Adrian Cronauer, the Air Force DJ loosely portrayed by Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam, has died, according to Oakey’s funeral home in Roanoke, Virginia.

  • Cronauer, 79, died on July 18, according to an obituary posted on the funeral home’s website. The former sergeant became an outspoken veterans advocate after leaving the Air Force, serving on the board of directors of the National D-Day Memorial and as a trustee for the Virginia War Memorial.
  • From 2001 to 2009 Cronauer served as an advisor to the deputy assistant defense secretary for prisoner of war and missing personnel affairs, his obituary says. He worked with veterans groups and international organizations such as the Red Cross on POW/MIA issues and was ultimately awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service.
  • “As a Vietnam War veteran, he understood the issues facing America’s service members and veterans, as well as the concerns of family members of those who did not return from the war. Mr. Cronauer’s charisma and genuine empathy for the POW/MIA families brought a new level of compassion and understanding to the Department’s interaction with family members and veterans,” the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said in a statement on Thursday. “Upon his passing, much of the nation will remember him as an entertainer. But among the DPAA staff, Mr. Cronauer is most revered as a champion of the POW/MIA cause. His luminescent personality shed a great deal of light on the POW/MIA issue and helped ensure that our missing will not be forgotten.”
  • The famous movie based on his time as a DJ in Vietnam was highly fictionalized. In real life, Cronauer did not befriend a Vietnamese boy who was actually a Viet Cong guerilla, nor was he ordered to leave Vietnam before the official end of his tour.
  • “It was never intended to be a point-by-point accurate biography,” Cronauer told Military Times in 2014. “It was intended to be a piece of entertainment, and it certainly was that.”
  • Cronauer did not meet Williams until the film’s New York premiere, he told the newspaper. Despite the historical liberties, Cronauer praised Good Morning Vietnam for portraying U.S. troops in Vietnam “as they really were instead of a bunch of murderers and rapists and baby-killers and dope addicts and psychotics.”

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UPDATE: This story was updated on July 20 with a statement from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.