Ken Burns, Vietnam War Sunday's PBS

kingbee67kingbee67 Los Angeles Ca.
edited September 18 in Other TV
Didn't know this one was coming. Just started watching episode one. Thought I might mention it for people who didn't know also.
Aww_PHuuCk

Comments

  • Watched it last night. Episode 1 is an excellent prologue that manages to effectively consolidate nearly 100 years of history prior to the war. Though I did have a chuckle when they said the Korean War ended, which technically it still hasn't ended.

    Ken Burns is fantastic but he's at his best when he can tackle subjects that have archived videos. I keep trying to watch the Civil War one but I keep falling asleep to it.
    kingbee67
  • MrXMrX CO
    edited September 18
    Definitely want to make some time (and get in the right headspace) to watch this. Fun fact: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross did the score.


    Jovial_Falcon
  • @MrX i watched some of it last night and the music was FANTASTIC. I've been waiting for this for a while.
    MrX
  • Just listened to Marc Maron's WTF interview with Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, provides some good insight into how they went about making such an ambitious film; it really sounds like it might end up being Burns' best one yet. Looking forward to it.
    Jovial_Falcon
  • ThomasThomas North Carolina
    I think Mark Bowden talked about this on Sam Harris' podcast a couple months ago and Sam had Ken on his podcast this month.  Super excited for this.  Perfect time to talk about Vietnam.
  • Jeff Stein's take on the documentary was pretty interesting

    image


    It's also worth keeping in mind our military's attitude towards the Vietnamese before we get too far up our own asses with the "it begun in good faith by decent people" lines

    image
    image
    darwinfeeshy
  • post

    Yeah, I love Ken Burns' documentaries, but there are instances where he's a 'Merican first and a documentarian second.

    As an American, I love the insight and love he has for our culture, but (in war docs especially) Ken Burns often forgoes the brutal, ugly truth in lieu of heroic tales. 
    bizmarkiefader
  • MrX said:

    Definitely want to make some time (and get in the right headspace) to watch this. Fun fact: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross did the score.






    Along side Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Orchestra.

    They were also able to get licenses for many 60/70s artists that are incredibly and notoriously hard to get approval to use their music: The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and others
  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
    I'm looking forward to this. We're taping it, haven't started watching it yet. I was born in April 1973, so I was growing up in the immediate post-Vietnam era, and of course the post-Vietnam War conversations shaped policy and political discussion a great deal when I was a kid. But of course, as a kid you don't really understand everything, and it's all in the moment news or immediate retrospective, etc.  Having 40-50 years of distance gives some perspective to the filmmakers, I am sure. So I am really looking forward to a sort of deeper dive into it than I have seen before.
  • ThomasThomas North Carolina
    I wonder if Burns' doc will consider the two different American militaries in Vietnam.  The Special Operations forces like MACV-SOG, green berets, and the original Marine CAP platoons (they weren't technically special operations but we will count them).  

    Green berets were on the ground as advisors for years, and during the war they had arguably one of the most successful campaigns by living with and leading indigenous personnel in the fight against the north.  SOG didn't a lot of the same, focusing heavily on their recon teams, which were usually around 10-12 man teams with a few Americans and the rest indigenous people.   CAP platoons were a great idea until Westmoreland cancelled it because of the lack of bodies it produced.  The thought behind that was to send out platoons of Marines to live in villages, get to know the local people, train them, and provide defense for them.  

    Almost every book or documentary just focuses on the large conventional forces of Marines and Army personnel who often times hated the Vietnamese because they lived differently and looked differently than Americans.  Westmoreland fed into this by waging a war of attrition and utilizing the Hamlet Evaluation System.  It will be interesting to see if he spends any time on these.  I am willing to bet he does with how much time he has to tell the stories.  It would be interesting to see if he talks about the Phoenix Program too.
  • Thomas said:

    I wonder if Burns' doc will consider the two different American militaries in Vietnam.  The Special Operations forces like MACV-SOG, green berets, and the original Marine CAP platoons (they weren't technically special operations but we will count them).  


