Hollywood legend John Wayne is a patriotic icon — he’s the All-American hero of cinema. Between his 1968 film, The Green Berets, and his visits to the 101st Airborne, Wayne dedicated a good portion of his life to supporting the troops. But he wasn’t the only Hollywood legend to pay a visit to the Screaming Eagles. Robert Mitchum, who played an elite Marine Raider taking part in the Makin Island raid in Gung Ho and assumed the role of a pilot in the Doolittle Raid in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, also paid the 101st a visit during the Vietnam War. Mitchum, who was best known for his iconic roles as villains in the original Cape Fear and The Night of the Hunter, received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Story of G.I. Joe.
Mitchum’s visit came around the time that elements of the Screaming Eagles, under the command of Major David Hackworth, took part in Operation Harrison, an effort to locate, track down, and destroy the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong using guerrilla tactics and artillery fire. The operation was somewhat successful — least 288 NVA or VC were killed and another 35 were captured, but 42 Americans died in the process.
The problem was, the majority of targeted Communist unit, the 95th Regiment, split up into smaller groups and evaded detection well enough to avoid having the hammer dropped on them. Even a B-52 strike would do little real damage. In essence, the Americans had done some damage to the enemy — but not without great cost.
In the video below, get a glimpse of Mitchum’s visit with the troops, which lasted an hour and a half. The clip shows him firing a M79 grenade launcher, commonly called the “Blooper,” and watching a demonstration of a M72 light anti-tank weapon, or LAW. It’s also a pretty good look at an artillery unit supporting Operation Harrison.