FOR a week last November, the Tour of Duty television crew pitched camp
in the lush green mountains a few miles outside Honolulu. They film the
TV series at various locations around Hawaii, carving a model of Vietnam
from chunks of tropical paradise. That week's location was cozy
DENNIS J. STEELE, a former SOLDIER photojournalist,
recently separated from active duty.
compared to the battle-torn Vietnamese highlands they hoped to
depict. But it was often slit-trench pitiful compared to any tourist's
vision of Hawaii.
Three or four times in one day, storms swept off the ocean and
ripped into the set. Sheets of needlelike rain shot across the ridgeline,
driven by 40 mph gusts that mashed waist-high grass to the ground.
Directors, cameramen, stars, extras and an array of technicians
scrambled for cover. Actors yanked ponchos from their rucksacks, a
small benefit of authentic costuming. Those out of uniform fended for
Several people futilely tried umbrellas. The frames folded inside
out in a flash. Most of the crew just zipped their windbreakers, jammed
caps over their ears and stood with their backs to the gales. Only the
expensive sound and camera equipment weathered the storms under
It was another week of field duty for the TV crew — cold, rotten,
rainy, work-into-the-night, 30-minutes-for-chow field duty. Forget glitz
and glamour on the Tour of Duty set. Generally speaking, they'd settle for
avoiding a case of pneumonia.
Terence Knox, who plays the lead character of SSgt. Clayton
"Zeke" Anderson, wandered around the fringe of a set while his co-stars
finished a scene. He appeared pale. Makeup couldn't hide it.
I feel lousy," Knox said hoarsely. "We were shooting a scene
in a swamp a few days ago and I think I swallowed some bad water." He
grimaced and rubbed his stomach. "I need some hot soup."
An assistant director shanghaied someone to fetch the soup. It
wasn't star appeasement; Knox needed first aid. A few hours and a large
portion of broth later, he had bounced back.
"I've got no room to complain," Knox offered. "No matter how hard it
gets filming here, it ain't shit to what it was really like for the guys
who served in Vietnam." He has developed a special respect for Viet-
nam veterans, and veterans in the show's audience display a kinship
In addition, producers may be authorized to purchase surplus or out-of-service items from property disposal offices. The Army, however, doesn't provide blank ammunition
, gasoline, pyrotechnics, or any other expendable material, nor does it pro- vide field gear or individual weapons.
"The company is easy to work with," Sinor said. "They understand the limitations. By far, our most valu- able help is our rotating technical advisers and specialty technical advisers, such as chaplains, nurses and pilots, who help with certain scenes."