    Green berets were on the ground as advisors for years, and during the war they had arguably one of the most successful campaigns by living with and leading indigenous personnel in the fight against the north.  SOG didn't a lot of the same, focusing heavily on their recon teams, which were usually around 10-12 man teams with a few Americans and the rest indigenous people.   CAP platoons were a great idea until Westmoreland cancelled it because of the lack of bodies it produced.  The thought behind that was to send out platoons of Marines to live in villages, get to know the local people, train them, and provide defense for them.  

    Almost every book or documentary just focuses on the large conventional forces of Marines and Army personnel who often times hated the Vietnamese because they lived differently and looked differently than Americans.  Westmoreland fed into this by waging a war of attrition and utilizing the Hamlet Evaluation System.  It will be interesting to see if he spends any time on these.  I am willing to bet he does with how much time he has to tell the stories.  It would be interesting to see if he talks about the Phoenix Program too.
    Yup, I've watched part of episode 2 and they talk about
    a lot of this.
    Thomas
  • MrXMrX CO
    edited October 5
    Watched Part 8 last night, totally brutal. My Lai massacre (which interestingly they covered out of sync in time, to line up when it became known to the American public), racism among soldiers on the ground, commanding officers getting murdered, and then Kent State, Jackson State, all things Nixon.

    Was also the first episode I watched since the Las Vegas massacre and it definitely shook me, hearing the sounds of Vietnam and how Sunday night easily could have fit in.
  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
    Hubby and I have been watching this- We're only a few episodes in, but after listening to the Marc Maron podcast and watching the episodes so far, it's interesting how much some of this stuff rings true for the present day.
    emnofseattle
  • edited October 5

    post

    Yeah, I love Ken Burns' documentaries, but there are instances where he's a 'Merican first and a documentarian second.

    As an American, I love the insight and love he has for our culture, but (in war docs especially) Ken Burns often forgoes the brutal, ugly truth in lieu of heroic tales. 
    I agree with your assessment of Ken Burns' documentaries, however while I'm only 6 episodes in, he's certainly not shying away from the ugly side of America in this series. I've actually been pretty stunned at how decent of a light they've been painting Ho Chi Minh in as well.

    It's because of the honesty displayed in this series that I'm leaning towards the opinion that this is his best one yet, especially if it carries on to the final episode.
  • ThomasThomas North Carolina
    I loved how he showed the war from all sides.  It reminded me a lot of Mark Bowden's new book "Hue '68."  Still extremely disappointed there was no mention of the Studies and Observation group.  If you don't know who they are or what they did...look them up.  Easily the most badass military unit to ever exist, even more than the FSSF in WW2.
  • HatorianHatorian Dagobah
    edited October 6
    my wife parents were from Hue. They snuck out of the country about 3 years after the war ended and ended up in Australia. 

    alot of her uncles and aunts and cousins also made it to either Australia or the US as refugees (don't argue with me that countries shouldn't help take in refugees from warn torn countries, we absolutely should. I wouldn't have met my wife and had 2 beautiful kids if everyone closed the borders to people trying to flee to a better life). Some of her uncles would talk fondly about the US troops and their involvment. they were very anti-communism and north. they wanted independence and did not want to be ruled by the north at all. thus, why they snuck out and left. 

    her uncles would tell me stories about how the US saved a lot of people's lives. And how grateful they were for the support and help. 

    it was a real eye opener as all you ever hear is "Vietnam was a disaster and we never should have been there". Thats not the case with my wife's family. 
    MrXakritenbrink
  • Yeah, the non-Communist Vietnamese just lacked the unity and monomaniacal dedication of the Communist liberation ideology.  Also rather sad leadership.


    Hatorian said:

    my wife parents were from Hue. They snuck out of the country about 3 years after the war ended and ended up in Australia. 


    alot of her uncles and aunts and cousins also made it to either Australia or the US as refugees (don't argue with me that countries shouldn't help take in refugees from warn torn countries, we absolutely should. I wouldn't have met my wife and had 2 beautiful kids if everyone closed the borders to people trying to flee to a better life). Some of her uncles would talk fondly about the US troops and their involvment. they were very anti-communism and north. they wanted independence and did not want to be ruled by the north at all. thus, why they snuck out and left. 

    her uncles would tell me stories about how the US saved a lot of people's lives. And how grateful they were for the support and help. 

    it was a real eye opener as all you ever hear is "Vietnam was a disaster and we never should have been there". Thats not the case with my wife's family. 

