Ken Burns' new documentary: The Vietnam War

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by riverclown, Aug 20, 2017.

  1. PonceDeLeroy

    PonceDeLeroy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    Hoped episode 2 would draw on 1. To me if you didn't see 1, 2 is going to look a lot different to you. You'd miss the hubris and cynicism.

    Also some strange anachronisms. A Woody Guthrie tune? He was in Greystone Hospital in 61, Wardy Forty, or some other institution for his Huntington's disease.

    Still, riveting! "If they killed the right man, they might deal with 1 replacement. But if they killed the wrong man, they had to deal with 10 replacements. And mostly they got the wrong man." 1961
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017
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  2. Lightworker

    Lightworker Forum Resident

    Location:
    Baltimore, MD

    "Education" is a mistress poorly served by the post-modern liberal arts curriculum at most contemporary American universities.
    The STEM programs are better, but are beginning to suffer the intrusion of divisive rhetoric and pseudo-scientific flapdoodle.
     
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  3. John Vann's story is amazing and covered in Neil Sheehan's book "A Bright Shining Lie".
     
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  4. Danby Delight

    Danby Delight Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    Gregg's point that the victory at Dien Bien Phu should have been seen as the end of the colonial era in Asia instead of as some grand win for China is almost startling in its clarity. If only...
     
  5. This is a well done documentary in my opinion.
     
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  6. beccabear67

    beccabear67 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Victoria, Canada
    I'd say the farmers in Vietnam definitely lost along with most everyone else. Such a big mess from so many perspectives. I'm wondering what the British that supported the French colonial occupation were thinking considering that the occupational French worked with the axis Japanese and Nazis. What a lost opportunity to not tell DeGaulle where to go with wanting to keep their conquest (the conquest of a country that was conquered?) and stood with the Vietnamese and Laotians etc.

    We stood with a group of people in Kosovo once who were shot while praying, are we seeing a similar opportunity to make a right choice in relation to some people in need in Bangladesh right now despite labels being there of people we have had conflicts with like for the communism label? You make a bad choice on some of these things and you might not ever get a chance at any choice being right later on. Backing Diem or backing a coup was one of those no good choices left situations.

    Education is not intelligence, and they do say that a little information in the wrong hands can be a bad thing. Maybe it's a genuine love of learning that marks the difference? There are good and bad people among every group, but that seems pretty obvious. If we can only figure out how to get the actual best and brightest and not the skim milk masquerading as cream, and then balance with a variety...
     
  7. SizzleVonSizzleton

    SizzleVonSizzleton Forum Resident

    In this second episode I was taken by two things.

    1. When they said early in the episode that Kennedy, McNamara and three other top aides (sorry, can't remember their names) all had military experience.

    2. At the end when Kennedy was dictating on November 4 1963, how he was admitting mistakes and taking responsibility.
     
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  8. PonceDeLeroy

    PonceDeLeroy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    Glad to hear you say that! I am from a rice farming family in Louisiana during this war. At one time I was an ACE teenage farmer who could cut levees with a shovel and drain a rice field of water like you wouldn't believe, under direction of my daddy. All this footage of soldiers marching through rice fields might not mean much to most viewers, but to me THIS is a big part of the meaning of the destruction of war. I felt it when it was going on. DONT BE MEAN TO RICE FIELDS YOU IDIOTS! It kills the waterfowl we love to eat.
     
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  9. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Location:
    Marple, PA, USA
    I had always heard that Kennedy did a big smoke and mirrors campaign with Nam, good to get the details.
    Yes, again--all those people with military backgrounds, but no one who had a clear eyed view of the situation. We just figured we could bulldoze our way through, cuz we're huge and morally correct.

    Poor Vann, it would have been like if Lee could have watched Pickett's charge from above--eyeing the slaughter and powerless to change anything.

    Oh yea, and the 'barbecuing monks' remark was the height of compassion. :wtf:
     
  10. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Location:
    Texas
  11. riverclown

    riverclown Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Bradenton, FL
    To the extent what's presented is true, it reflects worse on JFK than I'd thought. He knew it was unwinnable and would be costly in lives and treasure to proceed, yet in the next sentence he says he refuses to withdraw. Why? because it would hurt him politically in '64. Yes, politicians make decisions for political reasons all the time. But to do so when it comes to war, I think reflects extremely badly. Hardly a profile in courage. he could have withdrawn and used his position to teach and lead the country. The best you can say is after winning the '64 election he would have withdrawn from VN and certainly would not have built up like LBJ did. But no way of knowing.
     
  12. Jose Jones

    Jose Jones Outstanding Forum Member

    Location:
    Detroit, Michigan
    I am enjoying the documentary so far. I don't really care about the music choices; that's not the point of this show.
     
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  13. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Location:
    Marple, PA, USA
    A lot of JFK's initiatives were stalling in fall '63, IRRC, even his budget. Any EEO bill looked doomed.
    He was getting hit from many sides; Camelot was not all tuxes and Casals playing. Nam was just another pawn on the chessboard at the time. As Riverclown says, it wasn't the first time where a war becomes a political issue.
     
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  14. Atmospheric

    Atmospheric Forum Resident

    Location:
    Newberg, OR USA
    I'm a day behind, but I really enjoyed episode 1. I thought I knew a lot about the Viet Nam war, but the background was fascinating. The oft repeated pattern of arming a faction because it meets short-term policy objectives, only to have that same faction become an enemy in the future. I suppose that's been happening as long as their have been countries and factions.

