The Siege Of Firebase Gloria, “The people were friendly. We liked them and they liked us… so it really hurt us to see their heads on stakes.” This line, dryly spouted by R. Lee Ermey’s character Sergeant Major Bill Hafner of the United States Marine Corps’ Force Recon, begins a brutal portrayal of war at its worst. This film pulls no punches, showing combat for what it is: a slaughter.
Do not come into this film with a soft heart. If scenes showing piles of dead children, teenage Vietnamese prostitutes wrapping themselves in dynamite to act as suicide bombers or “sappers”, American nurses and Embassy secretaries being machine-gunned by Viet Cong soldiers, the execution of prisoners by both the V.C. and Marines, and the wholesale slaughter of an entire generation of young men (both American and Vietnamese) have the potential to bother you, you might want to avoid this one. “Siege of Firebase Gloria” is frighteningly graphic and realistic and the only thing that keeps this movie from being little more than a snuff film is the humanity of the characters.
While the men on both sides commit acts that most people would consider atrocities, we can see them for what they are: scared human beings, some of them barely more than boys (“No way – Mighty Mouse could never get us out of this s**t,” says Private “Shortwave” Coates) who don’t know why they have to do these horrible things, only that they must if they want to survive.
In the end, it is the North Vietnamese Army Colonel Cao Van who gives the best summary of the situation: “The courage of your enemies does you honor.”