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"The Good, The Bad & The Dead"


By Lee Russell

The "Inspiration" for this show was a conversation I had with Steve Smith.
I had previously written a memo on various things going on in the Army "culture" during this period. Drinking to excess was certainly part of Army life back then, and the Vietnam-era Army had a lot of alcoholic old soldiers like Decker. The character was based on a real ex-sergeant I knew of, from another unit. He was rumored to have been a former First Sergeant, and a Korea veteran, but now alternated between the lowest enlisted grades. The "Lifer's Association", as we termed the Army's non-commissioned officer corps (the career sergeants) protected him as he struggled to get enough time to retire with a decent pension. He looked 70 years old, he was maybe in his forties. Like Decker, he had been consigned to working in a fuel dump. Whatever sympathy you might have for him as a person was tempered by his being a real SOB and a mean drunk. The last I heard of him, he was awaiting court-martial for trying to kill a sergeant friend of mine as he slept.

When I discussed this with Steve Smith, it reminded him of a similar ex-sergeant he had served with, who once crawled through a minefield at night to get to a village where he might obtain, well, rental female companionship.

In discussing the episode with the writer, we considered how to introduce the character. I suggested the stolen Chaplain's jeep and we laughed about how this was to be ToD's first "car chase". Another question was how the arrest would be handled. Would Decker be handcuffed, for example? I worked with a Vietnam-era military policeman who explained the arrest proceedure back then.

The incident with the mine happened to a friend of mine. Claymore mines were command-detonated, directional anti-personnel mines that fired most (not all) of their energy and shrapnel in one direction. They were often used for ambushes, or for perimeter defense. VC "sappers" loved to turn them around and then trick you into setting them off in your own direction. My friend had been on ambush, near a firebase, and, after an uneventful night, went out to retrieve the Claymore only to discover a Viet Cong actually stealing the mine. As I recall, the two stared at each other for a moment, my friend yelled "hey" and the VC ran away, without the mine.


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