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The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick. Premieres Sunday Sept. 17 on PBS.

Poindexter

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Aug 25, 2010
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I'll have to double check that particular spot, but most of the audio is dubbed in from what I can tell.
Yeah please let me know. It crackles the exact same way on my phone and laptop at that point as it does on my home theater setup.

It comes at about 3:45 in the 5th episode
 

Phrynobatrachus

Neo Member
Jul 7, 2014
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Yeah please let me know. It crackles the exact same way on my phone and laptop at that point as it does on my home theater setup.

It comes at about 3:45 in the 5th episode

yeah same for me. I can't imagine it's intentional, whether the audio is original or not.
 

Poindexter

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Aug 25, 2010
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yeah same for me. I can't imagine it's intentional, whether the audio is original or not.
Yeah i found it in a few other places. It might be whatever compression they're using for the audio stream on those frequencies. Either way I'm really happy that its not my new sound system.

However i would love if someone here that has the blu ray could check because i plan on buying it and hopefully its not present on it.
 

Poindexter

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Aug 25, 2010
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Am I crazy or did last nights episode recycle some of the interview footage?
I knew i had seen it before but i thought it was from all the previews I had watched. Probably from the first 2 episodes before they really got into the American soldiers POV and just did some fast forward snippets
 

nampad

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Feb 19, 2013
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I am in episode 3 right now.

While I dreaded to see Agent Orange victims again, I was kind of baffled they skipped that part completely after showing it getting used.

Also, the Gulf of Tonkin incident was reported without any bit of the controversy. While it was said that there wasn't no second attack after all and that the US fired first, no word about the US misrepresenting what happened to escalate the war. It was just dealt up as a mistake.
 

ibyea

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Jul 18, 2014
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I watched the first three episodes. Literally everyone makes all the wrong decisions. And they do so while saying things like "oh if we go into Vietnam we are never getting out".
 

Neith

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Apr 25, 2017
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Really good so far. Everything about Vietnam just seems so pointless. Much off it seemingly started and went on to save face.

And the music...man. As tragic as those times were some damn good music came out.

What a fucking crazy and useless war this was. I mean jesus. I guess the banking cartels maybe enjoyed it? I have no idea why this thing ever took place.

I am in episode 3 right now.

While I dreaded to see Agent Orange victims again, I was kind of baffled they skipped that part completely after showing it getting used.

Also, the Gulf of Tonkin incident was reported without any bit of the controversy. While it was said that there wasn't no second attack after all and that the US fired first, no word about the US misrepresenting what happened to escalate the war. It was just dealt up as a mistake.

Burns will often slide by the controversial parts in a war be it whatever conspiracy or event happened. I think it is for the best to be honest otherwise it detracts too much from the whole thing and poses too many questions that often cannot be answered in the 10-30 minute time frame.

I bet not a lot of people in the know wanted to talk about Tonkin.
 
Aug 6, 2006
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Despite my criticism below, I do think that this series is mostly good. It's quite interesting for sure! But I do have some issues with it...

Ho Chi Minh sounds like he was a good guy. When we learned about this in school he was always sort of painted as a tyrant.

Well, on the one hand he does kind of seem to be a good person, who first and foremost wanted to free his country from foreign oppression. However, over time more dedicated Communists gained power. The series does do a decently good job of pointing out how Ho Chi Minh was not actually the most politically powerful figure in North Vietnam during the war, he was instead kind of a figurehead for the true, much more militant leaders beneath him.

It's that latter part that probably is the worst thing about him, that while Ho himself may have been mostly decent, the Communist Party under him did some pretty bad things, either behind his back (such as the time the series mentions they purged people while he was out of the country), despite his opposition (such as the time the series mentions when he was sent to China for medical treatment, and totally not because he opposed the Tet Offensive policy), or surely in some cases with his support. The Vietnamese Communist Party may have started out more focused on nationalism than communism, but by the '60s it was mostly the other way around and things got even worse once they took over the whole country -- see the Boat People debacle for example. That was after his death, but even before that there were plenty of pretty bad things they did.

Probably the worst things you could say about him are that (1) his military strategy greatly devalued human life and (2) land reform was brutal and violent, a lot of landlords and 'reactionaries' got murdered on trumped up changes. Of course that's balanced by his nationalist bona fides and the stories of how he tried to get a meeting with Woodrow Wilson and was told to fuck off and his quotation of the Declaration of Independence in 1945, which are well known now.

