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Ken Burns to Tackle Vietnam War

By 03.29.11

For the last two decades, Ken Burns has entertained and educated people without cable by interviewing men with beards. Having already made documentaries about the Civil War and World War II, he’ll next tackle the American conflict in Vietnam. But don’t get too excited just yet — the new doc isn’t scheduled to air until 2016.

The series will explore the military, political, cultural, social, and human dimensions of what has been called “the war of lost illusions.” It will focus primarily on the human experience of the conflict, using eyewitness testimonies of so-called “ordinary” people – Americans as well as Vietnamese – whose lives were touched by the war. Parallel to the unfolding military narrative, the series will also tell the story of the millions of American citizens who became deeply opposed to it, taking to the streets in some of the largest protest demonstrations the nation has seen.

Whew, that’s a relief. Finally, someone is going to give baby boomers a chance to talk about Woodstock. Hey Ken Burns, can you sell this project by talking down to me?

“Today, more than four decades after it ended, nearly everyone has an opinion about the Vietnam War, but few Americans truly know its history and there is little consensus about what happened there, or why,” said Ken Burns. “Our series will shed light both on the history of the war, and on our inability to find common ground about it.”

Ah, that’s nice of Ken to finally shed light on this war that nobody knows anything about.

I’ve got a better idea. Since it’s gonna be five years until this documentary comes out, here are five books about Vietnam that will be more informative and entertaining. Read one a year and you’ll be in better shape than someone sitting around and waiting for Burns to get his sh*t together.

  • Fire in the Lake by Frances FitzGerald.
  • A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan.
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.
  • A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo.
  • Fields of Fire by James Webb.

A lot of people will also suggest Dispatches, but I tend to prefer first-person accounts from soldiers rather than journalists. You also can’t go wrong with We Were Soldiers Once… And Young, but that battle happened before public opinion turned against the war, and thus isn’t as representative of the war. I also enjoyed In Pharaoh’s Army by Tobias Wolff and Fortunate Son by Lewis Puller Jr. But hey, nobody knows what happened in Vietnam, right, Ken Burns? Maybe we should just wait five years for you to inform us.


TAGSDocumentariesKEN BURNSPBS

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