The Burns/PBS Vietnam War Series

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"The established narrative of the war, and the gloss on it provided by Burns-Novick’s inner theme, is that the Vietnam War represented not only Hanoi’s victory over the United States, but, more consequentially, the victory of all of the layers of social-political-cultural-personal revolution of the Sixties. To reaffirm the anti-war movement doctrinally is to lock in all the vast changes in the American character brought about by what the documentary sees as the truly greatest generation, the radicals of the 1960s." -- Charles Hill

A Viewers Guide to the Burns/Novick/PBS series on the Vietnam War

This guide will, ultimately, be downloadable and offered free to schools and others expressing their interest. There is a Study Guide in Part I which describes how we hope students will use the annotated transcripts to better understand both the good points and the bad points in Burns/Novick video history.

State of the Wiki Report 12/1/2017

We are live to our General Members/Directors and open to the public PLEASE PASS THE WORD.

We are adding pull quotes from the linked articles. But these pull quotes don't do justice to the entire presentations of these commentators. Please read the articles in their entirety. Part VI has been added to suggest courses of action under discussion. Part I needs a bit of work expanding on the material shown. In Part II, all transcripts have been posted and the commentaries received are posted. The transcripts have been annotated, but we can use more input from our members. the highlighting feature is working. If you want to offer comments, cite episode number, caption number and your comment/reference. Part III Essays and Cast of Characters and Production Staff is pretty well populated. There is still work needed here. Topics are suggested by issues we have with the transcripts; the list here represent those items which we have already recognized, but not yet written. All General Members have been sent instructions on how to become editors. Comments on the content of this wiki from General Members/Directors should be sent to sherman1@flash.net. Non-members are invited to use the contact form.


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Of note is this article comparing the treatment of the 1983 Karnow series to the 2017 Burns series.

But what surprises Altherr[1] and others who worked on the 1983 series is the absence of a coordinated attack against it by conservative forces similar to those who rose up in indignation 35 years ago. If anything, the most compelling criticism of Burns/Novick is that they strayed too close to the middle.

Part I. Introduction to Ken Burns and the Vietnam War.

Part II. Episode by Episode Discussions

Part III. Essays

Part IV. Overview and Conclusions

Part V. The Vets Strike Back

Part VI. Vietnamese Voices

Part VII. Remedies


  1. Sara Altherr, . . . chief publicist for the 1983 series and wife of its executive producer, Richard “Dick” Ellison