The World of Charlie Company
The World of Charlie Company is a one-hour documentary produced by CBS News in 1970 that shows what fighting North Vietnamese Army regulars in the jungles of Southeast Asia was like for a company of American infantrymen.
The documentary was made by John Laurence, correspondent in Vietnam for CBS from 1965-70. He spent more than five months tagging along with a military unit. The photographer was Keith Kay, the sound recordist James L. Clevenger and the producer in New York was Russ Bensley.
The film was broadcast twice in July, 1970.
The film follows the troops of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, of the 1st Cavalry Division.
The unit routinely patrols through the harsh, heat-filled Vietnamese jungles looking for enemy contact and supplies. They are constantly worn down by the exhausting conditions on every patrol. The film touches on the troops' diverse opinions with one particular soldier who is against the war and hasn't fired his weapon since arriving in South Vietnam. The film also includes details of the troops lives back in the United States or more commonly known as "back in The World."
The troops' unit commander, Captain Jackson, has finished his tour in Vietnam and is going to a described, "desk job" at Saigon, meaning a replacement is needed. Previously, Captain Jackson has had a sense of self preservation and shared a special bond with the men of Charlie Company. In fact, only two soldiers were killed under Jackson's command and he is seen as the prime reason the unit has got where they are.
They receive a new commander, Captain Al Rice, and they go on their first patrol with the commander. During patrol, the commander orders the men to cross a trail which was distinctly frowned upon by Captain Jackson which the troops learned from, and an open revolt is lead against Captain Rice, who is seen as glory-seeking and perhaps incompetent. The majority of the men refuse to cross and only six go with Captain Rice.
The unit then receives orders to not cross the trail, with many in relieve. Later on, Rice criticizes his platoon leaders for not supporting him in his order to cross the trail.
Charlie Company soon after gets new orders to cross into Cambodia, during the 1970 Cambodian Incursion and are tasked with destroying North Vietnamese supply caches. They find nothing and receive not a single casualty.
The troops insert back into South Vietnam and the troops discuss their new opinions about Captain Rice after a few months in combat. Most feel he is improving on mission decisions and feel he is becoming more as their previous company commander, Captain Jackson. Rice himself feels that he is becoming more connected to his troops and admits he worries about them more.
In the epilogue, it is revealed that Rice had began leaving his duty as company commander and would be sent for helicopter training. It also reveals the fates of some of the troops in Charlie Company and ends with a poem by a soldier about the patrolling in Vietnam.
"It showed GI's close to mutiny, balking at orders that seemed to them unreasonable. This was something never seen on television before".
It received the George Polk Award from the Overseas Press Club of America for "best reporting in any medium requiring exceptional courage and enterprise abroad." It also received an Emmy, a Columbia DuPont and several other awards for broadcast journalism.
- The Anderson Platoon (documentary)
- I Am a Soldier (documentary)
- The Mills of the Gods (documentary)
- Basic Training (documentary)
- Vietnam: It's a Mad War (documentary)
- Bliss, Edward Jr.(1991). Now the news. p. 349
- The Cat From Hue by John Laurence