‘Wheel of Fortune’: Pat Sajak Detailed Time in Army, Spoke on Getting to Say ‘Good Morning Vietnam’

by Suzanne Halliburton
Christopher Willard via Getty Images

More than a decade before Pay Sajak began hosting Wheel of Fortune, he tried out his snappy quips and rapport with an audience in the strangest of places.

It was while he was in the Army, stationed in Saigon, during the Vietnam War. If you ever saw the movie Good Morning Vietnam, you have a taste for what Pat Sajak did while at war. Long before Wheel of Fortune, there was the Dawn Buster radio program.

Sajak discussed his time during an interview 12 years ago. He and Vanna White were in Hawaii for tapings of Wheel of Fortune.

“I joined the Army in 1968,” Sajak told radio station LAVA 105.3. “I didn’t create that phrase, ‘Good Morning Vietnam.’ It was a couple of guys before me, a guy named Adrian Cronauer, who the movie was based on may have started it. Then whoever came (next) in that morning slot sort of inherited that. So I was about the third guy in. And for a year and a half I did that. You shouldn’t yell in a war zone I found out. It’s dangerous.

“It really was good duty,” the Wheel of Fortune host said. “And if you have to be in Vietnam, it was a pretty good place to do it. By the way, the enemy never got one of our records the whole time I was there.”

Wheel of Fortune Host Used Time as DJ to Prep As TV Host

Adrian Cronauer worked with the American Forces Network. He definitely was a high octane, entertaining DJ. And he also had a taste for TV. He pitched a show that he said would be a combo M*A*S*H meets WKRP in Cincinnati. The result was Good Morning Vietnam.

After Sajak returned to the United States, he continued to work in radio. working first for a station in Kentucky, then moving to Nashville. KNBC in Los Angeles hired him to do the weather in 1977. And four years later, Merv Griffin asked Sajak to do Wheel of Fortune. The rest, literally, is Sajak’s history. He’s hosted the show since then.

But the Wheel of Fortune host likes to talk about the time in service to the country. He wrote a story about it for the USO site in 2014.

“Before I was Pat Sajak of ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ I was Pat Sajak Vietnam DJ,” Sajak said. “I was an Army Spc. 5th class who had joined the service, been trained as a clerk typist, was sent to Vietnam as a finance clerk. After repeated attempts, I had been transferred to Saigon to be a disc jockey, as I had been in civilian life. The Army can work in mysterious ways.”