Episode 1. Déjà Vu (1858-1961)

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Episode 1. Déjà Vu (1858-1961)

Annotated Transcript of Episode 1

Terry Garlock

The series began showing on PBS Sunday Sep 17, and with Burns’ renowned talent mixing photos, video clips and compelling mood music in documentary form, the series promises to be compelling to watch. That doesn’t mean it tells the truth.
For many years I have been presenting to high school classes a 90 minute session titled The Myths and Truths of the Vietnam War. One of my opening comments is, “The truth about Vietnam is bad enough without twisting it all out of shape with myths, half-truths and outright lies from the anti-war left.” The overall message to students is advising them to learn to think for themselves, be informed by reading one newspaper that leans left, one that leans right, and be skeptical of TV news.

Bing West

This documentary succeeds in vividly evoking sadness and frustration. But that is not all there was to the story. “The Vietnam War” strives for a moral equivalence where there is none. The veterans seem sad and detached for their experience, yet 90 percent of Vietnam War veterans are proud to have served. So there’s a large gap between what we see and the attitude of the vast majority of veterans.
Their sense of pride — so vital for national unity — is absent from the documentary. And that’s a glaring omission.

John Del Vecchio

Is the purpose of burning history a desire to ossify an existing, highly-skewed narrative, and to cover-up the “sins” of the “anti-war” left? Or might it be more? Without the skewed base-narrative the rationalization and justification for much of the left’s agenda at the time and since, simply falls apart.

R.J. Del Vecchio

. . . the bad news is that its very beginning solidly reinforces the idea that good people with good motives made one long series of bad decisions, meaning we never should have been there and it was unwinnable, yadda-yadda. A US diplomat says we totally misread what was going on there, and that's just his opinion, and far more than debatable. And of course they talk about the "free elections" as if they were guaranteed by the Geneva Accords, which they were not, and in fact with the communists in charge of the North, there could never be actual free elections there.

Dan Kellum

Otherwise Burns/Novick will taint their so-called documentary with their pre-disposed feelings about the Vietnam War. Still I think if they continue to degrade the 2.1 million or so Americans who participated in the Vietnam War with negative images and war stories that are the exception rather than the rule, they will be doing this nation a terrible disservice should they leave out the extenuating circumstances in some cases to stories. And should they cherry-pick only the war stories that paint us all in the same bad light (such as My Lai) then they will continue the past media depiction of us Vietnam veterans as tainted by the war. Of course, sensational stories make better TV and Burns/Novick have to hold their audience's attention for nine more episodes and roughly 16 1/2 hours. To sum up, Episode 1 of Burns/Novick’s Vietnam War left me, as well as my mild-mannered wife, angry and disappointed.

Charles Krohn

Meanwhile, Ho consolidated his support in Hanoi. The narrator reports that in 1946 Ho’s ally Vo Nguyen Giap killed 100 or so challenging his authority, by shooting, drowning or burying alive. This set a pattern for their treatment of nonbelievers that reached a climax of sorts in the Battle of Hue and post-1975 atrocities.

Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Sang

In conclusion, this is a one-sided, half-truth documentary unworthy of watching. My observation had been posted on Yahoo but was removed 15 minutes later. Let us hope that Mr. Burns and Ms. Novick would have a change of heart and be more factual in their next project about the Vietnam War.

Spyridon Miksotakis

First of all, this stuff about Ho copying our founding fathers (he is shown quoting the Declaration of Independence in the film) is a classic Communist ploy to get us to lower our guard. Castro also quoted the founders, a few years before he asked the Soviets to nuke us. The Chinese Communists used to run pro-American editorials in their newspaper before they came to power and went to war with us in Korea.

Christian Appy

This hodgepodge of an episode, ending with the election of President John F. Kennedy, includes many compelling pieces but no clear or coherent explanation of the overriding motives that drove American policy in these crucial years.

Comments on Christian Appy

We have included Prof. Appy's blog posts because they represent the far left of the [semi-]rational comments that are circulating out there. Ken Burns has endorsed American Reckoning; a book edited by Christian Appy, a leftist history professor at hard-left U. Mass Amherst. Burns' endorsement stated: "Few people understand the centrality of the Vietnam War to our situation as much as Christian Appy." All the more reason for our concern about both Burns and Appy.
Appy's purpose seems to make the Burns program seem balanced by being so extreme himself. Appy personifies the adage that if you are not good for anything else, you are always good as a bad example.

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