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Ken Burns's Vietnam War

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by ShinyTop, Sep 19, 2017.

  1. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    On PBS, started last night. I know I posted a long post years ago about the war. But this show revealed details I did not know, but details that only reinforced my opinion that the government screwed the American people and its soldiers bases on lies and political expediency.

    I did not know that South Vietnam navy boats attacked NVN islands as the beginning of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the incident that began us attacking and enabled the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

    I did not know that in a meeting in 1966 McNamara told Johnson we only had a 1 in 3 chance of winning even if the government provided the troops asked for.

    The documentary did comment on most young Americans, like me, did not believe their government would outright lie to them.

    After all these years I again am shaking with anger.
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  2. SixofNine

    SixofNine Jedi Sage Staff Member

    The Gulf of Tonkin incident always felt like a flimsy pretext.
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  3. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

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  4. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    In tonight's episode he showed the side of family waiting to hear about sons in Vietnam. Very powerful.
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  5. Allene

    Allene Registered User

    Will come back to read it later. Thanks for posting.
  6. Allene

    Allene Registered User

    We are watching that series too. In 1973 I read The Best and the Brightest
    The Best and the Brightest - Wikipedia and came to the conclusion that the war was a huge mistake, but this series is making it even more obvious. When that book came out, I don't think the author had access to as much information as Burns had. I am finding these revelations disturbing, too, especially that 1966 conversation between McNamara and Johnson. Someone in the series said something about covering up to protect the egos back in Washington. How true!
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  7. Allene

    Allene Registered User

    Yes, I was just going to ask about that. Denton "Mogie" Crocker had poor eyesight, but he got into the Army and was "point man" on one of the patrols. I think he tried to get into the Marines first, but got turned down because of his eyesight. How did he pull that off? Was there a change in the rules during the Vietnam War? My husband was in the USAF in the late 1950s and early 1960s and was not allowed to learn to fly planes because of his poor eyesight. He was a cryptographer the whole time.

  8. Arc

    Arc Full Member

    Ken Burn's documentary on Vietnam is 18 hours long. It's spread out over ten episodes. I've watched eight so far and will finish up today or tonight.

    Vietnam is a war that after its end the people in the US wanted to forget about it. It is still so today. It was the center of the storm that tore the nation apart more than any other event in our history besides the civil war. The period of 1968-1975 changed the direction of this country unlike any other period after the civil war. I think that one either had to be in the military during that time or have at least been a young adult living in the US to really understand.

    So far I've learned nothing new of significance, but it has refreshed my memory. It did, however, stir up anger that I thought was dead and buried long ago. I was wrong. It was buried alive. Big difference. I will spend the next week reburying it.

    Other than being too long this is a stand-alone documentary that thoroughly defines the war and all of the issues or baggage that went with it. One of the issues being that despite so involving the population we learned little from the lessons taught us by the war.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
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  9. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    Watching the outstanding PBS documentary on the Vietnam War I began noting similarities between Vietnam and our continuing involvement in Afghanistan. In both cases we are in the midst of one people of a country fighting another of the same country. In both cases the other side has safe havens and another country supporting it. In both cases the recognized civilian government is at best luke warm to American involvement. And in both cases the recognized civilian government is rife with corruption thus stopping the aid before it gets to the people who need it.

    the biggest differences are the number of US troops committed and that there is no draft.

    Those that don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
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  10. Arc

    Arc Full Member

    Afghanistan! The longest war in our history. Now sixteen years long and counting. Our "enemy?" The Taliban. As of this post, they control 80 percent of the country.

    A war that we won in thirty days and accomplished all of our stated goals. Destroy al Qa'ida camps and forces in Afghanistan plus accomplish a regime change. (The Taliban were the official government then.) The preceding was one of our county's greatest military exhibition of planning and execution. Plus we did it with few casualties to US personnel as we got Afghans opposed to the Taliban to do all of the ground fighting and we supplied massive precision, (and I mean precision) air support.

    War won. Stated objectives accomplished. Then we decided to stick around and "help out."
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
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  11. Arc

    Arc Full Member

    I considered posting this as a new topic or the OP for a new thread. Upon serious reflection, I decided it was best posted here as part of this thread.

    Jon Wiener is professor emeritus of history at UC Irvine. Yesterday, he had published the op-ed below. I am personally familiar with the overwhelming majority of the facts he states and I know them to be true. It is why I am posting it.

    The story:

    Everybody's heard of the My Lai massacre — March 16, 1968, 50 years ago today — but not many know about the man who stopped it: Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot. When he arrived, American soldiers had already killed 504 Vietnamese civilians (that's the Vietnamese count; the U.S. Army said 347). They were going to kill more, but they didn't — because of what Thompson did.

