Been after this for quite some time. And boy did this brighten my day seeing it in the mail (strangely enough on the 40th anniversary of the date which President Nixon had earlier announced would see the eventual withdrawl of 25,000 U.S. troops from South Vietnam). Come to think of it, the first time I saw this program was right around the time Paul Hardcastle's song/video '19' came out (which went onto a number of techno/dance re-cut & extended versions but I digress...) This collection is WAY better than the disappointing dvd version that was released in 2004 which not only lopped off 2hrs from the original running time of 13hrs, but also deleted interviews (perhaps most notably, the French Colonel who refers to his oriental enemy as "red termites"), key segments & combat footage (probably due to some lame PC bullshit in which the sanitization harms the context) and featured unecessary full-length commercials(!) Actually, the terrible PBS dvd format was incredibly odd considering that for the omissions & editing, their watered down treatment and negative tampering with their own acclaimed production ironically amounted to a kind of rewriting of history - which defeats the whole purpose of this documentary which above so many others, left no stone unturned. Proof here that VHS ain't dead yet.
A quickie rundown of trudging through rice paddies in the Southeast Asian conflict
On Sept 2, communist leader & father of Vietnam's independence movement, Ho Chi Minh, copies from the American Declaration of Independence as he (triumphantly & prematurely) proclaims for his nation that "All men are born equal; the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty & happiness!" 2 weeks later, Britsh troops arrive to disarm the defeated, previously-occupying Japanese units at WWII's official end. On the 26th, the first non-combat American solider is killed in Vietnam while searching for missing WWII pilots. Later in Oct, French General Jacques Leclerc landed in Saigon to retake Vietnam for France.
On Mar 2, Ho Chi Minh is elected President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. 4 days later, he signs an agreement with France recognizing Vietnam as a "free state with its own government, army & finances" but integrated into a French union.
In Dec, with the political situation in a state of emergency & full-scale war on the horizon all but inevitable, France declares Martial Law in Vietnam.
On Mar 8, the state of Vietnam is created when recognized by France in the Elysee Agreements & on Jul 1, the country is formally established.
In Jan, China bestowed diplomatic recognition upon the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with official acceptance of Ho Chi Minh's communist regime. This resulted in much-needed financial & military assistance in Ho's battle against the French in Indochina and also pushed the USA to take a more intensive and active role in the conflict in Southeast Asia. By Sept, a US Military Assistance Advisory Group of 35 men arrived in Saigon to assist in the fight against communism.
In Aug, Eisenhower warned that the situation in Asia was becoming "very ominous for the United States" as he made specific reference for the need to defend French Indochina from the coummunists.
On Apr 7, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower coins one of the most famous Cold War phrases when he suggested the fall of French Indochina to the communists could create a "domino effeect" in Southeast Asia; meaning/warning that just the fall of one country to communism would result in others nearby collapsing in quick succession.
On May 7, the French are defeated at Dien Bien Phu in Northwest Vietnam after a 57-day siege, thus ending their colonial rule in Indochina & making possible the division of the country in 2 states, North & South of the 17th parallel. (The battle began back on Mar 13 as 40,000 Viet Minh surrounded 15,000 French troops & launched a massive artillery barrage. On Jul 20, the French signed an armistice with the Viet Minh allowing for the country's partition). The Viet Minh victors are led by future President Ho Chi Minh ("he who enlightens") from Hanoi,North Vietnam. This nationalist peasant guerilla force (far from being rag-tag rebels) first formed in 1941 to fight the Japanese in WWII & were later trained by the American OSS (forerunner to the CIA). The Viet Minh morph into the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam - the NLF, and are a precursor to what will soon become the Viet Cong (or VC). They see themselves as liberators rather than invaders. In Saigon,South Vietnam and embraced by Eisenhower, the Americans back & aid Southern President Ngo Dinh Diem.
On Aug 11, an official peace ended nearly 9yrs of fighting between the French colonial forces & Viet Minh and by Oct, the Viet Minh occupied Saigon & took control of the North.
In Apr, civil war erupted in Saigon between Binh Xuyen rebels & government troops. The rebels (an independent military group - organized from a coalition of gangs - within the National Army and living outside the law, often by kidnapping & piracy) were forced from the city after 5 days of fighting.
In Aug, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles openly supported President Diem who had refused to hold national & general elections as promised, to reunify the 2 Vietnam states (which had been called for in the Geneva Accords of Jul 1954). Dulles & Diem feared that holding the elections would result in the more populous North probably re-uiniting the whole country under communism.
In Oct, Diem proclaimed himself President of the new Republic of Vietnam.
Promised free elections as concessions after the French defeat, never take place. In what surely would have been communist victory in re-unification, Diem seizes the oppurtunity to maintain complete control of the South. His consolidated power turns repressive as he wipes out his enemies with his brother Nhu installed as Head of the Secret Police. The US will grow weary & disapproving but will not yet outright distance themselves from Diem.
On Jul 8, Maj. Dale R. Ruis and Master Sgt. Chester M. Ovnand became the first Americans killed in the earliest phase of the Vietnam war when guerillas struck a Military Assistance Group compound (which had been screening a film) in Bien Hoa, 20 miles northeast of Saigon. The group were the first US advisors who arrived in the South back in Nov 1955 to give military aid. The organization consisted of US Army, Navy, Air Force & Marine Corps personnel who provided advice and help to the Ministry of Defense; Joint General Staff; corps & division commanders; training centers; and provincial & district headquarters.
The VC strike at Diem & his regime. The US advisors have since grown to 16,000 - mainly Special Forces, training the South Vietnamese Army (Army of the Republic of Vietnam or ARVN) & some seeing combat. Back in the USA in Nov, John F. Kennedy becomes the youngest man - and first Catholic - to become elected US President, narrowly beating Vice President Richard M. Nixon.
In Jan, JFK is inaugurated to which he delivers his famous appeal: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
In May, US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, reported that VC forces in the South had grown to 12,000 men; having kidnapped or killed more than 3000 people the previous year. JFK responded saying the USA was considering sending troops to the area. A week later, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson met with Diem in Saigon, promising him additional military aid in fighting the communists.
In Oct, JFK is told at a meeting of the US National Security Council that 40,000 American troops could defeat the VC in South Vietnam & that another 120,000 could deflect intervention by the Northerners or Chinese.
In Dec, the first US helicopters arrived in South Vietnam aboard the carrier 'USNS Core'. Their assignment was to airlift South Vietnamese troops into combat.
