Vietnam: ‘The war in south-east Asia is now the subject of an epic 10-part, 18-hour series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.”

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I’ve always been a documentary freak. I remember the impact of Vietnam: A Television History when the documentary series debuted in 1983. My VCR was set religiously, and friends of like mind interrupted the usual prowling and partying to join me for viewings.


TV: 13-PART HISTORY OF VIETNAM WAR ON PBS
, by John Corry (NYT; 4 Oct 1983)

 … In a curious way, the documentary also suggests that American hawks and doves were right and wrong in equal measure. The hawks were right in saying that only the most massive firepower, constantly applied, could win the war; even so, they underestimated Vietnamese tenacity, and they were wrong about monolithic Communism. In Southeast Asia, it was splintered.

The doves, meanwhile, were right about withdrawing from Vietnam. In the absence of an all-out war, there was no hope of victory, anyway. The doves, however, were wrong about Communist intentions and Communist morality.

I’m struck by this observation in The Guardian’s article: “Two thirds of Americans who served in Vietnam are no longer alive … while the majority of Vietnamese people were born after the war.”

It’s why history matters.

Ken Burns returns to take on Vietnam – ‘a war we have consciously ignored’, by David Smith (The Guardian)

Burns’s new 10-part, 18-hour epic film covers the conflict from all sides, and hopes to ‘shape more courageous conversations about what took place’

 … The war in south-east Asia is now the subject of an epic 10-part, 18-hour series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Burns is America’s premier documentary film-maker, renowned for his 1990 masterpiece on the civil war as well as series on jazz, baseball, the Roosevelts and the second world war. Ten years and millions of dollars in the making, covering the conflict from all sides, The Vietnam War could be the closest thing yet to a definitive account of what Burns believes is the most important event in American history in the second half of the 20th century.

The time for a conversation “about a war we have consciously ignored” has come, Burns, 63, told the National Press Club in Washington earlier this month. “We have said: ‘We don’t want to talk about it. We’re not gonna teach it, we think it’s about this, or my own personal politics at this moment has actually determined what I should say about Vietnam regardless of what I felt when it was taking place.’ We have this dissonance going on.

“We hope that the film will contribute in some way, shape or form to more courageous conversations about what took place, because let us also be very clear that the divisions that we face today, the lack of civil discourse, the inability to talk with each other but only at each other, had their seeds planted in the Vietnam war, so if we understand it then we also understand our present moment.”

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