He's also not quite in the totalitarian Stalin or Mao mold in that Ho Chi Minh never held absolute power within Vietnam; throughout the 1960s the most powerful man in Vietnam was Le Duan. He was always super important as a symbol though as the cult of personality lasts even to this day. That majestic beard.
That's the thing -- if the more moderate guy is kind of a figurehead by the time the war starts, how much responsibility does he have for the actions Le Duan and co. took, using him as their public face while often ignoring his tendency towards caution?

As for his military strategy though, if they were going to fight a war, what else could they have done when facing a vastly more powerful and well-armed opponent like the United States?


Seriously though, for me the big question about Ho Chi Minh is, if the US had, in 1945-46, decided to support independence and elections and such in Vietnam instead of backing the French and deciding all Communists everywhere were all equally evil, what would have happened? Would Vietnam have ended up run by dedicated pro-Russian/Chinese Communists anyway, like it was by the late '60s, or could more friendly US involvement kept that from happening... I'd like to say it could have, but it's hard to say. Regardless we should never have sent the troops in, it was one of America's worst mistakes, but beyond that it raises some interesting questions.


Watched the whole docu on arte this week. Very interesting, but holy shit I never knew that more than 1m soldiers died on NV's side. A slaughterhouse.
Who cares about that, only the 50-something thousand Americans who died are in any way relevant! (So says most American history of the war...)

I am in episode 3 right now.

While I dreaded to see Agent Orange victims again, I was kind of baffled they skipped that part completely after showing it getting used.
Seriously, Agent Orange and such deserves a lot of attention here, how could they not focus on it? At least they mention a few bad things about use of napalm, but agent orange... they're like, 'they used this defoliant' and that's it, so far at least (through ep. 5).

Also, the Gulf of Tonkin incident was reported without any bit of the controversy. While it was said that there wasn't no second attack after all and that the US fired first, no word about the US misrepresenting what happened to escalate the war. It was just dealt up as a mistake.
Yeah, that is probably my biggest issue with this show so far. The second Gulf of Tonkin incident wasn't just some mistake like this mostly-good series misrepresents it to be, it was an intentional deception by the Johnson Administration used to set off a war he wanted to fight! This series mentions many of the facts of what happened, but never attempts to connect the dots or actually say what really happened there. The "second Gulf of Tonkin Incident" is what started the war, it never happened, and the Johnson Administration knew that probably nothing had happened that day but decided to attack in "response" anyway. The show's excuse is that they thought something had happened, but do you really start a war because "maybe something happened but we have no proof" and "well probably nothing happened but it might have perhaps"? Well you do, but only if you want to start a war whether or not enough has happened to actually go to war yet.

Now, war may well have started anyway regardless of that decision since as the show does make clear the North Vietnamese leadership was looking for a fight, but still, how it did start is important: we almost certainly fired the first shots.

The government's lies about the Vietnam War are a very important part of the story, and with the far too credulous way the series reports on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, I'm not too optimistic about how it will deal with the lying issues later on once the public really started to get upset about it... unless they are planning to cover that stuff then and not before, that is. We'll see once we get to that point, I guess.

What a fucking crazy and useless war this was. I mean jesus. I guess the banking cartels maybe enjoyed it? I have no idea why this thing ever took place.
It happened because of Domino Theory. Burns does say this, several times; recall the video clip with then-Vice President Nixon showing how if Vietnam falls, next will go Malaysia, etc, etc. If we lose Vietnam we lose the whole region, and we can't lose regions of the world to the reds so we've got to fight even if it seems like a bad idea!

Now, I would say that domino theory proved quite thoroughly wrong, but Cold War America wasn't going to take any chances, even when it meant doing incredibly stupid things.

Plus, as JFK said in one audio clip, how could he win re-election if he looks soft on communism? The thing only makes "sense" in the context of the Cold War, basically.

Burns will often slide by the controversial parts in a war be it whatever conspiracy or event happened. I think it is for the best to be honest otherwise it detracts too much from the whole thing and poses too many questions that often cannot be answered in the 10-30 minute time frame.

I bet not a lot of people in the know wanted to talk about Tonkin.
But by ignoring the controversial and worst elements of your subject, you render the whole work far less important and worthwhile! The primary point of the Vietnam War is basically about the excesses the US went to in our anti-Communist fervor. Fighting Communism was important, but Vietnam showed us going way too far in that endeavor and killing a whole lot of innocent people in the process. Burns kind of makes that point, but never really sticks to it and it's frustrating.