In Jan, when JFK is asked if US troops are fighting in Vietnam, he says "No" which is technically correct as American soldiers were serving as combat advisors with ARVN. Later, the US Air Force launched 'Operation Ranch Hand' as the tactic of defoliation by the 'Agent Orange' tropical climate herbicide (called a "modern technological area-denial technique"). Identified by the color mark on its storage drums, AO killed vegetation by removing plant life & leaf foliage of the dense jungles used as cover by the enemy (thus denying them a natural shield). Even at the height of its use, unlike the napalm incendiaries which were explosives, AO as a chemical spray didn't stop the Viet Cong & in the coming years, the byproduct was a detriment as it contributed to serious adverse health effects; hosting a variety of medical problems & illnesses (concerns such as cancer & birth defects) showing up in Veterans. By war's end, approximately 20 million gallons of AO was sprayed.
In Feb, 2 South Vietnamese air force pilots bomb & strafe the Saigon Presidential Palace attempting to assassinate Diem. The failed attack confirms Diem's view that his principle enemies were domestic & fuelled his brother Nhu's brutal campaign to crush political dissent.
By Jun, a major crisis erupts in the Spring when Buddhist Monks (and Nuns) demonstrate against the killing of their own by Diem's soldiers. Students join the Monks & clash with the troops. The Monks stage their own protests with grisly results: On the 10th, Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, horrifies the Western world when he sets himself on fire in the crowded center of a busy downtown Saigon intersection to protest the South Vietnamese government's treatment of Buddhists. The immolation is one of the first focusings of international attention on the conflict in Vietnam and adds to further anti-Diem sentiment. (Duc was followed by 33yr old Nhat Chi Mai, a female Buddhist who in May 1967 burned herself to death infront of a Saigon pagoda - a tiered-towered temple). Into the summer, Diem's own Army Officers & Generals have consulted the US in secret agreements to help oust Diem. Aware of increasing resistance to himself & his brother and suspecting an overthrow, Diem sends Nhu's wife to the US where she lashes out to the Press at what she feels is American betrayal.
In Aug, Southern forces attack Buddhist pagodas, damaging many & arresting 1400 worshippers.
On Sept 2, JFK says in a TV interview about Vitenam, "In the final analysis, it's their war. They're the ones who have to win it or lose it." Later, a pair of advisors (having returned from a quick tour of Vietnam) tell JFK that the Vietnamese are making progress against the VC but that the Diem regime is near collapse. JFK asks of both men: "You 2 DID visit the SAME country, didn't you?"
By Nov 1, an American approved coup against Diem is launched. The next day, he & Nhu are both captured and immediately executed. 3 weeks later on the 22nd, JFK is assassinated in Dallas while riding in an open-car motorcade & on the 29th, newly sworn-in President LBJ established the Warren Commission headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice, Earl Warren, as a special body to investigate JFK's assassination just 6 days previous. (After 10 months of gathering evidence & questioning eyewitnesses, the Commission controversially concluded there was no conspiracy in the late President's murder and that gunman Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone). In no time at all, LBJ would escalate the war, eventually committing over 500,000 troops in Vietnam.
In his State of the Union address in Jan, LBJ reaffirms US commitment to support South Vietnam in fighting communist aggression by saying, "Our own security is tied to the peace of Asia."
In May, during a speech in Washington, Rusk accused North Vietnam of initiating aggression in the South & said that withdrawl of American forces would "cause grievous losses to the free world." Days later, Presidential campaigner, Senator Barry Goldwater, gave an interview in which detractors claimed he suggested using atomic bombs in North Vietnam to defoloiate forests & other targets. After a storm of anger denounced him, Goldwater said the suggestion wasn't his but one made by competent military commanders that he merely passed along.
In Jul, LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act into US federal law followed by his 'War on Poverty' initiative. Aiming for nothing less than the purpose of its namesake for the the disenfranchised minoritites, it met with barely moderate results. (In Aug, he signed the Economic Oppurtunity Act which was a $1 billion furthering measure). On the war front, US military intelligence publicly charged that North Vietnamese Army (NVA) officers were commanding & fighting in VC forces operating in North Vietnamese provinces. This marked a mjor change in the tempo & scope of the War in the South and resulted in LBJ committing American combat troops. By the end of the month, Rusk admitted in a news conference that there were differences between the US & South on the issue of extending the War into the North, but he claimed agreement on the general conduct of the fighting. He stated that American warnings to China & the North indicated total US commitment.
On Aug 2, 3 communist PT gunboats attack an American Destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin just off the North Vietnamese coast. (Previous to this is that on Jul 31, South Vitenamese attack-boats on a covert mission sponsored by the CIA, had attacked 2 island bases off the coast. The next night, the US Destroyer was patrolling in the same area & on Aug 2, had been 10 miles off away from one of the islands attacked in the earlier raids. Hanoi linked the Destroyer to these raids). On the 3rd, LBJ calls the attack an outrage & orders the US Navy to keep patrolling & if provoked, to retaliate with force. The Destroyer (Maddox) is joined by another (Turner Joy). On the 4th, The USS Maddox is allegedly attacked in an unprovoked & deliberate 2nd incident. On the 5th, US Navy Lt. Everett Alvarez Jr. is shot down. (He spent his 2000th day in captivity on Jan 26, 1970 and when finally released to freedom in 1973, he was the longest held POW in American history). On the 7th, LBJ asks Congress for powers to "take all necessary measures to prevent further aggression." Thus the 'Gulf of Tonkin Resolution' is overwhelmingly approved when it passes by a vote of 504-2. Although never a declaration of war, this is the incident that triggers US involvement & gives LBJ unlimited means to oppose communist aggression in Southeast Asia. For the first time, America bombs North Vietnam. (In 1965, LBJ commented privately on the Tonkin incident saying: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there").
On Nov 3, in one of the biggest US presidential election landslides in history, incumbent LBJ defeated Republican challenger Barry Goldwater. That same day, Nixon coined 2 new terms appealing to the "great silent majority" of Americans for their support as he worked for "peace with honor" in Vietnam. On the war front, the VC attacks an airbase near Saigon. By Dec, with escalation on both sides heightening after Tonkin, the VC attack again on Christmas Eve by blowing up a downtown hotel housing high ranking American Officers. Both of these attacks result in LBJ refusing further retaliatory air strikes.
In Feb, the VC launch a 3rd attack, this time on an American outpost. Their insurgents control 40% of the countryside. LBJ reverses his previous decision & approves an air strike on North Vietnam in retaliation. Further sustained bombing is halted after Coup attempts in Saigon. Political instability brings about rioting but the US decides to send soldiers to South Vietnam, initiating American involvement in the War. Very quickly, LBJ approved the sustained bombing of the North in a 3-year campaign dubbed 'Operation Rolling Thunder' (ending in Oct 1968) which dropped 643,000 tons of bombs & saw 900 aircraft lost. Days later, dissident South Vietnamese officers launch an abortive coup in Saigon against one of the country's leaders, General Nguyen Khanh. By the end of the month, General William Westmoreland of the Military Assisatance Command (who had been made commander of all US forces in Vietnam by LBJ back in Aug 1964 requested 2 battalions of US Marines to protect the American airbase at Da Nang (in 4yrs, he would have over 540,000 US soldiers stationed in the South).
On Mar 8, the first 3500 US combat troops arrive in Vietnam (2 days after the reluctant invitation from the South Vietnamese government) at Da Nang after Gen. William C. Westmoreland voices concern for vulnerable US airfields which he feels the ARVN is incapable of defending properly. Within a few months over 100,000 more soldiers follow & by years end, a ground force of 200,000 are in country. Their initial mission of airfield protection soon changes to offensive engagement with the enemy. 3 weeks after the arrival of the first Marines, the VC attack the US Embassy in Saigon. In later battles, ARVN verges on collapse with its best troops already killed. The civilian govt falls & the military takes over in the upheaval. The USA has now fully engaged in a war; the most unpopular in American history. A war in which the elusive enemy was seemingly everywhere & nowhere; A war without frontlines or clear objectives; where one side controlled the day & the rival, the night. A war which became the 1st TV war with uncensored battle footage & nightly body counts. A war in which questions left many an issue unresolved; in which the question "who was the enemy?" will still be asked & uneasy to answer deacades later... Back in the USA, 200 University of Michigan faculty members protesting American policy, cancelled regular classes to stage a series of rallies & speeches denouncing the War. Similar 'teach-ins' followed at university & college campuses across the country.
On May 26, Australia joins the War by sending 800 combat troops to fight alongside the Americans & ARVN. At the same time, neighboring New Zealand said it was committing an artillery battalion to the cause. The next day, US warships begin launching a series of major raids against communist targets in the central South thus augmenting the vital role played by aircraft carriers. By the end of the month the Rolling Thunder campaign sees the bombing of an ammunition depot at Hoi Jan, west of Hanoi. (The operation continued until 1968 when it was halted under increasing domestic & political pressures).
In Oct, 18yr old PFC Milton Lee throws himself on an enemy grenade, saving the lives of 4 fellow soldiers. His selfless act won him a posthumous Medal of Honor.
On Nov 2, 31yr old Baltimore Quaker, Norman Morrison doused himself with kerosene & lit himself on fire below the Pentagon office of Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. The act was a symbolic protest in reaction to LBJ's authorization of the use of napalm. Morrison had taken his 1yr old daughter Emily with him and either set her down or handed her off to someone in the crowd before setting himself ablaze. Of his reasons for taking Emily, his wife later recalled: "Whether he thought of it that way or not, I think having Emily with him was a final & great comfort to Norman... She was a powerful symbol of the children we were killing with our bombs and napalm -- who didn't have parents to hold them in their arms." 1 week later, 22yr old Roger Allen LaPorte of the Catholic Worker Movement performed a similar act in front of the United Nations building. Having doused himself with gasoline and suffering from 2nd & 3rd degree burns covering 95 percent of his body, LaPorte calmly replied of his immolation: "I'm against war, all wars. I did this as a religious action." He died of his injuries the next day. (Other death-by-fire protest acts in the USA occured in Mar 1965 when 82yr old pacifist Alice Herz - a German Jew who had fled Nazism - immolated herself on a Detroit street corner. A man with his 2 sons were driving by, saw her burning & put out the flames. She died 10 days later; In Oct 1967 when 55yr old Florence Beaumont immolated herself infront of the Federal Building in Los Angeles. She left behind 2 small children; and in May 1970 when 23yr old University of California student George Winne, Jr. immolated himself on campus next to a sign that read "In God's name, end this war". Winne began to run but was knocked down by a fellow student who tried to smother the flames. He died 10hrs later). Meanwhile, on the battlefield, on the 14th, US and North Vietnamese forces clash in their first major engagement in the Ia Drang valley. Despite serious US losses with one company suffering 93 percent casualties, American commanders are encouraged & declared a significant victory.
By the end of Dec, the 'Operation Phoenix' program was in effect. It was designed, co-ordinated & executed by the CIA (along with Australian special forces & South Vietnamese security) to identify and "neutralize" (via infiltration, capture, terrorism, torture & assassination) the VC - thus laregly targeting civilians, not soldiers. Many of those captured were taken to interrogation centers where few prisoners survived as they were generally killed afterwards. Torture such as rape, electroshock, rubber hose beatings & the use of mauling dogs was usually carried out by the South Vietnamese with the CIA acting in a supervisory role. From 1970-71 there were US Congressional hearings condemning the program's abuses & negative publicity led to Phoenix being shut down in 1972 -- by which point 81,740 persons suspected of being VC or of sympathetic activity had been arrested/detained of whom 26,369 were killed. In sinister fashion, another program of a similar nature, code-named "F-6" was initiated as Phoenix was phased out.
In Feb, LBJ met South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Cao Ky in Honolulu & pledged US support to establish democracy in the South. 2 weeks later, US military headquarters in Saigon announce that 14 percent of ARVN soldiers deserted in 1965 at a much higher rate than among the VC.
By Mar, on a more international scope, the Australians fight alongside with Americans in joint operations, South Korea sends a further 20,000 troops to South Vietnam in addition to the 21,000 already there.
In Jun, growing opposition to US involvement in the War is expressed in a political ad signed by 6400 prominent Americans, which was published in the New York Times.
In Aug, HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee) begins investigating Americans who have given aid to the VC, with a view toward introducing legislation to make such action illegal. Nearly 2 weeks later, Soviet newspapers report that North Vietnamese pilots are training in a secret Russian airbase to fly supersonic interceptor jets.
On Sept 1, President Charles de Gaulle of France during a speech in Phnom Penh,Cambodia, privately annoys the American administration when he denounces US policy & urges the American govt to pull its troops out of Southeast Asia. Later, the Phillipines deploys its army to join the War.
In Oct, Pope Paul VI addressed 150,000 people in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, calling for a negotiated end to the War. His comments were symbolic of the growing sentiment against the fighting.
In Jan, LBJ asks Congress for a 6 percent surcharge on personal & corporate income taxes to help support the War which Congress eventually passed.
In Mar, the North Vietnamese Press reported that Ho Chi Minh had rejected a proposal for peace talks offered by LBJ. The next day, Thailand granted the US use of its bases for American bombers flying missions over Vietnam.
In May, US Representative James J. Howard created a public controversy after he read a letter to the House of Representatives claiming almost all the American soldiers killed in the Battle of Hill 881 back in Apr, died as result of their new M-16 rifles jamming. The Defense Dept. later corrected the admitted deficiencies & the gun became a popular weapon.
On Oct 21, nearly 100,000 people gathered in Washington,DC to protest the War. More than 50,000 of them marched to the Pentagon as the demonstration was the most dramatic sign of both the waning US conduct & support for LBJ. In addition to airing criticisms of the War, the action was important in suggesting that the long-held domestic Cold War consensus was not only beginning to fracture but the very basis of the nation's same Cold War policy was being questioned. During the protest, photographer Bernie Boston captured 18yr old hippie George Harris nonchalantly inserting the stem of a carnation into a soldier's M-14 gun barrel; a peaceful revolt symbolizing the counterculture's embracement of the flower power ethos of non-violence. Harris had been standing mere inches infront of several rifles from a contingent of armed National Guardsmen.
In Jan, the NVA begins a large troop build-up in the jungle around Khe Sanh and on the 21st, the Battle for Khe Sanh - one of the most publicized & controversial engagements of the whole war - takes place. It was an attempt by North Vietnam to overrun an old French outpost reactivated by 5600 US Marines who dug in, cut off from both re-inforcement & re-supply except by air. They were attacked by the NVA who had swollen to a force of salmost 40,000. A few days later, North Korean patrol boats opened fire on & captured the USS Pueblo, a Navy ship engaged in surveillance. One sailor was killed & several were wounded. Negotiations to free 82 survivors taken from the vessel dragged on for 11 months, causing a crisis of confidence in US foreign policy. In his annual budget message, LBJ asked for $26.3 billion to continue the War & announced an increase in taxes to pay for it. On the 30th, communist forces from the North launched the Tet Offensive with co-ordinated attacks all across the South. 7 cities along with dozens of towns, villages & military bases were hit simultaneously - including most notably, the US Embassy in Saigon. The size & intensity of the attacks deeply shook the confidence of Americans who believed the fighting would soon be over. When 19 VC soldiers on a suicide mission seized the US Embassy & held it for 6hrs, it took American paratroopers having to be landed on the roof by helicopter to route them. In just one single day, Tet increased the conflict dramatically and proved to be a major contribution in sharply & decisively turning the tide of American public opinion against US involvement in the War.
On Feb 1, South Vietnamese Chief of National Police, Maj. Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, gained world infamy after he is snapped (by both a South Vietnamese cameraman for NBC and an Associated Press photographer) summarily executing handcuffed prisoner Nguyen Van Lem - a suspected VC member - on a busy Saigon street with his sidearm .38-caliber Smith & Wesson; point blank to the right temple. The picture (which won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize) & footage was broadcast globally and galvanized the international anti-war movement. Sources claimed (and had properly confirmed) that Lem had commanded a VC death squad with a penchant for murdering Southern police officers (some of whom where Loan's men) & members of their families. On the 2nd day of Tet, Lem was captured at the site of a mass grave holding the bodies of some 34 bound & shot people, including children.
On the 7th, in defense of Khe Sanh still under seige, the Army mounts 'Operation Niagara' with the most intense bombing in the history of war. The equivalent of 5 Hiroshima size bombs are dropped within a mile of Khe Sanh & after 77 days, the Marines break out. The battle ended with no clear victory for either side. Meanwhile, US officials reported that Tet had created 350,000 new refugees since the start of the assault, boosting the total number of displaced in the South to 1.1 million. In direct response, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee began an investigation of American policy in Vietnam and on the 24th, Tet ends with US and ARVN troops recapturing the ancient imperial capital of Hue from communist forces after weeks of bloody fighting. While Tet failed militarily, it succeeds in disillusioning those initally supportive of the War & further hardening those already opposed. In the aftermath, the first mass graves are discovered in which the victims were thousands of civilians killed for sympathizing with the Saigon government. The weekly US casualty rate hits an all-time high as officials report that 534 Americans were killed in action & 2547 wounded during the previous week.
In Mar, when the Pentagon requests more than 200,000 additional troops, an LBJ task force backs off from another major escalation. Within weeks, a retired US Marine Corps General estimates that 800,000 troops would be needed just to defend the South's population centers & that victorycould only be achieved by an invasion of the North. On the 16th, frustrated & angry soldiers of 'Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, Americal Division' enter the South Vietnamese village of My Lai, a heavily mined area known for VC activity which in the preceeding weeks has already killed or maimed members of Charlie Company. Under the command of Lt. William Calley (and with photographers present), the Unit is sent in on a search & destroy mission. The end result is a massacre with an estimation of as many as 500 unarmed villagers (mainly women, children & elderly) systematically killed in the 4hr rampage. Eyewitness reports of Calley's men after the bloodbath, speak of the Unit having arrived in the village firing right off the bat & meeting no retaliation; bayonetting, shooting praying women & children in the back of the head and allegedly raping & then killing at least one girl. The most notorious picture taken of the atrocity shows murdered victims in a ditch - whom Calley is said to have ordered rounded up & mowed down with machine gun fire. Under Army investigation, Calley is charged with murder in Sept 1969 with revelations of leadership failure, discipline/morale problems & drug abuse among the Army's fighting units. Word of My Lai doesn't reach the US public until Nov 1969 & the further horrors are revealed in an exclusive LIFE Magazine story for Dec 5, 1969. During his trial, Calley testifies he was ordered to kill everyone in the village by superior Officer, Capt. Ernest Medina. He states of the murder of the villagers: "That was the order of the day... In all my years in the Army I was never taught that communists were human beings. We were there to kill ideology carried by -- I don't know -- pawns, blobs of flesh. I was there to destroy communism. We never conceived of people, men, women, children, babies." On the 31st, as partial fallout from the Tet turning point, LBJ (criticized over his failed pledge to not send men to fight, having been repeatedly deceived by the Pentagon about war actions, having already lost control of the Democratic Party - particularly after a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary, and already trailing badly in his re-election bid) shocked the nation when he announced on television that he was withdrawing from the race as a candidate, by concluding in his refusal: "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my Party for another term as your President." (The next day, his approval ratings increased from 36% to 49%).
