he 1960s. America saw the election, and assassination, of the nation’s youngest president. Martin Luther King Jr. won African-American’s their rights. Russia and America produced hundreds of thousand of nuclear weapons. And the most controversial war in American history was waged in the the muggy jungles of Vietnam.
It is undeniable that the turbulent ten years of the 1960s changed America, and the entire plant, as humanity knew it. But the Vietnam War, in all its evil, is one of the most defining periods in the history of man. Everyone, from the soldiers to the housewives, to the Viet Cong and even a simple disk jockey, they all participated in a very pivotal moment in history.
1965. Saigon, Vietnam. Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) arrives to the hotter-than-hell country of Vietnam from the island of Crete to work as a disc jockey for the Armed Forces Radio Service.
Cronauer is greeted by the joy filled Private First Class Edward Montesquieu Garlick (Forest Whitaker), who is to give him a tour of the Army base.
Cronauer’s joking attitude immediately clashes with many of the staff members. Quickly, he rouses dislike from Second Lieutenant Steven Hauk (Bruno Kirby) and Sergeant Major Philip Dickerson (J.T. Walsh).
Hauk adheres strictly to the Army’s regulation in comedy and music, while Dickerson is mainly abusive and manipulative of all enlisted men. However, Brigadier General Taylor (Noble Willingham) and the other DJs grow very fond of Cronauer’s lightheartedness, comedic programs and his taste in lively music.
While walking the streets of Saigon with Garlick, Cronauer meets a Vietnamese girl (Chintara Sukapatana) named Trinh. He and and Garlick follow her to an English class where Cronauer bribes the teacher to let him take over his job in efforts of getting closer with Trinh.
After the class is dismissed, Cronauer attempts to talk with Trinh, but is stopped by her brother Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran). Cronauer and Tuan quickly become friends, and Tuan takes him to Jimmy Wah’s, the local GI bar.
While drinking at the bar, several Marines begin to call Tuan racist names. Taking offense to this, Cronauer instigates a large bar fight.
Cronauer is reprimanded for the fight, but his show is kept on the air much to the dismay of Hauk and Dickerson. Days go by and Cronauer’s show becomes more and more popular amongst the men fighting in Vietnam.
While relaxing in Jimmy Wah’s bar one day, Tuan pulls Cronauer out of the bar right before it explodes. Shaken by the horrific scene and the events that he experienced, Cronauer is desperate to broadcast the news on his show. But due to military censors, he is unable to do so.
In an attempt to divulge the information, Cronauer locks himself in the studio and broadcasts the news. Dickerson cuts off the broadcast, suspends Cronauer and puts Hauk in charge of his show with his poor jokes, dry humor and his precious polka music.
Cronauer begins to drink and continues to pursue Trinh, but all of his attempts fail. With hundreds of letters from soldiers for Cronauer to return and for Hauk to be kicked off the air, Brigadier General Taylor intervenes and orders Hauk to reinstate him.
However, Cronauer refuses and leaves with Garlick to visit Trinh’s village. Their jeep gets stuck at a congested checkpoint where soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division recognize Cronauer. He gives the a “live” show before they leave. He soon realizes the importance of his job and what it means to the thousands of men fighting.
Meanwhile, Dickerson sends false orders stating that they were interviewing soldiers in An Loc. knowing the only road to An Loc is under Viet Cong control. Dickerson sends them anyway.
On the road to An Loc, their jeep is his by a mine leaving Garlick and Cronauer to wander through the VC controlled jungles. Eventually, Tuan comes across their jeep and rescue the both of them.
Back in Saigon, Dickerson approaches cronauer stating he is off the air for good. It is revealed that Tuan, or Phan Duc To, is a VC operative who was responsible for the bar bombing.
Befuddled and confused by the shocking revelation, Cronauer asks Dickerson why he’s been giving him hell. Dickerson bluntly states that he hate him and believes he is “as useless as every other field grunt”. Cronauer “quietly leaves”.
To the surprise of Dickerson, Taylor had been listening in on the conversation and had put in form to have him positioned on Guam. A faraway island that is faraway from any real action. Dickerson is outraged.
Cronauer tracks Tuan down to a VC hideout just outside Saigon. He chases him and finally confronts Tuan who tells Cronauer that the US Military have decimated villages and murdered his family, making them the enemies. Cronauer calmly lives Tuan to decide what the real purpose of the war was.
Under military police escort, Cronauer is sent to leave Saigon. Before he does, he plays a softball game with Vietnamese citizens.
At the airport, Cronauer says his final goodbyes to Galick, who is now in charge of the radio show. Cronauer gives Garlick a taped broadcast to play.
The plane takes off from Saigon as Cronauer’s taped broadcasts plays with his goodbyes to the Army and finishes with him wishing every soldier the best of luck out in the jungles of Vietnam.