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VIETNAM: A Television History
Roots of a War (1945-1953)
Transcript


VIETNAM: A Television History is a 13-part documentary film series produced for public television by WGBH Boston, in cooperation with Central Independent Television/United Kingdom, and Antenne-2/France, and in association with LRE Productions. A six year project from conception to completion, the series carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of war in Vietnam for everyone involved, beginning with early history, through the French colonial period, and up to the fall of Saigon and unification of the country in 1975. Executive producer Richard Ellison, chief correspondent Stanley Karnow, and Director of Media Research Lawrence Lichty, with some 60 consultants and four production units, comprised the production team, centered at WGBH in Boston. Its members garnered hundreds of interviews, researched 70 film archives worldwide, and traveled the length of Vietnam to create perhaps the most exhaustive historical documentary series in television history.

EISENHOWER, August 4, 1953

...So when the United States votes $400 million to help that war, we're not voting for a giveaway program. We're voting for the cheapest way that we can prevent the occurrence of something that would be of the most terrible significance to the United States of America, our security!

KENNEDY, September 2, 1963

...If we withdrew from Vietnam, the Communists would control Vietnam. Pretty soon Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaya would go.

 

JOHNSON, August 2, 1965

...If this little nation goes down the drain and can't maintain her independence, ask yourself, what's going to happen to all the other little nations?

NIXON, March 22, 1971

...If the United States now were to throw in the towel and come home and the Communists took over South Vietnam, then all over Southeast Asia, all over the Pacific, in the Mideast, in Europe, in the world, the United States would suffer a blow. And peace -- because we are the great peace-keeping nation in the world today, because of our power -- would suffer a blow from which it might not recover.

NARRATOR

First a handful of advisers. Then the Marines. Finally an army of half a million. That was the Vietnam War. It was an undeclared war. A war without front lines or clear objectives. A war against an elusive enemy. A war.

Medic: Speak to me...

Soldier: Yeah, I'm still alive...

Medic: Speak to me...What's your name, tell me what your name is...Where're

you from?

Soldier: Steve, Seattle, Washington.

Medic: Seattle, Washington...It's a good town. Good town, good town. Very

good town.

Soldier: Can I go to sleep, Doc? Can I go to sleep?

Medic: No, don't go to sleep!

CAPT. FRANK HICKEY

We had some precarious situations and we lost some people, but we always won. So to me, we were very successful, you know. But as I think of it now, I don't know what we won. We won a box on a map where the next day we left it and we never came back maybe.

NARRATOR

It was a war that blurred the line between friend and enemy.

NGO THI HIEN

Wherever the Americans went, they burned and destroyed and killed. I didn't see any guerrillas being killed, only villagers.

SGT. THOMAS MURPHY

An eight-year-old or nine-year-old can kill you just as quick as a 25 or a

26-year-old man. Back here in the States, the kids were playing cowboys and indians. Over there they had been playing it for real.

NARRATOR

It was a war with deep roots, deeper than most Americans knew. Ho Chi Minh and his followers fought for decades: against the French, then against the Americans and their South Vietnamese ally.

DO VAN SU

I always believed in my country. But instead of sending my sons out to defend their country, I sent them out to die.

NARRATOR

It was a war that turned South Vietnam inside out. A war that changed the GIs who fought it.

PRIVATE GEORGE CANTERO

"GI, you want Vietnamese cigarette?" For a box of Tide, you could get a carton of pre-packed, pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes soaked in opium. For ten dollars you could get a vial of pure heroin. You could get liquid opium, speed, acid, anything you wanted.

NARRATOR

It was the first television war...

Reporter: What's he got...small arms?

MP: Small arms, automatic fire, grenade launcher...

NARRATOR

...with uncensored battle reports flashed to the folks at home.

Reporter: What's the hardest part of it?

Marine: Not knowing where they are, that's the worst of it.

Reporter: Have you lost any friends?

Marine: Quite a few. We lost one the other day. This whole thing stinks, really.

Crowd: Peace now, peace now...

NARRATOR

It was the first war Americans opposed in huge numbers, openly and passionately.

Crowd (singing): All we are saying is give peace a chance.

Man: Are you listening, Nixon? Are you listening, Agnew?

NARRATOR

The Vietnam War ended when the Communists took Saigon. The end of the war left questions and issues that are still unanswered and unresolved.

REAGAN, August 1980

Well, it's time that we recognized that ours was in truth a noble cause. Let us tell those who fought in that war that we will never again ask young men to fight and possibly die in a war our government is afraid to let them win.

NARRATOR

Vietnam. A noble cause? A shameful venture?

This television series looks back on a hard chapter in America's history. Two and one half million Americans fought in Vietnam. And 58,000 Americans died there.

Why?

America's war in Vietnam lasted 15 years. But the Vietnamese have known war a long time -- more than 2,000 years.

Their traditional enemy was China, their giant neighbor to the north. For centuries, Vietnam was the southernmost part of China's empire. The Vietnamese absorbed Chinese culture and customs, but they never accepted Chinese rule. Today, throughout Vietnam, they commemorate the Trung sisters, who led a rebellion against China in the first century against Christ. The rebellion failed, but the Trung sisters are still heroines -- part of a long line of Vietnamese who fought foreign domination.

PREMIER PHAM VAN DONG

Our history, from the time of the Hung kings and the Trung sisters, to the era of President Ho Chi Minh has been a history of great struggle. Throughout history, the Vietnamese people have always done their best to defend the country and to build the nation.

NARRATOR

They fought for almost a thousand years after the Trungs to evict the Chinese. Then they pushed south to their present borders, conquering other peoples in their path. The country expanded so rapidly that it fragmented in a series of civil wars. Despite their internal conflicts, the Vietnamese regarded them-selves as one country and one people, but they were too weak and divided to fight off the conquering Europeans in the nineteenth century.

Around 1860, the French seized the area near Saigon. They took over central and northern Vietnam during the next two decades, and by 1885 Vietnam had once again lost its independence.

French Indochina at the end of the 1800s: Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, which the French divided into three regions: Cochinchina, Annam and Tonkin. To the Vietnamese, the division was a deliberate attempt to destroy their national unity.

The Vietnamese resisted. The French called all resisters "pirates", and they sent in the troops for the first "pacification" of Vietnam. They staged public executions. The severed heads were photographed and printed on postcards which soldiers sent home to sweethearts in Paris "with kisses from Hanoi."

It took 20 years to get the Vietnamese resistance under control. Then the French could concentrate on the economics of colonialism, trying to transform Vietnam into a source of profit.

DUONG VAN KHANH

The people here suffered a lot because of high taxes and hard forced labor. They worked from dawn until dusk, but they did not have enough to eat.

NARRATOR

The cheap labor profited a few French companies even though Indochina was a financial sinkhole. The French nation spent millions of francs each year to protect and support the colony, while French companies like Michelin Rubber made millions in profits from factories and plantations.

NARRATOR

There were no major uprisings during these hard years. Vietnamese society was reeling under the impact of Westernization. French culture permeated the cities, bringing Western fashions and ideas.

The Vietnamese elite began to give their sons a Western education. Almost all of those who would lead the next resistance to the French were French-educated.

Among them was Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Minh's early years are difficult to trace. He was always mysterious about himself, giving few interviews, and preferring in later life to present himself as the benevolent "Uncle Ho."

Ho was born about 1890 as Nguyen Tat Thanh, the son of an official who resigned rather than serve under the French. As a young man, Ho left his country, working as a shiphand and cook in America, Britain and France.

In 1917, Ho moved to Paris. He took the pseudonym Nguyen Ai Quoc, "Nguyen the Patriot," and began to agitate for Vietnam's independence. He tried to plead his cause at the Versailles Conference following World War I, but was not admitted. His effort made him famous among the Vietnamese in France.

In 1920, Nguyen Ai Quoc became a founding member of the French Communist Party, the first Vietnamese Communist. He remained in France editing an anti-colonial paper called Le Paria (The Outcast), and supporting himself as a photographer's assistant. His drawings, published in the newspaper, showed he was still concerned with Vietnam, which he had not seen for ten years.

The Communists sent him to Moscow for training in 1923.

He travelled widely, organizing expatriate Vietnamese into a revolutionary party. Reports during the next 17 years placed him in Germany, China, Thailand, France, Russia.

FRENCH NEWSREEL

Pathe Journal presents a review of achievements accomplished under the protection of our flag.

In regions of hostility and misery French civilizers have brought peace, work, prosperity and joy.

The French overseas domain is an essential part of the world's economy, an active force of civilization and a glorious testimony to the grandeur of France.

NARRATOR

brought the end of this "grandeur of France."

Japan, pursuing its conquest of China, wanted to block the transport of war material through Vietnam.

In June 1940, three days after France fell to Nazi Germany, Japan demanded the right to land forces in Indochina.

Japan's arrival deeply impressed the Vietnamese. Asians like themselves had overthrown the European colonials -- for it was clear who was in charge.

NARRATOR

The Japanese supported several Vietnamese nationalist groups. But other groups were both anti-French and anti-Japanese. The most important was the Vietminh, founded in 1941 by Nguyen Ai Quoc. He had returned to Vietnam after 30 years, with a new name: Ho Chi Minh, meaning, "He Who Enlightens."

HOANG QUOC VIET

After the conference to establish the Vietminh, Uncle Ho sent out a letter calling for the support of the population. And it was this that rallied the entire country around the movement. And when people realized that Ho Chi Minh was actually Nguyen Ai Quoc, their trust in the movement was further estab-lished. This was because the name Nguyen Ai Quoc had been widely known in the country. People knew that he was a great patriot.

NARRATOR

The Vietminh organized guerrilla bases, trained cadres, harassed the French and Japanese and spread propaganda, urging the peasants to resist.

INTERVIEWER

Why did the Vietminh fight the Japanese while other Asian nationalists collaborated?

PREMIER PHAM VAN DONG

(Laugh) I apologize, but this is a very funny question. At that time, the Japanese had already overthrown the French and began to dominate our country, so of course we had to fight the Japanese.

NARRATOR

By early 1945, Vietnam was suffering a terrible famine. People blamed the French and Japanese, who were hoarding rice, feeding it to Japanese troops, and even exporting it to Japan -- while an estimated two million Vietnamese out of eight million in the northern areas died.

DR. TRAN DUY HUNG

At that time, in our estimate, at least 40,000 starving, poor peasants arrived in Hanoi to beg for food and to wait for handouts, for alms.

The French did not organize any hunger relief. And the Japanese specifically forbade us to carry out any hunger relief effort of our own.

People dug into the garbage dumps in order to find any edible thing at all. They also ate rats. But this was not enough to keep them alive.

NARRATOR

The Vietminh organized the peasants to seize rice stocks, and gained tremendous prestige. This peasant support gave them a political edge they never lost.

PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, March 1, 1945

It's a long tough road to Tokyo. It is longer to go to Tokyo than it is to Berlin, in every sense of the word. The defeat of Germany will not mean the end of the war against Japan...

