On Sunday night, KPBS will launch the first of a ten-part, 18-hour presentation by film makers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick on the Vietnam War. In recent weeks they have hosted numerous preview clips at private screenings from the series across the country from Los Angeles to New York City and smaller venues in San Diego.
For SOFREP readers, those who have viewed the previews were disappointed that there were no mention of Spec Ops forces deployed during the Vietnam War, no Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance mention, no Air Force PJs who performed heroically throughout the war living up to their motto “That Others May Live,” no Navy SEALs, or Army Special Forces mention – either from conventional coverage of A Camps by Green Berets across S. Vietnam, nor any mention apparently of the eight-year secret war conducted in Cambodia, Laos and N. Vietnam, nor any mention of Army Rangers, who fought fearlessly in some of the most hostile “Indian Country” in Southeast Asia.
That disappointment aside, the series will begin with Episode One, “Deja Vu: Looking Back on Vietnam’s History from 1858-1961,” with the 10th and final Episode entitled “The Weight of Memory,” from “March 1973-Onward.”
I personally haven’t viewed any of the series which PBS press releases say took 10 years to produce. I have interviewed two Vietnam veterans who have watched the preview clips of the series, and I had an informal chat with the most respected Vietnam reporter to emerge from the war, Joe Galloway, who survived time on the ground with the 1st Cavalry on LZ X-Ray in 1965, which he wrote about in the book and film “We Were Soldiers Once,… and Young.”
The first person is a Green Beret who served in the Special Forces Mike Force in S. Vietnam, and a self-admitted “living liberal.” He said he is looking forward to viewing the entire presentation, but warned: “Some of the footage in there is vivid and shocking….I recommend that any of my Vietnam veteran brothers still coping with PTSD-related issues think twice before viewing it.” Asked for an overall opinion of the presentation: He said, “I think that everyone will find something to criticize in this series. The liberal, anti-war folks will hate it, while many of my Green Beret brothers who truly believed in our mission there and in the rightness of combating communist forces, will hate it because of the air time given to the left.”
A former SEAL was more concise: “I’m not going to waste my time watching it, as it appears to me that Burns is attempting to rewrite the Vietnam War’s history. We lost SEALs in Nam due to intelligence leaks, men died fighting communism and all you saw in the newspapers and Walter Cronkite and his ilk were the negative side of fight guerrilla war….and the impact of the left-leaning media hurt our troops, just like those low-lifes at CNN do today.”
In my informal conversation with living legend Joe Galloway, he said he believed it will be a series worth watching. And, yes, he warned that some of the footage from the series will be shocking — as it was 50 years ago. But, echoing the Green Beret, Galloway felt that every faction from the Vietnam War era will be critical of the series and that as a veteran reporter and writer for more than 55 years in journalism, when every side portrayed in the series or stories complains about them, that is a sign that the project has merit and is balanced.
A PBS release said the series was written by Geoffrey C. Ward, produced by Sarah Botstein, Burns and Novick and that “it includes rarely seen, digitally re-mastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th Century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies, revelatory audio records from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. The series features more than 100 iconic musical recordings from many of the greatest artists of the era, and original music from Trent Reznow and Atticus Ross, as well as the Silk Road Ensemble featuring Yo-Yo Ma.”
No mention of whether they’ll include Jimi Hendrix, the Iron Butterfly, The Doors or Arthur Brown’s classic “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: Fire” – which, when listened to after seeing napalm used in combat, is on target.
As the old drill instructor used to say in basic training: “Standby to stand by.”
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons