Dan Kellum 6

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Dan Kellum - Episode 6

Sunday night along came the Tet Offensive in Burns/Novick's The Vietnam War documentary and the proposed loss of 58,000 VC/NVA in what was estimated to have been 84,000 of their troops attacking the length and breadth of South Vietnam. Ah yes, and this was during an agreed upon truce between the warring factions....apparently 84,000 VC/NVA didn't get the memo about the ceasefire over Tet. Perhaps you heard me yelling at the TV when the movie camera again showed National Police Chief Loan shooting VC Capt. Lem without explaining why. Refer to Episode 2 to set the record straight about the wanton murderer Capt. Lem whose heroic body count included slitting the throats of six children and an 80-year-old grandmother...oh, and 34 civilians were on his hit list as well. Burns/Novick play up the atrocity Loan committed in blowing away Capt. Lem. Then there was the battle of Hue as Vietnamese and American forces fought house-to-house driving the VC/NVA out of Hue. The documentary noted 2,800 Vietnamese were killed by the departing VC/NVA....estimates I heard was more like 5,000 and perhaps as many as 6,000+ Vietnamese....admittedly an atrocity as those buried in a mass grave had their hands bound behind their backs and were tortured and perhaps buried alive. This was the first time I heard the reason for the mass killings in the documentary was because they might be able to ID the fifth columnists in their midst who came out from under their rocks when the VC/NVA seized Hue. Hue had a population of some 140,000 or so then it would seem the paltry number of 2,800 or other higher estimates on the hit list were way short of the possibility of 140,000 eyewitnesses who could ID those fifth columnists. And to be fair after the RVN government troops reclaimed Hue it was alleged that "revenge squads" went about searching out those who gave comfort and aid to the VC/NVA during their occupation of Hue.

The obvious issue here is that Loan's shooting of VC Capt. Lem seemed to far outweigh the VC/NVA's murdering 2,800-6,000+ Hue civilians. It's odd how the Tet Offensive played in the American press as the VC/NVA's attack countrywide seemed to prove they were far from beaten by the American and Vietnamese forces as Westmoreland was claiming. North Vietnam's leader Duan thought the Tet Offensive would result in the Vietnamese people and RVN soldiers to rise up to join them in overthrowing the RVN government. That didn't happen as the Vietnamese people hunkered down and let the two sides fight it out.  RVN troops, American troops, Australians and ROK Marines/soldiers won a great victory. Unfortunately that isn't how it was portrayed in the American media as protest groups only grew louder.

LBJ said he would not run for the Presidency again in 1969. It appeared the Vietnam War had weighed heavily on him. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (April 4, 1968) and Robert Kennedy (June 6, 1968) were assassinated as the country seemed to be imploding in the 1960s. In an article in The New York Times about the documentary it was noted that some critics on the Left were already picking apart Burns/Novick's supposed overreliance of military interviewees....it's "American bias" and its statement in the prologue that the war "was begun in good faith, by decent people." I guess the Left would only like to see the documentary interview the antiwar crowd or the change of heart over the prosecution of the war by our elected officials or the visual antiwar marches and sit-ins at prestigious universities. Imagine ignoring those Marines, soldiers, sailors, pilots, etc. who fought in the Vietnam War to avoid an "American bias" in presenting a documentary on said war? Then again, I was curious where Burns/Novick found that Army crew chief who was somewhat over the top in explaining to a female reporter how it felt to be shot at on ops. And that short interview pretty much lead off Episode 6 on a shaky note. I would have liked to have been the platoon commander in Hue of that young Marine who was interviewed by a reporter under fire about the guys he was seeing dying around him. The Marine was courteous in giving a short answer then he was pressed for a more in-depth explanation and that's when the Marine returned to the fight. I would have liked to have grabbed that reporter by shirt collar and seat of his pants and thrown him out of my position. Reporters should not be looking to earn their correspondent's spurs in the middle of a cotton-pickin' battle or fire fight....especially one as dangerous as Hue was. I am of the opinion that reporters should remain in a safe position in the rear waiting to be briefed by a designated PAO and not interviewing Marines on the front lines. I was amazed at how wrong Westmoreland was about Khe Sanh being the focus of the enemy buildup but give him credit for listening to one of his generals and reinforcing Saigon over Tet. The VC/NVA uprising might have been worse than it was if not for the American reinforcements around Saigon, noted the documentary.

Semper Fi, Dan Kellum

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