NARRATOR

As the war in Europe drew to a close, Allied attention turned to Asia and the war against Japan. One of the pressing needs was intelligence. The Vietminh believed Allied statements supporting the rights of oppressed peoples. They had given the Allies information about Japanese troop movements, so the Americans turned to the Vietminh and its leader, Ho Chi Minh.

ARCHIMEDES PATTI (OSS Officer)
I first met Ho on the China border between China and Indochina in the last days of April of 1945.

He was an interesting individual. Very sensitive, very gentle, rather a frail type. We spoke quite at length about the general situation, not only in Indochina, but the world at large.

ABBOT LOW MOFFAT

We knew he was a Communist, but we also felt, as they did, and the way anybody who has known, met Ho Chi Minh, who I've ever talked with, had the same feeling: he was first a nationalist, and second a Communist. That is, he was interested in getting the independence of his people and then he thought probably the best thing for them was the Communist type of government. But he was a nationalist first and foremost.

NARRATOR

The Vietminh agreed to help the Allies. Major Patti sent a training group, the Deer Mission, into the northern mountains.

ARCHIMEDES PATTI

The Deer team went in and they organized. Out of about 500 Vietnamese, we selected, with the help of General Giap, selected 200. We spent the next four weeks training these young men into the art of using automatic weapons, demolition equipment, infiltrating and exfiltrating into various dangerous areas.

There, for the first time, we saw what kind of troops the Vietminh were. They were a very willing, fine young nationalist, really what we used to say "gung ho" type. They were willing to risk their lives for their cause, the cause of independence against the French.

NARRATOR

Before Ho's men could prove their willingness, World War II was over.

The sudden Japanese collapse took many in French Indochina by surprise, but the Vietminh were ready for what they called the "August Revolution." Declaring Vietnam independent, they marched in to take Hanoi peacefully.

Ho Chi Minh formed a government in Hanoi, carefully mixing in members of other nationalist groups. But in the South, away from Ho's moderating influence, his followers started purging rival nationalists.

Still with the Vietminh, and perhaps reinforcing the idea of American support, was the OSS.

ARCHIMEDES PATTI

Two or three days after I met Ho, he asked me to come in and stop and see him at which time he wanted to show me something, and what he wanted to show me was a draft of the Declaration of Independence that he was going to declare several days later. Of course, it was in Vietnamese and I couldn't read it and when it was interpreted to me, I was quite taken aback to hear the words of the American Declaration of Independence. Words about liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness, etcetera. I just couldn't believe my own ears.

NARRATOR

On September 2, 1945, on board the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan formally surrendered.

On the same day throughout Vietnam, the Vietnamese celebrated their self-proclaimed Independence Day and the formation of a new country, the Demo-cratic Republic of Vietnam.

In Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh read a speech that began, "All men are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights..."

DR. TRAN DUY HUNG

I can say that the most moving moment was when President Ho Chi Minh climbed the steps and the national anthem was sung. It was the first time that the national anthem of Vietnam was sung in an official ceremony.

Uncle Ho then read the Declaration of Independence, which was a short docu-ment. As he was reading, Uncle Ho stopped and asked, "Compatriots, can you hear me?"

This simple question went into the hearts of everyone there. After a moment of silence, they all shouted, "Yes, we hear you!" And I can say that we did not just shout with our mouths but with all our hearts, the hearts of over 400,000 people standing in the square then.

After Uncle Ho finished reading the Declaration of Independence, an airplane, a small plane, circled over us. We did not know whose plane it was. We thought that it was a Vietnamese plane. But when it swooped down over us, we recog-nized the American flag. The crowd cheered enthusiastically.

NARRATOR

Ho appealed to Presi-dent Harry Truman but he would probably have accepted anyone's support. Truman did not respond to Ho's letters. He had been in office only four months in August 1945 and had not had time to formulate a policy on Indochina.

ABBOT LOW MOFFAT

There was quite a division in the State Department over Indochina. Both the Far Eastern office and the European office were in complete agreement that we wanted a strong France recovered in Europe from the trauma of Vichy and the defeat in the war, but the European division felt that to help get the French back on their feet we should go along with practically anything that the French wanted.

NARRATOR

The Allies had worked out a compromise plan to disarm the Japanese.

Above the 16th parallel, the Chinese would take the surrender of Japanese troops. The British would do the same in the South. They arrived in Saigon in early September.

NARRATOR

The British commander, General Douglas Gracey, was a seasoned colonial officer with limited political experience. His orders were to disarm the Japanese, and maintain law and order.

MAJ. PHILIP MALINS

He had absolutely no mandate whatever to start talking about handing over French Indochina to anyone other than the French. He had his straight, strict instructions.

NARRATOR

The Vietminh fought back, but they had few weapons to use against the French troops, and the Vietminh's brutal tactics alienated other southern nation-alists.

The French regained control. In the North, Ho's Vietminh had widespread support, but they also faced a problem: 150,000 Nationalist Chinese troops. The Chinese came to disarm the Japanese. They stayed to loot and disrupt and they threatened to remain indefinitely.

Desperate to expel the Chinese, Ho Chi Minh negotiated with the French. In March 1946, they reached an agreement. The French colonial authorities dis-

played their power as Ho Chi Minh, President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, came to confirm the agreement permitting French troops back for a limited period.

In return, France recognized the new Vietnamese state, and the Chinese army left.

Ho Chi Minh was gambling that the French would not try to seize power, and that a long-range agreement could eventually be negotiated.

GENERAL VO NGUYEN GIAP

A truce was concluded. There were to be future negotiations to settle the problems between us and France. Under these conditions, we allowed a certain number of French troops to take the place of the nearly 200,000 troops of Chiang Kai-shek, which were to evacuate our country as soon as possible. So we had some breathing time to consolidate our forces.

NARRATOR

The French in Hanoi greeted the arriving troops as conquering heroes. The Vietnamese stayed home.

Ho Chi Minh travelled to France to continue the negotiations. But the French cabinet had collapsed. There was no one to negotiate with. He had to play tourist until a new coalition was formed. While he waited, the French administration in Saigon, acting on its own, declared the southern part of Vietnam separate from the North. It was a violation of the March agreement and Ho wondered if there was any point to further negotiations. "Should I go back home?" he asked. He was told the new government would straighten it out in Paris.

In 1946, Ho had been famous as a patriot for a quarter of a century, and the Vietnamese in Paris turned out to welcome this first president of an indepen-dent Vietnam. The French greeted the veteran Communist formally, as a chief of state. At the time in France, Communists were part of the government.

In public, relations were cordial, but in fact the French and Vietnamese negotiators were far apart.

NARRATOR

The negotiations, held at the historic Fontainebleau chateau, went badly. The Vietnamese insisted that southern Vietnam was part of their country. The French would not budge.

PREMIER PHAM VAN DONG

When the meeting began, the chief of the French delegation, Max Andre, said to me: "We only need an ordinary police operation for eight days to clean all of you out." There was no need for negotiations.

GENERAL JEAN-JULIEN FONDE

The solution had to come from Fontainebleau. Then the negotiations at Fontainebleau failed. From then on, relationships deteriorated. The climate deteriorated.

NARRATOR

The March agreement was dead. With French and Vietminh forces at close range, the fighting escalated. There were provocations on both sides.

In November 1946, the French shelled Haiphong. Many French officers believed only force would stop the Vietminh.

HENRI MARTIN

When we visited Haiphong afterwards, all the Vietnamese neighborhoods were completely wiped out. There were dead buried under debris...it is difficult to know the exact figure. But the larger part of the city, it seemed to us from what we saw, almost the entire Vietnamese part of the city had been destroyed.

NARRATOR

General Fonde tried to reason with General Giap.

GENERAL JEAN-JULIEN FONDE

"Listen," I said, "I know war: murders, deaths, destruction, bridges blown up, burning houses. This is unthinkable. We have to prevent this." He said to me, "You listen. Politics come before economics. The destruction is not important. The deaths -- one million Vietnamese deaths -- not important. The French will die too. We are ready. It will last two years, five years if necessary. We will no longer give in."

NARRATOR

By late 1946, Ho Chi Minh's government was forced out of Hanoi, out of the cities. The first Vietnam war had started.

The French were confident that they could wipe out Giap's ragtag army quickly. They were a modern army with modern weapons, some bought with U.S. aid.

The Vietminh had widespread support from the peasants.

DUONG VAN KHANH

I heard about Uncle Ho who fought for the rights of the peasants and the workers. So as a peasant who has suffered a lot, I realized that the only correct thing for me to do was to follow the same path.

NGUYEN THI DINH

At first we did not have any weapons except for bamboo spears. But in the northern part of our country, they were producing arms. I was appointed to go there to report on the situation in the South.

Uncle Ho told me that he carried the South in the depth of his heart, and I should tell him what we needed so that the central government could supply us to fight the French and drive them out of the country. I replied that we needed guns. Uncle Ho said that the central government could only give us so many guns because they did not have many. The main thing, he said, was to capture the enemy's guns and use these guns against them.

NARRATOR

The French bogged down in a quicksand war. Again and again they declared an area "pacified," only to find it slipping back into Vietminh control. The guerrillas seemed to be everywhere and nowhere.

In an attempt to take popular support away from the Vietminh, the French created a rival Vietnamese government, the State of Vietnam. As its ruler, the French picked Vietnam's former emperor, Bao Dai. But they placed so many limitations on his regime that to many Vietnamese it did not seem at all independent.

NARRATOR

Nineteen-fifty brought a new source of help to the Vietminh. Mao Zedong's forces arrived at Vietnam's borders, having taken all of China. They extended diplomatic recognition to Ho's government, the first country to do so. The Soviet Union followed quickly. And a week later, the United States recognized Bao Dai's rival state.

Lines were being drawn in a continuing Cold War.

DOUGLAS MACARTHUR II (State Department Counselor)

In the early 1950s, the United States had a concept of communism, interna-tional communism as a hard monolithic block of China and Russia with no crevices in it that were seeking to expand and gain a dominant position in the world. In Europe, they had taken over Eastern Europe, pushed into Czechoslo-vakia; and in Southeast Asia, an area in which we had interests, they seemed to be trying to do the same thing.

PRESIDENT HARRY TRUMAN, 1950

The cause of freedom is being challenged throughout the world today by the forces of imperialistic communism..

NARRATOR

In May 1950, for the first time, President Truman authorized direct U.S. aid for the French war in Indochina -- $10 million -- the beginning of an American commitment.

PRESIDENT HARRY TRUMAN

...They have proved time after time that their talk about peace is only a cloak for imperialism.

NARRATOR

The U.S. commitment deepened after North Korean troops invaded South Korea at the end of June, 1950.

DEAN RUSK

It was decided on the very weekend of the North Korean attack that we would step up our aid very significantly to the French and to Southeast Asia. Because we did not know at that point whether or not the Chinese might attempt to move into that area as part of a general offensive in Asia.

