Ken Burns - Viet Nam


Anyone else watching this on their local PBS station?
It is really well done. (Of course, it’s Ken Burns)

I really like that they covered the history of what went on in Viet Nam long before the United States became involved. I really did not have much knowledge in that area. Very enlightening.

Can Catholics be Democrats?

Oh good, I was hoping they would do that. I haven’t watched it yet…the first one is on my DVR waiting for me to watch.


They covered a lot on Ho Chi Minh, who I knew very little about.

I think you will enjoy it.


I’m DVRing the whole series for a binge-watch.


I have heard good things about it an plan to watch it online at the PBS website.


I am watching the series with interest as a former Army officer who volunteered to fly combat missions in support of our troops, many who were drafted into the service.

As you watch the series, you might want to contemplate the definition of a just war. The opening commentary calling the cause of the war “misguided steps of five Presidents of both parties” was a bit disingenuous at best. There is a lot deeper causes than those of our Presidents to included tremendous intervention behind the scenes from other world powers before the conflict even started between the French and Ho Chi Minh. I reserve the rest of my comments till after the series is complete.



Misses out on a lot, as pointed out in current criticism of the series.


I plan to watch this at some point - I don’t have time right now - but because, knowing Ken Burns, I’m expecting it to “miss out on a lot”, I would welcome any recommendations for supplemental Vietnam documentaries that people think are really good. Especially looking for recommendations from veterans or those who’ve historically studied the war.

I was constantly annoyed as a tween and teen because Viet Nam was NEVER discussed in the classroom. Never even mentioned. You would think it did not exist even though most of us had grown up seeing it on TV and a lot of us had family members who’d fought in it or died in it.


The best book I have read on the war, from a survey and general history level is “Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land” by Andrew Wiest. It covers a pretty wide range of topics, but gives a lot of insight into the “why” in how the war was fought, as well as some good information from the NVA-VC and ARVN perspective, plus it’s an easy read.


Burns is way too political and liberal for me. His baseball history would have been far better had he not dragged the race card through almost all of it.


Some time ago I read Michael Lind’s book “Vietnam, the Necessary War.” It’s a good summary of the geopolitics underlying the war as well as the domestic politics which ended it. He also appeared on a PBS Book-TV segment. There is a good review here, at history net, although it is ruined for me by the popup ads.


I doubt American involvement prior to the start of the war will be covered in any detail. There was no goal in Vietnam. There was no “if we do this, the war would be over.” That never materialized. And who was the enemy? The Viet-Cong in their black pajamas? The NVA? I recommend:
In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam by Robert S. McNamara

And there is a good account of one idiot who decided to fit a fighter-bomber with a small nuclear bomb (from another book). The target? Hanoi, of course. Fortunately, someone found out and cancelled the mission.


Just from watching the PBS series, it seems to me that the Americans were continuously out-generaled. That is, the top officers, not the line officers, seemed to have no idea what they were trying to accomplish. One Marine said that every encounter we had with the enemy was a result of enemy ambush.

It started out as a guerilla war but soon turned into a war with conventional army NVA units while Gen. Westmoeland was still thinking in terms of guerilla warfare. Sometimes the politicians in Hanoi miscalculated as well. The Tet offensive was not intended to accomplish a military victory: the generals in Hanoi thought that it would result in a general uprising of South Vietnamese to overthrow their government. It did not accomplish that goal, although it succeeded in a political boost to the anitwar movement in the U.S.


I was naive about accusing Nixon of expanding the war into Laos and Cambodia, whereas the series says
that there were always raids in those countries.

Mcnamara was fired – too late. He seemed to have a non-military strategy for measuring the progress of the war. He was out of touch. The tape recordings and notes previously hidden show the US didn’t know what it was doing in Vietnam. It confirms my conviction about being a conscientious objector in 1971.


I’ve been watching the series and it’s excellent.

I was a naive 18 year old in 1970, when I enlisted in the Marines to serve my country.

I was going to Vietnam upon my completion of M60 Machine Gun School

However, thank God, the 3rd Marines left Vietnam and I was kept in Okinawa.

During those first 2 years, I was in support of the war, but it quickly started to wane as guys in my unit who served there, told me about their experience and that we were losing the war.

Not long after I was out of the Marines I began to see the injustice of the war.

Anyway, watching this series I felt ashamed for having been part of it. I didn’t go to Vietnam, but my enlistment in the Marines and service, helped to support the war.

It was an unjust war and LBJ and Westmorland lied throughout to the American people.

Never again, which is why I opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
We didn’t learn a thing and repeated the same mistakes, except we didn’t have a draft.



Nixon lied to us when he ran for president and said he would get us out of Vietnam.

However, he bombed Cambodia and began to expand combat operations there. He tried to keep it out of the news, but when it was revealed, the American people protested greatly and it pushed Nixon to negotiate peace with the North Vietnamese.

Another good flick to watch based on a true story is, “First They Killed My Father.” It’s the experience of a young Cambodian girl after the Americans stopped bombing and left. She and her family were put into camps by the Khmer Rouge where her father died. Not until the Vietnamese Army invaded, and the Cambodians ran to them for protection, did things turn around.



If he hadn’t. it would have been a disgrace. We cannot move forward without acknowledging the reality of our past.


No. There is nothing wrong with discussing the racial prejudice that once existed in Major League Baseball. Burns even devoted an entire episode to the old Negro League which was fine. But to continually harp about racial prejudice throughout every episode was very wrong. It was nothing more than a display of racial prejudice itself – Burns’ own prejudice in other words.


I don’t think that’s true. I think once he was in the job he realized that things were far different then he understood.


OH it was true.

I remember his campaign and how he promised to get us out of Vietnam with honor.


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