W.R. Baker WSJ Blog

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The Documentary “The Vietnam War”: Artistic License as History

by W. R. Baker

SWJ Blog Post | October 1, 2017 - 7:03am

As time creeps or races by, those who experienced the Vietnam War are fading from the scene and it’s becoming increasingly important to record a history of that war that is truthful. Increasingly, the written word is being tossed aside in favor of film and the “documentary” – both allow for “artistic license” instead of facts. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick took $30 million and ten years and used only 80 interviews that, like some others have said, tell how America was wrong, while the communist bloc with the American protestors and politicians were right all along.

Was the American soldier (using this as an all-encompassing term) always right, always moral, always politically correct (especially by today’s standards)? Of course not. Among the many things missing from the documentary were the answers to these same questions of the VC, NVA and the North Vietnamese Government who habitually violated all their agreements, including the Geneva Conventions.

The documentary cherry-picked American actions during the war – just as many predecessors have in books and films. But this was, unfortunately, predictable and expected. Even before the first show aired, some in the press claimed the documentary to be a masterpiece, blah, blah. Now that they may have seen it, they won’t change their evaluations, egg on their faces are not something they know how to handle.

Too bad the documentary will be pushed as history – accuracy used to be something the press strove for, “but that was yesterday and yesterday’s gone.” A major problem will be in our schools, however, where accuracy will be presumed.

Just ask the 1-2.5 million persons who entered in re-education camps and listen hard for the whispers of the 165,000 who died as a result of the North’s inhumane treatment, though in the Paris treaty, they promised no retribution.

Months ago, Burns and Novick were interviewed with the last question asking if the war could have turned out differently? In reply, everything was the fault of the U.S., of course. When you set out to prove a point and you use only highly selective items to show how balanced on the subject you have been, then guess at the result. Vietnam remains a communist country today because the military was not allowed to fight and win because the politicians knew best. Then, they sealed the fate of the Vietnamese by letting South Vietnam die on the vine, with nary a word by the press.


About the Author

W. R. Baker

W. R. (Bob) Baker graduated with the first 96B/Intelligence Analyst class at Fort Huachuca, AZ in 1971. He was then assigned to the 1st Battalion (which soon became the 571st MI Det.), 525th MI Group, headquartered in Da Nang, Vietnam. His further assignments included positions at Fort Bliss, Texas; two tours with the European Defense Analysis Center (EUDAC) in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany; and the 513th MI Group in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

He left the US Army and worked as an analyst for Interstate Electronics, Northrop-Grumman and Xontec defense contractors before teaching in primary and secondary schools. Mr. Baker has a bachelor of science degree in Government from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Dayton. He has authored other Easter Offensive articles and is currently writing a book on this subject.

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