NARRATOR

By the end of 1950, the United States had given $150 million in aid to the French forces, including planes, tanks, fuel, ammunition and napalm.

As U.S. strategists looked at Asia, they saw a spreading Communist menace. The fight in Korea had become an international war. And in Vietnam, the Vietminh had linked up with Communist China. Vietminh war capacities improved dramatic-ally.

COLONEL BUI TIN

We used the new weapons to mount offensives against the French. We were able to wipe out two large French units and capture all their weapons.

The way was cleared for communications between Vietnam and the outside world. Then we received military aid from China, especially equipment.

NARRATOR

The defeats on the northern border were a disaster for the French.

The Indochina war was no longer just a colonial conflict. It was still small, but it had become international, supported on both sides by major powers.

By the end of 1953, America was paying 80 percent of the war, over a billion dollars a year. "Le jaunissement" -- France's Vietnamizing of the war -- and other strategies to gain Vietnamese support had failed. The French controlled the cities, but the Vietminh controlled the countryside. The French controlled the day; the Vietminh, the night.

General Henri de Navarre came in as the fifth French commander in five years.

CAPTAIN JEAN POUGET

When General Navarre arrived, he opened a file right away and on that file I wrote "War Goals." We looked for what to tell the troops. Well, until the end this file remained practically empty. We never could express concretely our war goals.

NARRATOR

General Navarre tried yet another new strategy. French units were set up in remote areas, supplied by air. Their mission was to search out and destroy the Vietminh.

The French planned to test their new strategy in a valley set among the western mountains, 170 miles from Hanoi: Dienbienphu. The Vietminh had passed through the valley during a major attack on Laos. The French expected another attack and thought Dienbienphu would be the place to engage them. In November 1953, 12,000 French troops began dropping into the valley, under the command of Colonel Christian de Castries.

The top French command in Saigon was sure that Giap would never be able to mass enough troops around Dienbienphu, never get heavy artillery up the hills, never keep supply lines open. The command at Dienbienphu was equally confi-dent. The artillery officer insisted that no Vietminh gun would be able to fire more than three rounds.

CAPTAIN JEAN POUGET

I saw all sorts of civilian and military authorities go through Dienbienphu. Unless my memory is completely twisted, I don't remember a single one, absolutely not a single one of these authorities who didn't find that Dien-bienphu was a formidable base. It was the great land and air base, it was "untakeable."

NARRATOR

The Vietminh saw Dienbienphu as a great opportunity, but a great gamble, too. Ho Chi Minh's forces had lost heavily in attacks on other French strong points. But they decided to take the risk.

CAPTAIN CAO XUAN NGHIA

From Tahi-nguyen it took us about 45 days. We marched at night and rested during the day. Sometimes we just slept on the roadsides if there were no shelters around.

NARRATOR

The French command was inviting a battle because they thought the Vietminh would never be able to get enough troops and guns to Dienbienphu.

But they did. Fifty-one thousand Vietminh soldiers -- four times the number of French troops -- crossed the mountains, carrying supplies on their backs and bicycles, and hauling guns.

NARRATOR

Both sides had a special reason for wanting to win at Dienbienphu. At this same time, January 1954, the great powers were meeting in Berlin. They set a date and place -- April 26 in Geneva -- to meet and discuss Asian issues, includ-ing the Indochina crisis.

On March 13, Giap launched his attack on Dienbienphu. The battle began with massive "human wave" assaults.

The Vietminh guns blanketed French artillery from positions so well dug in and camouflaged that the French planes could not get at them.

The first post fell within eight hours.

By the next day, March 14, the Vietminh shelling had destroyed the main airstrip.

The French command staff was shocked. Colonel de Castries became withdrawn, uncommunicative. On the second night the artillery commander committed suicide saying, "I am completely dishonored."

Four days into the battle, the Vietminh controlled the entire perimeter. The cost was high: thousands were dead and wounded among the Vietminh.

Giap decided to change strategy.

GENERAL GIAP

This decision on the Dienbienphu front constitutes for me one of the biggest and the most difficult decisions in my fighting life.

COL. BUI TIN

As commander, General Vo Nguyen Giap decided to end this attack based on the human-wave tactic. The entire plan was changed. The attack was stopped and all the heavy artillery pieces were pulled back to a distance. Then trenches and tunnels were dug and the morale of the troops was rebuilt based on the slogan: "Advance solidly, Fight solidly." Shovels became extremely important weapons. All the cadres and soldiers put most of their time and energy into digging trenches and tunnels.

We slowly surrounded Dienbienphu with trenches, cutting into the airstrip so it could not be used again, slowly tightening the noose around the necks of the French.

NARRATOR

With the airstrip out, the French garrison was dependent on parachute drops, but Vietminh anti-aircraft fire forced pilots to fly too high. Supplies began falling into enemy hands.

General Giap's change in strategy was working, and he settled in for a long siege.

For the French, Dienbienphu became a nightmare. The rainy season started early with drenching downpours. French dugouts and shelters collapsed. Clean water became impossible to find. Medical supplies ran out. No planes could land to evacuate the wounded. Men who were wounded in the trenches sunk under the yard-high mud to die.

JEAN POUGET

I arrived during the night of May 2, and Dienbienphu fell on May 7. The memory I keep of it is one block of time. There was no day or night. I never lay down. I never slept. I don't remember eating. At four o'clock in the morning there was a lull. We were 35 left at my post, with one machine gun, one grenade left. So I asked on the radio, I said, "Since you cannot send rein-forcements..." He said, "Where do you want me to get them? You know there is nothing left." "Then give me the authorization to get out." He answered very simply, "No way. You're paratroopers, you're there to die."

We built a barricade with corpses at the entrance since we had no sandbags, and we waited. And we saw the shadows coming one by one, the Vietminh. I decided to throw my grenade and we immediately got return fire. One of my last impressions was to feel the wall of corpses shivering under the burst of fire. Then a grenade must have hit my helmet because the net was burned and the helmet dented. American helmets are very solid. I lost consciousness and when I came to, there was above me, very close, a surgeon's mask from which a voice came: "You are a prisoner of the army of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

NARRATOR

Though Vietminh combat cameramen were present at Dienbienphu, scenes of the 55-day battle were restaged by a Soviet director after the French defeat. Some of the film sequences are authentic, some re-enacted.

Dienbienphu cost the French 1,500 dead, 4,000 wounded, 10,000 taken prisoner. Many of the prisoners died in Vietminh camps.

The Vietminh victory at Dienbienphu cost them even more: 8,000 dead, 15,000 wounded.

JOHN FOSTER DULLES, June 1954

You are all aware that the French and their Vietnam ally have suffered reverses, notably the fall of Dienbienphu after a superb defense. The present situation is grave, but by no means hopeless. In the present conference at Geneva, we and other free nations are seeking a formula by which the fighting can be ended and the people of Indochina assured true independence. So far the Communist attitude at Geneva is not encouraging.

NARRATOR

The Geneva Conference bogged down almost immediately. The United States delegation was ordered to watch and not to talk.

U. ALEXIS JOHNSON

My instructions were to go to the meetings. To not participate in them and not to agree to anything but to be there and sit at the table. And I found that a very difficult job, to sit at a table at which people were making discussions and some conclusions were being arrived at, without agreeing to them; in situations in which silence itself tends to give assent. I can tell you that I was very, very unhappy and perspired very, very freely.

NARRATOR

Emperor Bao Dai, head of the State of Vietnam, also sent a delegation to Geneva.

BAO DAI

I was told I should accept the Communists at the conference table. I said, "No, there is only one Vietnamese state. It is I. The Communists are rebels." Given my uncompromising position they turned the political conference into a military conference.

NARRATOR

In June, the French cabinet fell, and a new prime minister took over, a critic of the war, Pierre Mendes-France.

Mendes-France made a promise to the French National Assembly. If he could not resolve the Indochina question at Geneva within 30 days, he would resign.

The United States feared this meant France might abandon Indochina to the Communists.

U. ALEXIS JOHNSON

Washington was not at all clear as to what kind of an agreement Mendes-France was proposing to make or what agreement he would make -- and if the agreement was going to be something with which we could possibly live or acquiesce, or whether or not we were going to have to denounce it and, in effect, walk out of the conference.

NARRATOR

After much secret maneuvering, one week before his deadline, Mendes-France got all the participants in place in Geneva.

On July 20, the day before the deadline, two issues were still unresolved.

PREMIER PHAM VAN DONG

At the conference there were two issues under discussion: One was the temporary demarcation line between the two regions. And the other was the date of the general elections for the reunification of Vietnam. These two issues were closely connected. That was very clear.

NARRATOR

The Vietminh, flush with their victory at Dienbienphu, took a hard line on both issues, but on the last day, the Soviets and the Chinese forced them to compromise.

The Vietminh, who controlled most of the country, would get less than half. The elections to reunify Vietnam would take place; not soon, when the Viet-minh would surely win, but in two years. They had been undercut by their own allies. The Soviets and Chinese had several motives, among them, fear; if Mendes-France failed, France might keep fighting and America might intervene.

PREMIER PIERRE MENDES-FRANCE, July 21, 1954

Reason and peace have won out. After days and nights of hard negotiations, filled with anxiety and hope, the cease-fire has been signed. In my soul and my conscience, I am sure these are the best conditions we could have hoped for in the present state of things.

U. ALEXIS JOHNSON

My own feeling at the end of the conference was that we had probably obtained just about all that could be obtained in the light of the situation on the ground. I don't, I don't think we could have obtained much more. But I must say that very honestly I did not have much optimism that South Vietnam was going to be able to survive.

COL. BUI TIN

We thought that having signed the agreements, the French would now be forced by world opinion to carry out the Geneva accords. And we strongly believed that there would be a general election held in two years, and then the Revolution would certainly win. So we greeted each other, "In two years!" We expected to have a general election and reunification in two years.

NARRATOR

In the fall of 1954, the Vietminh marched into Hanoi, taking back from the French what they had lost eight years before.

To America and the world, it looked like the Vietminh would soon be marching into Saigon, too, as the French pulled out, taking everything: houses, trucks, factories, even their dead.


