student who resembles the kidnapped girl. She leaves the bus to go to school and forgets her scarf, with Max running after her to return it. They have a brief chat where she notices something is troubling him, and he explains that she reminds him of someone. They go their separate ways and the movie ends.
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