    Hatorian
  • HatorianHatorian Dagobah
    edited October 6

    Yeah, the non-Communist Vietnamese just lacked the unity and monomaniacal dedication of the Communist liberation ideology.  Also rather sad leadership.



    Hatorian said:

    my wife parents were from Hue. They snuck out of the country about 3 years after the war ended and ended up in Australia. 


    alot of her uncles and aunts and cousins also made it to either Australia or the US as refugees (don't argue with me that countries shouldn't help take in refugees from warn torn countries, we absolutely should. I wouldn't have met my wife and had 2 beautiful kids if everyone closed the borders to people trying to flee to a better life). Some of her uncles would talk fondly about the US troops and their involvment. they were very anti-communism and north. they wanted independence and did not want to be ruled by the north at all. thus, why they snuck out and left. 

    her uncles would tell me stories about how the US saved a lot of people's lives. And how grateful they were for the support and help. 

    it was a real eye opener as all you ever hear is "Vietnam was a disaster and we never should have been there". Thats not the case with my wife's family. 



    Yep. Also the US was winning the war. Tet was actually a desperate gamble by the north and actually was not that successful but it just broke the US’s will and the civilians back. If the US dedicated itself to winning that war it does.

  • ThomasThomas North Carolina
    Hatorian said:

    Yeah, the non-Communist Vietnamese just lacked the unity and monomaniacal dedication of the Communist liberation ideology.  Also rather sad leadership.



    Hatorian said:

    my wife parents were from Hue. They snuck out of the country about 3 years after the war ended and ended up in Australia. 


    alot of her uncles and aunts and cousins also made it to either Australia or the US as refugees (don't argue with me that countries shouldn't help take in refugees from warn torn countries, we absolutely should. I wouldn't have met my wife and had 2 beautiful kids if everyone closed the borders to people trying to flee to a better life). Some of her uncles would talk fondly about the US troops and their involvment. they were very anti-communism and north. they wanted independence and did not want to be ruled by the north at all. thus, why they snuck out and left. 

    her uncles would tell me stories about how the US saved a lot of people's lives. And how grateful they were for the support and help. 

    it was a real eye opener as all you ever hear is "Vietnam was a disaster and we never should have been there". Thats not the case with my wife's family. 



    Yep. Also the US was winning the war. Tet was actually a desperate gamble by the north and actually was not that successful but it just broke the US’s will and the civilians back. If the US dedicated itself to winning that war it does.

    Can you really say they were winning it by simply bombing and destroying?  Had the US invested into forces like the Marine combined action platoons, which went out and lived in hamlets with locals, gave them medical aid, fed them, and provided security, then maybe they would have been able to win.  Instead, they shut that program down due to lack of body count and went with indiscriminately bombing hamlets.  I think the US did quite a bit of good in the south, but they did a lot of stupid things too that would never have won the war for them.
  • It’s not just about bombing and destroying. Many military experts agree the war could have been won. All you need to do is some googling to see how many people thought the war was winnable and the north was in a precarious state. A lot of historians agree that the US simply lost because the civilian population turned on the war and demanded and exit. If the US dedicates itself to the war and ramps up after Tet instead of ramps down then it’s a completely different story. Read about it. It’s not a far fetched belief.
  • DreamRycherDreamRycher Newark, DE
    I finished this last weekend and that last episode was brutal . . . between the vets talking about the memorial in Washington, D.C., to the vets returning to Vietnam, and the last bit where they guy was reading the passage from his book over the check-ins with all the individuals that they had been interviewing capped off with the Beatles "Let It Be" over the credits there was a bunch of ugly crying going on in my living room!

    Overall, I thought it was a very good series.  I had never really learned much about the war except for the highlights we got taught in history class so I found it pretty informative.  I've enjoyed just about every one of Ken Burns' documentaries so I wasn't too surprised.  I felt he did a pretty balanced job in showing all the sides of the war and how it's affected our society and politics to this day.
  • ThomasThomas North Carolina
    Hatorian said:

    It’s not just about bombing and destroying. Many military experts agree the war could have been won. All you need to do is some googling to see how many people thought the war was winnable and the north was in a precarious state. A lot of historians agree that the US simply lost because the civilian population turned on the war and demanded and exit. If the US dedicates itself to the war and ramps up after Tet instead of ramps down then it’s a completely different story. Read about it. It’s not a far fetched belief.

