Dan Kellum 9

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Dan Kellum - Episode 9

An antiwar demonstration sporting a banner that read: Stop the War NOW!!! opened Episode 9...what else is new? Makes one wonder if these people have jobs like us to go to. Next scene is Karl Marlantes memory of his brother picking him up upon his arrival from Nam and antiwar demonstrators pounding on his brother's car leaving the terminal and shouting obscenities at them. Said he was stunned and heartbroken to be 'welcomed' home that way. It was noted that the Vietnam War was tearing families apart. The documentary continued to shock senses with graphic views of dead bodies in the aftermath of battles or brief firefights. I assume this was to sway viewers' feelings about the futility of the Vietnam War which appeared to have no end in sight. To help in the safe drawdown of American troops by Pres. Nixon, ARVN troops aboard APCs crossed the Laotian border to destroy the VC/NVAs' supply caches and raid the Ho Chi Minh Trail as part of Operation Lam Son 719 February 8, 1971. This was the so-called Vietnamization of the war and must've looked good as drawn up in the White House or Pentagon except the NVA/VC had a different idea as to the outcome. An ARVN soldier drily remarked before the attack that this would be 'Mission Impossible' without American troops fighting alongside them. 'Intelligence' had assured the ARVNs that the enemy had 22,000 enemy troops in the area they were attacking....actually it turned out they had 60,000!!!! Of the 17,000 ARVN troops committed to the attack, half their number were KIAs, WIAs and many others captured and most likely killed as well. The invasion was a dismal failure. Simply put, they got clobbered. One ARVN soldier noted out of 600 men in his unit only 55 survived. Nixon noted that they must claim victory regardless of the outcome to boost his numbers for his re-election and to show that 'Vietnamization' worked. That way they could speed up troop withdrawals.

A clip showed U.S. Army soldiers smoking marijuana in Vietnam and it was said that 1 out of 4 men used marijuana at least once in-country. Not sure where they got their stats but it was also stated 40,000 became addicted to heroin. Sadly, the punishment for Army Lt. William Calley and 23 of his men for murdering 504 villagers at My Lai (4) was a farce. May 29, 1971 Lt. Calley was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison while 23 other officers and men involved in killing all those people were acquitted and their cases dismissed. Lt. Calley spent three days behind bars. Nixon stepped in and he was put on house arrest at Fort Benning, Georgia. His punishment quickly went from 20 years to 10 years to 3 years house arrest. as Pres. Nixon issued him a limited pardon. The reaction in the general public was one of anger and disbelief at the punishment of those men. They should've all gone to prison for the remainder of their lives or worse in my opinion.

The story of POW Capt. Hal Kushner, M.D. burying 13 dead fellow Americans in their march 900 kilometers north to five Hanoi prisons spread in and out of the city was heartbreaking. We Nam vets were reminded why we never accepted actress Jane Fonda's apology for her actions in a visit to North Vietnam. The documentary showed a photo of her wearing a helmet and sitting in a seat of an antiaircraft gun...and I guess I missed this last point in my prior research....she made 10 broadcasts denouncing POWs as "war criminals and they should be tried as criminals and executed." The POWs heard these broadcasts and it must have killed their souls this beautiful and talented actress would recommend their being executed....youthful indiscretion on her part? I think not.  If this documentary is supposed to bring us together and have reasonable discourse for what went on during the Vietnam War this sure was a deal breaker for Nam vets versus Jane Fonda, et al. Additional antiwar demonstrations were in this segment and one story reminded me of five of us OCS candidates driving up from Quantico to catch one of the huge marches in D.C. in the summer of 1969.  As depicted in the documentary. we saw several yahoos around the Washington Monument waving the North Vietnamese flag....our enemy...infuriating us. I tried to talk the other guys into going along with me to take those flags away from those demonstrators surrounded by several thousand protestors....calmer heads prevailed. One of the marches to the White House was stopped cold at DuPont Circle as authorities blocked off the exits and lobbed CS or CN gas grenades amongst the demonstrators....they broke the windows of the businesses trying to escape the gas as the owners had prudently locked their doors to keep them out.