On Apr 4, Civil Rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot to death by gunman James Earl Ray as he stood on the balcony of a Memphis hotel. Later in the evening while speaking at a rally in Indianapolis, Robert Kennedy (having been warned not to attend) in an impromptu speech, tells the uniformed mostly-black crowd of King's death. Their shock echoes through the audience. King's death sparked a wave of rioting in major cities throughout the country and the next day in Cleveland, Kennedy gave a speech (somber in the delivery & words but passionate for its message of hope) titled "On the Mindless Menace of Violence". Just over 2 weeks later, US Defense Secretary, Clark Clifford (shortly after concluding that American victory in Vietnam was probably impossible), said the South Vietnamese were now able to "insure their own security".
By May, a conducted survey on rampant drug abuse reports that 50% of US troops openly use marijuana. Meanwhile, the communists launch their 3rd major assault of the year against Saigon. Their target was Cholon - the Chinsese section of the capital. The VC launched this offensive hoping to influence the Paris peace talks in their favour as the USA & North Vietnam agreed to begin the formal negotiations towards ending the War but no solution or agreement was reached, except on the site for the meeting. More preliminary discussions began a week later. US Navy corpsman Donald E. Ballard is awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism after he covered a live hand grenade with his body to protect his fellow soldiers. While the grenade failed to detonate, Ballard's act was considered one of valor worthy of the nation's highest combat award.
On Jun 6, (as if to further rip America apart at the very seams), Senator Robert Kennedy is assassinated in a Los Angeles hotel by gunman Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy had just finished celebrating his winning the California Presdiential primary with a victory speech (telling his cheering supporters that the country was ready to end its fractious divisions brought on by both the War & anti-war movement) and was walking through a kitchen when he was shot. He was seen by many to be the only American politician left & capable of uniting the people, and was especially beloved by the minority community for his integrity and devotion to civil rights.
In Nov, the US launches the 'Operation Commando Hunt' bombing campaign to block communsit traffic on the Ho Chi Minh trail through Laos to South Vietnam & by 1973, nearly 2 million tons of bombs had fallen on Laos but passage on the trail continued.
In Jan, the new Republican President - Nixon - takes office, with peace talks soon to take place in Paris between the US & Hanoi.
In Apr, some 100,000 demonstrators marched in New York City to kick off a weekend of sit-ins & other protests across the country, demanding an end to the War.
On May 11, American & ARVN forces fought the NVA for Ap Bia Mountain (Hill 937). The American Media dubbed it 'Hamburger Hill' because of the heavy casualties suffered on both sides. 9 days later on the 20th, US and ARVN forces captured the hill after 10 bloody assaults. Ultimately, the spot had no strategic value & was abandoned soon after. Later, Nixon proposed a phased mutual withdrawl of major portions of American forces & ARVN troops in the South over a 12-month period. Meanwhile, the communists' proposal & Nixon's counter-offer in Paris remained diametrically opposed & the peace talks stalled.
On Jun 8, Nixon announces to reduce US troops (starting with 25,000 for Aug 31) down to 484,000 by Dec 15. He promises to pull out another 100,000, still another 45,000 more & yet still again, another 70,000 more in a few years. This withdrawl becomes known as "Vietnamization" in which burden of the war is transferred from the Americans to ARVN. Reductions will eventually reach 69,000 soldiers. Even with his pledge of pulling out, Nixon faces widespread criticsm for wanting to expand the war by bombing Laos & Cambodia.
On Sept 2, Ho Chi Minh dies of a heart attack in Hanoi. 4 days later, Radio Hanoi announced his successor: a 4-panel leadership committee (a Politburo) of competent government & military officials. Back in the USA, Lt. William Calley is charged with 6 counts of premeditated murder for his role in the My Lai Massacre of 109 Vietnamese civilians the previous year.
In Feb, The Chicago Seven group of anti-war protesters are convicted of inciting riots at the Aug 1968 Democratic National Convention (which was marred by unrest when thousands took to the streets; and was remembered for CBS News Anchor Dan Rather being roughed up & punched by security guards; brutality and violence from the police & National Guardsmen clashing with hundreds; and demonstrators - many innocent bystanders fleeing from the chaos - shouting the iconic chant, "the whole world is watching" outside a Chicago hotel). Black Panther, Bobby Seale, was an 8th defendant but was removed from his co-conspirators and then gagged & bound to a chair in a severed case due to his repeated verbal (and profane) abuse towards the judge. The men were found guilty of 175 counts of contempt of court during their turbulent trial and would later have their convictions overturned on appeal. Meanwhile on the 21st, National Security advisor Henry Kissinger opens secret peace talks with North Vietnamese representative Le Duc Tho in a villa outside Paris. What initially ensues is red tape full of unsatisfactory conditions of agreement and frustrating gridlock & stalemate on both sides which bogs down the negotiations.
In Apr, a Gallup poll showed that 48 percent of the American public approved of Nixon's policy in Vietnam while 41 percent disapproved. (Back in Jan, the approval rating was 65 percent). The drop reflected the growing dissastisfaction with Nixon's failure to end the War and his rating still further plummeted when he announced that US & ARVN forces crossed the Cambodian border. That incursion angered many in Congress who felt that Nixon was illegaly widening the War.
On May 4, gunfire by the Ohio National Guard kills 4 students & wounds 11 others at Kent State University during a demonstration against Nixon's announcement that he had ordered US troops into Cambodia. 5 days later, an estimated 100,000 young people (mostly from college/university campuses) demonstrate near the White House, protesting against the War.
On the 10th, a homemade bomb in a briefcase explodes at the entrance of The National Guard Association of the United States in Washington,DC, blowing out windows in the building & surrounding area. The radical leftist group, the Weather Underground Organization ("domestic terrorists" as labeled by the FBI, and formerly the 'Weathermen' who began in 1969 and in turn were a faction of the SDS - Students for a Democratic Society), claimed responsibility for the attack (and they would strike again in Mar 1971 with a bomb in the US Senate bathroom in the Capitol building; in May 1972 with a bomb in a bathroom at the Pentagon; and in Jan 1975 with a bomb in a bathroom at the US Dept. of State --- all the devices were detonated causing considerable & expensive damage).
On the 15th, Sgt. John L. Levitow is awarded the Medal of Honor. As the only enlisted airman to receive the decoration in the War & one of only 4 enlisted airmen ever to receive it since WWII, while seriously wounded, he had managed to save the lives of several crew members by throwing himself on an activated magnesium flare. By the end of the month, about 75 communist soldeirs who had seized key outposts in the city of Dalat, 145 miles northeast of Saigon, slipped past 2500 ARVN troops & escaped after (and inspite of) their positions being surrounded.