    It was unwinnable.  What happens when you conquer Vietnam?  You get an Afghanistan.  The country would have been torn apart from the inside by the VC because the South Vietnamese army was, by Western standards, a pathetic army, and the politicians were so corrupt.  

    Americans think that everyone wants democracy, jeans, Fords, and televisions...but they don't.  The best example is when the US created a rice that required far less effort to harvest and would produce multiple yields a year, thus giving them 3-4xs as much rice.  The Vietnamese said no, because they had been growing rice the same way for thousands of years and didn't want to change it.  

    Look at the Hamlet Evaluation System and then dig into how Westmoreland, arguably one of the worst generals in US history, utilized it.  If things were slow he would order random bombings of hamlets evaluated as hostile.  Some of those hamlets had never even had an American on the ground to assess them, they were just assumed hostile.  Not winnable.
  • That's exactly what they want now.  The US won the war without even really trying in the years since, America is amazingly popular now in Vietnam, especially with scary ancient enemy China throwing its weight around.  

    "Americans think that everyone wants democracy, jeans, Fords, and televisions...but they don't.  The best example is when the US created a rice that required far less effort to harvest and would produce multiple yields a year, thus giving them 3-4xs as much rice.  The Vietnamese said no, because they had been growing rice the same way for thousands of years and didn't want to change it."  
  • ThomasThomas North Carolina

    That's exactly what they want now.  The US won the war without even really trying in the years since, America is amazingly popular now in Vietnam, especially with scary ancient enemy China throwing its weight around.  


    "Americans think that everyone wants democracy, jeans, Fords, and televisions...but they don't.  The best example is when the US created a rice that required far less effort to harvest and would produce multiple yields a year, thus giving them 3-4xs as much rice.  The Vietnamese said no, because they had been growing rice the same way for thousands of years and didn't want to change it."  
    I agree that is what they want now. They see how well South Korea is doing and they know they could have had that.  I think a large number of the rural populous does not want that, but the country itself does.  But can you blame them for wanting the US out in 1950's-70's?  Imagine if China invaded the US and said "you don't want democracy, you want communism."  We would probably fight back too.

    jazzminawa
  • But you don’t have Afghanistan. You have another north and South Korea. And who knows what happens to Laos and Cambodia as well because the US would also have to block the Ho Chi Minh trail. The US could have established a DMZ very similar to Korea just north of Hue.
  • ThomasThomas North Carolina
    Hatorian said:

    But you don’t have Afghanistan. You have another north and South Korea. And who knows what happens to Laos and Cambodia as well because the US would also have to block the Ho Chi Minh trail. The US could have established a DMZ very similar to Korea just north of Hue.

    The US couldn't even block the trail in the south with 500k+ soldiers, who could they ever have stopped the trail in Cambodia and Laos?  If we could go back and do the Vietnam War over again with today's knowledge, maybe.  But after 8 years of trying they hadn't accomplished much other than killing a lot of people.
  • Thomas said:

    Hatorian said:

    But you don’t have Afghanistan. You have another north and South Korea. And who knows what happens to Laos and Cambodia as well because the US would also have to block the Ho Chi Minh trail. The US could have established a DMZ very similar to Korea just north of Hue.

    The US couldn't even block the trail in the south with 500k+ soldiers, who could they ever have stopped the trail in Cambodia and Laos?  If we could go back and do the Vietnam War over again with today's knowledge, maybe.  But after 8 years of trying they hadn't accomplished much other than killing a lot of people.
    The reason they couldn’t stop the trail was because the North used Laos and didn’t come straight south. And the US wouldn’t commit to a full blown invasion of Laos. they call it “the hidden war” for a reason.

