I just saw Apocalypse Now for the first time and it was great. One question I have is about the airstrikes the captain told Chef to call for if he's not back in 8 hours. The captain gives Chef the coordinates to use.

I'm a bit confused. If the location could be bombed by air, why did they send the captain in to assassinate Kurtz? Was it because they'd prefer not have collateral damage? I find this hard to believe considering 1) through out the movie they didn't care what they destroyed 2) most of the people with Kurtz were Viet Cong.

  • Wasn't Kurtz actually in a country that the US wasn't at war with rather than Vietnam? I'd guess sending an airstrike there could get quite difficult diplomatically.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jul 25, 2016 at 12:28
  • @NapoleonWilson I think you're right, but that still doesn't explain why the captain was told he could order them. Even if the captain never returned, the commanding officers could assume he failed his mission and then order the air strike. Aside: how do armies know which country it was that drops a bomb on them?
    – Celeritas
    Jul 25, 2016 at 12:32
  • 1
    "how do armies know which country it was that drops a bomb on them?" - They don't right away, but an investigation is surely in order afterwards. And if it comes to light then, it's even more difficult to explain.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jul 25, 2016 at 12:33

1 Answer 1


They weren't exactly sure where he was, from IMDB emphasis mine...

Colonel Lucas: Your mission is to proceed up the Nung River in a Navy patrol boat. Pick up Colonel Kurtz's path at Nu Mung Ba, follow it and learn what you can along the way. When you find the Colonel, infiltrate his team by whatever means available and terminate the Colonel's command.

Without that information, an air strike is useless.

Also as mentioned in the comments. He wasn't in Vietnam, he was in Cambodia and his troops were Hmong, who were actively being courted by the CIA to fight the Viet Cong. So, the airstrike would have been technically illegal and would have killed troops that could have been used to fight along the USA.

  • I guess that makes sense. I got confused as it seemed the captain knew where he was going but I guess he was doing a bit of searching.
    – Celeritas
    Jul 25, 2016 at 22:41

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