I need to get a copy of Burns' The Civil War. I've only seen parts of it on TV and in class but never the whole thing, in order. The man is a master at what he does though.
It was good at the time but retrospect buys in far too hard to the very bad old story about how great Lee was and such. Newer works do a much better job of representing Lee as the sometimes cruel and dedicated supporter of slavery that he really was, and not as the near-deified figure most 20th century histories present him as.

Am I crazy or did last nights episode recycle some of the interview footage?
The first episode had a bunch of clips in it that turn out to be bits of later episodes, yes. Like, 'here is how it started but this is where it went later on' has to be the idea.
 

Markoman

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Just curious, do you Americans have to watch this on paid TV?
As I've said before, the whole docu (spoiler:
eyerone loses
) was already screened here in Germany last week on a free French-German colabo channel with focus on culture + politics.

Stuff like this has to be accessible to everyone for educational reasons.
 

Morat

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Apr 30, 2014
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I'm reading that Burns refers to the Golf of Tonkin incident as a real event, rather than a made up casus belli the US used to justify the war? Is this the case in the documentary, because if so that's massive lie, and a very bad start to the series.
 
Sep 1, 2011
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Just curious, do you Americans have to watch this on paid TV?
As I've said before, the whole docu (spoiler:
eyerone loses
) was already screened here in Germany last week on a free French-German colabo channel with focus on culture + politics.

Stuff like this has to be accessible to everyone for educational reasons.

Its by PBS(Public Broadcasting Service) thats why it has a billion "brought to you by" at the beginning of each episode.
 

dabig2

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May 15, 2007
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hype alley
I'm reading that Burns refers to the Golf of Tonkin incident as a real event, rather than a made up casus belli the US used to justify the war? Is this the case in the documentary, because if so that's massive lie, and a very bad start to the series.

The documentary does say that the 2nd incident was a fabrication by the US. Quoting from the documentary after they show a convo between McNamara and Johnson talking about how they want to really retaliate against NK after presuming a 2nd attack was 100% going to happen:

Narrator: "No 2nd attack ever happened. But at the time, anxious American sonar operators aboard the Maddux and Turner Joy convinced themselves one had. The attack was 'probable, but not certain' Johnson was told; and since it had 'probably' occurred, the President decided that it should not go unanswered."

The only issue is that they don't go further into it after beginning the segment calling it "one of the most controversial and consequential events in American history". They could've hounded the administration a bit more in that it's clear that they knew it was all bullshit, and that the administration finally got their wish to employ these war scenarios they had already cooked up and clearly wanted to enact. The doc alllllmost gets there. Unfortunately, instead of offering another minute railing into the Johnson administration after his clear hypocritical address to the nation, they cut away to the repercussions of the conflict heating up instead (Alvarez's plane getting hit on a bombing run and captured as the first POW).

The doc also failed to mention that McNamara withheld information from Johnson that the captain of the ship had already basically reversed his entire position of "probable attack" on the same day. And they also should have mentioned that the NSA was also involved in withholding key information that would have forced Johnson to wait.
 

Markoman

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Nixon was a lot worse morally than Ho Chi Minh.

Nixon not ending up in jail is one of the biggest travesties of this war.
It seems like most presidents run for this position out of narcissitic reasons -get there, stay there- with a "don't go to jail"-card.

At least we got the Nixon running gag on The Simpsons to remind us what a crook he was.
 

Llyranor

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The doc also failed to mention that McNamara withheld information from Johnson that the captain of the ship had already basically reversed his entire position of "probable attack" on the same day. And they also should have mentioned that the NSA was also involved in withholding key information that would have forced Johnson to wait.
Absolutely criminal. Does any documentary/book go into more detail on this?
 

dabig2

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May 15, 2007
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Absolutely criminal. Does any documentary/book go into more detail on this?

For the NSA's involvement, the original NYT article on it sheds a lot of information:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/02/politics/vietnam-war-intelligence-deliberately-skewed-secret-study-says.html?mcubz=0
The National Security Agency has released hundreds of pages of long-secret documents on the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, which played a critical role in significantly expanding the American commitment to the Vietnam War.

