Documentary to explore the Vietnam War

A new film will tell the story of the Vietnam War.
A new film will tell the story of the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War has been called the first war to play out in American living rooms -- reports were televised each evening. Now, a new film will bring it back into our homes, exploring the roots and lasting impact of the war.

    The film, The Vietnam War, a 10-part series, will premiere on PBS this Sunday, Sept. 17, at 8 p.m. EST.  
    Directed by noted documentary makers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, it is a thorough treatment -- 18 hours featuring testimony from Americans who fought in the war and opposed it, along with Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both sides, according to Burns’ website. The filmmakers also make use of archival materials, such as photos, films, newscasts of the time and White House tapes of the Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon administrations. 
    Burns and Novick are known for such award-winning productions as The Civil War, Baseball, The War and others. But PBS describes this as their “most ambitious film to date.” It may also be the most provocative.
    Americans -- many of whom had fought in World War II -- were divided about the country’s participation in the Vietnam War. The U.S. withdrew from Vietnam in 1973 with many still in grief.  The war had taken the lives of 58,220 Americans, and left millions questioning what we had been doing there in the first place. But how did the U.S. get into the middle of this foreign war? First, remember that at the time, American leaders wanted to contain the spread of communism.
     Here is a timeline of the buildup leading to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, along with links for further study: 

1858-83: France, competing for power with Great Britain, established colonial rule in three states -- Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia -- known as Indochina.

1930: Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969), who was educated in Paris, founded the Indochinese Communist Party, or ICP.

1941:  During World War II, Japan invaded Vietnam, and the ICP formed a guerrilla force.

Sept. 2, 1945: After leading an independence movement that established new local governments throughout northern Vietnam, Ho proclaimed the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi. The first lines of his speech were taken from America’s Declaration of Independence. (Read it on George Mason University's History Matters website.) 
    The U.S. had supported Ho against the Japanese. But “after the war, when he sought assistance from communist powers to win independence from France, the United States opposed him as an agent of communist expansion,” recounts the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

1946 – Attempting to reassert control, French forces attacked the Vietnamese rebels. Within three months, the French controlled the southern portion of Vietnam.

1950:  With the approval of President Harry S. Truman, 35 men from the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group arrived in Saigon to assist and advise South Vietnamese troops. (See the website.)

1954: French troops pulled out of Vietnam and colonial rule ended. North Vietnam pushed to unify the country as a communist regime. The South Vietnamese government wished to remain aligned with the U.S., and the U.S. refused to recognize the government in North Vietnam.

1955: President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved sending approximately 700 military personnel, along with economic aid, to the government of South Vietnam.

1961: President John F. Kennedy authorized sending 500 Special Forces troops  (the Green Berets) and military advisers to assist South Vietnam.

1962: By the end of the year, 11,000 military advisers were in South Vietnam, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library recounts. That year, 53 military personnel were killed.

1963: The numbers increased again, and at the end of 1963, 16,000 advisers were in Vietnam, according to the library.

Aug. 7, 1964: The Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to send combat troops to Vietnam.

March 8, 1965:  Two battalions of U.S. Marines became the first combat troops dispatched by the United States to support the Saigon government.  

     To know more:


     What happened at Kent State?

     Four phrases associated with the Cold War


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