Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” begins run on PBS

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Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” begins run on PBS

To be honest, I just started watching this morning, but so far I’m already hooked.  Burns is without doubt the preeminent history documentarian, with Civil War and World War II documentaries under his belt already, in addition to other series like one on the Roosevelt Family and on baseball.

But this one may be his most audacious effort yet.

A half century after the United States plunged into war in Vietnam, scars remain unhealed. With a 10–part television epic, Ken Burns is hoping for a fuller understanding.

The celebrated documentary filmmaker has invested 10 years into making "The Vietnam War", which aims to offer a more balanced view on the still divisive conflict by bringing in a wide range of American and Vietnamese voices.

"In many ways the Vietnam War was our second civil war," said Burns, who won awards for his 1990 documentary on the 1861–65 US Civil War.

"I think that in the US, Vietnam is still very unsettled, and a source of a great deal of division. And I think so too in Vietnam," he told AFP.

Considering the fact it is more recent, I think the general knowledge of the war may be inferior to all the other wars excluding Korea.  Most Americans likely couldn’t locate Vietnam on a map, have no idea when exactly we were there, or what we were doing.  On the last at least they are in good company, as I have heard from actual veterans of that war that they are unsure too.

For my part, I echo the sentiment expressed by my friend (and Army Silver Star recipient from Fallujah) David Bellavia who in an address to our National Convention in 2013 argued that the Vietnam Veterans were “The Greatest Generation”: 

Nick Gillespie of Reason (a libertarian type outlet) did an excellent interview with Burns and his partner for the series Lynn Novick:

If you didn’t get a chance to see it at home, you are in luck, as it is online at Nebraska’s PBS station, which you can view by CLICKING HERE.

One thing that Burns said in the Sun Daily piece linked above really resonated with me as a combat veteran:  "I think war offers us an opportunity to study human behaviour at its worst obviously but also at its best. And that's what we tried to cover."

Posted in the burner | 5 comments
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I was told a story by a Vietnam Veteran. When he got home from his military service and tour of duty in Vietnam, he went to his local Legion or VFW to become a member. (I am not sure which organization.) He was verbally attacked, reviled and called a baby killer and asked to leave. Unfortunately, this was done by veterans of other wars. He will never choose to be a member. He will carry that burden of not being welcomed home, even by his own peers of other veterans. It is a shame.

Ken Burns is talented and clever. He has a way of presenting matters that seem to be balanced but are anything but that. The lion's share of VN Veterans did what was asked of them. Some volunteered and others were drafted. If anyone was disillusioned about what war means to those who fight it, then their DI's and drill instructors did a piss poor job of preparing them. What war, in retrospect, could not have been avoided but for the powers over which no simple soldier has control? For every soldier Burns finds who regrets his doing his duty, there are 1000 who do not. Were this not true, the phonies who now claim service in VN would not be so willing to make their false claims. One last thing. I never met a soldier or Marine who was ashamed of his service.

Like virtually everything that Ken Burns and his team have created the last 30 years; this is a brilliant piece of history brought to life. Burns does not (and Could not) portray the history of this war, without creating some controversy.... THIS was the legacy of Viet-Nam. Heroism and brutality, good intentions and terrible mistakes This divided the nation like NO other time and I think Burns has captured that.

How can I see this program I don't get PBS? Thanks! BILL.

Shameful... Purely a leftist attempt to shame our veterans.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.