Kilgore: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore delivers this line to Captain Willard on the beach after ordering a destructive helicopter strike on a Vietcong-controlled coastal village. Kilgore delivers the line in an uncharacteristic, matter-of-fact tone, but characteristically he doesn’t flinch when a bomb explodes loudly behind him. This chilling quotation adds to the uncanny and invulnerable quality of Kilgore’s character while signifying the far-reaching effect war has had on his mentality. The quote also speaks to the idiosyncrasies of war by describing and even celebrating the unique smell of napalm. Kilgore also says the smell is like “victory.” In typically absurd fashion, the havoc-wreaking Kilgore follows up his napalm-glorifying remark by leaving the film on a bright note. However, since we are aware that the Vietnam War did eventually end but that it is known historically as a great failure for the United States, the optimistic tone and the use of the word victory are ironic.