Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘Albany’

Documentary Film,Marines,Other Musings,Vietnam War

July 2, 2014

On The Many Faces of Fear and the Quest for Closure

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I recently received a telephone call from a gentleman I met last year at the Khe Sanh Veterans reunion in Nashville, TN. He reminded me that he had come to the reunion back in September to see if he could find out information about his cousin, Glenn Sanders from Alpha Company, 1/26 who was KIA at Khe Sanh in late June, 1967.

When we met in Nashville, I couldn’t help him because Glenn Sanders was with a different outfit than mine, so I introduced him around to some of the men I knew who were in Alpha 1/26 and that’s the last I knew of him until he called me last week.

Khe Sanh Combat Base, Photo courtesy of

Khe Sanh Combat Base, Photo courtesy of

Here’s some background: In the early morning hours of June 27, 1967, the NVA rocketed and mortared the Khe Sanh Combat Base, killing and wounding a number of Marines from 1/26. Later that day, elements of CAC Oscar-3 and the Third Battalion, 26th Marines, first probed and then assaulted Hill 689 southwest of Khe Sanh where the incoming from that early morning was fired.

A number of men were killed and wounded before Hill 689 was secured by the Marines of 3/26. All tolled, the number of men KIA on those days, according to Reverend Ray Stubbe’s Battalion of Kings, was 28.

I was up on Hill 881 South with Bravo Company when all this action took place. We could hear the combat and were on 100% alert while the fighting occurred.

During the dark hours the fog was so dense you could carve it with a K-bar. Jim Richardson from Albany, Georgia, and I manned a bunker on the west side of the 881 South. We whispered back and forth to each other. Jim had been a mortician before enlisting in the Corps, so we probably whispered about death and dead bodies. We did that to keep our minds off what was out there crawling around, intent on killing us.

I recall one instance in particular when we heard something out to our front. The mist was so thick that water dripped off the top of the bunker and down onto the sandbagged parapet at the front of our position. Drip, drip, drip. But what we heard beyond that was more distinct. It was scraping, like maybe someone was crawling up to the concertina wire in front of our bunker. We snapped our M-16s off safe and leaned against the parapet.

Hill 881 South, photo courtesy of

Hill 881 South, photo courtesy of

It happened in less time that it took for one of those drips to leave the moldy green sandbags and fall the foot or so to the parapet below. An enormous rat—he must have been two-and-a-half feet from the end of his tail to the tip of his nose—leapt down on the parapet right in front of Jim and me.

At first I thought a grenade had hit the front of our position. Both Jim and I ducked as the rat slapped the sandbag and still not sure what had hit the parapet, we fell to the deck and covered our necks until we heard the critter scrabble off the sandbags and into the night.

How we had the discipline not to light up the night with our M-16s and send that rat to rodent hell, I do not know. Or maybe it wasn’t discipline at all; maybe we were too frightened to do anything more than react.

We both laughed. We laughed so loud that the platoon sergeant and the squad leader came down the line and hissed at us to shut up.

Ken Rodgers, © Betty Rodgers, 2012

Ken Rodgers, © Betty Rodgers, 2012

The dichotomies and ironies of combat were and are never ending. Down below us at the combat base and out on Hill 689, Marines and Corpsmen were dying. NVA soldiers were dying. And we were up on Hill 881 South giggling that we had been attacked by a rat. And we were so relieved that it was only a rat, all we could do was laugh.

One of those dying men was Glenn Sanders, the cousin of the man who I met in Nashville and who called me last week. He wanted to report that he had made contact with a number of the men in Alpha Company, 1/26, and even though none of them remembered Glenn, they did tell him the circumstances of the attack the early morning of June 27, 1967.

Consequently, this man who was searching for clues and information about his cousin’s death has been able to pass on to friends and relatives news about this Marine who didn’t make it out of Khe Sanh. And furthermore, on Memorial Day, 2014, this Marine who was killed at Khe Sanh was honored by the family’s local church. It may be 47 years late, but at least the honoring happened and hopefully those friends and family who remain alive, who knew this Marine, have some kind of closure.

If you would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this summer or fall, please contact us immediately.

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Documentary Film,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Vietnam War

March 6, 2012

On the Sidelines of Bravo!

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Ann Nutt, wife of Bravo! editor John Nutt, muses from her sideline seat.

Having had a close association with the evolution of Bravo! over the past year, I know that there are a lot more people out there besides me who have closely followed the coming together of this amazing film, and every one of them probably has a story to tell. Here is one of them.

My name is Ann Nutt. My husband, John Nutt, is a film editor and a Vietnam veteran (Army). Over the nearly forty years that we’ve been married, he has thought of himself more in terms of his film work than his military experience, but that experience has always been part of him. That experience came to mind when I read an article about Ken and Betty Rodgers and their film about Khe Sanh and handed it to John.