CREDITS

ROOTS OF A WAR

Written and Produced by JUDITH VECCHIONE

Associate Producer KAREN SHELDON

Film Editor ERIC W. HANDLEY

Production Assistant JACQUES WEISSGERBER

Assistant Editor MAUREEN FAHEY

Camera
DONATO BOTTIGLIONE
JOHN GORDON
JEAN-CLAUDE LARRIEU
CHRIS MORPHET
JOHN PACKWOOD
GERRY PINCHES
DICK WILLIAMS

Sound Recordists
ALLAN BYER
GEORGES JEANNET
ANDREW PARMAR
MICHAEL PENLAND
LAURENT POIRIER
PAUL ROBINSON
STEVE PHILLIPS

Assistant Camera
MIKE BARRETT
BERNARD BLAISE
PHILIPPE MORICE
MICHAEL NEGROPONTE
IAN OWLES
JULIAN WHITE

Assistant Sound Editor JOY MANESIOTIS

Editing Room Assistant ANN BARTHOLEMEW

Sound Mixer FRANK CUNNINGHAM


FOR VIETNAM: A TELEVISION HISTORY

Narrator WILL LYMAN

Film Research
RAYE FARR
KAY MATSCHULLAT
BRADLEY BORUM
JANET HAYMAN

Film Archives
ARCHIVES JEAN SAINTENY
ARCHIVES NATIONALES DE FRANCE
AWIF, DDR
BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONALE, FRANCE
BLACK STAR PHOTO AGENCY
WILLIAM BLUECHEL
BRITISH MOVIETONE FILM ARCHIVE
CBS NEWS
ECP ARMÉES
EDUCATIONAL AND TELEVISION FILMS, UK
THE DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY
EMI PATHE' LIBRARY
JANE B. FISHEL
FRENCH EMBASSY, SPI
HANOI DOCUMENTARY STUDIOS
HEARST METROTONE NEWS
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM
EDWARD G. LANSDALE
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
L'INSTITUT NATIONAL DE L'AUDIOVISUEL
THE MANSELL COLLECTION LIMITED
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES
NBC NEWS
THE NEW YORK TIMES
NGO VINH LONG
NHK, JAPAN
PARIS-MATCH
PATHÉ CINÉMA, FRANCE
ARCHIMEDES PATTI
PHOTOTHÈQUE-CINEMATHÈQUE ALBERT KAHN
NANCY PIERREPONT
DOUGLASS SCOTT
ROGER VIOLLET
SHERMAN GRINBERG LIBRARIES, INC.
SOVFOTO/EASTFOTO
STUDIO HAMBURG ATELIER GmbH
D.E. TAUNTON
TON THAT THIEN
TWENTIETH CENTURY-FOX MOVIETONEWS, INC.
U.S. ARMY ARCHIVE AT TOBYHANNA
THE UNITED NATIONS
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
UNITED STATES CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY AND DEPT. OF DEFENSE
UPITN
VINCENT MALLE PRODUCTIONS
VISNEWS LIBRARY
WIDE WORLD PHOTOS
YORK/WILEY PRODUCTIONS, INC.

Special thanks to ABC NEWS

Archivist KENN RABIN

Producer in France HENRY DE TURENNE

Associate Producer in France SERGE GORDEY

Producer in Vietnam MARTIN SMITH

Reporter in England JOHN LAURENCE

Animation Camera EDWARD T. JOYCE RITA NEIMAN

Unit Production Manager JAN LANGMACK

Post Production Supervisors CYNTHIA MEAGER KUHN TONY PRIANO

Production Assistant ALISON SMITH

Publicity SARA ALTHERR

Titles and Graphic Design CHRIS PULLMAN

Translator NGO VINH LONG

Sound Effects CINESOUND EFFECTS LIBRARY, UK

Video Enhancement AUBREY STEWART

Music Composed by MICKEY HART BILLY KREUTZMANN

Music Performed by
VIC FIRTH
MICKEY HART
ZAKIR HUSSAIN
BILLY KREUTZMANN
AIRTO MOREIRA
MERL SAUNDERS
BOBBY VEGA

Music Recorded by PHIL KAFFEL

Director of Media Research LAWRENCE LICHTY

Chief Correspondent STANLEY KARNOW

Executive Producer RICHARD ELLISON

A co-production of WGBH Boston with Central Independent Television, UK, Antenne-2, France in association with LRE Productions


For The American Experience

Coordinating Producer DANIEL McCABE

Executive Producer MARGARET DRAIN

Major funding for the series was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television stations, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Additional funding was provided by the George D. Smith Fund, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This program was originally broadcast on PBS on October 4, 1983.

THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
is a production of WGBH/Boston.

© 1983, 1997 WGBH Educational Foundation
All Rights Reserved

VIETNAM: A Television History
America's Mandarin (1954-1963)
Transcript


VIETNAM: A Television History is a 13-part documentary film series produced for public television by WGBH Boston, in cooperation with Central Independent Television/United Kingdom, and Antenne-2/France, and in association with LRE Productions. A six year project from conception to completion, the series carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of war in Vietnam for everyone involved, beginning with early history, through the French colonial period, and up to the fall of Saigon and unification of the country in 1975. Executive producer Richard Ellison, chief correspondent Stanley Karnow, and Director of Media Research Lawrence Lichty, with some 60 consultants and four production units, comprised the production team, centered at WGBH in Boston. Its members garnered hundreds of interviews, researched 70 film archives worldwide, and traveled the length of Vietnam to create perhaps the most exhaustive historical documentary series in television history.

NARRATOR

America made a commitment to South Vietnam, and to its President Ngo Dinh Diem in the 1950s under President Eisenhower.

PRESIDENT NGO DINH DIEM, May 1957

Mr. President, it is a great joy for me to be again in Washington, and a great honor to be welcomed by you. I thank you very much.

NARRATOR

By late 1963, Diem was dead, the U.S. government implicated in his downfall. This is the story of the beginning of America's war in Vietnam.

PRESIDENT EISENHOWER, 1953

Now let us assume that we lose Indochina. If Indochina goes, several things happen right away. The Kra Peninsula, the last little bit of land hanging on down there, would be scarcely defensible. The tin and the tungsten that we so greatly value from that area would cease coming. But all India would be out-flanked. Burma would certainly, in its weakened condition, be no defense.So you see, somewhere along the line this must be blocked. It must be blocked now. Now that's what the French are doing. So when the United States votes $400 million to help that war we're not voting for a give-away program; we're voting for the cheapest way that we can prevent the occurrence of something that would be of the most terrible significance to the United States of America. Our security!

NARRATOR

America had given France more than $2 billion to stop the Communist-led Viet-minh in Indochina.

But in 1954, after eight years of war and a hundred years of colonial rule, the French were defeated.

The Geneva cease-fire agreement imposed a temporary division of Vietnam. The French could retain their influence in the South. A Communist regime, headed by Ho Chi Minh, took over the North.

To many Vietnamese, the Vietminh were nationalist heroes, finally victorious in the long war against the French, finally in control of their capital city, Hanoi.

To America's leaders, Ho Chi Minh represented international communism directed by Moscow. And, after China's fall to the Communists only five years before, they saw Ho's victory as another threat to the West.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN FOSTER DULLES, March 14, 1955I

I saw everywhere that there were people who were frightened and worried at the evidence, either within their own country or in very close proximity to it, of aggressive Chinese Communist intentions. It would seem as though it was quite possible that the Chinese Communists are not content to stop until it is apparent that they are stopped by superior resistance.

NARRATOR

In the South, American hopes for building an Anti-Communist state centered on Ngo Dinh Diem, a little-known nationalist appointed Prime Minister during the Geneva Conference. Diem had disliked French rule. Now, he was inheriting their shaky bureaucracy, a demoralized army, and a capital, Saigon, seething with fierce political rivalries.

He also faced a two-year deadline. The Geneva agreements called for country-wide elections in 1956. If Ho Chi Minh won, the Communists would control all of Vietnam. The Eisenhower Administration was uncertain about Diem: could he really the southern population and stop the spread of communism?

NGO DINH LUYEN (Diem's Youngest Brother)

It was the end of August 1954, a month and a half after my brother Diem had come to power. I arrived in Saigon to find that my brother couldn't count on his government workers, because everybody was panicky, completely convinced that the end was upon them. The advance, the Communist victory, would be at any moment. The government people had no intention of working. Everybody was trying to figure out how they were going to get out of this hornet's nest.

NARRATOR

Diem had been appointed by Bao Dai, the playboy emperor picked by the French. He had few allies in South Vietnam. As austere Catholic, he had gone to America in the early 1950s and secluded himself in a New Jersey seminary. Father John Keegan.

FATHER JOHN KEEGAN

He was, well, a mysterious kind of person because we didn't know quite exactly what he was all about. He didn't seem to us to be very important. He did dishes with us, and people of importance didn't do that; students did that, or brothers did that, and here was Diem, you know, doing dishes at the tables with the rest of the students. We were impressed with his devoutness. As seminarians, we were up at five-thirty in the morning, and Diem would already be in a pew meditating, reflecting. He would attend mass every morning, you know, quite devoutly, as far as we could see, and stay afterwards and pray. It was almost as though he were living the life of a monk.

NARRATOR

By the fall of 1954, refugees from the North, most of them Catholics, were fleeing towards the South. Many had worked with the French, and they feared Communist reprisals. Many expected that Diem, a Catholic, would favor them.

GEN. J. LAWTON COLLINS (U.S. Envoy to South Vietnam)

About 900,000 Catholics, under their village Catholic priests, moved from north to south. There was only a handful of people that moved south to north to get away from the Diem government. These refugees were settled by parishes in areas that were prepared for them by the South Vietnamese government. But they remained as Catholic enclaves. And, very much as the Southerners following our Civil War objected to the carpet-baggers that came from the North and took over a good many of the political posts in the South, so also the South Vietnamese strongly objected to the Diem adherents who came south.

NARRATOR

The refugees added to the confusion in the South, but Washington saw their value as a solid anti-Communist base for Diem, and as touching symbols of the Cold War.

NARRATOR

American agents assigned to the North used propaganda to spur the migration. Their chief, a veteran CIA specialist, was Colonel Edward Lansdale.

COLONEL EDWARD LANDSDALE

Some people were very reluctant about leaving home, so that the efforts on the propaganda were informative and also, uh, sort of urging them or nudging them real hard to come to a decision quickly, because there would be a period when free movement wouldn't be permitted.

So the orders to these people started turning into sharper and sharper form to get them to move and to overcome their reluctance at a time of great demorali-zation of the people.

NARRATOR

To signal the growing American commitment to Diem, President Eisenhower dis-patched a new special envoy, his World War II colleague General J. Lawton Collins. Collins, instructed to help train an army for Diem, recommended $100 million in aid for the new government.

GENERAL J. LAWTON COLLINS

Well, when I arrived in Saigon, it was chaotic. No question about that. The very day that I arrived the chief of staff of the Vietnamese Army, Hinh, was inveighing against Diem over a radio that was supported, as a matter of fact, by U.S. aid.

NGO DINH LUYEN

All through the night, command cars and machine gun carriers and army armored cars drove around and around the government palace.

GENERAL J. LAWTON COLLINS

Well I put a stop to that right off the bat, I can assure you. Hinh said he was going to stay on, and he hinted that he would start a rebellion. I assured him that if he did that, then all military aid to Vietnam would cease. And so finally, by putting pressure on Hinh, I got him to leave town in, oh, in about a week. And as a matter of fact, he never returned again.

