The film is fairly accurate in what it does portray: Croanuer is a hot-shot Deejay brought in to entertain (and thereby distract) the troops and is welcomed by his peers while several of his superiors are nervous about his lack of respect for authority. Cronauer blends well enough in his new environment, even taking on a class teaching Vietnamese - although this is to meet a love interest. He befriends the girl's brother, Tuan, fighting to get him into the locally owned G.I. Bar Jimmy Wah's. Cronauer is supended from the air when he ignores the censor by announcing the subsequent bombing of Jimmy Wah's. After his return to radio, Cronauer goes into the field to do remote interviews, unknowingly walking into enemy occupied territory. Tuan finds and rescues Cronauer, who returns to find that he is be reassigned to a different location, due to his involvement with Tuan, who proves to be a Vietnamese guerilla. After bidding farewell to all of his acquaintances, Cronauer departs, while a taped broadcast of his farewell show is played to the troops.
Sadly, the focus of the film proves very limited. Despite the film's entertainment value, the narrow locality of it's story (primarily in the radio station) does not allow for a more comprehensive view of American soldiers in the field, the shifting political situation or the political history, and makes almost no effort to recognize Vietnamese history and concerns. Part of this is explained by Sergeant Joe P. Dunn, of the 199th Infantry Brigade, 1969-1970; who completed his tour with the 1st Air Cavalry. He observes that there are three primary methods today of studying the Vietnam conflict: 1) Asianists, who are specialist in the history, culture, and so forth of the Asia, who treat American involvement "as merely one stage, in the long history and series of conflicts", 2) Americanists, who are primarily historians and focus on various aspects of American issues that led to U.S. involvement (although the Asianists denounce the absence of Vietnam history and culture in this approach), and 3) Literature/Pop-culture, which Dunn contends too rarely have "the analytical tools of the historian and the political scientist." Good Morning, Vietnam proves to have a slight leaning to this second category, but an overwhelming influence by the third.
How then does the film attempt to justify it's blatant entertainment orientation It does this through a small inserts of liberal efforts of social equality. Cronauer seeks to equalize the military hierarchy by constantly lampooning the upper echelon. Likewise, Jimmy Wah's, a place where there has been a small measure of cultural acculturation in so far as the Vietnamese are benefiting from American presence (and exploitation), is the only real battleground in which Cronauer struggles for Vietnamese equality, i.e. the right to patron the bar. Unfortunately, the Vietnamese is only lightly touched upon by Tuan and his sister, and then only in lamenting the impact of America on an already war-torn culture.