On Jun 22, as the mounting death toll of the War continues to effect social change in the USA, Nixon lowers the voting age to 18 - the same age requiring when men must register for the draft. 2 days later, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which gave LBJ his war powers & seemingly helped escalate US involvement in the War, is repealed by a Senate vote of 81-10.
In Oct, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu claimed that 99.1 percent of the country had been pacified & that military victory in the War was close at hand.
In Jan, the US Army dropped charges of an alleged cover-up in the My Lai Massacre against 4 officers leaving only Lt. Calley, Capt. Medina & Capt. Eugene Kotouc to face trial. (After a procedural court martial in Nov 1969, Calley's trial began on Nov 17, 1970. On Mar 29, he was found guilty of murdering atleast 22 South Vietnamese civilians and sentenced to life imprisonment. Co-defendants Medina & Kotouc were acquitted. Of 26 officers having taken part in the killings, Calley was the only one within the chain of command who was convicted and many in the USA were outraged at his sentence, with many state legislatures requesting clemency for him. In a telephone survey of the American public, 79% disagreed with the verdict, 81% believed the life sentence Calley was too harsh, and 69% believed Calley had been made a scapegoat. (On Apr 1, only a day after Calley was sentenced, Nixon ordered him transferred from Leavenworth,KS prison to house arrest at Fort Benning,GA pending appeal. In Aug, the sentence was reduced to 20yrs. In Feb 1974, Calley petitioned for habeas corpus which was granted in Sept 1974 and after serving only 3.5yrs, Calley was released immediately - dishonorably discharged from the Army; a free man with his prison sentence & subsequent parole obligations commuted to time served. He later went into the insurance business). Back on the war front, US Defense Secretary Melvin Laird arrived in South Vietnam to check on the progress of Nixon's Vietnamization effort to increase the strenth of the South's forces so American troops could withdraw. Laird warned Nixon & his cabinet of "some tough days ahead".
In Feb, South Vietnam invaded Southern Laos to disrupt both a communist supply line & infiltration network adjacent to South Vietnam's 2 northern provinces.
In Mar, the famed commando Green Berets withdraw from the South after years of training guerillas & overseeing counter-insurgency operations. Days later, an armored Cavalry regiment (which had been fighting since 1966) is also pulled.
In May, anti-war protestors being 4 days of demonstrations in Washington,DC. On the 26th, an estimated 1000 North Vietnamese captured a strategic rubber-plantation town, driving out some 2000 South Vietnamese inspite of US airstrikes supporting allied forces. The communist victory meant they controlled sections of strategically important routes leading into the South as well as access to military equipment & supplies during the war. On the 27th, Sweden discloses that it has been providing assistance to the VC while insisting however, that their help included no military aid but instead $500,000 worth of medical supplies.
In Jun, the New York Times began publishing the 'Pentagon Papers' which was a confidential & top secret Pentagon report (a 7000-paged, 47-volumed study which was commissioned by Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara) on US involvement in the War that had been leaked to the press by Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst employed by the RAND Corporation. (Ellsberg was a former Marine Corps officer who turned activist with a Ph.D in Economics from Harvard. Believing the War unwinnable, he smuggled the report out of the Pentagon. The Nixon administration had him and an accomplice indicted on criminal charges including conspiracy, espionage & stealing government property. The trial began in Jan 1973 but ended in a dismissal of the charges after prosecutors discovered that a secret White House team - dubbed "the plumbers" - had burglarized Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office back in Sept 1971 in order to find information that would discredit him. This result of governmental misconduct by obtaining their gathered evidence through illegal wiretapping later saw 2 of the plumbers, E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, both involved in the break-in at the Watergate Hotel - headquarters of the Democratic National Commmitte - in May & Jun 1972).
In Aug, Nixon officially acknowleged that the CIA was maintaining a force of 30,000 "irregulars" who were fighting the Pathet Loa communists in Laos.
In Jan, Nixon announced that 70,000 US troops would leave South Vietnam over the next 3 months (reducing American troop strength to 69,000 by May 1).
In Feb, about 6000 Cambodian soldiers attempted to drive 4000 North Vietnamese from the Angkor Wat Buddhist temple first seized in 1970. 2 weeks later, South Korea pulls 11,000 of its nearly 48,000 troops out of South Vietnam.
In Mar, US jets fight 5 North Vietnamese MiGs, shooting one down during the largest air battle in the region in 3yrs. Less than a week later Austalia withdraws the last of its troops from the conflict.
In Apr, US naval & air forces are thrown against the massive North Vietnamese 'Easter Offensive' invasion of the South, hitting troop concentrations & missile emplacements of both sides of the DMZ - demilitarized zone. (3 weeks later, the South is nearly cut in 2 while Hanoi counterattacked in the central highlands. The fighting was simultaneous to Nixon announcing the withdrawl of another 20,000 US troops). On the 13th, 3 NVA divisions with tanks & heavy artillery, captured half the city of An Loc just 65 miles northwest of Saigon. A week after that, over 100,000 American protesters demonstrated against the War throughout the USA. And still a week after that during the Hue Offensive, NVA troops moved to within 2.5 miles of the provincial capital of Quang Tri City as Southern forces suffered from their highest casualties of any week in the War. (4 days later on May 1, the city is captured).
In May, NVA troops had captured Quang Tri City - the first provincial capital taken during their major ongoing offensive. Back in the USA, Nixon announces he's ordered the mining of key North Vietnamese ports to prevent the flow of arms to coummunist forces fighting American troops & ARVN in the South.
On Jun 6, the number of American men & women posted on combat duty in Vietnam is tallied at 63,700 - the lowest number in 7yrs. On the 8th, 9yr old Kim Phuc is photographed running naked on a road, crying & severely burned, just moments after South Vietnamese jets dropped a napalm bomb on her village of Trang Bang. She had joined a group of fleeing civilians after her group was mistaken for enemy soldiers. The little boy infront of her to the left of the frame & also crying was her brother who lost an eye. 2 of her cousins were killed and with her flesh from her back, neck down & left arm peeling off like rags, she wasn't expected to survive the 3rd degree burns but defied the odds after 17 surgical procedures during a 14-month hospital stay. As the moment was also captured on film, Phuc encounters some reporters dressed in military fatifues who gave her water & poured some over her burns (oddly, she had appeared quite calm but passed out afterwards). A crying woman runs past in the opposite direction holding her badly burned child whose flesh is also in tatters (particularly around its right foot). In later years, Phuc recalled that she was yelling "Nong qua, nong qua" (too hot, too hot). The photo is one of the most haunting images of the War (with Nixon at one point doubting its authenticity) and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize & was chosen as 1972's World Press Photo of the Year. Meanwhile, Nixon continued to be stung by the outpouring of protest & criticism over his handling of the War and on the 28th, he vowed that no new draftees would be sent to fight.