NARRATOR

More challengers emerged from the chaos of South Vietnamese politics. Two of them headed armed religious factions. Another, backed by the French, was a former river pirate, now a notorious gangster and opium dealer.

GENERAL J. LAWTON COLLINS

Bay Vien was his name. He controlled the secret police, mind you, of Vietnam. He also controlled all the houses of prostitution and the gambling joints, and this was the source of his strength.

NARRATOR

Bay Vien tried to make a deal with Diem, but Diem refused. In open defiance of the powerful gangster, he staged a symbolic burning of opium pipes. Then he attacked Bay Vien's headquarters -- located in Saigon's central police station.

NARRATOR

Diem's challenge seemed nearly suicidal to Collins. But Lansdale, now Diem's closest American adviser, believed in him.

COLONEL EDWARD LANSDALE

Diem was laughing at me. We were out on the front porch, and he said, "You are standing about where I think the first shell is going to hit and it's going to be coming in in about 20 minutes and you better get out of here; and I'm not initiating, I'm receiving here." And sure enough, 20 minutes later the firing broke out against him.

NARRATOR

Bay Vien's private army fought Diem's troops through the streets of Saigon. The risks for Diem were enormous. Unless he could consolidate his power, he would lose American support. He had already lost Collins.

GENERAL J. LAWTON COLLINS

I liked Diem, but I became convinced that he did not have the political knack, nor the strength of character, politically, to manage this bizarre collection of people in Vietnam.

EISENHOWER, April 27, 1955

We have called General Collins back here, a man in whom we've had the greatest of confidence and who has been right in the thick of things out there, and who had been supporting, of course, Premier Diem. Now there have occurred lots of difficulties. People have left the cabinet and so on; you know what most of those difficulties are. The strange...and it's almost an inexplicable situation, at least from our viewpoint.

NARRATOR

Diem prevailed.

Blocks of Saigon lay in ruins, but he had crushed his enemies. Their surrender was a personal triumph for him, but it set a dangerous pattern: distrustful and stubborn, Diem would never compromise. He would confront and defy all opposition.

JOHN FOSTER DULLES, May 1955

And the government of Diem, which seemed to be...eh...almost on the ropes...uh...a few weeks ago, I think is reestablished with strength. Vietnam is now a free nation, at least the southern half of it is. And it's not got a puppet government, it's not got a government that we can give orders to and tell what we want it to do or we want it to refrain from doing. If it was that kind of a government, we wouldn't be justified in supporting it.

EVERETT BUMGARDNER (U.S. Information Agency)

In the early days, just after his installation when he took over, we had this group of Americans, all of whom had tremendous ideas of how to further the efforts of the country, of how to get this thing rolling, of how to get the country started, get the government organized and formed and going.

Here you have a president, of the old cloth, who is quite formal, but having to put up with an endless stream of Americans taking up his time.

He didn't want to go out into the countryside; he didn't feel that the Vietnamese wanted to touch him, and see him, and be up close in the American style. We convinced him that he was not too well known and that Ho Chi Minh was very well known by everybody, and therefore that he should build up his popularity.

He made a series of long trips throughout the countryside, got big receptions. There was, of course, an organized claque to get them enthusiastic. And he began to believe in this, that this was a good public relations ploy, that he could succeed in being a popular president.

NARRATOR

Ho Chi Minh's followers believed the country-wide elections in 1956 would bring them to power in a reunified Vietnam. They had withdrawn their troops from the South, but the Geneva agreements allowed their political organizers to remain there and rally support for Ho.

DR. PHAM THI XUAN QUE

I and my family were very happy and supportive of the Geneva agreement because we believed that there would not be any reprisal against the people who re-grouped to the North, and those who remained behind. We thought that in two years we would have a free and fair election in which the people could freely choose their own government.

NARRATOR

The U.S. had opposed the Geneva agreements, but pledged to respect them. Diem, who had condemned the accords, now resisted the nationwide election. Dulles has to decide what to do.

PAUL M. KATTENBURG (State Dept. Aide)

He sat very quietly; we all sat very quietly. I can recall distinctly the clock ticking away on his wall, and his breathing heavily as he read through the paper, turning to us, the few of us who were there at that meeting and saying...(imitates) "I don't believe Diem wants to hold elections; I believe we should support him in this."

EISENHOWER, 1967 Interview

There is this about it. At that time, we had a dictator that was now control-ling more than half the country, and with a great deal of the population, and he would get a hundred percent of the vote!

NARRATOR

The Americans and Diem carried the day. There were no country-wide elections. Vietnam remained divided, and Washington welcomed Diem as a hero.

DIEM AND EISENHOWER, 1959

Eisenhower: You have exemplified in your corner of the world patriotism of thehighest order. You have brought to your great task of organizingyour country the greatest of courage, the greatest of statesman-ship. You are indeed welcome sir.

NARRATOR

Without American support, Diem would never have survived. With it, he seemed to have done the impossible. Washington held him up to the world as a model of anti-communism, the miracle man of Asia.

NARRATOR

Diem welcomed the weapons and the dollars, but he often resisted the Americans' advice. He was polite, but he was rigid and proud, and fiercely nationalistic.

EVERETT BUMGARDNER

I think he looked upon us as great big children -- well intentioned, powerful, with a lot of technical know-how, but not very sophisticated in dealing with him or his race, or his country's problems.

NARRATOR

During the late 1950s, Diem's problems grew. Like a traditional Vietnamese mandarin, he drew his small circle closer around him, relying on his family, especially his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu and Nhu's wife. Their secret police, run by Nhu, set out to eliminate Communists and other dissidents.

LE MINH DAO

After the Vietminh army regrouped to the North and the Diem regime took over the South, repression began. Those of us who had directly fought against the French, and people who had helped organize the resistance against them, were the special targets of Diem's revenge.

DR. PHAM THI XUAN QUE

The manners of tortures inflicted upon these people by Ngo Dinh Diem and his hound dogs -- this was our term for the secret police -- were extremely inhumane. We were not Catholics; we only worshipped our ancestors. And so they forced us to throw the altar to the ancestors away and to become Catholics and to de-nounce the Communists.

EVERETT BUMGARDNER

They had, in some provinces, eliminated most of the stay-behind political agents, the ones that had exposed themselves and proselytized the people and began to complain against the government. But in doing this with this heavy-handed police apparatus that he had set up, they also harmed and incarcerated and eliminated a lot of people who were not involved with the Communist movement.

LE MINH DAO

As the Americans and Diem became more and more repressive, people started telling us we'd have to fight. They said we'd be wiped out if we kept to our plan of just political struggle.

NARRATOR (National Liberation Front Film)

This film marked a new phase of the struggle in the South, the formation in 1960 of the National Liberation Front, a Communist-organized coalition of anti-Diem forces.

Denied the election promised at Geneva, and nearly destroyed by Diem and Nhu's police, the Communist leadership and its southern supporters decided to go back to war. It would be, they said, a war of national liberation -- against Diem and against the American presence in Vietnam.

SOVIET PREMIER NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV, United Nations Speech, October 12, 1960

You will not be able to strangle the voice of the people, which roars out and will go on sounding: Down with colonialism! The sooner we bury it, and the deeper, the better.

NARRATOR

At the U.N., Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev encouraged wars of national liberation. The new president took over in an atmosphere of grave threats and confrontation between East and West.

John Kennedy was in office only a few months when he suffered a humiliating defeat at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Communist leader Fidel Castro crushed a secret American plan to oust him and then paraded his prisoners for the world to see. The invasion planning had begun before Kennedy took office and Eisenhower joined him during the crisis.

Soon, a badly shaken Kennedy faced questions on another war of national liberation -- in Vietnam.

JFK AT PRESS CONFERENCE, May 1961

The problem of troops is a matter, that -- and the matter of what we're going to do to assist Vietnam to retain its independence is a matter -- still under con-sideration. There are a good many...which I think can most usefully wait 'til we've had consultation with the government...which, up to the present time...which will be one of the matters which Vice President Johnson will deal with -- the problem of consultations with the government of Vietnam as to what further steps could most usefully be taken.

NARRATOR

Kennedy sent his vice president, Lyndon Johnson, to Saigon to reassure Diem. The U.S. seemed to be faltering, and Diem was worried. Johnson performed like a Texas politician on the campaign trail.

NETWORK NEWS, May 1961

Johnson: Tell 'em that in the battle for Britain, when the clouds were over the little island of England, Churchill said, "We'll fight 'em in the alleys, in the streets..."News Commentator: On his tour around Saigon, Vice President Johnson has stopped his motorcade. He talks to just about anybody around. Now he's taking a ride in what's known as a "pedicab." Johnson really enjoys this kind of thing. Nothing phases him; he tries everything.

AMBASSADOR FREDERICK NOLTING

President Kennedy was determined on this one because of a number of early setbacks -- the Bay of Pigs, to begin; the dressing-down, in effect, that he got from Khruschchev in the Vienna Conference when he first...when they first met each other...And finally, the Berlin Wall. So Vietnam was the point.

NARRATOR

Kennedy and his men saw themselves in a struggle with Khrushchev for the loyalty of new nations. To them, "national liberation" was code for "Communist aggression."

PRESIDENT KENNEDY at the U.N., September 25, 1961

South Vietnam is already under attack. Sometimes by a single assassin. Some-times by a band of guerrillas. Recently by full battalions. The peaceful borders of Burma, Cambodia and India have been repeatedly violated. And the peaceful people of Laos are in danger of losing the independence they gained not so long ago.No one can call these wars of liberation. For these are free countries, living under their own governments. Nor are these aggressions any less real because men are knifed in their homes and not shot in the field of battle.

NARRATOR

In October 1961, two key Kennedy advisers, General Maxwell Taylor and Walt Rostow, arrived in Vietnam. Their visit coincided with a serious flood. They recommended a big increase in military aid, including U.S. combat troops disguised as flood fighters.

Diem said no to me troops. He needed U.S. support, but he wanted to keep control, and he wanted to keep the foreigners out.

AMBASSADOR NOLTING

He feared an overwhelming American influence. That was one of the reasons he didn't want American combat forces. He was, to my mind, prescient in this, and said, in effect, he thought it would be a bonanza for the Vietcong.

NARRATOR

Kennedy, too, was reluctant to send ground troops, but he wanted to be tough. The answer for "little wars" -- guerrilla wars like South Vietnam's -- was counterinsurgency. Special forces, like the Green Berets, were sent to train the troops of threatened countries. They went in small numbers, but they brought with them the best of American military technology.

Counterinsurgency was stylish and exciting, and it suited JFK's needs per-fectly. One of its strongest proponents was Kennedy aide Roger Hilsman.

ROGER HILSMAN

My idea was that the role of the special forces were to train Vietnamese to behave as guerrillas, harassing the supply lines down through the mountains of the Vietcong. And the special -- American special forces were to train their special forces to do that.

