Monday, 28 February 2011

The siege of Firebase Gloria

On Monday lunchtime while tired after a good meal of turkey breast with Chinese stir fry and a pear, I watch an unexpectedly infertile about the Vietnam war called the Siege of Firebase Gloria. The film has the appearance of a made for TV venture or what in the old days would be described as B movie, despite a large cast and lots of fire power. The interest is the way the film shows up the incompetence of the USA high command at the time of the Tet New Year Holiday.

A USA military patrol, helicopter into an area from base camp finds all the inhabitants of a sympathetic village murdered, the men with their head cut off and staked, the women raped to death and the children massacred in a pit although one boy survives.

They investigate further and come across a small group of young fisherman and their women folk. Noting their ages the patrol is suspicious and arranges cover so that when one of the group opens fire they are able to strike back and kill the enemy finding out that they are regulars and which confirms that there is major movement. They make their way to an outpost on a small hill where the commanding officer is high on drugs and the rest of the men relaxing not expecting trouble. When there is an attack the commanding officer is wounded so the patrol leader takes command. The command base does not believe their report of increasing activity and refuses to send more ammunition, medical supplies or get them out of the area. The patrol find that at the camp there is a small medical unit with several female nurses. The head nurse, a captain, technically outranking the patrol leader, is horrified when a prisoner is tortured to establish what is going on. The torturer explains that there are 2000 of enemy all around them and no one is coming to for them from HQ and they all face the prospect of death with the females being raped to death. She accepts the offer of a an automatic riffle from one of the other troops.

Back at HQ a hippy helicopter pilot goes out to see the position for himself on hearing about the request from the outpost and prevents the camp being overrun with his firepower. He return and refuels and rearms and persuades two other pilots to join him, pretending to outrank someone unwilling to release the helicopters without written orders. They arrive in time to prevent a massacre and are able to drop provide ammunition and medical supplies.

On the third assault the camp is overrun and someone gets into the infirmary killing wounded in retaliation for the patrol and camp killing the wounded closest to the fort. Two of the nurses are killed by he captain used the riffle to kill those who invaded the field hospital. The battle become more fierce and just when it looks as if they will all be killed the maverick helicopter pilot returns again and the remnants of the Viet Com make their retreat, The commander of this group realises that the North Vietnamese army never expected him to succeed but he was part of the New Offensive in which all USA bases were attacked including those in Saigon as a way of signalling that they USA could not win, at a time when back home Congress and the media were told that the war was being won. The survivors are able to return to HQ in a war they cannot win.

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