The Vietnam War: At last, the truth
Clio, the Goddess of History, would have to say that the major media first drafts of Vietnam War history have been pretty lousy. In fact, even the second drafts – the early and supposedly scholarly books and TV series have been almost as inaccurate.
But, in the fullness of time, Clio gets her wish and the truth of what actually happened begins to dribble out and get into print and even into television documentaries. A case in point is: “The Long Way Home Project,” a four-part, four-hour television documentary that at long last gets the causes of the Vietnam War, its conduct and its aftermath essentially correct.
Viewers of 160 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations are in for a treat beginning on Sunday, July 11th when the first episode entitled: “Men Versus Myth” airs from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. “Men Versus Myth” tells the real story of the 2.6 million men and women who served during America’s longest war.
The following Sunday, PBS will air “How We Won the War” during the same time slot. This episode details with stunning clarity and careful documentation how the Paris Accords of 1973 codified the victory of the United States and its allies over the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong.
On the third Sunday, views will see: “How We Lost the War.” How defeat was snatched in 1975 from the jaws of victory when the North Vietnamese Government broke its pledge to stay out of South Vietnam and the U.S. Congress (pushed by the anti-war movement) stained our national honor by refusing to live up to our solemn, written commitments to return to South Vietnam in force should the North Vietnamese invade again.
On the fourth and final Sunday, you will see: “The New Diaspora,” the heroic efforts of the peoples of South Vietnam and Cambodia to survive the communist “reeducation” (read death) camps and how they launched themselves into makeshift boats trying to reach freedom.
By now, millions of Americans were not even born or were not old enough to be exposed to the faulty first drafts of the history of the Vietnam War. Parents would be well-advised to sit down and watch this four-part series with their children. It corrects the fraudulent reporting that attended and followed our experience in Vietnam.
For example, the PBS series: “Vietnam, A Television History” wasn’t history. It was the personal recollections of reporter, Stanley Karnow, whose best buddy during the years Karnow spent in South Vietnam was later exposed as a Viet Cong agent. Now we know why Karnow characterized the murderous North Vietnamese dictator, Ho Chi Minh, as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln all rolled into one.
Dan Rather fronted for the CBS “documentary” “A Wall Within” which was designed to show that all returning Vietnam veterans were psychologically disturbed nuts. Later it was discovered that seven of Dan Rather’s featured Vietnam veterans were fakes. Some had never even served in the military at all. CBS never apologized.
Instead of relying on personal recollections, the producers of “The Long Way Home Project” have turned to several eminent historians. In particular, Dr. Lewis “Bob” Sorley whose book A Better War was the first to detail the extent of our victory in 1973.
And B.G. Burkett, the co-author of Stolen Valor, which debunked many of the myths about who fought in the Vietnam War and what they did on their return.
Ninety-seven percent of the Vietnam veterans received honorable discharges and came home to lead quiet, productive lives. The editor of Vietnam Magazine and the author of five books on Vietnam claimed to have performed secret Special Forces missions in Laos. A check of his military records revealed he had never been in Vietnam or Laos or in combat -- ever.
If they get PBS up on Mount Olympus, Clio will be watching every Sunday beginning on July 11th. The Goddess of History will have to say: “Those mortals finally got it right.”
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today served two years in Vietnam and Cambodia. He is a former professor of history at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
©2004. William Hamilton.