Apocalypse Now : Willard's first-person narration


Apocalypse Now Transcript
The # refers to the section of the story in which the V.O. appears in:
Narrative Structure of Apocalypse Now

  1. # 2: Willard in Saigon Hotel.

    "Saigon, shit. I'm still only in Saigon. Every time I think I'm going to wake up back in the jungle. When I was home after my first tour, it was worse. I'd wake up and there'd be nothing... I hardly said a word to my wife until I said yes to a divorce. When I was here I wanted to be there. When I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. I've been here a week now. Waiting for a mission, getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker. And every minute Charlie squats in the bush he gets stronger. Each time I look around the walls move in a little tighter. Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. "

  2. #3: Willard's Summons.

    "It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I'd never want another."

  3. #3: Willard's Summons.

    "I was going to the worst place in the world, and I didn't even know it yet. Weeks away and hundreds of miles up a river that snaked through the war like a main circuit cable and plugged straight into Kurtz. It was no accident that I got to be the caretaker of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz's memory, (103) any more than being back in Saigon was an accident. There is no way to tell his story without telling my own. And if his story is really a confession, then so is mine."

  4. #4: Willard and the General: The Mission.

    "How many people had I already killed? There was those six that I know about for sure. Close enough to blow their last breath in my face. But this time it was an American and an officer. That wasn't supposed to make any difference to me, but it did. Shit...charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500. I took the mission. What the hell else was I gonna do? But I didn't know what I'd do when I found him."

  5. #5: Journey Begins: Boys in the Boat & Dossier #1.

    "I was being ferried down the coast in a Navy PBR, a type of plastic patrol boat, pretty common sight on the rivers. They said it was a good way to pick up information without drawing lot of attention. That was OK, I needed the air and the time. Only problem was I wouldn't be alone."

  6. #5: Journey Begins: Boys in the Boat & Dossier #1.

    "The crew was mostly just kids, rock and rollers with one foot in their graves."

  7. #5: Journey Begins: Boys in the Boat & Dossier #1.

    "The machinist, the one they called Chef, was from New Orleans. He was rapped too tight for Vietnam, probably rapped too tight for New Orleans. Lance on the forward 50's was a famous surfer from the beaches south of LA. You look at him and you wouldn't believe he ever fired a weapon in his whole life. Clean, Mr. Clean, was from some South Bronx shithole. Light and space of Vietnam really put the zap on his head. Then there was Phillips, the Chief. It might have been my mission, but it sure as shit was Chief's boat."

  8. #5: Journey Begins: Boys in the Boat & Dossier #1.

    Willard starts reading Kurtz' dossier : MLPJC - 177TS007 TO: WILLARD, BENJAMIN L., Cpt. USA 0-1305301 U.S. Armed Forces Intelligence Hq. Nha Trang SUBJECT: Special Warfare Information, KURTZ, WALTER E., Col., Special Forces 1946 Graduates West Point; second in Class; third-generation appointee. Completes Basic Training, Advanced Infantry Training, Fort Gordon, Georgia. 47-48 Assigned, West Berlin, U.S. Sector Command, G-1 (Plans) Promoted 1st Lt. 49-50 Masters Degree, Harvard University, History (Thesis: The Phillipines Insurrection: American Foreign Policy in Southeast Asia, 1898-1905.) 50-51 Assigned General Staff, U.S. Command, Seoul, Korea. Tours combat zones, Division-Evaluation Team. Requests transfer to Intelligence, returned U.S. for special training, Ft. Holabird and Washington. (Marries, Janet Anderson, 14 June 1951.) Returns to active duty, C-2, Seoul; Debriefs and evaluates information from American agents returning from Northern missions. Promoted Captain.

