The Tour of Duty Timeline

The term 'tour of duty' was used in Vietnam to describe the amount of time each soldier was drafted to serve, normally thought of as a year, though this wasn't always the case.

Because Tour of Duty used this term as its title, many people mistakenly believed that this meant the series spanned only the course of a single year.

This was not the case, since, during the course of the three seasons that Tour of Duty ran, we see various characters leave or re-enlist, just as we would expect to have happen in real life.

To examine this theory further, I have tried to work out where each episode of this fictional TV series fits into real history, by using only the dates offered in the show, and by looking at events mentioned during the three series.

As you will see, the timeline is not 100% accurate, presumably due to the use of "artistic license" by the writers and makers of the show.  This is quite common in TV and film, since the storyline often takes precedence over accuracy.

There is one huge example of this in the series, and that is the age of Zeke Anderson's daughter, Katie, who through the magic of TV, ages rather rapidly during a short amount of time.

Season One

1.Premiere Episode - Tour of Duty    1967 Month unknown
(According to Lee Russell, a technical advisor to the writers during the first and second season, the series begins during the first few weeks of October, 1967.)
The Pilot episode includes the year 1967 in a subtitle that flashes on the screen during the opening scene.
Anderson is 4 months into his 3rd tour.
2.Notes from the Underground
4.War Lover
5.Sitting Ducks
6.Burn Baby Burn
7.Brothers, Fathers, and Sons
8.The Good, The Bad, and The Dead
9.Battling Baker Brothers
10. No Where To Run
11. Roadrunner
Zeke receives a letter from his ex-wife saying that he doesn’t write to his 3 yr old daughter.
(this means very little as by the 2nd series she’s 6 years old)
12. Pushin' to Hard                    December, 1967
One of the only actual dates mentioned in the show was the date of Captain Wallace's death, 9th December, 1967. In this episode Captain Wallace dies. The date is given in the citation for Zeke's medal awarded later in the series.
13. USO Down
Taylor has 45 days and a wake up.
14. Under Siege
Doc Matsuda has 15 days and a wake up, but has chosen to re-enlisted to take advantage of the army's medical training. He dies in this episode.
(artistic licence is used in this episode as the NVA tank/infanty attack on the Vei Special Forces Camp, is said to have happened 'last night' would make the date 7h February 1968, which would put it after the events of the second season two part opener "Saigon".)
15. Soldiers
16. Gray-Brown Odyssey
17. Blood Brothers
18. The Short Timer
At the start of this episode, Taylor has 2 days to go of his first tour in Vietnam.
(This episode should be 43 days after USO Down, which is another example of artistic licence stretching time)
19. Paradise Lost
20. Angel Of Mercy

(at the end of this episode Tet was supposed to be a few days away)
21. The Hill    Between December 1967 & January 30/31, 1968
The Hill takes place before January, 1968 TET, (start of series 2) but after Captain Wallace's death, which we know to be 9th December 1967.
This episode was Baker's last episode until a guest appearance in episode 40, The Ties that Bind during season 3.

Season Two

SEASON TWO starts with the Tet Offensive, January 30 - 31, 1968

22. Saigon (part 1)                          January 30 - 31, 1968
Tet Offensive of 1968
23. Saigon (part 2)
24. For What its Worth
25. True Grit ( formally called Aftermath)
26. Non-Essential Personnel
27. Sleeping Dogs
28. I Wish It Would Rain
29. Popular Forces
30.Terms Of Enlistment
31. Nightmare
32. Promised Land                    Starts on/just after April 4, 1968
The start of this episode is on or just after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968.  We know this because we see the news breaking of King’s death.
33. Lonesome Cowboy Blues
34. Sins Of The Father
35. Sealed with A Kiss
36. Hard Stripe
37. The Volunteer


Season Three

38. The Luck
39. Doc Hock
40.The Ties That Bind
Katie is now 6.
In this episode, Zeke says he last saw her on August 19th, 1966. By this we can presume it was 2 years ago since it is now 1968.
Baker returns as a driver for General Elliot.
He says it's been six months since he last saw the guys.
* see note further down about this
41. Lonely At The Top                      August 1968
The TV reports the Republican demonstrations and also Russia invading Czechoslovakia which was August, 1968
42.A Bodyguard Of Lies
43.A Necessary End            October/November 1968
Johnson gets notice saying he has 35 days & a wake up and that he will be home for Christmas.
Green Christmas is December 1968, this episode is October/November.
44. Cloud Nine   
45. Thanks For The Memories        November 28, 1968
Thanksgiving Day
46. I Am What I Am
47. World In Changes
Taylor and Johnson are captured
48. Green Christmas                       December  25, 1968
Johnson is home. It's Christmas Time.
49. Odd Man Out
50. And Make Death Proud to Take Us        January 6, 1969
Zeke is awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in episode 53, "Acceptable Losses" for the mission in this particular episode, the date mentioned is January 6, 1969
We also know that this is before TET as it is mentioned that the Army are making plans to strengthen the defences because of the offensive launched during the TET holiday the year before.
51. Dead Mans Tales
52. The Road To Long Bihn
53. Acceptable Losses
Taylor, Ruiz and Wozmak miss the chopper pick up.
54. Vietnam Rag                      Three weeks after previous episode
Sgt Anderson tells Ruiz’s girlfriend, Susanna, that he has been missing for 3 weeks.
55. War Is A Contact Sport
56. Three Cheers For The Orange, White And Blue
57. The Raid
58. Payback

The Baker Factor

40.The Ties That Bind
Baker returns as a driver for General Elliot. He says it's been 6 months since he last saw the guys.

Taking this to be sometime just after The Hill, (since that is Baker's last episode as a regular character), that could mean December, 1967.We know The Hill took place before Jan 1968 Tet, (start of series 2) but after Captain Wallace's death in December, 1967.
So six months later, when Baker meets the guys again, it would be June 1968.
This could be wrong because of the other fixed events & dates.
It is more likely to be August because of the other facts we know about.
Zeke reinforces the August date. Katie is now 6.
Zeke says he last saw her August 19th 1966 in this episode. By this we can presume it was 2 years ago, since it is now 1968.

A note from Lee Russell about the timeline

"It is possible to come up with explanations for some of these things, up to a point. But, having worked on the show, I know very well there was no attempt to keep to a strict timeline. Each writer worked within the context of the scripts he was assigned as the Season went on. They knew which characters they still had to work with, but that was about it.

All one can say is that certain events occurred before other events, or within the timeframe of a specific historical event, but all together, there was no concern that they add up as a whole."

Lee Russell
TOD Advisor (to the Writers)
1987-88, '88-89