Burns’s Crucible called “Vietnam”
by Ric Hunter Yancey Common Times Journal--December 6, 2017
I recently finished Ken Burn's docudrama "Vietnam," all 18 hours of it. I had a hard time getting my mind wrapped around it all, and I participated in the war, studied it at USAF Air War College, and lost good friends to the war. My father served a year in the same war I fought in years later. This series had a Hollywood bias in how it emphasized the demonstrations back home and glorified those who burned our flag. It was also reluctant to give Americans fighting the war credit for our many successes. However, it did show Jane Fonda for what a Hollywood liberal traitor she was.
As all conflicts are, the war had many mistakes on all sides, but as a war fighter and war planner, I view the biggest mistake in the Vietnam War being a lack of clear military objective from the Oval Office. With our air power and at the height of the war, over 500,000Americans in-country plus South Vietnamese forces, we could have bombed and walked our way to Hanoi. The political will just wasn't there. President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara were too afraid we might kill a Russian or Chinese and start a nuclear war, really?!?!?!? My takeaway to Burn's documentary is that there is some historical knowledge there, and one should realize the biases and take them with a large dose of salt. For us who lived the 60's and 70's and to those who served their country in combat, this eighteen-hour marathon was little more than a continuation of the same old left-wing media bias that existed back then. It glorified the North Vietnamese who forced their own people to flee to South Vietnam, then proceeded to kill millions of them. It gave the American military no credit for essentially defeating the North during the Tet Offensive in 1968, and glorified the cowards who fled to Canada to avoid the draft under the excuse it was "an unjust war."
I'm not alone in my opinion of Burns and Novick's film. As yet, I have read numerous opinion pieces from those who served in the war and have seen "Vietnam," and some who have studied the war in great detail. Every review I've read has ripped the documentary asunder with many faults similar to above. One of the most cogent statements was by John M. Del Vecchio, a recognized authority on the Vietnam War and author of The 13th Valley and other works on Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq and veterans issues:
"The war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos didn't end in 1975, and more Southeast Asians died in the following ten years due to fighting and communist tyranny than died during the ten years of active American involvement. The repression in all three nations continues to this day.
With all the promise and potential, with all the wonderful presentations, the incredible photography and the moving musical scores, the slanting by choice of material and by massive omission renders this series not history but propaganda."
As an aside, Burns and Novick should have gone two weeks more in "Vietnam" and covered the last battle of the war, the SS Mayaguez rescue where we soundly defeated the Cambodian Khmer Rouge who killed 2-million of their own people. We got the ship's crew back, but our last battle of the war placed the final 41 names on the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall. They are not considered Vietnam veterans, however, because of the US Senate, Senator Burr specifically, and DOD -refuse to honor them with the Vietnam Service Medal they so richly deserve.
Ric Hunter is a retired U.S Air Force colonel and fighter pilot who flew combat in the Vietnam War and is the author of the Pulitzer nominated novel FIREHAMMER about the last year of the war It is available on Amazon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org