What Was the True Story Behind the Movie "Operation Dumbo Drop?"?

The 1995 Walt Disney Pictures release, "Operation Dumbo Drop," was based on an actual mission that took place during the Vietnam War. The source material for the movie's screenplay was taken from a 1982 article that appeared in Soldier of Fortune magazine. The article was written by Jim Morris, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) Major, and recounts the details of a similar Vietnam War mission code-named "Operation Barroom."

Operation Barroom was the Special Forces response to a request made by personnel from Saigon USAID (United States Agency for International Development) to transport four elephants by helicopter to locations in Montagnard territory. The elephants were intended for use by the Montagnard tribes to help move lumber that was cut down from trees in an area where the terrain did not permit machinery. The mission was a success.

In the movie version, Green Berets transport an elephant by helicopter and other means to a Montagnard village in South Vietnam to help build good relations and enlist the villagers' aid in reporting on enemy troop and supply movements passing nearby. Elephants were a main source of farm labor in the Montagnard villages and were often used as gifts to help gain the cooperation of villagers during the late 1960s.

The movie was produced in the form of a war-comedy intended for family viewing. Its 1995 summer release was only a moderate success and the film ranked 67 for the year in box-office performance.