Dan Kellum 4

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Dan Kellum - Episode 4

Again it looks like the military personnel get their asses kicked in this Episode 4 segment for the most part and again we hear of young men doubting why they are there fighting in Vietnam....as well as LBJ and his advisors who are a carryover from JFK's presidential staff. One Marine seemed to be the bright light praising the fighting spirits of his Marines although the main story line throughout seems to be the bad old Americans bombing willy-nilly all over the countryside in South Vietnam and North Vietnam. The protestors are gaining strength as the war drags on and they get the spotlight in this episode. A 17-year-old we follow from Episode 3, Mogie is a bright young man who wants to do his part and convinces his parents to sign for him to enter the Army. He gets a cushy job in Vietnam in the Rear but manages to wrangle his way into the bush.  He sees too much war....his best friend is cut down in front of him and suddenly he writes home that he is losing it. You kind of figure out he's not going to make it because he's not joining the cast of interviewees for the documentary. Sure enough, as he's walking point he is killed by enemy fire opening up on his column. His mom and sister talk about their feelings on losing this young man....it's sad. I thought it was interesting what another girl told Mogie's sister. Seems her father advised her not to talk to Mogie's sister about her brother as she would be totally for the young men fighting in Vietnam to make sense of her brother dying there for something.

The body count issue was how the pencil pushing statisticians figured up positive body counts. We didn't like it because the fellows in the Puzzle Palace at Division Ridge needed to reconcile that we were killing a helluva lot more of them than they were killing us. There was a large 'scoreboard' in the 2/1 Battalion CO's office that was updated daily from After Action Reports from the bush showing enemy KIAs, WIAs, POWs and our KIAs and WIAs and the number of boobytraps tripped and found unexploded. The Marines and soldiers who spent time in the bush found it hard to talk to the camera about losing their buddies in the bush....their emotion came through as they told their stories. I would've like to have heard more of the comradery of the Marines and soldiers who actually did the fighting in Vietnam. I think Novick/Burns dwelled on the enemy combatants for an inordinate amount of time in this episode. I realized at the start of each episode there is the silhouette of an armed American soldier walking on a paddy dike while the reflection he threw off in the rice paddy water was that of a Vietnamese carrying a pole on his shoulder with a balanced load on either end. You can read all sorts of imagery in the two silhouettes.....American soldier/Marine intrusion in this foreign land versus the Vietnamese peasant who just wants to tend to his fields like his ancestors had done for hundreds of years on the same plot of land unmolested by foreigners (round eyes).

Like other Marines and Navy Corpsmen I've emailed with I wonder how the American people will react to the documentary considering that Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael are seen telling their brothers to avoid fighting in a war that is not theirs to fight. Considering the BLM issues going on in St. Louis and growing violence there. I take it personally that the documentary claims that the poorer young citizens and blacks were the ones being drafted into the service while the privileged youths were able to avoid the war.  Somehow they left out the fact that many young men joined the military service for patriotic reasons....it was our war....our time in the sun to go out into the world and save the people of Vietnam from Communism. Yeah, yeah, idealism was alive and well in those young men....and yours truly as well. I was hoping this documentary would touch on other more positive points in telling a balanced story of the Vietnam War....that's not what I'm seeing through Episode 4. 

Semper Fi, Dan Kellum

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