John Wayne may always be seen by millions in America as the distilled essence of American patriotism. In other words, My Country Right Or Wrong. I'll not dissuade anyone from feeling that way if he or she chooses.
Nevertheless, while the Duke may have had his heart in the right place for making THE GREEN BERETS, he unfortunately let that blind patriotism and his politics get the best of him. This attempt at stirring up patriotic support for our guys in Vietnam comes across as not merely politically and historically phony but painfully corny. Wayne likes to think that Vietnam was like World War II--which, of course, was painfully wrong (even more so because he didn't even FIGHT in WW II). He wants us to believe that the VC and the NVA could be picked off like ducks in a shooting gallery, when that assumption in fact didn't even come close. And the sentimental scenes involving his dead comrades and a Vietnamese orphan resonate still today, not for how touching they were (because they're not) but because of how utterly sappy they are.
Reportedly, when this film was shown to the troops in Vietnam, many of them either laughed their heads off at Wayne's well-intentioned but utter phoniness or fired their M-16s at the screen. I've talked to several Vietnam vets who saw the film--none of them, and I do mean NONE OF THEM, thought it was accurate in the least. Beyond its politics and its historical inaccuracies, it is cinematically phony as well, with the "sunset in the East" final shot being the real capper.
Later films like PLATOON and FULL METAL JACKET showed a far more accurate and complex vision of our Vietnam experience as being about young men who were put in a hellhole and were not able to find any way out. That is what Vietnam was all about, not this simplistic, jingoistic propaganda feast. THE GREEN BERETS may be watchable for laughs (most of which would be unintentional), but that's all it's watchable for!