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: THE DEFINING GENERATION is a project begun by Doug and Pam Sterner in 2002 and completed in 2006. Initially is was prepared for publication as a book, however with their changing focus to development of a database of military awards, was postponed indefinitely so they could concentrate on that larger, more important work. The stories found herein however, need to be shared, and they have consented to make this compilation available in this format. While each story can stand alone, it is recommended that for continuity, readers will be best served by reading the chapters sequentially from first to last.


The Defining Generation


Defining Entertainment

Adrian Cronauer


"Having had a film made about my military escapades has led to some rewarding experiences. For example, veterans come up to me, shake my hand, and thank me for helping them get through `Nam. I now fully realized how much Armed Forces Radio meant; it was an antidote to culture shock and homesickness. Looking back, I think we were successful because we gave our listeners what they wanted: a sound as much as possible like stations they listened to back home."

Adrian Cronauer


Good Morning Vietnam

World War II sparked more movies than perhaps any other event in world history. During the nearly four year period of that conflict that saw 16 million Americans mobilized to fight on five continents, war movies were cranked out by the scores each year. Most followed the same general theme: this war is just, our enemies are evil and must be stopped, and American men and women are fighting and dying for you who remain at home. They were as essential to the war effort by inspiring young men and women to enlist, by promoting rationing and war bond purchases at home, and in lifting spirits during some of our Nation's darkest hours. In the decades that followed the end of the war even more movies were cranked out to tell the stories of heroes, battles, and to render proper honor to all who had served.

The Korean War is often called The Forgotten War. This is certainly true in terms of war movies; only the War of 1812 and the Spanish-American War received less reproduction on the Big Screen. Only four movies of the Korean War were produced between 1954 and 1962: Bridges at Tokyo Ri , Battle Hymn, Pork Chop Hill, and the Manchurian Candidate. Perhaps part of the reason for this lack of movies was the fact that the Korean War, coming only five years after the World War, became eclipsed by the larger and more popular remembrance of those days. Further, a good number of the men who fought in Korea were the same soldiers who had fought in the earlier war.

Whatever the reason, the Korean War did get plenty of attention in 1970 with the release of the movie M*A*S*H, the irreverent comedy about Army surgeons and one prominent nurse working at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea . From a military standpoint the movie was ahead of its time. World War II had been depicted with its own share of comedy from big screen movies to the highly popular TV show McHale's Navy. But with the war in Vietnam a public issue and the M*A*S*H making light of military inefficiencies and failings amid human sacrifice and suffering, it was one Korean War movie not welcomed by military leadership in spite of its popularity with the public. I was still in training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri , when M*A*S*H was released and we were all somewhat surprised that it was not allowed to be shown at the Post Theaters.* Of course even that was one more example of military idiocy…on every soldier's first weekend pass he headed straight for town to find a civilian theater showing what the Army didn't want us to watch.

Meanwhile, in the 1960s and '70s, Vietnam seems to be the last thing the American public wanted to watch a movie about. John Wayne's The Green Berets, released in 1968, was the first and perhaps only movie of that war in the pattern of the old World War II movie. Presented with an emotionally positive story line, even with the increased anti-war sentiment that had arisen by the time of the movie's release it left many young men inspired to enlist and volunteer to become Army Green Berets. In imitable WWII fashion the movie closes with the inveterate Wayne telling a small Vietnam orphan who has just lost his Green Beret guardian, "You are what this war is about," as he walks into the sunset.

The two Vietnam War movies that followed and that were released before the war ended in 1975 was The Losers, more of an adventure tale of Vietnam Vet bikers returning to Southeast Asia on a rescue mission and 1974's Hearts and Minds, a controversial anti-war documentary. In 1978 The Boys in Company C and The Deer Hunter were released. While the latter was a well done and highly acclaimed artistic work, it was less a war movie than a tragic account of the veterans of that war. The Boys in Company C was blatantly anti-war and certainly not a movie any self-respecting Marine would recommend. Apocalypse Now was released the following year and again portrayed the war in a sad and unrealistic light. It was followed by adventure stories tied to the war, a PTSD suffering Rambo fighting crooked cops in Idaho and an embittered James Braddock suffering from flashbacks and returning to Vietnam to rescue abandoned American Prisoners of War. Both were followed up with multiple sequels.

For me, 1986's Platoon was the first real movie about the Vietnam War since John Wayne's production eighteen years earlier. Having served with the 25th Infantry Division at Dau Tieng near the Michelin Rubber Plantation I found it eerily realistic. Many of my veteran friends however, especially those who served up north, found it far-fetched. The range of veterans' reactions to the movie perhaps speaks to the complicated nature and vast differences of the war. Further, Platoon with scenes of heavy drug use, war atrocities, and internal strife and murder, provided ample fodder to those who had opposed the war. Certainly those things occurred during the war, but these were exceptions and not the rule. Nevertheless, it became a point of vindication for those who saw in that war reason to despise the military and to suspect the veterans who had returned from Vietnam .

