I’m halfway through the ten-part documentary series, The Vietnam War, a profound examination of the deeply-complicated history of the American military campaign in Vietnam. Released late last year on PBS, the series was conceived by Ken Burns and his team at Florentine Films—his production company based in New Hampshire. The series is a comprehensive examination of the decade-long affair as seen through the eyes of its participants on either side; a seventeen-hour production that was over ten years in the making.
I’ve always had a morbid fascination with the Vietnam war, specifically for the cultural revolution that exploded out of those times. Films like Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter and Full Metal Jacket had a profound effect on me as a teenager. The 'swinging sixties’ was more than the Rolling Stones and free love; it was Huey Bell helicopters, camo-green jackets and news footage of Napalm desecrating miles of verdant jungle.
The context of the Cold War was the basis of the conflict, a political tug-of-war between the forces of 'good and evil'. You come away with the sense that the political machine — the cold-hearted rhetoric — differed so greatly from the realities of everyday people. All anyone wanted, on either side, was the freedom to live their life the way they wanted. It was this statement, uttered by a former Viet-Cong soldier that brought it all into focus:
“I witnessed Americans dying. Even though I don’t know their language, I saw them crying and holding each other. When one was killed, the others stuck together. They carried away the body, and they wept. I witnessed such scenes and I thought, Americans, like us Vietnamese, also have a profound sense of humanity. They cared about each other. It made me think a lot."
— Le Cong Huan
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