    "At first, I thought they handed me the wrong dossier. I couldn't believe they wanted this man dead. Third generation West Point, top of his class. Korea, Airborne. About a thousand decorations. Etc, etc... I'd heard his voice on the tape and it really put a hook in me. But I couldn't connect up that voice with this man. Like they said he had an impressive career. Maybe too impressive... I mean perfect. He was being groomed for one of the top slots of the corporation. General, Chief of Staff, anything... In 1964 he returned from a tour of advisory command in Vietnam and things started to slip. The report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Lyndon Johnson was restricted. Seems they didn't dig what he had to tell them. During the next few months he made three requests for transfer to airborne training in Fort Benning, Georgia. And he was finally accepted. Airborne ? He was 38 years old. Why the fuck would he do that ? 1966 he joined the Special forces, returns to Vietnam ..."

  9. #5: Journey Begins: Boys in the Boat & Dossier #1.

    "It was the AirCav, First of the Ninth, our escorts to the mouth of the Nung river. But they were supposed to be waiting for us another 30 kilometers ahead. Well, Air Mobile, those boys just couldn't stay put. First of the Ninth was an old cavalry division that had cashed in its horses for choppers, and gone tear-assing around 'Nam, looking for the shit. They've given Charlie a few surprises in their time here. What they were mopping up now hadn't even happened an hour ago."

  10. #7: Beach Party.

    Kilgore had a pretty good day for himself. They choppered in t-bones and beer and turned the LZ into a beach party. The more they tried to make it just like home, the more they made everybody miss it."

  11. #7: Beach Party.

    "He wasn't a bad officer, I guess. He loved his boys and they felt safe with him. He was one of those guys that had that weird light around him. You just knew he wasn't gonna get so much as a scratch here."

  12. #11: In the Boat: Reflection on Kilgore & Kurtz.

    "Someday this war's gonna end. That would be just fine with the boys on the boat. They weren't looking for anything more than a way home. Trouble is, I've been back there, and I knew that it just didn't exist anymore. If that's how Kilgore fought the war, I began to wonder what they really had against Kurtz. It wasn't just insanity and murder. There was enough of that to go around for everyone."

  13. #13: In the Boat: Dossier #2 & 3.

    "Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddamn right. Unless you were going all the way. Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole fucking program. How did that happen? What did he see here that first tour? 38 fucking years old. If he joined the Green Berets, there was no way you'd ever get above Colonel. Kurtz knew what he was giving up. The more I read and began to understand, the more I admired him. His family and friends couldn't understand it, and they couldn't talk him out of it. He had to apply three times and he had to put up with a ton of shit, but when he threatened to resign, they gave it to him. The next youngest guy in his class was half his age. They must have thought he was some far-out old man humping it over that course. I did it when I was 19 and it damn near wasted me. A tough motherfucker. He finished. He could have gone for General, but he went for himself instead."

  14. #13: In the Boat: Dossier #2 & 3.

    "October 1967 on special assignment, Con Tum province. Kurtz staged operation Arch Angel with combined local forces. Raided a major success. He received no official clearence. He just thought it up and did it. What balls. They were gonna nail his ass to the floorboards for that but after the press got hold of it they promoted him to full colonel instead. Oh man, the bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it."

  15. #14: Hau Phat: R & R.

    Charley didn't get much USO. He was dug in too deep or moving too fast. His idea of great R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat. He had only two ways home: death, or victory."

  16. #15: In the Boat: Reflection on R & R; Dossier #4 & 5.

    No wonder Kurtz put a weed up command's ass. The war was being run by a bunch of four-star clowns who were going to end up giving the whole circus away."

  17. #15: In the Boat: Reflection on R & R; Dossier #4 & 5.

    "Late summer-autumn 1968 : Kurtz's patrols in the highlands coming under frequent ambush. The camp started falling apart...November: Kurtz orders the assassination of three Vietnamese men and one woman. Two of the men were Colonels in the South Vietnamese army. Enemy activity in his old sector dropped off to nothing. Guess he must have hit the right four people. The army tried one last time to bring him back into the fold. And if he pulled over, it all would have been forgotten. But he kept going, and he kept winning it his way, and they called me in. They lost him. He was gone. Nothing but rumors and rambling intelligence, mostly from captured VC. The VC knew his name by now, and they were scared of him. He and his men were playing hit and run all the way into Cambodia."

