Tall tales of the flying war in Vietnam mix successfully, for the most part, with adventures both amusing and hair-raising in Southeast Asia.
Oliver Stone confirmed that war is evil. Joseph Heller made the case that war is nuts. First-novelist and Marine aviation veteran Jennings suggests that war, even the war in Vietnam, could pretty much be fun. It was hell too, of course, and the battle scenes here are tough, fast, and frightening. But episodes of wackiness predominate in a story premised on secret orders from the nameless, though unmistakably Lyndonesque president. The orders send pilot Jack Armstrong and his fearless, wild-and-crazy buddy Gearhardt (first name seems not to have made it across the Pacific) into the Marine air wing with almost-captain rank and a mission to go to Hanoi and assassinate Ho Chi Minh—General Giap, too, if the opportunity arises. Success of the mission seems to depend on the powers of distraction associated with parachuting into Hanoi the luscious nude star of the film Barbonella (make your own connection), who is keen to have a go with the Hanoi anti-air battery. Gearhardt and Jack have a terrible time getting away from South Vietnam. Real war keeps intruding, and the pilots constantly have to fly real missions. When they finally do slip away, Gearhardt promptly loses the orders somewhere over the jungle, and their plane is shot down by irritable rice farmers well short of Hanoi. The naked movie star does drop, and the lads do make it to the North Vietnamese capital. But Ho turns out to be an awfully good drinking companion, and the orders to execute the communist leadership may actually have been orders to set up beer distribution agreements. Hmm. Bring on the bar girls.
Veterans and military fans may be entertained, but the general audience will likely founder on the whimsy.