In Jul, actress Jane Fonda, declaring herself an avowed communist, visits North Vietnam where she tours military installations and takes photo ops with the NVA (pictured near anti-aircraft installations). As further propaganda, she makes radio broadcasts siding with the enemy & encouraging their fighting spirit. During a staged Press Conference with American POW's, she whitewashes their treatment in captivity & years later when they speak out, she calls them "liars & hypocrites". Upon her return to the USA, she has called for Vets to denounce the military. Fonda (amongst much nastier names) is derogatorily called 'Hanoi Jane' and branded a traitor, prompting some serious demands that inspite of her domestic anti-war speeches, she be tried for treason. The US State Department referred to her actions as "distressing".
On Aug 11, having guarded the American base at Da Nang, the last US ground combat unit leaves South Vietnam departing home for the USA.
In Sept, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu abolished popular elections.
In Oct, rumors arise of a breakthrough at the secret Paris talks between the USA & North Vietnam as the North offer a plan calling for a ceasefire. Just over 2 weeks later on the 25th, Nixon ordered a suspension in the intense bombing of Hanoi to signal approval of the recent Northern concessions from Paris. The next day after further negotiations with the North, Kissinger announced that "peace is at hand" but the War would continue for another 3yrs.
On Jan 27, the Paris Peace Accords are signed by the USA & North Vietnam bringing an official end to America's participation in both its most unpopular & costliest foreign war. The agreement however didn't immediately end the conflict or the fighting (and the finalization process had almost been sabotaged when back on Dec 13, 1972, the North Vietnamese delegation halted discussions when they walked out of the negotiations & after continual stalling, only resumed the peace talks after their return to the bargaining table on the 29th).
In Feb, the North begins the release of 591 captured American prisoners.
On Mar 17, American naval pilot John McCain (later to become a US Senator & Presidential candidate) is released from a North Vietnamese POW camp after more than 5yrs in captivity. That same day, a failed assassination attempt on Cambodian President Lon Nol results in 20 people killed. 10 days later on the 27th, as the last American troops prepare to leave South Vietnam, the White House announces that Nol has requested the bombing of his country to be continued until communist forces agree to a ceasefire. The next day on the 28th, Under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords, the last US troops depart the South ending over a decade of American military presence. The US Military Assistance Command is disestablished and only a Defense Attache office & a few Marine guards at the Saigon US Embassy remain, although roughly 85,000 American civilians stay on as technical advisors to the South Vietnamese. (Some USA-bound returning soldiers report arriving home to airports - still in uniform - to be jeered, booed, spat upon & called "baby killer"). That same day, Hanoi released the last 67 of its acknowledged American POW's, bringing the total number released to 591.
In May, journalists Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein, both of the Washington Post, are awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their investigation of the Watergate cover-up.
On Oct 10, Spiro Agnew becomes the first US Vice President in American history to resign in disgrace, pleading no contest to a charge of federal income tax evasion in exchange for dropped charges of political corruption. The US Justice Dept's evidence included allegations that Agnew's practice of accepting bribes continued while he was VP. He was subsequently fined $10,000, sentenced to 3yrs probation & disbarred by the Maryland Court of Appeals. 6 days later, US Secretary of State Kissinger & North Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho are both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their negotiating efforts in the Paris Peace Accords. Kissinger accepted but Tho declined the award declaring until such time as actual "peace is established".
In Jan, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu ends the fragile ceasfire of the Paris Peace Accords & orders a counter-offensive after the South reports that 55 of its soldiers were killed in clashes with communist forces. In May, impeachment hearings against Nixon begin as the President faces removal on 3 charges connected to the Watergate scandal. On Aug 8, bowing to pressure from both the public & Congress to leave the White House, Nixon becomes the first President in American history to resign due to the impeachment proceedings against him for his involvement in the sordid Watergate affair. 2 weeks later, Congress reduced military aid to South Vietnam from $1 billion to $700 million; one of several actions signalling the North that the USA was backing away from its commitment to the South. On Sept 8, Nixon is pardoned by his successor, President Gerald R. Ford, for any crimes he may have committed while in office.
On Mar, the advancing NVA moves into the central highlands of South Vietnam causing hundreds of thousands of panicked refugees to begin abandonning the region & head for the coast.
On Apr 3, Ford announced 'Operation Baylift' which would evacuate 2000 orphans from the country. This was followed by 'Operation New Life' resulting in the evacuation of more than 110,000 refugees. 21 in the closing days of the War, the NVA takes Xuan Loc, the last stronghold before Saigon & their victory prompted Southern President Nguyen Van Thieu to flee to Taiwan. 2 days later, President Ford declared that American involvement in the War is finished - devastating news to the South Vietnamese desperately pleading for US support to remain & continue as Northern forces tightened the noose around Saigon. On the 25th, the NVA tightened the noose around Saigon. After hostilities for 15yrs, New Ford officially announces the War over. On the 29th as the NVA continued entering the South, a Dutch freelance photographer captures one of the War's many enduring images which freezes the exact moment that marks the definitive conclusion of the USA's disastrous period in Vietnam: the helicopter evacuation as part of 'Operation Frequent Wind'. US forces began a massive departure of 1000 Americans & 6000 Southerners from the capital. (Often mistaken as the departure from the American Embassy compound - while many infact did flee from that building - the picture actually shows the roof of the Pittman apartments where senior CIA officers lived. A dozen lucky people managed to scramble inside for the final airlift with another 30 left behind, praying for an exit that never came). On the 30th, the Vietnam War ended as the NVA occupied the Presidential Palace in Saigon & troops marched into the capital with barely a shot fired. ARVN General Duong Van Minh surrendered the Southern government.
In May, communist forces in Cambodia captured the American freighter 'Mayaguez' and its crew, with the seizure of the ship touching off an international incident; What America had fought against, had happened... At an estimated cost of $150 billion, 58,132 Americans were lost in the war. Nearly 3 million came home. Vietnam - noble cause or shameful venture?
In Feb, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, once an anchor of American Cold War policy in Asia & a primary player in the War, quietly disbanded. In Jul, both North & South Vietnam merged to become one country under communist control with Hanoi as the capital.