  18. #15: In the Boat: Reflection on R & R; Dossier #4 & 5.

    Willard reads a letter Kurtz has sent to his son : "Dear son, I'm afraid that both you and your mother would have been worried for not hearing from me these past weeks. But my situation here has become a difficult one. I've been officially accused of murder by the army. The alleged victims were four Vietnamese double agents. We spent months uncovering and accumalating evidence. When absolute proof was completed, we acted, we acted like soldiers. The charges are unjustified. They are in fact, under the circumstances of this conflict quite completely insane. In a war there are many moments for compassion and tender action. There are many moments for ruthless action, for what is often called ruthless, what may in many and many circumstances be the only clarity; seeing clearly what there is to be done and doing it directly, quickly, aware... , looking at it. I would trust you to tell your mother what you choose about this letter. As for the charges, I'm unconcerned. I'm beyond their timid, lying morality. And so I'Ğm beyond caring. You have all my faith. Your loving father."

  19. #17: In the Boat: Reflection on Lies and Kurtz.

    " It was the way we had over here of living with ourselves. We'd cut them in half with a machine gun and give them a bandaid. It was a lie, and the more I saw of them, the more I hated lies. (61)Those boys were never going to look at me the same way again. But I felt I knew one or two things about Kurtz that weren't in the dossier."

  20. #18: Du Long Bridge.

    "Do Lung bridge was last army outpost on the Nung river. Beyond that there was only Kurtz."

  21. #19: In the Boat: Doc. #6--Colby; Clean's Death.

    "There has been a new development regarding your mission which we must now communicate to you. Months ago a man was ordered on a mission which was identical to yours. We have reason to believe that he is now operating with Kurtz. Saigon was carrying him MIA for his family's sake. They assumed he was dead. Then they intercepted a letter he tried to send his wife : SELL THE HOUSE SELL THE CAR SELL THE KIDS FIND SOMEONE ELSE FORGET IT I'M NEVER COMING BACK FORGET IT Captain Richard Colby - he was with Kurtz."

  22. #19: In the Boat: Doc. #6--Colby; Clean's Death.

    "He was close. He was real close. I could not see him yet but I could feel him. As of this boat was being sucked up river and the water was flowing back to the jungle. Whatever was going to happen, it was not going to be the way they called it in Nha Trang."

  23. #20: Arrow Attack and Spear-Death of Chief.

    "Part of me was afraid of what I would find and what I would do when I got there. I knew the risks, or imagined I knew. But the thing I felt the most, much stronger than fear, was the desire to confront him."

  24. #22: Confronting Kurtz.

    "Everything I saw told me that Kurtz has gone insane. The place was full of bodies: North- Vietnamese, Vietcong, Cambodians.. If I was still alive, it was because he wanted me that way."

  25. #22: Confronting Kurtz.

    It smelled like slow death in there, malaria, nightmares. This was the end of the river allright."

  26. #24: Kurtz: "The Hollow Men;" Morality Monologue; Willard's New Mission.

    "On the river, I thought that the minute I looked at him, I'd know what to do, but it didn't happen. I was in there with him for days, not under guard - I was free - but he knew I wasn't going anywhere. He knew more about what I was going to do than I did. If the generals back in the Trang could see what I saw, would they still want me to kill him? More than ever probably. And what would his people back home want if they ever learned just how far from them he'd really gone? He broke from them and then he broke from himself. I'd never seen a man so broken up and ripped apart..."

  27. #25: The Death of Kurtz: "The Horror! The Horror!

    "They were going to make me a major for this and I wasn't even in their fucking army any more. Everybody wanted me to do it, him most of all. I felt like he was up there, waiting for me to take the pain away. He just wanted to go out like a soldier, standing up, not like some poor, wasted, rag-assed renegade. Even the jungle wanted him dead, and that's who he really took his orders from anyway. "

  28. #26: Journey Home: Memories. This is an aural memory in Willard's mind. Kurtz's voice-over.

    "The horror. The horror..."