Some of the angst from Vets that a known liberal was goin' go on for 18 hours on his idea of Their War, seems to have subsided. Other than individual comments I and Zippo receive, and that are posted on this thread, there's no buzz out there in media land about the series. I don't know the viewer numbers, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is lagging interest across the country. Vietnam has gone from what one friend described as a "big mess" to just a big yawn. Maybe it's me but I don't hear as many boos anymore, or much applause.
There is the idea that Burns is making the case that the US men and women who answered their country's call and went to Vietnam - all 3 million of them - executed bad US policy and appropriately lost. Bill Sullivan was one of the top dozen or so war planners in the Kennedy/LBJ administration. He's what he had to say in retirement: “The great irony of our involvement in Vietnam is that we were better off having lost the war than we would have been if we had won it.”
Burns would probably agree, comparing the efforts of those valiant young American boys and girls who went to war in southeast Asia, to maybe the brown shirts in German in the mid 1930s who went to the streets to promote Hilter's policies.
That's one way to look at the Vietnam experience, that history making overarching look, but that shows no signs of sweat, and fear, and friendships and acts of courage, and the taste of a cold beer in middle of a hot jungle, or the challenges and rush of adrenaline in times of danger or the act of listening for the enemy like an animal on a jungle floor in the middle of the night. Meaty, men stuff. Not politics and policy work. I ask you as an individual, which is the more meaningful human experience?
Here are a couple of comments that have come in recently on the series, starting with what Dennis Myers' had to say. He and I returned to UNC after our combat tour in Vietnam. Me with the 1st Division, Dennis with Special Forces:
"I think it was inevitable that many people who experienced the war firsthand would have very strong emotional reactions to this series, one way or the other. What I have heard from some of my friends who are working with me now is that it is a fairly even handed series that is very interesting and that it does have a lot of never-before-seen footage including film made by the NVA. I cannot recall crying but two times. One was when I left the airport in Winston-Salem knowing there was a good chance I would never see my family again. The other was when my plane took off from Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon. That was because I had left behind some of the closest friends I will ever have, some to fight on in what I had already decided was a lost cause and some who had died in the rice paddies and plains of the delta. In my mind they will always be there.
Guys like Jerry Wright, my surfer dude engineer from California and Clarence Hornbuckle, the old man (he was 38) from Tennessee who left behind a bunch of kids.
The Vietnam War was a tragedy on many levels. I only hope that having seen that series a few people will come away with a better understanding that it is always the soldiers and their families who bear the brunt of the hubris of our "leaders." We should send our finest to fight and die only as a last resort."
Here’s Terry Garlock's take:
· Burns portrayed Ho Chi Minh as a nationalist driven to eject colonists and unify VN out of his love for freedom. Not true. He spent many years in Moscow and in Mao’s China, was a founder of the French Communist party, founded other Asian Communist movements, and was always disguising himself as a nationalist to conceal his commitment to communist world domination.
· Burns neglected to mention that Ho Chi Minh did the classical communist maneuver of purging (murdering) his competitors. He made the Trotskyites – moderates among communists – disappear.
· Burns mentioned “land reforms” but brushed right by the brutal murderous methods he used in North Vietnam to solidify his power. From village to village, Ho’s squads would gather the people and put “land-owners” on trial, always found guilty of course, then publicly executed in the most gruesome ways. Another classical communist tactic of cementing power by use of terror.
· When the French withdrew, Ho Chi Minh gave a speech in Hanoi presenting himself as the country’s new leader. He cleverly used Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence and concealed his communist intent, a moral equivalence ploy that Burns swallowed hook, line and sinker. Ho’s whole approach was about power, the communist flavor.
· Burns failed to mention that the whole North/South elections proposal was a scam that assured the north would win. The north had a heavy population advantage, controlled the population by force and would manipulate the vote their way. The north rejected any notion of UN monitors, and the US refused to commit to such a rigged game.
· Burns repeatedly presented Ho Chi Minh as a nationalist driven to unify Vietnam, and that his struggle was basically a civil war. It wasn’t. South Vietnam was its own country wishing to remain free. Ho’s communists invaded to impose communism by force.
· Burns portrayed US as invaders, and that the Vietnamese didn’t like us. But we weren’t there to make them like us, we were trying to stop the spread of Communism while Ho Chi Minh’s forces were invading the south.
A lot of what Burns presented was true. But the truth was tied into a pretzel by what he left out.
And finally the indomitable Zippo who as of last Saturday had 172 comments from folks he knows who criticized the series.
Watched the Tet and May offensives. Analysis missed by Burns in a rather well done pictorial.
1. Not mentioned was the fact the NVA put the Viet Cong up front where they suffered a virtual slaughter thus relieving the North from having to weed out the non-communist nationalist elements after a victory they prematurely assumed.
2. The documentary tells the truth about 1968 being a resounding win militarily us and the ARVN but then does not lay the blame on Cronkite et al for either misunderstanding the offensive or war in general or intentionally misrepresenting it.
Media gets a pass.
3. The great battle at Khe Sanh in the North never turned into the set piece battle Westmoreland envisioned and for the most part turned into an artillery duel while locals and Viet Cong were pressed into service up front digging trenches towards the perimeter and exposed to everything in the US arsenal. Again,as across the country, no attention is paid to the NVA intentionally eliminating potential nationalist adversaries while making battlefield use of them.
4. This is what I expect after ten years of research;
You at least get the genesis of names called the enemy right. Burns goes into a historical dissertation that only is correct in tracing SLOPE back to the term used for Japanese in WWII and depicted in cartoons of the day.
He traced the term GOOK way back when in reality it came from the Korean term for people.
The Koreans use terms such as Han Gook(Guk) meaning HAN RIVER PEOPLE. They now try not to use GOOK but instead use GUK because the left in America made it into a belittling term and not the Koreans or American soldiers who referred to Koreans as they referred to themselves.
Long historical dissertation on DINK when LITTLE DINKY GUYS or RINKY DINK would have covered it.
The M-16 rifle gave a description of problems many a GI believed but simply were not true.
It is and was a precision weapon and internal cleanliness was a must. Thus entered the spring door covering the bolt and the bolt assist.