How Many Vietnamese Died In The War – In ‘Vietnam War,’ Ken Burns Wrestles With The Conflict’s Contdictions Burns says he and director Lynn Novick first thought they understood the Vietnam War. But when they started putting together their new PBS series, they realized, “We had no idea.”
When filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick began researching a 10-part PBS documentary on the Vietnam War, they thought they knew things. After all, Burns was of draft age in 1970, although his draft number was too high to be called up.
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But as they began discussing the subjects and sorting through archive footage, Burns and Novick quickly realized just how difficult the battle was. “We both came in, we had this kind of arrogance about it, and that quickly got blown out of the water,” Burns said. “We realized that we don’t know anything.”
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Filmmakers adapt to the inherent conflict of war by providing multiple perspectives on the conflict. The series includes interviews with American, South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese soldiers who fought in it – and Americans who protested it.
That their work in the series deepened their understanding of war. For himself, Burns likens a documentary to a series of linked stories that present “a fundamental truth not only of war, but of life, namely: More than one truth [can exist] at the same time.”
On the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which was used by the North Vietnamese to transport supplies and troops to the South
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Lynn Novick: The story of the Ho Chi Minh trail, in a way, symbolizes the whole war, because you see determination and willingness to sacrifice on a large scale. 20,000 people were killed defending the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Most of them were young women who were volunteering as something called the youth brigade. There were young people who spent years and years under these bombs, working at night repairing the damage of the bombs and sleeping during the day when the bombs were detonated, because we could not explode at night. They suffered a lot. …
I think of the movie, where you see the fires burning and the women trying to put them out—young women, teenagers—and they go on trying to fill the bomb craters and obviously they’re in the middle of a disaster, it’s really amazing. Pictures of truck drivers at night going down the lane with these little lights – you can’t see the road ahead. … At those times, we can clearly see what the people who were there remember.
About why the Tet Offensive of 1968 – when North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launched a surprise attack during the Lunar New Year – was a turning point in America’s view of war.
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Ken Burns: What [Americans] saw of the Tet Offensive on our televisions, what the journalists brought back and later tried to digest, was a series of shocking images, [contradicting] the feeling that there was light in the area. the end of time. tunnel, that we are doing well.
Our leaders have been saying, “We are winning this war” … and everything the Tet Offensive has shown in pictures has suggested the exact opposite. Although, in fact, it was a catastrophic loss for the North and the Viet Cong; they lost – dead, not just wounded, in the tens of thousands. But the thing was that it was a big PR win for them, because we were not completely honest and did not hide anything from the American people. We hadn’t been like that in years.
Novick: This is a terrible photo taken by Eddie Adams of the Associated Press. Basically the head of the National Police of South Vietnam, Gen. [Nguyen Ngoc] Loan, and a number of other officers also have Viet Cong personnel that they captured, and in fact Gen. Uboleke killed him on the streets of Saigon in broad daylight as this photographer and NBC cameras watched. …
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There were massacres and reprisals and brutality in the streets of Saigon during the Tet Offensive on both sides. This is the one that was captured on film with this amazing image, where the bullet hits the man’s head and he is about to die. And that picture was on the front pages of newspapers all over the world, and it shocked and hurt and made everyone who saw it a part of the act, in some way. You are part of it; it happened and you are there. And that had a huge impact on the American community and the world by what happened in this war. …
NBC rarely licenses that footage for obvious reasons, and would only allow it if we showed what was shown on TV. So our producer Sarah Botstein and her team spent a lot of time working back and forth with NBC to determine, right from the frame, what was shown, not a long frame or a short frame. And that’s what we put in the film. We are on television because we want our audience to see what the American public saw. It was shown on TV only once.
After receiving new footage of the 1970 shooting at Kent State University, where four students were killed when the Ohio National Guard opened fire during a Vietnam War protest.
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Novick: [The shot] lasted 13 seconds – that’s a long time. A number of bullets were fired. Just seeing the pictures—one of the things that was so powerful was that there were pictures that we didn’t really know where they came from, and our producer Mike Welt tracked them down and he was a student at Kent State and the camera that day. … He has been recording protests, he has been rolling the camera when people were shot, there was blood on the street, people were screaming and crying with him following him. And after that moment, he was so moved by what he saw and recorded that he was never the same.
The film ended up in his garage or his family’s garage and Mike Welt tracked them down a year later and they are willing to let us access these cans of film that no one has ever seen.
Burns: I think history has made me optimistic, despite the fact that it shows that human nature does not change—that the same situation exists, the same conflict exists, the same selfishness exists, but that’s it. the same generosity and the same love.
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Soldiers know the lessons. The people who were there, they know what it’s like, they know what happened, they know the costs—the [absent] leaders.
War is human nature on steroids … and we think [everything] is bad, but actually the free electrons that are released by war (in every case I tried to talk to) reveal a lot about the positive sides of human nature. . …
We can logically think that we are placed in the fetal position, but we are not. We raise families and plant gardens and write symphonies and try to make films and talk about history. Maybe something is sticking out.
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Novick: Soldiers know the lessons. The people who were there, they know what it’s like, they know what happened, they know the costs—the [absent] leaders. These lessons are hard to stick to.
Lauren Krenzel and Thea Chaloner produced and edited the audio for this interview. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Nicole Cohen adapted for the web. The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC commemorates the deaths of more than 58,000 Americans – a number now surpassed by the coronavirus. A social distancing sign is displayed on the wall. (John McDonnell / The Washington Post)
With each passing week, the number of people who die from the coronavirus reaches another milestone. Earlier this month, the death toll in New York City surpassed the death toll of 9/11. The following week, the death toll across the country was higher than any other country. Last week, he passed the Korean War. And as of Wednesday, officially, more Americans have been killed by the coronavirus than in the Vietnam War.
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There are dangers in all comparisons between disparate events – mainly because the causes and expectations differ from situation to situation. And this one certainly carries plenty.
The main problem with comparing the number of deaths from the coronavirus and various armed conflicts is that those conflicts are, according to your view, events of your own choosing. The Vietnam War, in particular, was seen as a mistake, and American leaders were accused of staying in the war too long.
The coronavirus, by contrast, was something that was unlikely to reach American shores no matter how aggressive the initial response. It was a situation that was being pushed
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