Vietnam War: “No recounting of the Vietnam War, or rather the American War in Vietnam, will satisfy everyone. The subject is too vast, too complex, and too divisive.” – Jim Laurie, correspondent for ABC and NBC.
Nowadays, Memorial Day parades include a color guard of Vietnam War veterans.
If I happen to be home, those veterans are friends of mine and they bravely served in what was the most divisive war in our nation’s history, except for the War Between the States.
It’s been 44 years – August 1973 – since the last U.S. troops came home, but the emotions tied to that war are still close to the surface. Now, noted documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’s latest work, “The Vietnam War,” has launched yet another round of discussion about the war, the reasons for it, and its lasting effect.
Most of the comments about the 18-hour film have been positive.
But not all.
Bing West, who served in the Marine infantry in Vietnam and wrote, “The Village,” agrees that the film is generally accurate, with this exception:
“Indeed, the brave American veterans are portrayed with a keen sense of regret and embarrassment about the war, a distortion that must not go unanswered. And the film implies an unearned moral equivalence between antiwar protesters and those who fought.”
Those protests were largely missing in South Dakota during the late 1960s. But elsewhere, they were prevalent and oftentimes violent. The reaction by many South Dakotans to those protests was similar to today: Protesting is fine and a civic right. But when it involves violence to law enforcement and destruction of property, it crosses the line.
Nor is there even today universal agreement on who won the war.
In a widely quoted story, Col. Harry G. Summers Jr. told of a meeting he had with a North Vietnamese colonel named Tu in 1975. Said Summers: “You know, you never defeated us on the battlefield.”
To which Tu responded: “That may be so. But it is also irrelevant.”
Over the years I have visited with many Vietnam veterans, including my friend Bill Bailey, who sums it up as well as any.
“We were there for one reason. That was to stop the unwanted spread of communism. Although it was a very misguided war and very costly in young lives, I believe in its own way, it did help slow communist aggression.
“I think if the American people and the DC politicians had gotten behind the war effort, we should have come out with nothing less than we did in Korea. The chaos back in States lowered the morale of the U.S troops and raised that of the communists.”
Sept. 27, 2017