NARRATOR

The Communist-led movement in the South, now termed the Vietcong, had made big gains in 1961. With increased U.S. aid and the new counterinsurgency program, Kennedy raised America's ante. He would win this limited war -- with a few American advisers, a lot of American hardware, and a positive attitude...

CAPTAIN EDMOND FRICKE

Ifeel that being humble and putting yourself in their position is the way to do it. I have gone out and helped them pick watermelons. I walk around with my bodyguard, he and I, and we go visit them and drink tea with them in their houses -- in their houses -- and this is an oddity to them because they, they can't imagine that an American can put himself in this position. So there-fore, it's going to be the man who can give them the most, show them that he...they can support them better that will win their confidence and win their support.And, as you know, it's the man who gets the support of this farmer who is going to eventually win this war.SOUTH VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT FILM, 1962Absolute loyalty to the fatherland and the President of the Republic of Vietnam...We swear to sacrifice ourselves to defend our country and the personalist republic regime.

NARRATOR

The ceremonies hid widening cracks inside the regime. In early 1962, two of Diem's own air force officers bombed the palace, hoping to topple the tightly-knit ruling family. Madame Nhu was injured.

INTERVIEW WITH MADAME NHU, 1963

Mme Nhu: Just next to me was a bomb that had fallen. It was fat like this, just like a little pig. It hadn't exploded; it was just there. And I was just there, too.Interviewer: Are you afraid of death?Mme Nhu: Me? Oh, no, not at all...because in my country, death is always just around the corner. If you're afraid of it, you can't do anything.

NARRATOR

The Vietcong had assassinated 500 civilians and Diem officials, and killed 1,500 of his troops in the first half of 1961. VC influence in the country-side was growing.

Diem's brother, Nhu, encouraged by U.S. advisers, promoted a program to isolated peasants from the guerrillas. He ordered the construction of thousands of fortified villages, "strategic hamlets."

SOUTH VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT FILM, 1962

We are building strategic hamlets to bring peace throughout the country. This was their motto and their code of faith. Volunteers from every class and age, men and women and children, began the hard, physical work of construction. First they broke arable land to make the deep moats and the high fences...First came the moat around the entire village. The bamboo spikes, making an ancient but thoroughly efficient protection against invaders, have become the trademark of the strategic hamlets, and each spike is cut and set by willing hands.

NARRATOR

In reality, life inside the spiky perimeter didn't measure up to the ideal. Diem's half-hearted land reform in the '50s had failed, and now the already resentful farmers were forced to relocate to the hamlets, which were targets for Vietcong attacks.

NARRATOR

Defense Secretary McNamara toured some hamlets with Ambassador Nolting in May 1962. Though American officials had private reservations about the program, McNamara publicly praised it.

The Americans were trying to be optimistic.

MAJOR ROBERT RYAN INTERVIEW, 1962

Q: Major, how would you say the war was going in your sector?A: Well, I think here, lately, the...it's going a lot better; I think we're beginning to win the people over; our operations are going better. We're actually getting VC.Q: What evidence do you have that the...you're winning the people over?A: Well, we've got the "strategic hamlet" program going on. And when we go out on these operations, it seems like the people are more friendly. Several times recently we've had people warn the Vietnamese troops that there was an ambush ahead, or something like that. This means the people are getting on our side.KENNEDY PRESS CONFERENCE, December 12, 1962Q: It was just a year ago that you ordered stepped-up aid to Vietnam. Seems to be a good deal of discouragement about the progress. Can you give us your assessment?A: No, we are putting in a major effort in Vietnam. As you know, we have uh, have about ten or 11 times as many men there as we had a year ago. They are...We've had a number of casualties. We've put in an awful lot of equipment. We've been going ahead with the strategic hamlet proposal. In some phases the military program has been quite successful. There is great difficulty, however, in fighting a guerrilla war; you need ten to one, or 11 to one, especially in terrain as difficult as South Vietnam. But I'm, uh...so we're not, uh...we don't see the end of the tunnel; but, I must say, I don't think it's darker than it was a year ago -- in some ways, lighter.

NARRATOR

But there was rising opposition to Diem's government, especially to his brother Nhu, who controlled the secret police and an elaborate intelligence network. Brilliant and eccentric, Nhu was at war not only with the Communists, but with all critics of the regime.

MME. NHU

My husband, he was very unhappy with...on one side his brother, the other side, his wife. He considered both of us babes in the woods. He said to his brother, "You should be a monk," and "You," to me, "just keep quiet -- don't say anything."

NARRATOR

Vietnam had been a concern to the Kennedy Administration, but it was not a major concern. Suddenly, in the spring of 1963, it became a crisis. Buddhist groups, protesting that Diem's soldiers had killed eight worshippers while breaking up a gathering in Hue, began a series of demonstrations.

At first, Diem and his family did not take the Buddhists seriously.

NGO DINH LUYEN

My brother Diem, the president, never stopped giving aid and good advice to the Buddhists. He used to say to them, "Try to do something to reorganize your religion. As it is now, just about anyone can say he's a good Buddhist. All he has to do is shave his head and eyebrows and put on a robe."

NARRATOR

As the demonstrations grew, Diem rejected compromise and met the challengers with force. A Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, countered with a traditional act that horrified the West.

THICH TU HANH

The Reverend Quang Duc decided to dedicate his body as a torch to light the struggle to preserve religious teaching. I saw him step out of his car and assume the lotus position. Then a monk stepped forward and helped the Reverend pour gasoline on himself. At that moment, a flame engulfed his body.

NARRATOR

The photos hit the front pages in America and were on Kennedy's desk in the morning. Quang Duc had become a martyr. Saigon students joined the Buddhists and the protests against Diem exploded.

THICH TU HANH

During the Reverend Quang Duc's cremation, everything was burned except for his heart, which remained intact. His heart was set on fire two more times, but it still did not burn.

MME. NHU, 1963...

What have the Buddhist leaders done comparatively...the only thing they have done, they have barbecued one of their monks whom they have intoxicated, whom they have abused the confidence, and even that barbecuing was done not even with self-sufficient means because they used imported gasoline.

ROGER HILSMAN

The Buddhists bit, tasted a little political blood, bit harder, tasted more political blood, and then finally began to use American television. They would -- none of them spoke English but their signs were all in English.

And every time they planned a demonstration, or a Buddhist burned himself to death they would call up the American press, and they would appear and,...So they learned to use the American press media for political purposes; they learned how to develop political power as they went along.

NGO DINH NHU, 1963

The Buddhist affair and the problems with the students were set up and orchestrated in such a way as to intoxicate public opinion here at home and abroad against the government of South Vietnam...because this government fights the Communists, and because it refuses to be a puppet government.

NARRATOR

In the convulsive summer of 1963, events raced far beyond Washington's con-trol. The Buddhists became the rallying point for long-simmering opposition to Diem. Alarmed, Diem's senior army officers began to talk of ousting him. Ambassador Nolting stood by Diem.

AMBASSADOR NOLTING

I never felt that President Diem was a prisoner of his own family, or of any particular group, Roman Catholic or any other. I felt that he had a very difficult job to govern the country in a way which would not permit the Vietcong to take over.

NARRATOR

But Hilsman and others in Washington had decided that Diem and Nhu should go. Ambassador Nolting, Diem's ally, returned home.

The new ambassador was Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican. Kennedy wanted bipartisan company in the Vietnam crisis.

NARRATOR

Diem and Nhu struck again at the Buddhists even before Lodge reached Saigon. Nhu's special forces raided the temples, sealed them shut, and arrested thousands of Buddhists. Diem's generals, increasingly frustrated, started to plot against the government.

GENERAL TRAN VAN DON

In the Vietnamese army, a majority of the soldiers were Buddhists. I am a Buddhist. I had a lot of trouble with my family, who reproached me for having attacked the pagodas. But it wasn't true. People were saying that the army staged the attacks, but actually it was units loyal to Diem who attacked the pagodas. But that doesn't matter. We were equally responsible. So then we had to do something to show Diem: either he had to change his policies, or we would have to change Mr. Diem.

LUCIEN CONEIN

I talked to, specifically to General Don, and I talked to other generals. And then this was the first indication that I had that there was really something serious going on -- that there was actually a coup, so to speak, being thought of by the senior officers of the Vietnamese army.

NARRATOR

The U.S. was now spending a million and a half dollars a day on the war. There were 16,000 American soldiers in South Vietnam, still called "advisers," but inevitably seeing action. The growing crisis in the cities threatened the Diem government and the whole war effort. The generals, through Conein, secretly asked Lodge for American support in their plot to topple Diem. Suspecting a coup, Diem and Nhu declared martial law. Lodge cabled Washington for instruc-tions.

The prospect of a coup split the Kennedy ranks. But four top advisers took the initiative, cabling Lodge to tell Diem to get rid of Nhu. If Diem refused, Lodge could tell the generals to go ahead.

HENRY CABOT LODGE

I brought up this question of getting Nhu out of the country, and he, he absolutely refused to discuss any of the things that I was instructed to discuss. And it gave me a little jolt, frankly. I think that when an ambassador goes to call on a chief of state and he has been instructed by the President to bring up certain things, the chief of state ought to at least talk about them.

MME. NHU

Without him, the president would not be...I don't think that it would be easy for him to rule, to rule the country -- to govern the country. That's why when it was...requested...he was requested to...to send away my husband, he...he said, it was absolutely a stupid demand because he knew very well that my husband can do without him, but he, he could not do without my husband.

NARRATOR

The Buddhists continued their protests, and the tensions in Saigon now rever-berated in Washington, where Kennedy still had doubts about a coup. The President wavered; then, in a television interview, he sent a subtle but sharp signal to Diem.

JFK INTERVIEW WITH WALTER CRONKITE, September 2, 1963

Kennedy: In the final analysis, it's their war. They're the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it -- the people of Vietnam against the Communists. We're prepared to continue to assist them, but I don't think that the war can be won unless the people support the effort, and in my opinion, in the last two months the government has gotten out of touch with the people.Cronkite: Do you think that this government still has time to regain the support of the people?Kennedy: Yes, I do. With changes in policy and, perhaps, with, in personnel, I think it can. If it doesn't make those changes, I would think that the chances of winning it would not be very good.

GEN. TRAN VAN DON

We wanted to be certain that if we succeeded with the coup we would have American support afterward, that the Americans agreed with us because we needed their aid to continue the war.


I asked Conein what the Americans thought. He said yes, the Americans agree.

LUCIEN CONEIN

I don't have any files on the dates of the conversation, or anything like that. So I don't really know at what point...I know that I gave them a green light prior to the coup -- upon the instruction of my government.

NARRATOR

Madame Nhu toured America, trying to rally support for the beleaguered regime. At the same time, Nhu hinted that he might make a deal with the Communists.

NGO DINH NHU, October 1963

I am an anti-Communist from the point of view of doctrine. I am not an anti-Communist from the point of view of politics or humanity. I consider the Communists as brothers, lost sheep. I am not for a crusade against the Communists because we are a little country, and we only want to live in peace.

