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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