Dale Dye

Part 3 - Confronting Demons in "Platoon"

Interviewed by Almar Haflidason

Captain Dale Dye served in the Vietnam conflict, surviving 31 major combat operations. Highly decorated, including three Purple Hearts, he has been the military advisor on such movies as "Platoon", "Born on the Fourth of July", "Jacob's Ladder", "JFK", "Saving Private Ryan" and now the TV epic Band of Brothers.

Does Charlie Sheen's character in "Platoon" represent the All-American young male that was caught up in the conflict?

Charlie's character was designed to do two things: to be the 'everyman' of the American male who was drafted into the Vietnam situation, and he was also designed to be Oliver Stone. Oliver wanted the character to be a reflection of who he was: introspective, thoughtful, and philosophical.

Did any of the actors bring demons with them from the involvement of family members in the Vietnam conflict?

One or two mentioned that they had family members that had been involved in the conflict, but had refused to talk to them about it. I think that was a very common experience for people coming home from the war prior to "Platoon".

Both you and Stone fought in Vietnam. Was this movie a cleansing exercise for you both?

There were some cathartic and also some very emotional moments. I recall one in particular. It happened during the village scene in which Tom Berenger's character executes one of the Vietnamese villagers. We used real Vietnamese refugees for that scene, and when we brought them onto that village set in the Philippines they began to babble in Vietnamese. That sound, those voices, in that place and in that setting just froze Oliver and I absolutely solid. I remember looking at him and he looking at me and we just wordlessly walked off the set. We went and sat down on a rice paddy dyke. I put my arm around him, nothing was said, nothing needed to be said. It was a connected moment that is forever etched in my mind.

Is there one single message from "Platoon"?

I guess if I had to focus on one I'd say, "Don't confuse the war with the warrior". It was a bad situation, a ground war in South East Asia that was a quagmire where we hadn't paid enough attention to history in terms of the Chinese, the Japanese, and the French experiences. So it was a lousy war, but one that was fought by very, very good men. I think that is the one issue that I would want people to understand when they view "Platoon".

Did the release of "Platoon" cause a sea change in US public opinion?

I think that there was a sea change, in that the veterans, who for 20 years had refused to talk about Vietnam, could take their families and their friends and just point to it and say, "Look, I don't have to talk about it. Just look at this". The public began to say, "Oh my God, is that what you've been holding inside? Is that what you haven't told us about?", and as a result, it not only re-kindled an interest in the war which can be good, bad, or indifferent, but it re-kindled an interest in the veterans, their plight and how society treated them. To the extent that we're responsible for that, I'm very proud of "Platoon".

Is there another meaningful movie to be made about Vietnam and would it perhaps deal with the aftermath, rather than the conflict itself?

Dealing with the aftermath is one of the stories that needs to be told, along with several other good generic stories. I'd like to see a film that deals with one of the ignored facets of the war, about our combined action platoons that worked right with the Vietnamese. The South Vietnamese and the North Vietnamese lost millions of men and I want to see more of a nod to their effort too.

Part 1 - Realistic Combat in Films

Part 2 - "Stop Whining at Me!"

Read our review of the "Platoon" DVD