At last in 1987 a Vietnam War movie was released that enabled us to look back on the war that divided our generation, indeed our nation, and laugh in the face of tragedy. Good Morning Vietnam told the story of Air Force disk jockey Adrian Cronauer, an uproariously funny and anti-establishment radio broadcaster in Vietnam . The film starred the immensely popular Robin Williams whose "Gooooooood Morning Vietnam" became one of the most recognized movie one-liners in history.

Adrian Cronauer was in fact, a real disk jockey for the Armed Forces Vietnam Radio (AFVN) station…and in fact, authored the story behind the script. Based loosely on his life, producers of the movie avoided having Arian meet Robin Williams during filming. The real Cronauer is much more mainstream than the character depicted in the movie and in the process of developing the comedy they wanted Williams character to develop naturally according to his comedic talent.

Born in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania , on September 8, 1938 , the real Adrian Cronauer was the only son of a local machinist and a teacher. His introduction to television came when he was a guest on a local amateur hour at age 12. While attending high school he volunteered at a local Public Broadcasting System station and was doing broadcast announcing when he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh . There he was instrumental in starting the campus radio station, broadcasting from it as well. In 1962 he attended American University in Washington , D.C. to major in broadcasting and was only 11 credit hours from graduation when the Selective Service board beckoned. He enlisted in the Air Force believing it posed greater opportunity than becoming an infantryman or other ground combat soldier in the Army. In the Air Force he trained for broadcasting and media operations.

After working initially in the mundane operations of cranking out "cookie-cutter" training films he was at last sent to Greece to serve with an Armed Forces Radio station. Broadcasts from these official military stations were standard around the world with a common format designed to keep soldiers deployed to strange and foreign lands somewhat in touch with home, both in terms of music and news. The programming was generally benign, heavily controlled for appropriate content, and censored. Though Adrian was not the anti-establishment, damn-the-rules renegade portrayed in the movie, he was a good airman with a naturally comedic talent and livened his broadcasts enough to elevate them above the traditional put-everyone-to-sleep military radio history. When he had one year remaining in his enlistment he was offered the chance to return home to resume making dry training and cheesy anti-VD films, or broadcasting radio programs in either South Korea or Vietnam . He opted for the warmer climate and exotic nature of Vietnam . He arrived in the Spring of 1965 shortly after Congress, prompted by the Gulf of Tonkin incident, authorized military force and the buildup for war in Vietnam had begun.

Recalling his tour of duty in Vietnam in light of the subsequent movie about it, Adrian tells people, "If I had done all those things they showed me doing in that movie, I'd still be sitting in Fort Leavenworth (military prison) in Kansas ." The movie was meant to be entertaining, which of course it certainly was. Much of it was based upon the chronology of Adrian 's military career…arriving in Vietnam from Greece at the beginning of the buildup, and mirrored to a smaller degree his unique approach to radio despite the fact it was an official military broadcast.

In Vietnam he did in fact coin the "Gooooood Morning Vietnam" opening that became his trademark, though it was more practical than artistic. He explains that coming into the studio in the early mornings, still half-asleep and watching the second hand on the wall clock tick down to "air time" too quickly, the long and drawn out phrase came him a cushion to shuffle papers, grab a record, and collect his thoughts. In the program that followed he then broke from the norm to play popular songs that mirrored the "hit parade" at home, joke around, and make light of serious matters. In the midst of the war he enabled tentative young men in far away posts to laugh. Decades later in the aftermath of the conflict his story enabled a generation divided by that war to look back and laugh once again.

Adrian Cronauer was among the earliest of the American forces to arrive in Vietnam and, as a broadcast journalist he was able to get out of the studio to interview troops in the field. It gave him a broad perspective of the conflict. "One of the reactions I got from them (the soldiers) was of frustration," he says. "They would be in hot pursuit of an enemy unit and then they would have to disengage because the unit would cross over some invisible barrier or border…(or)…they'd be sitting there receiving incoming fire, and not only were they not permitted to return the fire, but they weren't even allowed to load their weapons without permission from headquarters."[i] On the air, though with more discretion than he was later portrayed, Adrian was able to speak to those frustrations and help soldiers find comedy in the bureaucratic problems that made their job more difficult.

"Cronauer balanced innovation, imagination and enthusiasm with practicality and realism. He pushed as much as he could for reforms within the military broadcasting hierarchy, but there were times when he knew it would be senseless to push any harder. He met resistance from those who were deeply invested in military broadcast operations, from those who worked without incentive and motivation and from those who simply feared making waves."[ii] After serving a one-year tour of duty he returned home to an honorable discharge, aware that the face of Armed Forces Radio was irrevocably changed. Incoming new disk jockeys tried to imitate him, a few even reviving his "Gooooood Morning Vietnam" greeting. Four years later when I arrived in Vietnam the AFVN icon was Chickenman: "Da…da…da…da…He's everywhere! He's everywhere!" From 1965 to 1966 Adrian Cronauer's popularity on the airwaves had taught the military that it was indeed true that laughter is the best medicine.

