Dear America (1988): Bill Couturie’s Docu of Soldiers Letters Sent from Vietnam

Bill Couturie’s impressive non-fictional Dear America contrasts the personal letters soldiers wrote back home from Vietnam with actual footage from the brutal war.

A poignant documentary about the Vietnam War, the docu traces the conflict from America’s early involvement until the nation’s withdrawal in 1973. It was first shown on Home Box Office (HBO) Cable television.

The distinctive aspect of the work is that the story is told through the letters of the men and women who participated in the events. Most of the men are in their late teens or early twenties. Their simple thoughts, which reveal their fears and dreams, pack as much punch as a fictional feature.

Some soldiers believe that their fighting in Vietnam is preventing the war from spreading to the shores of the U.S. Others write home of the horrors they have witnessed. “I was carrying that damned thing (a fellow soldier’s leg) all the way back,” writes an anguished youngster.

Defying any sentimental or emotional treatment, the letters are read straightforwardly, with little attempt to dramatize their contents, by more than a dozen professional actors. However, some of the voices may be too familiar and when the actors do try to act, the immediacy of the emotions is diminished.

Director Bill Couturie doesn’t impose any order or structure on his docu, instead following the war chronologically and supplementing the letters with period music, clips from American news programs, and statistics relating to the war


Corsair Pictures
Director: Bill Couturie
Script: Richard Dewhurst, Bill Couturie.