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A Whiter Shade of Pale
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"Sitting Ducks"

By Lee Russell

This was an another favorite of mine. It's inspiration was a book called "Platoon Leader," by James R. McDonough, which was later made into a movie. It is an excellent book, but I don't recall it had much in common with either our show, or the movie, other than being set in a Vietnamese village.
The US spent a considerable amount of time and effort encouraging the South Vietnamese government to help the peasants through agricultural projects. This was done through Revolutionary Development Teams that moved into the villages with new farming methods, public works projects, medical care, education etc. US troops provided security.
In the original plot, the villain turns out to be the Kit Carson Scout. I managed to get this changed. Kit Carsons were former Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers who had not only given themselves up, but who had agreed to take up arms against their former comrades. American troops were always suspicious of them, but they were incredibly valuable assets in the field. They were under sentence of death by their former comrades and any who were recaptured were immediately executed out of hand. So far as I could determine, and the Army PAO supported me on this, there was not a single case of a Kit Carson turning out to be a VC/NVA double-agent. (The VC did have spies in the regular South Vietnamese Armed Forces, militia and Police.)
Making the villain the Buddhist priest created its own headaches. A Buddhist organization in Los Angeles was outraged. One of the younger members of the Production Office volunteered to go down to a regional library, after work, to research period newspaper clippings. Three hours later, he found a reference to a Buddhist temple in Saigon serving as a center of VC activity during the Tet Offensive, 1968. That clipping ended the matter, but it showed the sorts of pressure the show was under, on every episode.
As far the production went, one of the problems the set people had was in re-creating that inevitable Vietnamese terrain feature, the rice paddy. There weren't any in Hawaii, and the best that could be done was to line some small fish ponds with plastic tarps and fill them with water from tank trucks at every opportunity. No one was satisfied with the result but it was the best that could be done outside of moving production to Thailand.
Writer Steve Bello has the two NVA soldiers at the end armed with American weapons. The VC/NVA routinely collected weapons from battlefields and used them against us. This was part of their guerilla heritage, but had a side effect of increasing American paranoia and suspicion GIs often felt this was proof of collusion between the South Vietnamese and the enemy.
Originally, the RD Team was also to be depicted, but that part was cut. I did provide a example of their insignia which was copied by the costume department, but never used. Ever mindful of my fellow collectors, any Vietnamese insignia I created contained deliberate mistakes to prevent them from being taken for the genuine article, misspelling words, for example.

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