NARRATOR

On October 26, Vietnam's national day, Diem reviewed the troops.

HENRY CABOT LODGE

He knew that a coup was being planned. And he was -- I bet you he had every...

every possible resource that he had at his disposal out trying to find out where they were and how to, how to destroy it.

NARRATOR

Lodge, through Conein, had signaled his approval of the generals' plan. But suspecting a double-cross, the generals refused to reveal the date for the coup.

It began on November 1.

LODGE INTERVIEW

LODGE: And it was just a little after one when we heard the first shell go off. And then we went up onto the roof and you could see the planes dropping bombs and you could see the troops starting to come down the street, and the thing was really on.

Q: Do you remember what your own feeling was at seeing all that? Lodge: Well, my own feeling...Well, I'd sort of been living with it for, for many -- several weeks. So I can't say I was surprised. But of course, you're always -- it's always a very interesting thing to see, to see people shooting.

He [Diem] telephoned me, about four o'clock. And he said, "They've started the coup," and he said, "I want to know what the attitude of the United States Government is." "Well," I said, "it's four o'clock in the morning in Washington and I just, I don't know what the attitude is."

"Oh," he said, "you must have an idea." "No," I said, "I haven't." But I said, "I'm very alarmed about your personal safety, and I have taken steps so that you can be made titular chief of state in a new government, or that you can be flown out of the country to some safe place, or else," I said, "I, I offer you asylum here, in the residence."

He said, "No." He said, "I'm going to restore order."

MME. NHU AT PRESS CONFERENCE, Los Angeles, November 1963

Q: Will you seek political asylum in this country if the coup is successful?

Mme. Nhu: Never!

Q: Why?Mme. Nhu: No, because I...I cannot stay in a country of people who have stabbed my government in time of war.

Q: What news do you have of your husband?

Mme. Nhu: And first I do not think that it will succeed. You can be sure that I am sure that it will never succeed. News from my husband? I know ...I know only that he expected the coup.

Q: What of his welfare? Is he all right? Is he all right?

RADIO SAIGON, November 2, 1963

You're tuned to the 8:20 AM spot, the 99.9 FM spot. This is AFRS Radio in Saigon. The time now is one o'clock. The American ambassador and the Commander of Military Assistance Command announce that all Americans are cautioned that a curfew from twenty hundred hours last night to zero seven hundred hours this morning is in effect for the Saigon-Cholon-Gia Dinh area. For their own safety, Americans should stay off the streets, unless movement is absolutely necessary for conduct of official business.

NARRATOR

At three-thirty on the morning of November 2, the generals' infantry and tanks began their assault on the palace.

When they broke through, Diem and Nhu were gone.

MME. NHU, November 1963

I tell you that if really the Ngo family have been treacherously killed, in that effect it will be only the beginning. The beginning of the story.

NARRATOR

As the soldiers sacked the palace, the generals searched for Diem and Nhu. Finally, they made contact and General Minh -- called "Big" Minh -- dispatched a convoy to get them.

GEN. TRAN VAN DON

One of the group who'd gone to get the two brothers, a general named Mai Huu Xuan, came to the door of the office, saluted and said to Big Minh: "Mission accomplished."

HENRY CABOT LODGE

Within minutes after he was killed I got the word. He and his brother left the palace -- the Gia Long Palace -- and went in this underground passageway to this Chinese merchant's house in Cholon, the Chinese section of Saigon. And in the morning they went into the Roman Catholic Chinese church, and when they came out there were armed men and an armored car, and they were pushed into the armoured car and, I believe, shot inside the armoured car.

ROGER HILSMAN

In a very real sense, the ultimate responsibility for the coup lay with President Ngo Dinh Diem, because he did things that we told him over and over again that if he did them we would have to publicly disapprove of them, and that this would encourage a coup. And he said, "I know." Now he went ahead and did them, and we had to publicly disapprove of them. There was no choice.

MME. NHU

All that is...how do you say...arrogance, comes from arrogance. The U.S. was convinced it possessed the truth, and was full of contempt.

FREDERICK NOLTING

My own view was that, even at that point, we would have done much better to stick with the constitutional government, or at the very least, to have let them know that our policy was changing. I don't think it was fair, just or honorable to an ally of nine years, to do this behind his back.

NARRATOR

John F. Kennedy's government had been complicit in Diem's overthrow, and that complicity deepened America's involvement in Southeast Asia.

But Kennedy's death in Dallas only three weeks later overshadowed the assassinations in Saigon. It was left for the new president to discover what Kennedy, and Eisenhower, and Diem had created in South Vietnam.


Credits

Written and Produced by ELIZABETH DEANE

Associate Producer JUDITH VECCHIONE

Film Editor CAROL HAYWARD

Production Assistant KARAN SHELDON

Assistant Editors
DANIEL EISENBERG
STEPHANIE MONROE
ALEXANDRA ANTHONY

Camera
JEAN-MARIE ESTÈVE
BOYD ESTUS
JOHN GORDON
GERRY PINCHES
CARLO POLETTI

Sound Recordists
PIERRE BEFVE
ALLAN BYER
FURIO d'ORTANO
JOHN FITZPATRICK
JOHN H. MOSS
STEVE PHILLIPS

Assistant Camera
BERNARD BLAISE
LUCIO GRANELLI
ROGER HAYDOCK
GREG KELLY
JULIAN WHITE
DICK WILLIAMS

Electrician SERGE PINSON

Sound Editor BILL ANDERSON

Assistant Sound Editor DANIEL EISENBERG

Sound Mixer FRANK CUNNINGHAM


FOR VIETNAM: A TELEVISION HISTORY

Narrator WILL LYMAN

Film Research
RAYE FARR
KAY MATSCHULLAT
BRADLEY BORUM
JANET HAYMAN

Film Archives
ARCHIVES JEAN SAINTENY
ARCHIVES NATIONALES DE FRANCE
AWIF, DDR
BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONALE, FRANCE
BLACK STAR PHOTO AGENCY
WILLIAM BLUECHEL
BRITISH MOVIETONE FILM ARCHIVE
CBS NEWS
ECP ARMÉES
EDUCATIONAL AND TELEVISION FILMS, UK
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY
EMI PATHÉ LIBRARY
JANE B. FISHEL
FRENCH EMBASSY, SPI
HANOI DOCUMENTARY STUDIOS
HEARST METROTONE NEWS
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM
EDWARD G. LANSDALE
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
L'INSTITUT NATIONAL DE L'AUDIOVISUEL
THE MANSELL COLLECTION LIMITED
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
NATIONAL ARCHIVES
NBC NEWS
THE NEW YORK TIMES
NGO VINH LONG
NHK, JAPAN
PARIS-MATCH
PATHÉ CINÉMA, FRANCE
ARCHIMEDES PATTI
PHOTOTHÈQUE-CINEMATHÈQUE ALBERT KAHN
NANCY PIERREPONT
DOUGLASS SCOTT
ROGER VIOLLET
SHERMAN GRINBERG FILM LIBRARIES, INC.
SOVFOTO/EASTFOTO
STUDIO HAMBURG ATELIER GmbH
D.E. TAUNTON
TON THAT THIEN
TWENTIETH CENTURY-FOX MOVIETONEWS, INC.
U.S. ARMY ARCHIVE AT TOBYHANNA
UNITED NATIONS
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
UNITED STATES CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY AND DEPT. OF DEFENSE
UPITN
VINCENT MALLE PRODUCTIONS
VISNEWS LIBRARY
WIDE WORLD PHOTOS
YORK/WILEY PRODUCTIONS, INC.

Special thanks to ABC NEWS

Archivist KENN RABIN

Producer in France HENRI DE TURENNE

Associate Producer in France SERGE GORDEY

Producer in Vietnam MARTIN SMITH

Reporter in England JOHN LAURENCE

Animation Camera
EDWARD T. JOYCE
RITA NEIMAN

Unit Production Manager JAN LANGMACK

Post Production Supervisors
CYNTHIA MEAGHER KUHN
TONY PRIANO

Post Production Assistant ALISON SMITH

Publicity SARA ALTHERR

Titles and Graphic Design CHRIS PULLMAN

Translator NGO VINH LONG

Sound Effects CINESOUND EFFECTS LIBRARY, UK

Video Enhancement AUBREY STEWART

Music Composed by
MICKEY HART
BILLY KREUTZMANN

Music Performed by
VIC FIRTH
MICKEY HART
ZAKIR HUSSAIN
BILLY KREUTZMANN
AIRTO MOREIRA
MERL SAUNDERS
BOBBY VEGA

Music Recorded by PHIL KAFFEL

Director of Media Research LAWRENCE LICHTY

Chief Correspondent STANLEY KARNOW

Executive Producer RICHARD ELLISON

A coproduction of WGBH Boston with Central Independent Television, UK, Antenne-2, France in association with LRE Productions


For THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

Coordinating Producer DANIEL McCABE

Executive Producer MARGARET DRAIN

Major funding for the series was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television stations, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Additional funding was provided by the George D. Smith Fund, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

This program was originally broadcast on PBS on October 4, 1983.

THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
is a production of WGBH/Boston.

© 1983, 1997 WGBH Educational Foundation
All Rights Reserved

==

VIETNAM: A Television History
LBJ Goes to War (1964-1965)
Transcript


VIETNAM: A Television History is a 13-part documentary film series produced for public television by WGBH Boston, in cooperation with Central Independent Television/United Kingdom, and Antenne-2/France, and in association with LRE Productions. A six year project from conception to completion, the series carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of war in Vietnam for everyone involved, beginning with early history, through the French colonial period, and up to the fall of Saigon and unification of the country in 1975. Executive producer Richard Ellison, chief correspondent Stanley Karnow, and Director of Media Research Lawrence Lichty, with some 60 consultants and four production units, comprised the production team, centered at WGBH in Boston. Its members garnered hundreds of interviews, researched 70 film archives worldwide, and traveled the length of Vietnam to create perhaps the most exhaustive historical documentary series in television history.

PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY

January 20, 1961: Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet anyhardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty...

September 2, 1963: ...These people who say that we ought to withdraw from Vietnam are wholly wrong, because if we withdrew from Vietnam, the Communists would control Vietnam. Pretty soon Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaya would go, and all of Southeast Asia would be under the control of the Communists and under the domination of the Chinese...

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, August 3, 1965

If this little nation goes down the drain and can't maintain her independence, ask yourself, what's going to happen to all the other little nations?

TIGER SQUADRON HELICOPTER GUNSHIP CROSSTALK

Voice #1: This is Roger 26 receiving fire 9:00, yellow smoke, 200 meters, automatic weapons, over.

Voice #2: This is 21...

NARRATOR

Lyndon Johnson inherited America's commitment to an anti-Communist government in South Vietnam, and 16,000 military advisers. Some were more than advisers in the war against the Communist-led insurgents, the Vietcong.