On Jan 21, the first day after taking office, President Jimmy Carter granted pardons to hundreds of thousands of Americans who avoided the draft during the War. The healing gesture allowed draft-dodgers to come back home to the USA (many from having fled to Canada) without fear of prosecution.
In Dec, 'The Deer Hunter' becomes the 1st movie (while not a conventional battle movie) to deal with the experiences, controversy and aftermath (such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression & survivor's guilt) of fighting in Vietnam as remembered by friends in a working class Pennsylvania steel mill town. It stars Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken & Meryl Streep (and while it went over-budget & over-schedule), goes on to win 5 Oscars at the Academy Awards including best picture & director. The film's most harrowing & disturbing scene is a flashback of a group of prisoners forced to play Russian roulette by their enemy captors. The tension from the gruelling psychological torture only heightens as the revolver is passed to the next unwilling participant.
On Jan 7, Vietnamese troops seized the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh (stemming from their Dec 25, 1978 invasion of the country), toppling the brutal regime of Pol Pot & his Khmer Rouge. 10 days later on Jan 17, Chinese forces poured into Vietnam in response to their attack but after 9 days of bitter fighting, they were forced to withdraw.
In Aug, 'Apocalypse Now' is released and inspite of winning 2 minor Oscars that year, the movie becomes just as controversial for its off-camera surreal excesses and the true ordeal/difficult exploits it took to make such as extreme weather destroying several expensive sets & the several postponed (earlier intended) release dates due to endless editing of footage. The lengthy, troubled production stars Martin Sheen (who suffered a heart attack), Marlon Brando (who showed up on set overweight), Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper (memorable for his brilliant rambling hallucinatory dialogue) and soon to be prominent stars Harrison Ford & Laurence Fishburne (who had lied about his underage - just 14 when cast for the role in 1976 & still only 17 upon final completion). The film follows a US Special Forces officer on a mission to kill a renegade & presumed insane American Colonel. One of the most unforgettable scenes is the US helicopter attack on a VC village led by a reckless, surfing fanatic Air Cavalry officer. The devastating napalm strike occurs as one chopper blares 'Ride of the Valkyries' from its loudspeakers which builds in crescendo (and in synch with the assault) as the destruction mounts.
On Nov 13, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is erected in Washington,DC. Dedicated near the end of a weeklong national salute those who served, the long-awaited memorial was a simple black-stone V-shaped design, bearing the names of 58,272 killed or missing in Vietnam (and elsewhere in Southeast Asia). The listed names on the granite wall were arranged in order of death & not rank as was common. The memorial itself was chosen from a contest of over 1400 entrants & won by 21yr old Chinese-American Yale architectural undergraduate Maya Lin. From the very start she faced enormous criticism with some calling it "a black gash of shame" and "a nihilistic slab of stone". Many veterans regarded it as a deliberately unheroic scar reflecting American ambivalence about its mostly drafted & disproportionately black soldiers. President Ronald Reagan initially refused to issue a building permit for the memorial due to the public outcry that ignited bitter controversy & Lin (believing she was harassed because her ethnicity was revealed) defended her design in front of the US Congress. To stem the mounting backlash, an eventual compromise was reached in 1984 with the more traditional Three Soliders Monument; a bronze statue of a group of soldiers (black, white & Hispanic) and an American flag being placed off to one side. A later memorial to nurses was also unveiled. The overwhelming majority of the design's critics - now placated - soon came to appreciate the simplicity & emotional power of the wall and controversy quickly evaporated as it became a shrine. In the following decades, the wall (including more than 100 Canadians, many of them dual nationals) emerged as Washington's most-visited memorial with many making the pilgrimage to lightly trace the names with their fingers, or make rubbing transfers of lost loved ones.
The landmark PBS series called 'Vietnam: A Televison History' is aired. Critically acclaimed, it ran for a total of 13hrs over 13 episodes. Having taken 6yrs to make & using archival sources from 11 countries, it was a comprehensive, stunning, no holds barred & detailed account of the war from beginning to end. (Another well-recieved retrospective was the acclaimed documentary 'Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam' inspired by the book of the same name. Using real letters from soldiers & nurses detailing their highly personal experiences in the War, they were read by a multitude of actors in voice-over and accompanied with snapshots, home movie reels & a 60's/70s rock/Motown soundtrack. The film won the Special Jury Prize at the 1988 Sundance Film Festival in 1988 and was also screened out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival that same year).
In Dec, The 'Nam Magazine comic book series is released by Marvel. While structured as the narrative largely from the perspective of a fictional average soldier, it sometimes follows other characters; all of whom detail the conflict covering military events from 1966-72. Also featured are depictions of contact with fellow troops, the Vietnamese population, encounters with the enemy and relations with families & friends back home. Some of the more uniquely (and sometimes outside of the ordinary) personal experiences involve animosity from civilians opposed to the War. The book was conceived by 2 veterans: writer Doug Murray & editor Larry Hama. With sharp illustration, it was praised by some for daring to tackle gritty reality but criticized by others who felt the comic format trivialized the War. Publication ended in Sept 1993 after 86 issues.
On Jun 17, Jane Fonda delivers a long overdue apology on ABC's 20/20 program to veterans & their families, admitting she had been "naive, careless, thoughtless & cruel". (In Apr 1999, she is honored in a special called 'A Celebration: 100yrs of Great Women'. Her segment in the program once again ignites fury from veterans & ex-POW's who claim they will never forgive her actions and once-ignorant sentiment).
On Jul 11, 2 decades after the fall of Saigon, Presdient Bill Clinton establishes full diplomatic relations with Vietnam citing the country's co-operation in accounting for 2238 Americans still listed as missing in the War. Normalization with the old enemy began back on Feb 3, 1994 when Clinton announced the lifing of the 19yr old trade embargo. Despite lifitng it, high taxes remained on Vietnamese exports pending the country's qualification for a trade status designation of "most favored nation" that Vietnam might earn after broadening its program of free market reforms.
Into the new millenium, corporate media (decried for being passive & indifferent) would be faced with a new steady stream of serious academic doubts regarding the 2nd Gulf of Tonkin incident, with some bold accusations from journalists & researchers (and growing belief from the general public) stating it never even happened; something which Hanoi maintains to this day & always has; further calling the 2nd Tonkin incident "a fabrication by the US National Security Council."
In Oct, Random House Books posthumously publishes the 244pg 'Vietnam' by Larry Burrows. Burrows was an English photojournalist best known for his prolific often haunting pictures that captured the War and were a regular fixture in LIFE Magazine. (He & 3 fellow photographers were killed when their helicopter was shot down over Laos on Feb 10, 1971).