Adrian Cronauer, a legend of the Vietnam War, and the inspiration for the 1987 movie “Good Morning, Vietnam,” died Wednesday. He was 79.
An Air Force sergeant during his service in Vietnam as a disc jockey with the Armed Forces Radio Service, Cronauer began his early morning show, “Dawnbuster.” with the iconic words “Goooood morning, Vietnam!”
The 1987 movie, starring Robin Williams, turned that line into a national catch-phrase years after the war ended.
Although Cronauer co-wrote the film that was loosely based on his time as a DJ, it was rewritten several times, each time with more creative license, to take full advantage of Williams' outsize comedic talents.
“Williams’ madcap banter … was an exaggeration of the real Cronauer,” wrote Rick Fredericksen, a Marine newsman at American Forces Vietnam Network, for a story that appeared in Vietnam magazine, a sister publication, in December. "In a 2014 interview with me after Williams' death, Cronauer shared one of his favorite observations about the star’s portrayal of him: ‘If I did even half the things that Robin did in the movie, I’d still be in Leavenworth [federal penitentiary]. ... He was a comedic genius. ' ”
Cronauer did, however, push back against the staid military conventions of the time that pushed out “entertainment” that was deadly dull. With humor, imagination and enthusiasm, he produced radio broadcasts that were truly aimed at the troops fighting the war and, for that reason, became a beloved figure e and It seemed as though its mission had very little to do with improving the morale of the American community in Vietnam.
In the movie, Cronauer, as portrayed by Williams, befriends a Vietnamese boy who turns out to be a Viet Cong terrorist, and he is forced to leave Vietnam before his tour is over. None of that actually happened.
Even so, Cronauer told Military Times in 2014 that he enjoyed Williams' performance.
"It was never intended to be a point-by-point accurate biography," Cronauer told Military Times. "It was intended to be a piece of entertainment, and it certainly was that. It was nominated for an Academy Award, and you don't get much better than that."
Cronauer left the Air Force as a sergeant in 1966 and eventually served as an adviser to the deputy assistant secretary of defense from 2001 to 2009, according to Cronauer’s obituary.
In between, he owned an ad agency, managed a radio station, was a TV anchorman and a voice actor. He also worked with the Pentagon to raise awareness of prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Cronauer, who lived in Virginia, was preceded in death by his wife, Jeane, according to his obituary.