Documenting the Marines of Khe Sahn
Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in 1868 to remember Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. Today, on Memorial Day, we honor all Americans who died while serving in the military. Some of those honored served in Vietnam.
One hundred years after the first Decoration Day, in early 1968, United States Marines at the Khe Sanh fire base were surrounded and besieged by a numerically superior North Vietnamese force. Over the 77-day siege, the marines were under constant rocket and artillery bombardment. All supplies and replacements were transported by air, and casualties went out the same way, even though the runway and aircraft landing on it were also under constant fire. On March 30, 1968, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines were ordered to attack enemy trench lines on the Khe Sanh perimeter.
Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor is a documentary film made by Ken and Betty Rodgers about Ken’s unit, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, during the siege at Khe Sahn and about the effects that experience had on them. Betty encouraged her husband Ken to make the film after they attended one of the yearly reunions of Khe Sahn Veterans. The film stands as a testament to the men of Bravo Company, with photos, after-action reports, and never before heard audio that brings the battle to life.
Though Bravo! offers a glimpse into some of the bloodiest fighting of the Vietnam War, most memorable are the stories of the men of Bravo Company. As an article in Stars and Stripes states, “The film also provided some much-needed catharsis to the survivors from Bravo, many of whom opened up for the first time. ‘I don’t think anyone else could have [made the film],’ Marine Corporal Steve Wiese, now 66, told Stars and Stripes from his California home. For years, he suppressed his experiences and was reluctant to tell his story. However, that changed when he sat across from the camera and Ken. ‘I carry major survivor’s guilt,’ Wiese said. ‘I don’t understand why I’m alive and others aren’t. I don’t understand why I’m here.’” In the film, Wiese describes how his unit was ambushed during a patrol and how it took him all day to retreat about 400 yards to the besieged American base.
President Barack Obama proclaimed May 28, 2012, through November 11, 2025, as the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. Obama writes, “We draw inspiration from the heroes who suffered unspeakably…who were wounded and still carry the scars of war, seen and unseen.”
“We are excited about this film and how we can help folks learn more about the Vietnam War, the personal stories of the people who served, and its long-term costs in human terms,” says Ken.
During production, Ken and Betty traveled across the United States conducting interviews. They also traveled to George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in California for post-production work. The film’s sound and film editing was done by Vietnam veteran John Nutt, who also worked on Apocalypse Now and Amadeus, and four-time Oscar winner Mark Berger, who mixed the sound.
Bravo! is a visceral experience depicting some of the events of the 77 day siege of Khe Sanh. The film was a finalist in the documentary category at the inaugural Idaho Media Awards, established by the Idaho Media Professionals IdahoMediaPro.com. To stay updated about future screenings of Bravo! like and share the Facebook page, Facebook.com/Bravotheproject/.