Adrian was then and remains today, proud of his Vietnam War service despite the problems evident from that period of time. " Vietnam was a no-win war," he says today. "When you don't have an objective to win, you've reduced the whole effort to waking up in the morning and seeing how any NVA and VC you can shoot--if you were allowed to shoot at all. It became a body-count game. But that was a political decision forced upon the troops. The troops never wanted to do that."[iii]

After returning home Adrian built an advertising agency, managed a radio station, was program director of a television station, and a TV news anchorman. For seven years he worked in New York City voicing television and radio commercials. He taught broadcasting at the university level and wrote a textbook on radio and TV announcing that is still used in many colleges and universities. While working in New York he also obtained a master's degree in media studies.

In the mid-1980s two of the most popular programs on television were M*A*S*H and WKRP in Cincinnati, a sit-com about broadcasters in a radio station. Adrian thought perhaps a combination of the two scenarios would provide a doubly humorous sit-com based on his own experiences as a war-time radio personality. He wrote a pilot for just such a program but it was rejected as too timely-- Vietnam was still a war people wanted to try and forget. With the help of fellow Vietnam Veteran and friend Ben Moses, the idea for Good Morning Vietnam was written in 1979 for the popular TV "Movie of the Week" but again was rejected. Finally in 1982 the two men managed to sell their screenplay to a Hollywood producer and from there it eventually made its way into the hands of Robin Williams. The character of Adrian was made to order for Robin's impulsively comedic mind and the producers gave him free reign to further develop the onscreen character of Adrian Cronauer, Vietnam War disk jockey. His masterful portrayal subsequently earned him his first nomination for an Academy Award.

Robin and the real Adrian Cronauer met at a cast party only after all the scenes for the movie had been shot. Adrian and his wife Jeane flew to Hollywood to attend the star-studded celebration at Robin Williams' home. Though the movie would turn the disk jockey into something of a celebrity in his own right, at that time the couple were just two quite ordinary people excited to see a dream realized and enamored by their surroundings. Jeane recalls moving through the crowd with her camera trying to snap photos of her husband visiting with members of the cast. At one point she found Adrian visiting with Bruno Kirby who played the jealous, comedically-impaired Second Lieutenant Hauk and a third attendee at the party. After shifting about in efforts to get a good shot of her husband and Kirby together she finally politely asked the third man if he would mind stepping aside for a moment. He smiled, moved, she took the picture she wanted, and then Jeane turned back to the stranger to thank him.

"That's perfectly fine," he stated as he reached out to shake her hand. "Actually it's kind of refreshing…I'm not usually asked to do that (step out of a picture). By the way, I'm Robert DeNiro."

Jeane flushes with embarrassment when she shares that story. "I can't believe I asked Robert DeNiro to step out of a picture. I asked him if I could take another and he graciously smiled as he stepped next to Adrian so I could take another."

The great success of the movie, quite different from anything before other than perhaps M*A*S*H, was that it was both fun and it was funny. Essentially it told the story of Vietnam Veterans more than the war. Those who had been anti-establishment and anti-military were captivated by Williams' humor and the story of an anti-establishment disk jockey who worked within and revolutionized his own area of the military establishment. Adrian Cronauer gave them a new perspective on Vietnam Veterans heretofore generally disdained and suspected.

Veterans of all wars laughed in hysteria at the one-line comebacks they recalled from their own days in service like a senior NCO barking "Don't call me 'sir!' I work for a living." Bruno Kirby's portrayal of the inexperienced and overly-self-impressed Second Lieutenant Hauk reminded us of at least one "butter bar" we had served with or under. Vietnam Veterans flashed back in positive ways through the generous helping of music from our era, panoramic views of green jungle and rice paddies (although the film was actually shot in Thailand), the sound of (helicopter) rotor blades, and the sight of fresh troops marching in new uniforms across the hard tarmac of Tan Son Nhut Airport near Saigon.

It would be a grave mistake to over-analyze the movie itself. Indeed many of the movie watchdogs had a field day with factual errors such as songs being played in 1965-66 that did not come out until later dates or Pete Rose being called a rookie baseball player at the end of the film, when in fact his rookie year was 1963. The bottom line was that Adrian and Ben Moses penned the screenplay to be entertaining and make us laugh. It was effective on both counts.