The material, posted on the Internet overnight Wednesday, included one of the largest collections of secret intercepted communications ever made available. The most provocative document is a 2001 article in which an agency historian argued that the agency's intelligence officers "deliberately skewed" the evidence passed on to policy makers and the public to falsely suggest that North Vietnamese ships had attacked American destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964.

Based on the assertion that such an attack had occurred, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered airstrikes on North Vietnam and Congress passed a broad resolution authorizing military action.


The historian, Robert J. Hanyok, wrote the article in an internal publication and it was classified top secret despite the fact that it dealt with events in 1964. Word of Mr. Hanyok's findings leaked to historians outside the agency, who requested the article under the Freedom of Information Act in 2003.

Some intelligence officials said they believed the article's release was delayed because the agency was wary of comparisons between the roles of flawed intelligence in the Vietnam War and in the war in Iraq. Mr. Hanyok declined to comment on Wednesday. But Don Weber, an agency spokesman, denied that any political consideration was involved.

"There was never a decision not to release the history" written by Mr. Hanyok, Mr. Weber said. On the contrary, he said, the release was delayed because the agency wanted to make public the raw material Mr. Hanyok used for his research.

"The goal here is to allow people to wade through all that information and draw their own conclusions," he said.

Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, called the release of the document "terrific," noting that the eavesdropping material known as signals intelligence, or sigint, is the most secret information the government has.
[...]

[..]
In his 2001 article, an elaborate piece of detective work, Mr. Hanyok wrote that 90 percent of the intercepts of North Vietnamese communications relevant to the supposed Aug. 4, 1964, attack were omitted from the major agency documents going to policy makers.

"The overwhelming body of reports, if used, would have told the story that no attack had happened," he wrote. "So a conscious effort ensued to demonstrate that an attack occurred."


Edwin E. Moïse, a historian at Clemson University who wrote a book on the Gulf of Tonkin incident, said the agency did the right thing in making public Mr. Hanyok's damning case. "A lot of people at the agency haven't been happy that communications intelligence was used to support a wrong conclusion," he said.

Agency employees worked late Wednesday to meet a self-imposed end-of-November deadline, posting the intercepts, oral history interviews with retired agency officials and internal reports on the agency's Web site at www.nsa.gov/vietnam/index.cfm.
[...]


A good documentary on how bullshit the whole Gulf of Tonkin was even beyond the false 2nd attack is the 1968 documentary "In the Year of the Pig". Timestamped it for relevant leadup to the Gulf of Tonkin. Basically detailing how the US kept escalating to the point that any crisis, made up or real, would then justify us to put into action the war scenarios that were already drawn up.
https://youtu.be/sz8H_oi1ck0?t=3471
 
Feb 21, 2010
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Just finished the 10th episode.
I would argue that this is perhaps the most important documentary for today's america. The parallels one can draw with today, makes it the most important piece of education on what can happen if a nation forgets it's own humanity for the pursuit of goals.
It is a masterful work.
 

Spike Spiegel

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Jun 7, 2004
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Tonight's episode:



Episode 06. "Things Fall Apart" (January 1968-July 1968)
On the eve of the Tet holiday, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launch surprise attacks on cities and military bases throughout the south, suffering devastating losses but casting grave doubt on Johnson's promise that there is ”light at the end of the tunnel." The president decides not to run again and the country is staggered by assassinations and unrest.
Watch the episode online @ PBS.org
 

PillarEN

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Feb 23, 2015
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Good bump to remind us streamers.

I looked to see and clicking on each of 6-10, they all show up as playable now.
 

Jhoan

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Oct 26, 2008
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Holy crap! This doc is unflinchingly brutally honest with showing the violence and horrors of the war. I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight after watching that South Vietnam soldier get executed. Stuff in Vietnam was super messed up. I'm watching it in the background because it's tough for me to watch.
 

ReadingRambo

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Holy crap! This doc is unflinchingly brutal with showing the violence and horrors of war. I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight after watching that South Vietnamese soldier get executed. Stuff is super messed up. I'm watching it in the background because it's tough for me to watch.
That was a VC being killed by a South Vietnamese policeman if I remember the story.
 

Jhoan

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That was a VC being killed by a South Vietnamese policeman if I remember the story.

Thanks for the correction! The picture that the war photographer at the exact moment the gun went off into the VC's head was quite brutal.

