"The Green Berets is a film so unspeakable, so stupid, so rotten and false . . . that it passes through being fun, through being funny, through being camp, through everything and becomes an invitation to grieve, not for our soldiers in Vietnam or for Vietnam (the film could not be more false or do a greater disservice to either of them) but for what has happened to the fantasy-making apparatus. . . . Simplicities of the right, simplicities of the left, but this one is beyond the possible. It is vile and insane."
Thus wrote the film critic of the New York Times about The Green Berets, the movie John Wayne produced, co-directed, and starred in, about Viet Cong murderousness and American heroism in Vietnam. The film, released in June 1968, some months after the Tet Offensive, was one of the year's blockbuster movies at American box offices. In retrospect, it serves rather neatly, in conjunction with reviews in the New York Times and other high-toned publications, to illustrate the period's sharp split between elite and mass opinion on the Vietnam War.
Wayne, somewhat amused by the critical press reception accorded to The Green Berets, commented that the New York Times' critic was "foaming at the mouth" and "going into convulsions." "She and other critics", he said in Playboy, "won't believe the dirty sons of bitches are raping, torturing guerillas. I've been to Vietnam, and I've talked to the men there, and I don't have the slightest doubt about the correctness of what we are doing." He went further, "Anyway, it's my country, right or wrong, and pure as driven snow. Americans are the heroes of The Green Berets."