    If the US can stop 1million Chinese and North Koreans and push them back across roughy the same amount of horizontal landmass as Vietnam and Laos 20 years prior. Then they could have done the same. They didn’t need today’s knowledge to do so. They just didn’t commit to what was required to do so.
    .
  • ThomasThomas North Carolina
    Hatorian said:

    Thomas said:

    Hatorian said:

    But you don’t have Afghanistan. You have another north and South Korea. And who knows what happens to Laos and Cambodia as well because the US would also have to block the Ho Chi Minh trail. The US could have established a DMZ very similar to Korea just north of Hue.

    The US couldn't even block the trail in the south with 500k+ soldiers, who could they ever have stopped the trail in Cambodia and Laos?  If we could go back and do the Vietnam War over again with today's knowledge, maybe.  But after 8 years of trying they hadn't accomplished much other than killing a lot of people.
    The reason they couldn’t stop the trail was because the North used Laos and didn’t come straight south. And the US wouldn’t commit to a full blown invasion of Laos. they call it “the hidden war” for a reason.

    If the US can stop 1million Chinese and North Koreans and push them back across roughy the same amount of horizontal landmass as Vietnam and Laos 20 years prior. Then they could have done the same. They didn’t need today’s knowledge to do so. They just didn’t commit to what was required to do so.
    .
    ...but they couldn't shut down the trail in the south with half a million troops.  It would have taken a million to shut it down in Cambodia and Laos, at least, which never would have happened.  At the end of the day, even if you shut down the trail you haven't shut down the voice of the VC, which is what destroyed the US strategy.  You are also using a false equivalency by comparing Vietnam to Korea.  They were two highly different wars.  One was conventional, one was not in the same vein that you can't compare the war in Iraq to the first Gulf War.
  • Thomas said:

    Hatorian said:

    Thomas said:

    Hatorian said:

    But you don’t have Afghanistan. You have another north and South Korea. And who knows what happens to Laos and Cambodia as well because the US would also have to block the Ho Chi Minh trail. The US could have established a DMZ very similar to Korea just north of Hue.

    The US couldn't even block the trail in the south with 500k+ soldiers, who could they ever have stopped the trail in Cambodia and Laos?  If we could go back and do the Vietnam War over again with today's knowledge, maybe.  But after 8 years of trying they hadn't accomplished much other than killing a lot of people.
    The reason they couldn’t stop the trail was because the North used Laos and didn’t come straight south. And the US wouldn’t commit to a full blown invasion of Laos. they call it “the hidden war” for a reason.

    If the US can stop 1million Chinese and North Koreans and push them back across roughy the same amount of horizontal landmass as Vietnam and Laos 20 years prior. Then they could have done the same. They didn’t need today’s knowledge to do so. They just didn’t commit to what was required to do so.
    .
    ...but they couldn't shut down the trail in the south with half a million troops.  It would have taken a million to shut it down in Cambodia and Laos, at least, which never would have happened.  At the end of the day, even if you shut down the trail you haven't shut down the voice of the VC, which is what destroyed the US strategy.  You are also using a false equivalency by comparing Vietnam to Korea.  They were two highly different wars.  One was conventional, one was not in the same vein that you can't compare the war in Iraq to the first Gulf War.
    Also it's not like Korea resulted in some perfect resolution. Sure South Korea has done pretty well but millions have died in North Korea and there's a constant threat of nuclear war. Who know what would've happened if North Vietnam became isolated like DPRK.
  • emnofseattleemnofseattle Mason County, Washington USA
    Hatorian said:

    But you don’t have Afghanistan. You have another north and South Korea. And who knows what happens to Laos and Cambodia as well because the US would also have to block the Ho Chi Minh trail. The US could have established a DMZ very similar to Korea just north of Hue.

    The operative word being "could have" but we didn't.

    The war was not winnable under the strategy and leadership we had and we had our reasons for doing these the way we did.

    I mean we can War game and chosen War and with hindsight find a way to have won it for the loser. A year or so ago on a different forum i was in a discussion about how slight changes in military culture could've won the Falklands War for Argentina. And ways the South could've won the Civil War have been debated for over a century.

    What if Constantinople hadn't fallen to the Moslems?

    If the Goths hadn't been allowed the cross the Danube into Rome in the fourth century?

    In the end, it doesn't really matter.

    We were not willing to Govern South Vietnam and the South Vietnamese government was corrupt and more focused on internal threats then external ones. It was the same thing that sunk the KMT in China
    Thomas
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