Now I finally understand why my grandfather teared up as he described a bit of what he saw in Vietnam way before my grandmother passed away years ago. He still had a flamethrower and a few other things from the war in the Dominican Republic. I hope he found peace in putting those memories behind him even though it's something that he lives with for the rest of his life.
 

glow

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Apr 13, 2008
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Wow @ the marine admitting he sexually took advantage of a starving girl in exchange for c-rations during the battle of Hue. Took a lot of balls to say that on camera and he's still clearly broken up about it. Doesn't justify what he did though, just surprising how candid he was about it
 

LQX

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Dec 18, 2008
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Wow, the Vietnamese death toll was staggering during the Tet Offensive and it seemingly was very well planned. Over 50,000 died in contrast to about 500.
 

siddx

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Thanks for the correction! The picture that the war photographer at the exact moment the gun went off into the VC's head was quite brutal.

Now I finally understand why my grandfather teared up as he described a bit of what he saw in Vietnam way before my grandmother passed away years ago. He still had a flamethrower and a few other things from the war in the Dominican Republic. I hope he found peace in putting those memories behind him even though it's something that he lives with for the rest of his life.

If it's the picture I'm thinking it is, the man being executed had just been caught after murdering a policeman's family. The man doing the killing was the best friend of the man whose family was brutally murdered by the soldier, whose mission was to sneak into the south kill women and children to punish and demoralize southerners.
 

darkwing-buck

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If it's the picture I'm thinking it is, the man being executed had just been caught after murdering a policeman's family. The man doing the killing was the best friend of the man whose family was brutally murdered by the soldier, whose mission was to sneak into the south kill women and children to punish and demoralize southerners.

I remember reading an article somewhere I forgot where, but the photographer regretted taking that photo since it ruined the Police Chief's life.
 

Chichikov

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Jul 26, 2006
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Finished it. It's a masterpiece, I might have some more detailed thought later.

One thing I should note that while I expect people to debate and disagree in the way certain events and people are depicted, and that's expected and fair, such discussion is always welcome, I would also want to note that I believe that the series managed to paint an image of the Vietnam War that is true, clear and poignant. And that's would a monumental achievement even if the series did not function so remarkably well as a film.

I only wish they chose a song I like more to end the show with, but I would imagine most people would be happy with that choice.

p.s.
On a lighter note, spoilers -
The anti war movement turned John Musgrave from a CoD default character to a sexy T.J. Miller. Them hippies got mad powers.
 

Phrynobatrachus

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Jul 7, 2014
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Finished it last night. It's a very well put together piece, though I can't shake the feeling that it's still lacking somehow. It tries too hard to be neutral and loses something in the process. I expected the final episode to get into some more details about the lasting effects of Agent Orange on US veterans and the Vietnamese people, but that was entirely glossed over.
 

master15

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Just finished watching the entire series. Absolutely amazing and gut wrenching but as some early comments suggested, I still felt something was missing. Perhaps that's a product of what was an disorganized, phantom war in many ways.

I will probably need to digest this and will share more later.
 

TheOfficeMut

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Just finished watching the entire series. Absolutely amazing and gut wrenching but as some early comments suggested, I still felt something was missing. Perhaps that's a product of what was an disorganized, phantom war in many ways.

I will probably need to digest this and will share more later.

Even with all-encompassing and sprawling documentaries like this, I'd recommend a lot of supplemental material on a subject to get a good idea of what happened, especially for a war as complicated as Vietnam.
 

master15

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Even with all-encompassing and sprawling documentaries like this, I'd recommend a lot of supplemental material on a subject to get a good idea of what happened, especially for a war as complicated as Vietnam.

Absolutely. Do you have any recommendations? Particularly on the documentary/video side of things?
 

Kuno

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YO check it out YO
It blew my mind to learn how Nixon
basically committed treason by deliberately sabotaging SVN/NVN peace talks to sustain his lead in the '68 election over Hubert Humphrey. And that Lyndon Johnson knew about this because he was wiretapping Nixon...
No wonder some people don't trust the government.

Maybe I hadn't heard about it because hard evidence only came to light less than a year ago:
 

Spike Spiegel

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Tonight's episode:



Episode 07. "The Veneer of Civilization" (June 1968-May 1969)
Public support for the war declines, and American men of draft age face difficult decisions and wrenching moral choices. After police battle with demonstrators in the streets of Chicago, Richard Nixon wins the presidency, promising law and order at home and peace overseas. In Vietnam, the war goes on and soldiers on all sides witness terrible savagery and unflinching courage.
Watch the episode online @ PBS.org