"Napalm in the Morning" Authorship

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun May 23 14:06:58 UTC 2010

Below are two claims crediting Milius, but I do not know if either
claim is credible. The request said "point me to any information", so
below is some preliminary information.

Excerpt from "Godfather: the intimate Francis Ford Coppola" (2004) by
Gene D. Phillips

… an officer, who is aptly named Kilgore, systematically wipes out a
strongly fortified enemy village from the air. (He is named Kharnage
in Milius's script.) … As a napalm strike wreaks havoc and destruction
on the village below, Kilgore exults, "I love the smell of napalm in
the morning. It has the smell of victory." … To give Milius his due,
the Kilgore episode was incorporated into the shooting script just as
he wrote it, including the stunning use of "The Ride of the


Note that the phrasing given above for the character Kilgore is not
accurate with respect to the final movie. The quotation above is
telescoped when compared to the movie monologue.

The website "Feeling Listless" quotes from another website "Creative
Screenwriting". The writer at "Creative Screenwriting" (the link to
the webpage at www.creativescreenwriting.com with the text below no
longer works) claims that the scene with the helicopter attack and the
scene with the character Kilgore/Kharnage rhapsodizing about napalm
"originated in Milius' first draft":

"(He) extends the introduction of the boat crew, but once Willard
joins the boat, Milius's script resembles the film. The film's most
famous sequence, the Air Cavalry invasion of the river head village,
remains faithful to Milius's screenplay. … Milius's most memorable
dialogue makes it to the film—"Charlie don't surf!" and the "I love
the smell of napalm in the morning" speech …"


On Sun, May 23, 2010 at 9:17 AM, Sam Clements <SClements at neo.rr.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Sam Clements <SClements at NEO.RR.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "Napalm in the Morning" Authorship
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> [And then there's the famous "napalm" line from "Apocalypse."
> "I just wrote it -- it just came up," said Milius, describing the famous
> line uttered wistfully by Duvall's surfing Col. Bill Kilgore. "That's what
> happens. People love to think that all this stuff happens when you write a
> famous line -- that you really thought about it a lot."]
> from an interview
> http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:L1HhKHxekd4J:www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Movies/03/09/john.milius.movies/index.html+milius+napalm+interview&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
> Sent: Sunday, May 23, 2010 07:29
> Subject: "Napalm in the Morning" Authorship
>> Can anyone point me to any information, on the web or in books or
>> articles, concerning the division of labor between John Milius and Francis
>> Ford Coppola in writing the screenplay for "Apocalypse Now"?
>> Specifically, is Milius or Coppola given credit for writing the "I love
>> the smell of napalm in the morning" speech?
>> Fred Shapiro
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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