John Kerry, former Secretary of State, was shown addressing a Congressional committee eloquently but went too far in claiming widespread atrocities by American troops in Vietnam. He was no friend to his fellow Vietnam veterans as he threw us all under the bus with his allegations. A Stolen Valor group came out with a report that the men cited as seeing or participating in the atrocities was untrue....this balanced report on Kerry's claims was not mentioned in the documentary. Marine Cpl. John Musgrave and a portion of 700 alleged Nam veterans were shown throwing their combat medals over a fence at the Capitol Building....John Kerry was shown standing in line to throw his medals. Musgrave and Kerry were now members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. 

The Pentagon Papers were stolen from the government and ignited additional rounds of protests as the New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe got the Supreme Court to vote 6-3 to allow it under the 1st Amendment, Freedom of Speech, to publish the Pentagon Papers en masse. Pres. Nixon authorized a burglar group formed called the Plumbers to try and discredit Daniel Ellsberg who stole the Pentagon Papers....and the next attempted burglary looms in Episode 10...at the Watergate that would bring down his Presidency.

Without adequate testing Agent Orange, a herbicide defoliant, was sprayed on 1/4 of Vietnam causing a cornucopia of diseases to Vietnamese and Allied forces that continues to this day. Veterans Affairs Clinics and Hospitals have kept busy over the years treating vets for the diseases....primarily cancer and diabetes...caused by Agent Orange and several other color herbicides. The documentary seemed to dwell on the cases in Vietnam and not so much on Americans, Australians and ROK troops.

Pres. Nixon and Henry Kissinger worked to get the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table in Paris....strangely without RVN Pres. Nguyen Van Thieu. The massive bombing of North Vietnam picks up with Operation Linebacker to get the North Vietnamese back to Paris. All during this Nixon is more concerned about his re-election...a common theme among these Nam era Presidents. A deal is cut and 30,000 North Vietnamese troops are allowed to remain in South Vietnam (Thieu refuses to sign the agreement initially as he knows the enemy troops remaining in RVN will not bode well for his country) the bombing stops and the American POWs will be released 60 at a time. To get Thieu to sign on with the final agreement, Pres. Nixon said he would respond in full force if the North Vietnamese attacked South Vietnam. Thieu made the mistake of assuming that Nixon was an honest man and he trusted him. Two things: U.S. Presidents may be replaced every four years and Watergate will shorten Nixon's presence in the White House. 

The documentary tells of 591 POWs released from North Vietnamese prisons at long last. Navy Commander Everett Alvarez Jr., the first POW whose plane was shot down over North Vietnam, was in the first group of 60 men released. Of that number 53 men had been carried in U.S. military reports as MIA in Vietnam. One more Episode 10 to go and I still think Burns/Novick are cherry-picking combat and demonstration stories to fit their own image of that time period. One Nam vet in Georgia who lost his legs and arm but still has positive things to say about his time in the Vietnam War claims that Burns/Novick did not want to use his story. I would hazard to guess that Marine Corps Leagues, Vietnam Veterans of 2/1, VFWs, American Legions and other such military organizations would not be fertile grounds for the Burns/Novick's negative research. We all have a feeling of brotherhood in my 2/1 organization and Marine Corps League...not controversial enough for a documentary.  Imagine any President who's still living would probably quake in their boots if Burns/Novick undertook telling the full story of any war they were connected with or the ensuing politics behind the scenes like the duo did Pres. John F. Kennedy, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson or Pres. Richard M. Nixon. Politics and the Siren song of re-election seem to corrupt our leaders and muddle their moral compasses when it comes to making the right decisions to put their military in harm's way. At least that is what I deduce from The Vietnam War documentary...I'm not sure I really wanted to be apprised of their failings at this late date. It's like the Emperor (politician) has no clothes...seriously, not a stitch!!!!!

Semper Fi, Dan Kellum

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