What perhaps is most overlooked about the movie's success was that it opened the door for a healing process in our generation. Peacenicks and veterans, liberals and conservatives, hippies and war heroes found themselves all laughing together at what had once been a bitter memory. Other events would further that healing process along; within a year plans were being made by others for a Vietnam War Memorial to heal the wounds inflicted by that war. As one of the first "celebrities" from among our ranks, Adrian lent his time, energy and support that that and other efforts.

Meanwhile, profits from Good Morning Vietnam enabled Adrian to return to school to pursue a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania , where he was also a Special Projects Editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. For years he was Senior Attorney with the Washington , D.C. firm of Burch and Cronauer. More recently he put his law practice "on hold" to serve as Special Assistant to the Director of the POW/MIA Office at the Department of Defense. He remains a popular speaker and, in 1992 when he was invited to Australia for dedication of that country's Vietnam War Memorial, he returned to the airwaves for a four-hour broadcast complete with '60s era music that provided fond and moving memories to Australian Vietnam War veterans.

Today Adrian 's busy schedule puts him regularly in touch with thousands of Vietnam Veterans. He's learned to overlook the disappointment many of them show upon learning that instead of meeting the Adrian Cronauer they expected from the movie, the real Adrian is very much like themselves. Comfortable in a suit and tie, with more degrees than a thermometer, and a record of building successful businesses, he is a husband, father, and grandfather not unlike veterans of previous generations. He is despite the erroneous stereotypes of the Vietnam vet, an example of who we are and what we can achieve if we are willing to simply laugh at ourselves.

* The movie Woodstock was also banned from the Post Theaters. I finally saw it a year later, projected on a white sheet tacked to a building at LZ Nancy in Vietnam .

[i] Zernich, Gordon, "Adrian Cronauer: Air Force Radio Announcer in Vietnam ," Vietnam Magazine, February 2001

[ii] ibid

[iii] ibid


The Defining Generation: Copyright 2006 by Doug and Pam Sterner
All Rights Reserved


Cover & Introduction
Out With the Old
     The Defining Generation

I. - Defining the New
     John Fitzgerald Kennedy
     Roger H.C. Donlon
     Robert Robin Moore
     Barry Sadler
     The Green Beret

II. - Defining Equality
     When Worlds Collide
     Dr. Martin Luther King
     Jimmy Stanford & Vince Yrineo
     Milton Lee Olive, III
     Specialist Lawrence Joel
     Sammy Lee Davis
     Black MOH Recipients - Vietnam War

III. - Defining the Role of the Sexes
     Evolution of a Husband
     Remember the Ladies
     Rosie the Riveter
     Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard
     Linda G. Alvarado
     Karen Irene Offutt
     Women in Military Service
     Lieutenant General Carol Mutter
     The Modern Woman in Combat
IV. - Defining Human Rights
     My Brother's Keeper
     Who is My Brother
     Christopher Dodd & Christopher Shays
     Peace Corps Politicians (Memories)
     Don Bendell
     Sir Edward Artis
     General Colin L. Powell

V. - Defining Entertainment
     Life Imitating Art
     Troubled Waters
     Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
     Brian's Song
     All in the Family
     Adrian Cronauer

VI. - Defining Dissent

     From Berkeley With Love
     The Pen and the Sword
     General David Shoup
     Muhammad Ali
     John Forbes Kerry

VII. - Defining the Future of Politics
     An Act of Congress
     All Politics is....Hereditary?
     Hillary Rodham Clinton
     Condoleezza Rice
     James Henry Webb
The next Section is scheduled for posting on May 20, 2011
VIII. - Defining Memories
     Jaime Pacheco
     The Glory of their Deeds
     Jan Scruggs
     Delbert Schmeling
     Peter C. Lemon

The authors extend our thanks to the following who granted personal interviews for this work
: Roger Donlon (MOH), Robin Moore, Don Bendell, Jimmy Stanford, Vince Yrineo, Sammy L. Davis (MOH), Linda Alvarado, Karen Offutt, Lieutenant General Carol Mutter, Sir Edward Artis, General Colin L. Powell, Katharine Houghton, Adrian Cronauer, Jan Scruggs, Delbert Schmeling, and Peter Lemon (MOH).
Our thanks to the staff of the following who either wrote or allowed reprint of their own works for this book: Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, Don Bendell, Congressman Sam Farr, Congressman Thomas Petri, Congressman Mike Honda, Congressman Jim Walsh, Governor Jim Doyle, and Scott Baron.
Our special thanks also to the staff of the following who provided information and fact-checked the chapters related to their subject: Staff of Senator John Kerry, Staff of (then) Senator Hillary Clinton, Staff of Senator Jim Webb
A SPECIAL THANKS also to Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard for his assistance in writing and editing the entire section on the Role of the Sexes.


Copyright 1999-2014 by
2115 West 13th Street - Pueblo, CO 81003
Unless otherwise noted, all materials by C. Douglas Sterner

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