“Good Morning, Vietnam!” These are the three words that will always be associated with Adrian Cronauer. The inspiration behind, and screenwriter for, the hugely popular movie with Robin Williams in the role of Adrian Cronauer, he has had a fascinating and multifaceted career. He spent seven years in New York City working as a television and radio voice talent, owned an advertising agency, managed a radio station, was program director of a TV station, and a news anchor. He has also taught broadcasting at the university level and is the author of a textbook on radio and television announcing. Adrian is now an attorney whose expertise is communications law and currently serves in the Department of Defense. He is a member of numerous boards and commissions, and has received a host of awards and has acted in many charitable and civic organizations. Recently, Adrian sat down for an interview with James C. Roberts, which will appear on an upcoming episode of the radio series, “Veterans Chronicles.” The following is a partial transcript of that interview.
James C. Roberts: First, I would like to talk about the movie you are forever destined to be linked with, Good Morning, Vietnam. How was it that you got to be a disk jockey in Vietnam, and what years did you serve there? Adrian Cronauer: I was in Vietnam from 1965-1966, and in the Air Force from 1962-1966. I had started in broadcasting when I was about 12 years old on something called the DuMont Television Network. It was a small organization. They had a kids show on Saturday mornings, which featured an amateur-hour for the kids. I wound up as a semi-regular on the show, playing the piano for the other kids, who used to sing, tap dance, etc. I caught the broadcasting bug, and that’s when I decided that was what I wanted to do. In college at the University of Pittsburgh, I worked at the campus radio station before transferring to American University. Later, when I joined the Air Force, I was going in for pilot training. But before I was going to start my training, I found out that they were holding people over for a year before starting them in flight school. Then there was a year to year and a half of flight training, three to four months of OCS, then a four year commitment. I said, “Wait a minute! I don’t want to make the Air Force a career, I just want to fly!” So I dropped the flight training. They were looking for something for me to do, and noticed that I had broadcasting experience, so everything developed from there. JCR: So you say you arrived in Vietnam in 1965? AC: The spring of 1965. JCR: That was about the time things started to heat up. AC: Actually, when I had put my paperwork back in, I had been on the island of Crete for a year and a half. I’d seen a bit of Europe and the Near East, and I wanted to see a bit of the Far East. So I put in for Japan, but was denied because it was a three-year tour. I asked what they had by way of one-year tours, and the answer was either Korea or Vietnam. Korea didn’t sound that exciting, but Vietnam at the time was a small advisory mission. So I put in for Vietnam. About three or four weeks after I sent my paperwork in, I was sitting in the newsroom watching the television when I saw a story about how the Vietcong had just blown up a radio station in Saigon, and I said, “Whoops!” Actually, I said something a lot stronger! Then there was the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Lyndon Johnson began his escalation of the war. So in a year’s time I watched Saigon go from a sleepy French colonial city to a complete nightmare with this massive influx of money, equipment, and personnel. By the time I left the traffic was unmanageable, the economy was in ruins, the black market was out of control. It was quite an experience to watch that. JCR: What was your daily routine like?