It’s is a vividly accurate, cutting-edge film about one of the most shockingly misunderstood wars in American history – and it took Westminster, California, by storm when it premiered there this month, selling more than $30,000 in tickets in just three days during its limited release at a single movie theater.
“I’ve been waiting 40 years for this film!” was a common refrain among the Vietnam War veterans and the South Vietnamese Americans – most with tears streaming down their faces – who gathered to witness their powerful story finally making it onto the big screen at the wildly popular premiere of “Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam War Story of Victory and Betrayal.”
Some South Vietnamese attendees recalled their own heart-wrenching memories of more than a decade of starvation and torture in prison camps after they fought to keep their country free of communism. Separated from their wives and children, they saw friends and loved ones brutally murdered by North Vietnamese guards during their communist “re-education.”
And 40 years after the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, U.S. Marine and Army veterans remembered harrowing fire fights alongside their South Vietnamese brothers in arms – and their return to a nation that turned its back on its own freedom fighters.
But the momentous event wasn’t about re-opening old wounds.
Instead, it was a heartfelt celebration of brotherhood, a long overdue welcome home and a chance to finally tell the incredible story of unparalleled sacrifice that most Americans have never heard.
“The film record of the Vietnam War is what will determine history 10, 20, 50 years from now when all the Vietnam veterans are gone,” Richard Botkin, executive producer of “Ride the Thunder,” told WND at the red-carpet event.
“Those films portray our troops as victims, as dupes,” he said. “It marginalizes them, shows them very unfavorably and the leadership unfavorably. It shows our Vietnamese allies as even worse. Our film is an effort to begin to turn the tide against that so that, in the future, people will realize that America was right to fight in Vietnam, to stop communism, and that our South Vietnamese allies were worthy of our sacrifice and that they fought well also.”
The main character of the film is South Vietnamese Marine commander Le Ba Binh, who was a prime example of enduring courage in a battle of David and Goliath proportions as his battalion of only 700 men held 20,000 communist invaders in Dong Ha.
Binh, a man with few equals in the war-fighting profession, served 13 years in heavy combat (1962-1975) and another 11 years in communist prison camps. Despite numerous battle wounds and lost comrades, he showed unwavering courage in the face of extreme hardship.
“Americans, when they went to Vietnam, if they were a Marine, they went 13 months for one tour. If they were in the Army, 12 months. Some men went two or three times, but very few,” Botkin explained.
“The Vietnamese generally had one tour that ended with death or dismemberment, so they fought forever. My main character, Binh, fought forever – 13 years, wounded nine times. At the end of the war, the communists put him in prison – they called it euphemistically ‘re-education camp’ – for 11 years. He comes to the U.S. because he’ll never get ahead in Vietnam. He comes to the U.S. with nothing and prospers. That’s the Vietnamese story in America – suffering, hardship, come to America, work hard and succeed. It’s a great story.”
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Disclaimer: This was not written by Lorra B.