Dan Kellum 5

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Dan Kellum - Episode 5

The VC and NVA kicked the bejesus out of RVN and American forces once more in Episode 5 as some U.S. Army Tiger unit committed atrocities against the Vietnamese population, according to a Tiger soldier who didn't participate in the wanton killing of civilians and soldiers alike. I never heard this story before and figured since we are seemingly the Bad Guys in this recounting of the Vietnam War by Burns and Novick that My Lai was their ace in the deck to highlight atrocities but, hey, they still have five additional Episodes to play that card.

The documentary showed the American POWs in Hanoi being marched through a jeering crowd and were under the threat of trial as war criminals since an official act of war had not been declared therefore they were not protected under the Geneva Convention. Backlash from the 'parade' in downtown Hanoi did not get the desired result from other countries and the North Vietnamese decided to forego the trial. They showed a visually upset and weeping Navy pilot John McCain, future U.S. Senator from Arizona, being asked questions for the camera as he was injured with broken legs and laid up in bed. I noticed his face was not marked with a wound....that must’ve come later during torture. I was impressed by the ingenious POW [Jeremiah Denton] who blinked out in Morse Code T-O-R-T-U-R-E to the cameras when he was brought in to answer questions to the camera. Where is the indignation of our people being tortured and some dying from too much torture in North Vietnam in this documentary? I thought Marine Musgrave gave a touching and emotional accounting of his combat experience before being seriously wounded and the fellow Marines who sacrificed themselves to pull him to safety....trying to live up to the unspoken promise to leave no Marine injured or dead on the battlefield. This was one bright moment I found in the series so far. The documentary is giving plenty of face time for the antiwar demonstrations as they grew exponentially around the country when college kids were being sought for the draft. The bombing of North Vietnam was shown....still waiting to see Jane Fonda make a cameo appearance in this tell all documentary.

It's interesting to follow Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's 'growth' and 'revelations' in this documentary. He urged increasing our presence in Vietnam and gave Gen. Westmoreland what he wanted...a huge 500,000 Americans fighting in Vietnam....then he had a "whoops" moment when he decided that the war was essentially unwinnable....hindsight is the best sight....and let LBJ know we needed to negotiate a settlement. I spoke with a Vietnamese truong uy (lieutenant) in 1970 in the Cam Ne area who complained about the lousy RF troops he was saddled with....they were miserable, that's being kind, they were beyond miserable....and said that soon us Marines would be going back home under Nixon's orders. This was his home, he said, and he expected the VC and North Vietnamese would return in large numbers and then it would be......at this point he ran a finger across his throat to indicate they would kill him. I wonder about his survival after the war. I understand that somewhere over a million people were sent North after the war ended to 're-education camps' on the Chinese/North Vietnam border. Many did not return to the South from those "re-education camps." They must not have been "re-educatable" and you wonder what's the Final Solution to such people? I wonder if the documentary will highlight that story.

It dawned on me why we're seeing our Marines and soldiers constantly appear to be losing battles to the 'superior' fighting and motivated VC/NVA. Our war correspondents and foreign news services documented those losses and even were embedded with them to bring those still and TV images to the American people and the world. The VC/NVA did not have such overwhelming coverage and we're probably getting their propaganda shots made to show what wonderful soldiers they are. I think you can notice a difference in camera angles....war correspondent/camera taker is behind the American patrol or company movement while the VC/NVA cameraman is slightly in front of their so-called attacking forces. This seems to be documented as an entirely American war. I haven't seen the Korean Marines or other of their forces nor the Australians being shown doing their part in fighting in Vietnam. In May 1970 I took R&R in Sydney, Australia. My first night there they had a large antiwar march through the downtown area. It was interesting how quiet and civilized they were compared to our loud marches back home. Surprised Burns/Novick have missed showing that march in their documentary to give evidence that other countries' citizens were against the war as well.

Semper Fi, Dan Kellum

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