The Anderson Platoon

The Anderson Platoon
La Section Anderson

VHS cover image
Directed by Pierre Schoendoerffer
Produced by Pierre Schoendoerffer
Written by Pierre Schoendoerffer
Starring Joseph B. Anderson
Narrated by Pierre Schoendoerffer
Stuart Whitman English version
Cinematography Dominique Merlin
Distributed by French Broadcasting System
Pathé Contemporary Films
Release dates
February 3, 1967 (France)
1967 (Italy)
April 10, 1968 (U.S.)
July 17, 1968 (Germany)
1968 (UK)
Running time
60 min./65 min. (uncut)
Country France
Language French

The Anderson Platoon (French: La Section Anderson, released in 1966 in Europe, 1967 in the US) is a documentary feature by Pierre Schoendoerffer about the Vietnam War, named after the leader of the platoon - Lieutenant Joseph B. Anderson - with which Schoendeorffer was embedded. Two decades later, a sequel was released as Reminiscence.


In summer 1966, France Soir news magazine director and French public channel ORTF producer Pierre Lazareff proposed that war reporter and director Pierre Schoendoerffer complete the "unachieved" war documentary Schoendoerffer began in 1954.

Back in May 1954, Schoendoerffer was covering the First Indochina War for the French army's cinematographic service SCA. At the siege of Dien Bien Phu, he filmed the battle between the French Union forces and the Viet Minh, but his reels were captured when he surrendered to the enemy.

After the departure of the French forces from Vietnam in 1956, the U.S. Army replaced it several years later and fighting soon flared again, at the beginning of the Vietnam War.

Arguing that "the war was the same, the French only switching with the Americans", Lazareff convinced the French veteran to return to Vietnam as a kind of second chance to complete his war documentary.


The French war cameraman and First Indochina War veteran Schoendoerffer (38), already famous for his celebrated masterpiece The 317th Platoon (1965), returns to Vietnam.

On 1 August 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (United States) is sent to South Vietnam. The following year in September, Schoendoerffer joins it and follows a 33-man platoon of GIs led by Black West Pointer Lieutenant Joseph B. Anderson (24) until October 1966.


The Anderson Platoon has been shown in more than 20 countries and won several prizes, including an Oscar on April 10, 1968 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

Anderson's comments

Some time after the film was released, Captain Joseph B. Anderson, Jr., the leader of the 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Army after whom the film is named, commented on the film (and on his other experiences in Vietnam and in the military, in general) in Wallace Terry's book Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans (1984).[2]

He observed, on page 227:

"After visiting different operations around the country, both army and Marine, he settled on the 1st Cav because of the new approach of our air mobility, or helicopter orientation. And he wound up with my platoon because of its racial mix - we had American Indians and Mexican-Americans, to - our success in finding the lost platoon, my West Point background and ability to speak French. He and the film crew stayed with us day and night for six weeks, filming everything we did. They spoke very good English, and I didn't speak good enough French. And Schoendoerffer had as much knowledge and experience about the war as any of us.
The film would be called The Anderson Platoon. And it would make us famous."

On page 230, Captain Anderson discuses the death from friendly fire of a white soldier named Shannon, from California, who is introduced in the film at approximately 6'50". Anderson states: "I did write a letter to his folks, telling them he did an exceptionally good job. I did not describe the circumstances under which he was killed, because we were directed not to put those kinds of details in letters whatever the case may be." He continues: "The film describes the grenade as an enemy grenade. Which is not the real circumstances."

On page 233, Captain Anderson notes: "I spent my last months in the base camp at An Khe, an aide to the commanding general. Being featured in The Anderson Platoon had obviously helped my career."


An Air Cavalry member holding a machine gun. (09.1966)
Evacuation of a fallen member of the platoon on a Bell Iroquois medical chopper. (09.1966)


The Anderson Platoon was broadcast on the French public channel ORTF's monthly show Cinq colonnes à la une on February 3, 1967.

CBS premiered the English dub versionon television in the United States on July 4, 1967. Shortly after its 1968 Academy Award, it was broadcast a second time in France's ORTF.

In West Germany, the 62 min. version was broadcast on July 17, 1968 on NDR, SFB, and Bremen III. After the Berlin wall's fall it was broadcast in Germany, on WDR, on January 15, 1995.


This documentary was originally made for a French TV show and was released in theaters in the United States only.

Alternate titles

Home video

The Anderson Platoon was made available on VHS tapes in the United States only.

A 60 min. VHS re-edited uncensored video edition was released in December 1987 by Hollywood Select Video. It was re-released by Timeless Video in May 1990. Timeless released a second print in June 1999.

By June 2000, Homevision released the original 65 min. French version subtitled in English.

Video on demand

In France it was available online April 26, 2006 as a VOD pay-per-view service through the National Audiovisual Institute's website hosting the ORTF archives.


A sequel to The Anderson Platoon, entitled Reminiscence, was released in 1989. It depicts Schoendoerffer's meeting the platoon' survivors 20 years after the events.

See also


  1. "NY Times: The Anderson Platoon". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-11-09.
  2. Terry, Wallace (1984). Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans. Random House. pp. 225–234. ISBN 0394530284.
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