Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Vietnam War Movies Ranked

PracticallyHistorical ranks the Five Best films set during the Vietnam War….

5.  We Were Soldiers…2002–  Randall Wallace brings General Hal Moore’s heartbreaking account of the Battle of Ia Drang Valley to the screen with heart wrenching realism.  Wallace’s script captures Moore’s tactical knowledge as well as the commendable balance of the book.  Sam Elliot shines as the grizzled veteran, Sgt. Major Basil Plumley.  Bottom line- Hyper realistic battle sequences highlight  even-handed depiction of early battle in Vietnam conflict.

4.  Full Metal Jacket… 1987– Gustav Hasford’s harrowing novel depicting a Marine’s service during Vietnam, from training to combat, is faithfully recounted in Stanley Kubrick’s stark film.  R. Lee Ermey’s performance, mostly improvised, is one of the most haunting ever filmed.  Bottom Line- Kubrick’s Vietnam movie brought to reality by a real gunnery sergeant.

3.  Apocalypse Now… 1979– Francis Ford Coppola nearly lost his career and his mind bringing Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to the big screen as a Vietnam epic.  Marlon Brando portrays Kurtz as a rogue Special Forces officer hunted by Martin Sheen.  Robert Duvall steals the show as Colonel Bill Kilgore, 1st Cavalry’s resident surfer.  Bottom line- Deep, dark, but visionary.

2.  The Deer Hunter… 1978– Epic in scope, Michael Cimino’s masterpiece is also a humanistic portrayal of how the madness of war can tear apart a tight-knit community.  Powerful performances by Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken reach out to the viewers with unrelenting sadness.  Critics still debate the coda of the film, the cast singing “God Bless America.”   Bottom line- Epics are never short, but this powerful film still resonates today.

1.  Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam… 1987– Bill Couturie’s documentary utilizing actual letters sent home by soldiers during the war is everything a war movie should be:  realistic, moving, funny, frightening, and most of all, powerful.  Actors like Robin Williams, Tom Berenger, Matt Dillon, Michael J. Fox, Kathleen Turner, and Willem Dafoe bring the words of the men and women to life.  Couturie combines home movie footage from in- country with news coverage of the day all set to a soundtrack of the popular hits of the time.  Nothing in the film is staged or recreated providing realism that will leave emotions raw.  Bottom line- The perfect way to end any filmography detailing the Vietnam war.  Unforgettable.

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Poor Man’s Fight

Donald Trump dodged the draft during the Vietnam war... but this will have little effect on the millions who support him.  In Trump’s world, bluster passes for merit, talk is substitute for service.  Yes, student deferments were draft dodging- especially when exercised by upper-class children of privilege.

A clear difference

A clear difference

Medical exemptions were every bit as dishonest… and Trump used one when his stint in graduate school came to an end.  In July 1968 he was physically fit- three months later(as his deferment ended) he was suddenly afflicted with “heel spurs.”   Rich kids from coast to coast found sympathetic doctors to conjure up various maladies.  Poor kids and men of conscience went to war.

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Only in Trump’s world is he a hero… and John McCain a coward.  Obviously overcompensating for his cowardice, Trump disparages the real article while selling his fraudulent goods to unwitting followers.  Bill Clinton was mercilessly attacked by Conservatives for his activities during the Vietnam war….where are they now?

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Failure to Communicate

Far too much ink has been spilled blaming the entire tragedy surrounding the Vietnam War on the United States…. a closer look at the historical record reveals otherwise–  simply put, North Vietnam was never interested in ending the war. 

Consider Nixon’s good faith appeal to Ho Chi Mihn in 1969… Nixon sincerely wanted to find a conclusion to the conflict and was more than prepared to offer concessions to the Communists.

Dear Mr. President:

I realize that it is difficult to communicate meaningfully across the gulf of four years of war. But precisely because of this gulf, I wanted to take this opportunity to reaffirm in all solemnity my desire to work for a just peace. I deeply believe that the war in Vietnam has gone on too long and delay in bringing it to an end can benefit no one–least of all the people of Vietnam. My speech on May 14 laid out a proposal which I believe is fair to all parties. Other proposals have been made which attempt to give the people of South Vietnam an opportunity to choose their own future. These proposals take into account the reasonable conditions of all sides. But we stand ready to discuss other programs as well, specifically the 10-point program of the NLF.

As I have said repeatedly, there is nothing to be gained by waiting. Delay can only increase the dangers and multiply the suffering.

The time has come to move forward at the conference table toward an early resolution of this tragic war. You will find us forthcoming and open-minded in a common effort to bring the blessings of peace to the brave people of Vietnam. Let history record that at this critical juncture, both sides turned their face toward peace rather than toward conflict and war.
Sincerely,

RICHARD NIXON

 

Ho Chi Minh’s woefully inept response was nothing more than Marxist blather disguised as patriotism…  Nixon offered a way out.  Ho could have saved the lives of millions of his people just by agreeing to talk.  North Vietnam wanted the war to continue to satisfy a suicidal need to be considered heroic by the increasingly anti-American global community.

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Dogma Trumps Intelligence

America’s blind obedience to the dogmas of… monolithic communism and the Domino Theory led to tragedy of the Vietnam war.  In 1945, American intelligence officers established clear and firm links with the Viet Minh and its leader, Ho Chi Minh.  The Vietnamese nationalists of the Viet Minh were resisting Japanese rule and providing our OSS officers with valuable intelligence.  Ho Chi Minh sought the national self-determination Franklin Roosevelt seemed to be promising the world.  The OSS agents believed Ho to be the best alternative to govern Vietnam.  FDR let them both down.

