Tour Of Duty: The First Season

Tour Of Duty: The First Season

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Fremantle Home Entertainment

Release date: November 7th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 1063 minutes

Year of production: 1987

Creators: Steve Duncan, L.Travis Clark

Cast: Stephen Caffrey, Terence Knox

The Second Indochina War, which lasted from 1954 to 1975, grew out of a long conflict between France and Vietnam.

After 100 years of colonial rule, in July 1954 France was defeated and forced to leave Vietnam, no longer able to maintain their Indochinese colonies. The two sides came together in Geneva, Switzerland and against mounting international pressure; Vietnam’s delegates signed an agreement to the temporary partition of their nation at the seventeenth parallel allowing France a face-saving defeat.

Tour Of Duty: The First Season

Communist North Vietnam was ruled by President Ho Chi Minh and non-Communist South Vietnam was ruled by Emperor Bao Dai. The problem was how to reunify them as the division was only meant to be temporary, but as the elections never took place, the situation gradually grew worse. The North Vietnamese supported and aided anti-government groups in the South. Those who were communists there came to be known as the Viet Cong, fighting against their own government but when the North initiated a large-scale troop infiltration into South Vietnam the fighting became a full-fledged war although war was never officially declared.

With China and the Soviet Union supplying the north with military equipment, America stepped in with troops and equipment to help the non-Communist South in its war against the Viet Cong and the North. It was an unpopular decision with Americans who saw their country’s intervention as unnecessary in a war that was unjust.

Tour Of Duty: The First Season

While films such as Apocalypse, Now (1979), Platoon (1986), Full Metal Jacket (1987), Casualties of War (1989) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989) dealt with how the war was fought during those years, Tour of Duty was the first television series that dared to take us there from the comfort of our own living rooms.

Created by Steve Duncan and L.Travis Clark and filmed in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks, Season 1 follows a platoon of young US soldiers during their one-year tour of combat duty in 1967. Coming from different backgrounds, the men, lead by 2nd Lieutenant Myron Goldman (Stephen Caffrey), and Staff Sergeant Zeke Anderson (Terence Knox), come to depend on each other in a war that at times even they themselves don’t understand.

Tour Of Duty: The First Season

While Tour of Duty addresses issues of racism, suicide, fragging, terrorism, civilian deaths and drug abuse, it also touches on the effects of war on those who make it back home alive. Its storylines, from the opening episode right through to the season closer, are very much to the point and that’s where its strength lies.

One of the troubling factors with the war was how it failed to distinguish between innocents and combatants. The Viet Cong killed villagers they believed were helping the Americans and the Americans killed those they believed were helping the Viet Cong.

Together with no official declaration of war, Jus in Bello (conduct in war) becomes redundant along with Jus Ad Bellum (rules for war), resulting in 20 years of war with a lose-lose scenario for all sides.


  • Pilot
  • Notes from the Underground
  • Dislocations
  • War Lover
  • Sitting Ducks
  • Burn Baby, Burn
  • Brothers, Fathers and Sons
  • The Good, the Bad and the Dead
  • Battling Baker Brothers
  • Nowhere to Run
  • Roadrunner
  • Pushin’ Too Hard
  • USO Down
  • Under Siege
  • Soldiers
  • Gray-Brown Odyssey
  • Blood Brothers
  • The Short Timer
  • Paradise Lost
  • Angel of Mercy
  • The Hill


  • Making of Documentary
  • Stills Gallery
  • Behind the Scenes Photos
  • Cast, Crew and Character Biographies
  • Poster Gallery
  • Lobby Card Gallery

Conduct in war is the prevailing theme in Tour of Duty and one of the strongest examples of its portrayal of these blurring lines is in the episode Under Siege when the NVA (Vietnam People’s Army) launch a major assault on Firebase Ladybird where the men are stationed. With the NVA using a disproportionate amount of force against the platoon and disguising themselves in American uniforms taken from soldiers they killed and hung upside down in a grove of trees, we see them resorting to dirty tactics to get the job done.

In another episode, Paradise Lost, the focus is on a village where the aboriginal Montagnards have been trained to use rifles and mortars against the North Vietnamese. Here we see another massacre take place but one of the things we rarely see in Tour of Duty is American soldiers readily taking advantage of the civilians and abusing them in the way that we saw with the Abu Ghraib prisoners during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

With the show mostly focusing on the effects of war on the men and the camaraderie that develops between them during their tour, it somehow doesn’t come close to exposing the true face of war, but for what it shows it does tell us this one undeniable truth: War is Hell.

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