It all began when we were in Tucson, Arizona, visiting our daughter for Christmas in 2010. While there, I picked up a copy of the local paper, just to see what was going on, and there was the article about Ken and Betty’s project. The article indicated that the shooting of the film was complete (“in the can,” as these film folks would say), but the editing was something as yet to be addressed. John was, at the time, “between projects” (another term familiar to film people as well as other freelancers), so I handed him the article, thinking that with both his editing and his Vietnam experience, it might be something of interest to him. I think my exact words were, “You should call these people.” I may have repeated this advice a time or two before John went on line, got phone numbers for the various Ken Rodgers who were associated with Boise, Idaho, and actually picked up the phone to try to call “these people.”

The first phone call that John made was serendipitous. Not only was it Ken and Betty’s number, they were, as they later told us, at that moment talking about how they were going to find an editor that they wanted to work with on their film. After a few conversations with Ken and Betty and a meeting with their friend (and associate producer) Carol Caldwell-Ewart, John had the honor of signing on to work on this extraordinary project and I had the honor of getting to live alongside it.

Although Ken and Betty live and work in Boise, John worked from our house in Albany, California. It’s not a big house, and I have a corner of “the office” in which John edits. I was in and out of the office in the early months of the editing process, while John was watching hours of raw interview footage, and even though I was not sitting down to watch that footage, I was hearing the voices of the Khe Sanh survivors, listening to bits and pieces of their stories, and that is when I began to learn about courage –on many different levels.

First, there is the courage of the survivors, whose agonized stories I listened to in bits and pieces before ever seeing the film. Film or no film, it was clear that opening up and reliving their experiences in graphic detail was not at all easy for them. I heard them choke up as they talked about what had happened to them at Khe Sanh and afterwards, and how it had changed their lives. Thankfully, for the rest of us, they did tell their stories, and the film gives us not only the stories, but a real understanding of the courage it took to tell them.

Bravo! also shows something about the courage of all soldiers who go to war. The powerful observation that most of the Marines at Khe Sanh were barely out of childhood when they went into battle could probably be said about most soldiers in any war. It’s a lesson about courage on a personal level that we should all be aware of.

Finally, I had something of an insider’s view of the significant courage on Ken and Betty’s part that it took to make this film in the first place. They had never made a film before this, but they waded straight into the unknown. From the beginning of simply wanting to record the stories of Ken’s fellow survivors, they learned how to raise funds, direct and shoot the interview footage, oversee difficult editing decisions, and, when the film itself was complete, to work relentlessly on getting the film seen. I was aware of painful debates about how deeply into the brutality of the siege of Khe Sanh this film should go, and Ken and Betty had the courage to go deep, and to make artistic choices, such as adding documentary footage and powerful sound effects, that made the reality of the battle all that more real.

I went from hearing the opening explosions that introduce the Bravo! audience to Khe Sanh on the small speakers on John’s computer in our small house, to hearing it projected on a very simple video projection system in a small hotel conference room, to feeling it shake the floors (and startle me out of my seat) in surround sound at Lucasfilm, and no matter how many times I heard it, it was powerful and real.

From idly reading the newspaper in Tucson, to watching the completed film in a large theater, I have had an amazing time on the sidelines of Bravo!

Ann Nutt is recently retired from a long career with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where she was an attorney specializing in water pollution law. She is presently a volunteer writing coach in two public schools and has recently begun training to be among the first group of docents at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park, which will open its first visitors’ center in May.

Ann met her husband John in 1966, when he was a devoted moviegoer, but not yet involved in the making of films. They lost track of one another after high school graduation but reconnected via correspondence during John’s tour in Vietnam. She has been close to his work on many films over the years, but has never felt as drawn into any as much as Bravo!

Documentary Film

March 7, 2011


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This morning a stout gale ruckused off the Pacific Ocean and chased Betty and me all the way from Santa Rosa to Albany. The yellow blossoms of the acacia trees scattered across the freeway and the wind rustled up whitecaps that cornered the late winter light that shone through the scattered clouds.
In Albany, we handed over the material for the film, Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, to our editor John Nutt. With great anticipation, we had imagined this meeting beforehand, and were not disappointed. The three of us discussed making movies, conflict, the Vietnam War (John is a Vietnam veteran who served with the United States Army), art and what movies like Bravo! have to offer.
As we have mentioned before, John has forty years of experience as a sound and film editor and has contributed his talents to some big films, among them the 1984 movie, Amadeus.
We’ve gathered a passel of information and interviews, film and photos, and now that it’s in John’s hands, we’re ready for him to create art from the chaos that exists on our hard drives.
We are excited about this big step, to say the least. Onward.