    The quote that really hit me hard was the former soldier who said, "People say that the military teaches people to kill. But really, the military is just finishing school." Powerful truth there I think.
     
  15. Atmospheric

    Atmospheric Forum Resident

    Location:
    Newberg, OR USA
    I would add that after hearing Malcom Gladwell's podcast about Woodrow Wilson, I find it hard to admire him on any level. The man was as ardent and nasty a racist who has ever walked the earth. He certainly did have the knack for self-promotion. I'll give him that.
     
  16. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Location:
    Marple, PA, USA
    Karma caught up with him, IMO
     
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  17. RK2249

    RK2249 Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Jersey
    The other main point was that he refused to let South Vietnam become Communist, for fear of the domino effect; so there was no way he was going to withdraw...regardless of politics.
     
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  18. dougotte

    dougotte Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Thanks. After I asked the question, I remembered that The Roosevelts was in stereo, too.

    I'll echo what others have posted. The first segment was brilliant. I was only vaguely aware of the history of the country prior to the 1960s. How strange it must seem to older citizens to have 40 years of relative peace and prosperity after so many decades of subjugation, poverty, war, and brutality...
     
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  19. VU Master

    VU Master Forum Resident

    My biggest interest in life has long been traveling in and learning about SE Asia. I managed to visit Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in the mid 80's when that was still quite difficult (the Khmer Rouge were still hanging on in Cambodia at the time; we sometimes heard shelling at night) and have been fanatical about collecting and reading books and magazines about the region, late 1800's to contemporary. I was in Hanoi about 2 weeks ago (and recognized a couple of locations in the old images last night).

    So I had been looking forward to the series, am set to record all the episodes, and saw the first one last night. The lesser known early history is more interesting to me, so I was really wondering what would be presented in that first episode. I thought it was very very good, and learned a lot. Burns dug up a lot of fantastic, important older footage and images. I liked the interviews with the older Vietnamese from both sides, especially the woman whose family lived east of Hanoi, and were not allied with the communists. Her perspective and comments were really interesting.

    Next year I plan to visit Dien Bien Phu (have wanted to go there for a long time). I was especially interested in that part of episode 1, and thought it was done very well.

    Like others here, I don't quite understand the reason for the flash-forwards, and don't think they added much. Actually I would rather have seen more early historical stuff instead, since we'll be moving on soon anyway. But that is a minor complaint.

    I thought the presentation was generally very balanced, though its clear position is that the war was wrong and a tragic mistake. That is the consensus these days, though I'm sure that some will still disagree or resent the conclusion.

    I hope the series will seriously explore events in Cambodia and Laos in later episodes, and America's roles in those countries during the Vietnam era, which were mostly concealed from the public at the time.
     
  20. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered

    I thought it was telling when Kennedy said that if he let one Asian country fall to the Communists, he'd have a hard time in the election.
     
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  21. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Location:
    Marple, PA, USA
    Don't forget the Texas trip in November was mostly political in nature. The natives were restless and Johnson wasn't sure he could deliver Texas in '64.
     
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  22. beccabear67

    beccabear67 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Victoria, Canada
    I've always seen McNamara as this numbers on pieces of paper guy from the Ford Motor Co., sort of the main force behind the emphasis on body count and statistics over actual reality. Kennedy knew at least from talking to reporters who had been there awhile the real situation, but sometimes there are no good choices available. We know he and Johnson doubted South Vietnam could work with what and who was there, but I guess they hoped enough sheer force and damage would lead to some negotiated stalemate as happened with Korea. They didn't count on the resistance and criticism that built in the U.S., and the lengths it would go to (like people waving North Vietnamese flags must have seemed unthinkable) and then the lengths of the reaction against that as well.

    Vietnam and Cambodia were the rice bowl of Asia, and yet now they're still probably still finding land mines there. Those fortified villages they made people move to disrupted some of that on their own. Millions starved under Mao, so there's what you get with a political fanatic in charge of agriculture. Things no doubt made sense on the pieces of paper at the time to those at the top on both sides. One side was importing almost all it's food too.

    The music (vintage and Trent Reznor) isn't really doing too much for me. Will be nice to hear more of the Yo Yo Ma contribution maybe.
     
  23. riverclown

    riverclown Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Bradenton, FL
    Received my blu ray set today. My only gripe is that when the menu loop comes up you have to wait through a full minute of the loop of pictures before the options pop up and you can do anything. Very strange - I have never seen this before and think it must be some sort of technical screw up - on every set. Can't believe they would do nonsense like this deliberately. The good thing is it has a resume feature, so you only have to sit through that once per disc.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
  24. dougotte

    dougotte Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Although it wasn't always a one-to-one match, I got the feeling that they were intended to demonstrate that the US made the same assumptions and mistakes that the prior colonizers had made. This hammered home the theme that was stated early on about not learning from history...
     
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  25. agentalbert

    agentalbert Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Antonio, TX
    Just watched the first episode and will probably stop with the 2nd. The pre-US troop involvement was the only part I was interested in as it is something I didn't know much about. I didn't like the frequent flash forward segments in that episode as I found them distracting and out of place, and ended up fast forwarding over most of them.
     

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