The Vietnam War - 5 Second Review

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The Vietnam War - 5 Second Review

I was born in 1968 at the height, or close to it, of American involvement in Vietnam. By the time I was 5, U.S. troops were pulling out of combat roles and the war, as far as America was concerned was winding up. I distinctly remember the day Nixon resigned although I'd no real idea of what that meant. I had an uncle who served three tours in Vietnam. I had friend's parents who served in the Marines in Vietnam. Growing up I knew and saw many vets. And for all that, I must admit I knew very little about the war other than it was not something anybody talked about. I think much of that was that it was darn near impossible to get a realistic and at least partially unbiased view on what had gone on. Either it was a far left Oliver Stone version where America was evil and our soldiers monsters or else it was the flip side such as Tommy Frank's chapters about Vietnam in his book "American Soldier" where the Military was unbeatable and they all fought with honor and distinction. I'm wise enough to know that the truth, as usual, is somewhere in-between. So, when I saw Ken Burns' documentary on the war had shown up on Netflix, I decided that perhaps enough time had passed for there to be some objectivity. I did have some trepidation as Burns while not always completely objective makes an effort to show both sides of a question. I found the whole 10 episode series to be highly informative, highly engrossing, highly horrifying, highly frustrating and well worth the 15 hours or so of it's run time. He unflinchingly shows the errors of Kennedy, Johnson, and finally Nixon. From the first mistake of the post World War 2 peace makers letting France attempt to keep her colonies, to Kennedy authorizing a military coup in South Vietnam, to Johnson's indiscriminate bombing of Hanoi to no result and his continual increasing of troop levels, and finally Nixon's destruction of his own administration through his own paranoia. The film has interviews with soldiers of all the forces involved; Amerian, North Vietnamese, A.R.V.N., and Viet Cong. The are shown to be brave, valiant, and honorable and also to be vicious, brutal, and sometimes criminal. The anti war movement is also documented and is also pretty even handed. Not showing them as the Immaculate Crusaders that they themselves believe they were nor as all filthy hippies either. It was interesting that their influence is shown to be far less pervasive than subsequent myth makes it out to be. Be advised though, there are many many gruesome images. My wife was brought to tears. I had to turn it off and take a break from time to time. Some things are not easy to watch and Burns and Novick make no concessions to your propriety. If you can handle it, and you want to know what "the war we don't mention" was really all about, then give it a watch.

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DWTripp's Avatar
DWTripp replied the topic: #277561 14 Jul 2018 19:23
Burns did a passable job. Much of the whole antiwar, peacenik movement was pseudo-news. Mainly a narrative rather than factual coverage. As a guy who received my draft notice in 1969 and was physically in California, Boston and a few other anti-war hot spots my take was they were mainly dirty Hippies, domestic terrorists and people looking to have unprotected sex as often as possible.

That last part was pretty good. The military messed up and somehow didn't demand I actually go to Vietnam - so it wasn't all bad. I recommend the series as well. Another valuable series (and book ) is Gwynne Dyer's "War".

Good 5 second review - thanks!
KingPut's Avatar
KingPut replied the topic: #277572 14 Jul 2018 23:59
Welcome back - 5 second reviewer. I watched episode 1 which was excellent. But I’m not going to binge watch this because it’s a little to dark and heavy.
Pat II's Avatar
Pat II replied the topic: #277573 15 Jul 2018 08:20
Nice review. I have this on my watch list. I recently read They Marched Into Sunlight, which did an admirable job of covering the campus protests along with battlfield action from the perspective of Madison Wisconsin youth, Institutions and society at large. Very interesting read.
Black Barney's Avatar
Black Barney replied the topic: #277584 15 Jul 2018 10:42
Nice review, I’m really curious to see this now. There’s a fun book, Last Man Out, about the last US soldiers to leave Vietnam (the Embassy marines). Really gives a good feeling about how it all went to hell at the end (much like Downfall but smaller scale ).
fightcitymayor's Avatar
fightcitymayor replied the topic: #277652 16 Jul 2018 09:58
It was well-made, but overly long. Originally PBS aired it on a string of successive nights over an entire week, and by the end the viewer gets weary (kind of like the war itself.) The strongest point for me was that they found actual NVA and Vietcong representatives contemporary to that time period to tell "the other side" of the story, which is rare in these projects. The weakest point was the repetition that crept into so much of the (overly long) run time. I can only take so much footage of Robert McNamara lying (much like Trump.) So it was good, but probably could have been done in half the time without losing much of anything.

The other thing: Gaming the Vietnam War. It's interesting how WW2 has multiple approaches: Serious (most GMT stuff) goofy (Heroes Of Normandie) heroic (V-Commandos) cursory (Memoir '44) but Vietnam games are almost always an oppressive, heavy, downer of a time. It makes sense, we have so much more "honest" and non-whitewashed accounts of war, along with a lot more uncomfortable war footage. But I confess that I don't even like gaming Vietnam because it all still seems far too real and scarring. Even though the same could be said for WW2 or any war really.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #277655 16 Jul 2018 10:28
Slight thread hijack but related, re: the above topic of about wargaming. I think it is going be *very* interesting to see how gaming Iraq and Afghanistan wars goes as people start to come out of the woodwork and it becomes non-taboo to do so (COIN out ahead on that one)... I'd expect in the next 10 to 20 years. I'm guessing it will also be a slog and a downer, both because they have not been terribly successful militarily (post-invasion, which isn't even fun to game), irregular (few sweeping tank moves that old men like to game) and filled with setbacks... and we have too much info about exactly what happened, as fightcitymayor said. Harder to game detached with pictures we have of the Iraq war, just like Vietnam (the one of the little girl covered in blood crying after coalition forces killed her father on a door bust down comes to mind). That said, I think there's a lot to say in the space but it will require new basic models of what happened and how it happened that do not resemble IGO UGO supply and blitz simulations.
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #277658 16 Jul 2018 10:35
I think with Iraq and Afghanistan it will be possible to create games about certain specific actions like the Battle of Fallujah that will resemble traditional war games.

The overall conflict though will probably have to be abstracted at least combat wise.

Still, I have no desire to play games about that never ending war.
jur's Avatar
jur replied the topic: #277703 16 Jul 2018 16:54
Excellent documentary. Wtached it all in a few days. Pretty depressing, but what did you expect? Nixon interfering in the peace process to prevent a deal before the election (which was news to me) smacks of a higher kind of cynicism than Watergate. And when he was president, all the time he knew he was selling out the South Vietnamese. That doesn't absolve Johnson from his mistakes, but he actually seemed to care about Vietnam
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #277709 16 Jul 2018 17:24
Oh I didn't get the impression that Johnson gave a rat's ass about the Vietnamese. I got the impression that he didn't want the stigma of losing a war and didn't have a damn clue on how to win it or even prosecute it. He just lapped up whatever McNamara told him.

Nixon was cynical and ruthless without doubt but he was also very politically adroit and popular. The strange thing is that his dirty tricks all seem, at least in so far as this documentary is concerned, to be unnecessary. Well at least the stuff after his initial election which was close. The whole Watergate thing was so needless.
Robert Facepalmer's Avatar
Robert Facepalmer replied the topic: #277725 16 Jul 2018 20:22
In regards to the middle east being a more 'palatable' option for wargaming, I would say that time has already passed. Off the top of my head, I can think of more systems that focus on current conflicts, while the only thing that comes to mind for Vietnam is Tropic Lightning/Tour of Duty. Admittedly, it is published by Battlefront, so they are an order of magnitude larger than the moderns. It seems like there is still a large stigma against Vietnam as a gaming environment, while on the other hand I have played against active duty or recently discharged vets in games of Force on Force and SPECTRE Operations. It seems like the gaming community is already desensitized to the modern conflicts. Whether it is the media coverage, the amount of time it has dragged on, or even the glamorization through video games, it isn't nearly as touchy as Vietnam continues to be.