1974 film starring Burt Lancaster
. Go Tell the Spartans
is a Vietnam War movie. It did not receive the same publicity as Coming Home
or The Deerhunter
, two other Vietnam War
movies released the same year, but it was every bit as good -- if not better.
The movie is based on a 1968 Daniel Ford novel, Incident at Muc Wa. Ford spent 14 months in Vietnam as a journalist in the mid 1960's. The story centers around an American military advisor to the South Vietnamese, Major Barker (Lancaster). Though he is capable, Major Barker must follow through on the orders from his superiors. These orders are often irrational and, in Barker's view, inhuman.
This movie shows us the futility of the American efforts in Vietnam. Barker must work against his own instincts and better judgement because of fools and know-nothings above him. Honor, duty, integrity are values this new army has forgotten. The corruption of our allies, the South Vietnamese, brings into question just who and what we are fighting for.
Like so many of the journalists that covered the war, Ford saw a military that wouldn't believe its best people on the ground. The military brass at HQ's had a completely different and wrongheaded view. There are heroes, but they are individuals fighting themselves and their own command hierarchy as much as the Viet Cong.
The film's title comes from a famous epitath written by Simonides of Ceos around 480 BC after the battle of Thermopylae.
Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.
As the massive Persian army approached Greece, Spartan King Leonidas
evacuated all but himself and a few hundred warriors. They would defend the pass at Thermopylae
in a delaying action. These few hundred held off Xerxes
and tens of thousands of Persians
for days before dying to the last man. The valor
displayed has been an example for soldiers down through the centuries.