Independent filmmaker Bill Couturie produced and directed a “documentary feature” based on Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. Such luminaries as Martin Sheen, Robert DeNiro, Willem Dafoe, Ellen Burstyn, Tom Berenger, and Harvey Keitel lent their voices; performers including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones donated their music. The film, financed by HBO with the enthusiastic backing of its then chairman and CEO Michael Fuchs, was an instant hit, winning two Emmys, a Peabody, and several other accolades.
The film offered what the book by design had not: a history of America’s involvement in Southeast Asia, from the arrival of the first combat troops in 1965 to the repatriation of the POWs in 1973. The film was screened before veterans groups to universal acclaim; income earned at the early screenings prior to the formal premiere of the film on HBO in April 1987 went to Vietnam Veterans of America’s homeless veterans project. Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam also was released theatrically, on 49 screens in the United States and Canada in September 1988, a rarity for any film that has been made for cable. The film was shown in theaters throughout Europe and Asia.
HBO officials have estimated that some 70 million people have viewed the film.