The Anderson Platoon

Medic has located an original version of The Anderson Platoon, one of the great documentaries of the Vietnam war, which won an Oscar and Emmy for best foreign documentary in 1967.

For six weeks Pierre Schoendoerffer, a journalist, film maker and veteran of Dien Bien Phu, followed a platoon of Bravo 1/12 First Cavalry through the jungles of Vietnam. Unlike the American release, a jagged glorification narrated by the movie actor Stuart Whitman, the original version is a work of art, a meditation on combat, which retains the original order of footage, and Schoendoerffer’s spare laconic narration. Filmed  under harsh conditions the black and white visual quality varies, though it is mostly good. At times Schoendoerffer’s French accent obscures his clarity.

At the core of the film is its spell binding rhythm: the hide and seek of endless patrols, the ceaseless monsoon, the exhausted grunts idling on fire bases, the sudden eruption of battle, the death of friends, the taking of prisoners, the eerie silences that punctuate combat. Unlike Hollywood’s striving imagery, The Anderson Platoon captures the grim, unwinnable nature of Vietnam, and the grim lives of the American grunts who were tasked to win it.

Pierre Schoendorffer: Obit

Joseph Anderson: 2015 West Point interview