    I met Thompson in 2000 and interviewed him for my radio program on KPFK in Los Angeles. He told the story of what happened that day, when he and his two-man crew flew over My Lai, in support of troops who were looking for Viet Cong fighters.

    "We started noticing these large numbers of bodies everywhere," he told me, "people on the road dead, wounded. And just sitting there saying, 'God, how'd this happen? What's going on?' And we started thinking what might have happened, but you didn't want to accept that thought — because if you accepted it, that means your own fellow Americans, people you were there to protect, were doing something very evil."

    Who were the people lying in the roads and in the ditch, wounded and killed?

    "They were not combatants. They were old women, old men, children, kids, babies."

    Then Thompson and his crew chief, Glenn Andreotta, and his gunner, Lawrence Colburn, "saw some civilians hiding in a bunker, cowering, looking out the door. Saw some advancing Americans coming that way. I just figured it was time to do something, to not let these people get killed. Landed the aircraft in between the Americans and the Vietnamese, told my crew chief and gunner to cover me, got out of the aircraft, went over to the American side."

    What happened next was one of the most remarkable events of the entire war, and perhaps unique: Thompson told the American troops that, if they opened fire on the Vietnamese civilians in the bunker, he and his crew would open fire on them.

    "You risked your lives," I said, "to protect those Vietnamese civilians."

    "Well, it didn't come to that," he replied. "I thank God to this day that everybody did stay cool and nobody opened up. ... It was time to stop it, and I figured, at that point, that was the only way the madness, or whatever you want to call it, could be stopped."

    Back at their base, he filed a complaint about the killing of civilians that he had witnessed. The Army covered it up. But eventually the journalist Seymour Hersh found out about the massacre, and his report made it worldwide news and a turning point in the war. Afterward, Thompson testified at the trial of Lt. William Calley, the commanding officer during the massacre.

    Then came the backlash. Calley had many supporters, who condemned and harassed Thompson. He didn’t have much support — for decades. It took the Army 30 years, but in 1998, they finally acknowledged that Thompson had done something good. They awarded him the Soldier's Medal for “heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy.”

    On the 30th anniversary of the massacre, Thompson went back to My Lai and met some of the people whose lives he had saved. "There were real good highs," he told me, "and very low lows. One of the ladies that we had helped out that day came up to me and asked, 'Why didn't the people who committed these acts come back with you?' And I was just devastated. And then she finished her sentence: she said, 'So we could forgive them.' I'm not man enough to do that. I'm sorry. I wish I was, but I won't lie to anybody. I'm not that much of a man."

    And what were the highs?

    "I always questioned, in my mind, did anybody know we all aren't like that? Did they know that somebody tried to help? And yes, they did know that. That aspect of it made me feel real good."

    Today there's a little museum in My Lai, where Thompson is honored, and which displays a list of the names and ages of people killed that day. Trent Angers, Thompson's biographer, and friend analyzed the list and found about 50 there who were 3 years old or younger. He found 69 between the ages of 4 and 7, and 91 between the ages of 8 and 12.

    Nick Turse investigated violence in Vietnam against noncombatants for his book “Kill Anything that Moves.” He concluded — after a decade of research in Pentagon archives and more than 100 interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors — that Americans killing civilians in Vietnam was “pervasive and systematic.” One soldier told him there had been "a My Lai a month."

    We know that Americans committed a massacre 50 years ago today; and we also know that an American stopped it. Hugh Thompson died in 2006 when he was only 62. I wish we could have done more to thank him.
  12. Allene

    Allene Registered User

    Thanks so much for posting this, Arc. I remember My Lai very well, and this gives some closure to those who were involved. It mentions Trent Angers as Thompson's biographer. Has he already published the book, or is it a work in progress?
  13. MemphisMark

    MemphisMark Old School Conservative

    This country and its' people have done terrible things, all the way up to yesterday (not just the yesterday as I write this, but the yesterday of when you read this). The difference between the US and other countries is we own up to it, then do our best to make it right. Germany has buried almost everything that happened from 1932-1945 and actively stamps out any reminder of "that time." Japan has also buried most of that period. It is not spoken of at all.

    Here, we remember Slavery, My Lai, Wounded Knee, Kent State and many other atrocities in our history. We use these events as signposts that warn us "do not go down this path." Because we admit our mistakes, that inspires us to make up for it and even "pay it forward." This inspires us to work harder and go farther to make sure things like these don't happen again.

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