Ho Chi Minh, Giap, and members of the OSS Deer Team

Ho Chi Minh, Giap, and members of the OSS Deer Team

America’s point man in Indochina was… Lt. Col. Archimedes Patti.  Dubbed “The Deer Team,”  Patti’s men contacted the Viet Minh and began to equip and train a select number of their best troops.  In return, the Viet Minh assisted in the recovery of downed American flyers, provided invaluable intelligence, and battled the Japanese.  With the surrender of Japan, Ho Chi Minh was prepared to move forward with Vietnamese independence- a dream thousands of years in the making.

Patti working with Commander Giap in 1945

Patti working with Commander Giap in 1945

Ho Chi Minh dined with Lt. Col. Patti in late August 1945… to discuss the transfer of power and disarming Japanese troops.  Near the end of the meeting, Ho presented Patti a document- a draft of the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence he planned to release on September 2.  Patti was taken aback to read the words of Thomas Jefferson quoted reverently in the brief document.  Both men toasted the future of an independent Vietnam… Patti remembers,   “We had him, we had Ho Chi Minh on a silver platter…the Soviets were in no position to help him-only we could…I did prepare a large number, and I mean about, oh, well over fifteen position papers on our position in Vietnam. But I never knew what happened to them. Those things just disappeared, they just went down the dry well.”

Patti meets with Ho and Giap

Patti meets with Ho and Giap

Roosevelt had already decided to give Indochina… back to the French.  Churchill insisted the French empire not be broken up, lest the British empire would follow.  Rather than disarm Japanese troops, British forces rearmed them and turned them against supporters of Ho Chi Minh’s government.  A temporary division of the country was allowed to solidify.  The OSS agents were marginalized, accused of fomenting revolution, and finally forced out of Saigon by the British commanders.  The expulsion led to the murder of Colonel Peter Dewey, America’s first casualty in Vietnam.  America had followed the wrong course, in spite of all the masterful intelligence work done by Archimedes Patti and his OSS team.  The Vietnam war was our fate.

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Misreading the Same History

Cold Warriors

Cold Warriors

Kennedy wanted to end the Vietnam war.   Conspiracy theorists on both sides point to National Security Memo #263 as the smoking gun in Kennedy’s secret plan to get our troops out of Vietnam; and, also Memo #273 as proof the warmonger Johnson wanted to escalate the war.  Both accounts are demonstrably false.  Memo #263 simply states that Kennedy wanted to follow the recommendations of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor following their visit to South Vietnam(withdrawal was not one of them.)   The second memo was drafted November 21, 1963 and is clearly a Kennedy document approved by Johnson.  In an interview given on the Huntley-Brinkley Report Kennedy reaffirmed our commitment to South Vietnam and his belief in the “domino theory.”  Kennedy did not want to end the war in South Vietnam and Johnson did not personally choose to escalate it. 

 

September 9, 1963: "I think we should stay. We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw."

September 9, 1963: “I think we should stay. We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw.”

Far too many amateurs historians have duped… suspicious  Americans for academic credibility and financial gain.  Oliver Stone lends his tarnished credibility to the misreading of a complicated series of policy decisions.  Stone does not deal in complexities- as a film maker, he prefers stories with heroes, villains, and tidy plots.  For reasons unknown, Stone and his acolytes refuse to accept Jack Kennedy for what he was- a Conservative Democrat committed to the policy of containment as laid down by his Democratic predecessor, Harry Truman.  Vietnam was a national tragedy and a painful scar on our history- trying to make John Kennedy the martyr of it is a fraudulent endeavor.

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History Reveals True Colors

Nixon apologists were hoping the new renovations to his Presidential library… would shift the historical discourse about his presidency.  In the best case, a new appreciation of Nixon’s foreign policy record would counter the voluminous accounts of his abuse of power and deceit.

Keeping copious notes

Keeping copious notes

New revelations from the handwritten notes of long-time Nixon aide HR Haldeman… expose Nixon’s nefarious political character before he gained the power of the Presidency.

"Of course I didn't"

“Of course I didn’t”

 

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Forever Tricky

The Nixon renaissance is over before it could really take hold…recent renovations at the Nixon library were designed to renew interest in the 37th President’s foreign policy achievements – and to potentially redeem his reputation.  The new scrutiny has allowed researchers to bring forward evidence that Nixon’s 1968 Presidential campaign actively disrupted Lyndon Johnson’s attempts at peace talks to end the Vietnam War.

Moving behind the mirrors

Moving behind the mirrors

HR Haldeman’s hand-written notes detailing instructions from Nixonto utilize powerful Republican donors with ties to China and Taiwan- ties that would thwart attempts by Johnson to bring North Vietnam to the negotiating table.  News of the potential for peace allowed Hubert Humphrey to close the gap with Nixon as the Summer of 1968 drew to a close.  Preventing the talks became essential campaign strategy for Nixon- his intermediaries worked tirelessly through October to build suspicion in China and in the South Vietnamese government.  The talks failed to materialize…. Nixon edged Humphrey by .07%  of the popular vote.

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Nixon publicly denied his involvement until his dying day… and his defenders are responding to the Haldeman notes by portraying the chances for peace as “slim.”  The impact of Nixon’s interference is for historians to now decide.  The consistent deceit is evidence itself of the historical magnitude of Nixon’s actions.

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