Stranger Things: Did Hopper fight in Vietnam? How police chief ended up in Hawkins

Stranger Things season four volume two teased in Netflix trailer

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Jim Hopper (played by David Harbour) is one of the most tragic figures in Stranger Things. When audiences first met him in the Netflix series, Hopper was a broken man seeking solace at the bottom of a bottle following the breakdown of his marriage to Diane (Jerri Tubbs) and the death of his daughter Sara (Elle Graham). The latest outing of the hit Netflix drama offered further insight into Hopper’s backstory.

Did Hopper fight in Vietnam?

Following breadcrumbs from earlier seasons, it was confirmed Hopper did indeed fight in the Vietnam War.

He ended up in his hometown of Hawkins, Indiana following his divorce as he tried to build a new life for himself.

Incidentally, in the Stranger Things prequel novel Suspicious Minds, Dr Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) made sure Andrew Rich was sent to the frontline of the Vietnam War after his girlfriend Terri Ives (Aimee Mullins) started questioning the scientist and discovered Hawkins Lab had also experimented on children.

This is significant to Stranger Things because Andrew was also the father of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and depending on whether the book is canon, Hopper could potentially have an interaction with him in the show.

If so, it would certainly form a bond between Eleven’s biological father and Hopper, who became her surrogate dad.

While this may be a theory, Hopper did open up about his time in the army. In a touching scene, Hopper spoke to his newfound Kamchatka cellmate Dmitri ‘Enzo’ Anantov (Tom Wlaschiha) about fighting in the Vietnam War after he was conscripted as a teenager.

Hopper said: “Got some letter of induction in the mail, Uncle Sam wants me to go fight some war in the jungle.

“Charlie’s moving south like a plague ’cause of commie b******* like you, and you know, I’m happy enough to go and prove to my old man I’m not the piece of s*** he thinks I am.

“I get over there, I test well, and they put me in the Chemical Corps. There I am. I’m just a kid, you know.

“I’m 18 years old, 8,000 miles away, and I’m mixing up these 55-gallon drums of Agent Orange, with just these kitchen gloves, you know?”

Hopper went on to say how he thought his exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange was responsible for the death of his daughter Sara (Elle Graham), who died of cancer aged seven.

He told Enzo how things went wrong once the men returned from combat and tried to move on from their experiences.

Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to historian and the author of Agent Orange: History, Science and the Politics of Uncertainty Dr Edwin Martini about the show’s depiction of Agent Orange and Hopper’s account of the war.

Dr Martini said: “Hopper actually described it pretty well, which is that many U.S. servicemen who returned from the war began experiencing unusual health conditions.

“Around 1976 and 1977, staff at the Veterans Affairs and the veterans began to piece together that exposure to Agent Orange may have been responsible.

“While knowledge about the effects of Agent Orange (and, more importantly, its dioxin contaminant) was fairly limited in the late 1970s, we now know that the greatest threat from Agent Orange came not from areas where it was sprayed, but from areas where it was stored, like U.S. air bases. Jobs like Hopper’s would have left servicemen very exposed and potentially at risk.”

Reflecting on how much young soldiers like Hopper would have known about the Agent Orange, Dr Martini explained: “Again, not very much. Agent Orange was a slightly different formulation of two herbicides (2,4-D and 2,4,5-T) that were widely used domestically in the United States and around the world at the time.

“Knowledge about the effects of herbicides and dioxins on human and environmental health was very limited at the time, so most people did not initially believe that Agent Orange would be dangerous for them.

“As scientists outside of the chemical industry learned more about the effects of herbicides and dioxins in the mid to late 1960s, they raised concerns about its use in Vietnam and its effects on both U.S. personnel and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians.”

He concluded: “Agent Orange is one of the most complicated and longest-lasting legacies of the Vietnam War.

“To this day, it has impacted the lives of millions of people in the United States, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and elsewhere.

“The environmental contamination caused by the dioxin in Agent Orange remains a significant issue in Vietnam today, and the impact on veterans and their families from all sides of the war has been tragic.” 

Stranger Thing season 4, volume 2 will be released on July 1 on Netflix

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