Testament to the power and mastery of a movie that, nearly 60 years on, still feels as modern, complex and cutting-edge as any film released…
From Marvin A. Wayne, M.D., Bellingham, Washington:
Mr Ebert, in 1971 I served as a trauma surgeon at the 24th Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh Vietnam. It is my life, not Chris McIntyre's, that the movie "21 and a Wake-Up" is based on. I believe your understanding of this movie is deeply flawed. The 24th was at Long Binh, the largest military base ever built outside of the United States. We were one of the last major hospital serving the Vietnam War. The scenes that so disturb you in the movie are based so very much on fact. I can put real names on most of the characters in this movie. We lived, we loved, we tried to save lives and we partied. We had PXs, banks, clubs, and much of what the "World" we had left might provide, all be it in a war zone. However, what we did the most, was, in the chaos of the War, try to save lives. I wish to honor that by this movie. The claims you make that it looked nothing like Vietnam are wrong. The movie, indeed, did look, and was the Vietnam I knew in 1971. The Vietnamese were intelligent and articulate people. Much as you see in the movie. They were also a people in internal conflict, brother against brother.
I have attached some pictures of the "real" Vietnam that you claim we did not portray. I think you will see otherwise. The nurse in the Burn Unit looks exactly like Amy Acker, the USO singers were a bit "Baywatch," but that was the way it was. The one scene you see with sand bags and canopy is the night one of my associates and I removed a live grenade from a soldier, for which we received a Soldiers Medial and Bronze Star respectively. The parties were real also, and yes, some drank and smoked pot. But again, mostly we tried to save lives. I can assure you that any Vietnam Veteran, who knew Long Binh, and the 24th, would tell you the same.
Marvin A. Wayne, MD, Maj MC, USA; 24th Evacuation Hospital, Long Binh, Vietnam 1971;
Associate Clinical Professor, University of Washington; EMS Medical Director, Bellingham/Whatcom County; Sr. Attending St. Joseph Hospital, Bellingham.
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