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A Series That Starts Out Strong, But Finishes with A Whimper
on December 25, 2011
The series starts out strong with some vivid images and compelling stories that bring back strong personal memories of the early years of the Vietnam War. We really thought that once the U.S. military arrived in force it would be over within a year or so. I was in the fifth grade in 1965. Seven years later, in 1972, I was graduating from high school and facing the prospect of being drafted to fight in what appeared to be a never ending war.
I was impressed with the early episodes of this series, but it goes down hill beginning with episode 3. First, though the producers come up with some very good images of the war, they did not do their research very well. They show images of US Army infantrymen in combat while telling a story concerning the Marines on the DMZ. There are many examples of the film not matching the story being told. Second, by episode 3 they are starting to repeat the same film images over and over again. Third, there is virtually no mention of the other Free World allies that supported our war effort - the Australians, New Zealanders, South Korean, Thai, the Philipino soldiers who fought side by side with us. Unlike today's "Coalition of the Willing" in Afghanistan and Iraq, these Allies stayed with us to the very end in 1972 and did more than their fair share of the fighting. However, you would not know that watching this series. And finally, while the series emphasizes that we propped up an corrupt regime in Saigon, it seldom mentions that the ARVN did a majority of the fighting and dying in that war.
The one compelling segment of this series centers on the 1968 Tet Offensive and the reaction of the Johnson Administration. It recounts the reaction of the Administration, their weighing the costs of escalation and total mobilization of the US military in reaction to the offensive and other ongoing crisis around the world. And more importantly, how the American Public began to turn against the war.
The last episode glosses over the last significant acts of the war - Lam Son 719 invasion into Laos in 1971, the Easter Offensive of 1972 and more importantly, the Linebacker raids of December 1972. The series talks about the North Vietnamese going back to the peace talks in early 1973 without explaining why. Instead, the series degenerates into individual stories of veterans and citizens turning against the war and their government.
This series follows a trend in movies, books and the popular culture that promotes an American centric view of our history, especially our military history. This trend has prompted us to rename past wars with politically correct titles, leaves the public with the impression that only the US fought in World War II and that Vietnam was a "civil war" that became an "American" War. Never mind that our intentions were to stop the spread of Communism in the middle of a very heated "Cold War".
I cannot, in good conscious, recommend this series. There is too much shoddy research and poor editing to make this series worth while. Unfortunately, there are no series that presents an impartial and accurate view of the War in Indochina. Most of what's out there promotes a stereotypical, biased view that has come to be accepted by the public who is beginning to forget what it was really like during those years - both over there and here in the states.