 

TIGER SQUADRON CROSSTALK

Voice #2: Tigerlee, Tigerlee, Tiger 6, Tiger 6

Voice #1: This is 26.

Voice #1: This is 26. We have some people running along the dikes. Actually the canal is perpendicular to the one you're attacking now. They have on black uniforms, estimate approximately three zero. Do you have them in sight? Over.

Voice #2: This is 23. Roger. We have them in sight. We are engaging them at the present time.

Voice #1: Roger.

Voice #2: Good job. I saw you splatter one right in the back with a rocket.

Voice #1: Roger. Got lucky I guess.

NARRATOR

Johnson's main concern at the time was not this growing war in Asia, but another war at home.

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, January 1964

And this administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.

NARRATOR

Few American presidents have been as successful as Johnson in promoting their

programs in Congress. He later called his "The Great Society."

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, June 1964

We are going to build a great society, where no man or woman are the victim of fear or poverty or hatred. Where every man and woman has a chance for fulfill-ment and prosperity and hope.

NARRATOR

But there was Vietnam. As Johnson took office, peasants, often helped by the Vietcong, destroyed the strategic hamlets designed to isolate them from the Vietcong. President Diem had built them, but now Diem was dead. And the structure he had created with American support was being smashed.

General Minh had ousted Diem with American approval. He lasted three months. General Khanh, with American blessing, took over in a bloodless coup. The political turmoil deepened.

NARRATOR

President Johnson offered America's full support to this new, untried leader.

 

ROBERT MCNAMARA

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. General Taylor and I have known General Khanh for a considerable period of time. He has our admiration, our respect and our complete support.

NARRATOR

McNamara barnstormed South Vietnam with Khanh, trying to promote him to his own people. Privately McNamara was gloomy. He warned Johnson that the Vietcong controlled 40 percent of the countryside.

 

ROBERT MCNAMARA

We are here to emphasize that the United States will maintain its interest and its presence in your country. There is no question whatsoever of our abandon-ing that interest. We'll stay for as long as it takes. We shall provide whatever help is required to win the battle against the Communist insurgents.

NARRATOR

To the Communists in Hanoi, America's presence in the South was yet another act of foreign aggression. They recalled 1,000 years of struggle against foreign invaders: Chinese, Japanese, French. And now they faced Americans.

 

NARRATOR

Ho Chi Minh stepped up his support for the Vietcong at the same time Johnson renewed the American commitment to defeat them. Each responded to the chaos in the South with new resolve.

 

COLONEL BUI TIN

During the final months of 1963, Diem was shot and Kennedy was assassinated. So the situation in the South changed. Just at that time, President Ho Chi Minh called on all Vietnamese to double their efforts to help the people in the South. The resistance forces in the South were still very weak and badly equipped. In certain areas, they had trouble recruiting troops. Therefore, we decided that well-equipped and larger forces had to be sent to the South.

NARRATOR

Hanoi decided to escalate the war. And the Vietcong stepped up their attacks in the countryside.

 

JAMES THOMSON (National Security Council Staff)

When Lyndon Johnson inherited the presidency, he inherited many things, but one of them was the legacy of the Vietnam War and the Democratic president's felt-need not to lose one square foot of territory to communism, particularly in Asia. To draw the line, to hold the line and to keep the presidency there-by, because if you lose, the final domino in the domino sequence is not some Asian country, it's the presidency itself.

 

NARRATOR

In 1964 the pressure on Johnson to hold the line against communism came from Republican conservatives. In July they nominated Senator Barry Goldwater for president. He was an outspoken anti-Communist.

 

SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER, July 1964

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice...

NARRATOR

Johnson wanted a big victory. And he wanted to keep Vietnam out of the campaign. As early as May he had his aides draft a resolution of Congressional support for the war effort.

 

JAMES THOMSON

It was discovered, however, in researching the Senate that the introduction of such a resolution would cause a very major filibuster by two or three strong opponents of the war at the time and, therefore, do more harm than good, create not consensus but conflict. Therefore, by June 15, 1964, the idea of a resolution had been shelved.

 

NARRATOR

In late July, the U.S.S. Maddox, a destroyer on an intelligence mission, sailed into the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam. It was later joined by the U.S.S. Turner Joy. These two destroyers became involved in an incident which brought the Congressional resolution off the shelf. The Navy explained the incident this way:

 

U.S. NAVY FILM

In international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin, destroyers of the United States Navy are assigned routine patrols from time to time. Sunday, August the 2, 1964, the destroyer Maddox was on such a patrol. Shortly after noon, the calm of the day is broken as general quarters sound.

In a deliberate and unprovoked action, three North Vietnam PT boats unleash a torpedo attack against the Maddox. At once, the enemy patrol boats are brought under fire by the destroyer.

NARRATOR

The film charged an unprovoked attack. But it left out crucial facts. Early in the morning of July 31, unmarked South Vietnamese patrol boats had attacked two North Vietnamese island bases -- part of a covert operation supported by the CIA. The next night the Maddox was cruising up the coast, at one point as close as five miles. It changed course. And early on August 2 was ten miles off one of the islands raided earlier. North Vietnam's patrol boats attacked the Maddox six hours later.

Hanoi linked the Maddox to the South Vietnamese raids.

 

NARRATOR

At the time Secretary McNamara stressed that the Maddox was simply on a routine patrol.

 

ROBERT MCNAMARA

No, it has no special relationship to any operations in that area. We're carrying routine patrols of this kind on all over the world all the time.

U.S. NAVY FILMFollowing the Sunday attack, the Maddox is joined by the U.S.S. Turner Joy. As directed by the President of the United States, the Maddox and Turner Joy resume patrol operations in the Gulf of Tonkin. On the night of August the 4th, North Vietnamese patrol boats strike again, as filmed in this re-creation.

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, August 1964

The Determination of all Americans to carry out our full commitments to the people and to the government of South Vietnam will be redoubled by this outrage. Yet our response, for the present, will be limited and fitting. We Americans know, although others appear to forget, the risk of spreading conflict. We still seek no wider war.

NARRATOR

For the first time, American aircraft bombed North Vietnam. The retaliation came after the second incident -- an incident Hanoi has always denied.

 

GENERAL PHUNG THE TAI

On the night of August 4, the United States made public that so-called "Gulf of Tonkin incident." But the story was a fabrication, created by the U.S. National Security Council. Even as the National Security Council met, American aircraft were being sent to destroy several areas of our country. In reality, the second Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened.

 

RAY CLINE

At that time, I felt it was questionable whether the second incident took place. I simply was not sure. It was not until after a number of days of collation of reports from the field had taken place that many of the reports which seemed to relate to the second incident were proved either to be unsound or to relate to the first incident.

This is what intelligence analysis is all about, and in a military situation, quite often the commanding officers -- in this case, the President of the United States -- don't wait for the details to be settled if they feel they are in a critical situation with a danger of military conflict. They make decisions without waiting for the intelligence detail.

 

BILL MOYERS (Presidential Aide)

He felt that it represented, if not an escalation of the war on their part, at least a punch in the nose in a way that would humiliate a great power if it didn't respond. All of this went through his mind. And he also saw it as one dramatic way in which after weeks and months of seeming indecision, he could convey to Hanoi, to Saigon, and to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, that you were not dealing with a softie.

 

MAN-ON-THE-STREET INTERVIEWS

First Man: Well, I think that President Johnson has done the correct thing. I really do.

Second Man: I don't think that he could have done otherwise. Especially whenthey attacked the American flag, yeah.

Third Man: I'm behind him on it. I'm not for Johnson. I'm for Goldwater. But I'm behind him on this.

JAMES THOMSON

The minute incident number one happened, the attack on our ships, the resolution was brought right back off the shelf, put right to Congress and of course, after incident number two, sailed through with virtually no dissent. A blank check.

 

NARRATOR

Senator William Fulbright, persuaded that the second incident had occurred, whisked the resolution through Congress in two days.

 

SENATOR WILLIAM FULBRIGHT, September 1964

Well, I think it's a very clear demonstration of the unity of the country behind the policies that are being followed by the President in South Vietnam, and more specifically, of the action that was taken in response to the attack upon our destroyers. It shows a practically unanimous approval. It was unani-mous in the House, and only two dissented in the Senate.

SENATOR WAYNE MORSE

Being in the minority never proves that you're wrong. In fact, history is going to record that Sen. Greuning and I voted in the interest of the American people this morning when we voted against this resolution.

And I'd have the American people remember what this resolution really is. It's a resolution which seeks to give the President of the United States the power to make war without a declaration of war.

NARRATOR

Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Congress gave the President full authority for military action in Southeast Asia. Backed by both political parties, Johnson had removed the war as an issue from the campaign.

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, October 1964

In the White House for the last 20 years, five Presidents from both parties have adopted a bi-partisan foreign policy. That bi-partisan foreign policy has kept us out of war and it's kept us at peace, and it's left your boy at home. And that's the way it ought to be...

And that's the way it's going to be after November the 3rd.

BILL MOYERS

Johnson didn't seek a wider war. He didn't want a wider war. He knew the war would engulf everything that he wanted to do in this country. At the same time, he also knew that if he didn't fulfill what he thought was an honorable commitment from the United States to South Vietnam, his administration could be lost as well.

Barry Goldwater began after the nomination to try to be Mr. Moderate, Mr. Respectable. He tried to stand more in the center of the Republican Party than on the far right.

And the President said to me one day, "We've got to remind people of what Barry Goldwater was B.C. -- Before the Convention."

 

LYNDON B. JOHNSON CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL

Girl in Campaign "Daisy Commercial": Five, seven, six, six, eight, nine, nine.

Commercial Voice: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one,zero.

Lyndon B. Johnson: These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God's children can live. Or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.

Commercial Voice: Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are toohigh for you to stay home.

NARRATOR

Thus Johnson portrayed Goldwater as irresponsible and himself as the candidate of restraint. He won a landslide victory.

On the eve of the election, the Vietcong attacked an American airbase near Saigon. They destroyed aircraft used in operations against them. More planes had been sent after the Tonkin incidents. Escalation was breeding escalation.

 

AMBASSADOR MAXWELL TAYLOR

I recommended a retaliatory air strike for the bombing of Bienhoa airbase which was occupied largely by American aircraft, and the losses in personnel were all American. This was the first time the enemy had ever, had ever attacked a major military installation of the Americans. It was a change of tactics. It shouldn't be shrugged off, I thought, as just another thing -- incident of the war. It was something new, and it was an excellent reason to have a retaliatory strike.

 

NARRATOR

American carriers were poised. But President Johnson refused his ambassador's recommendation to bomb North Vietnam. The Vietcong attacked again.

 

NGUYEN THANH XUAN

At the end of November, I was given the order to attack the Brink's Hotel which housed high American officers. All the crimes committed by the Americans were directed from this nerve center. I sat in a nearby cafe to wait for the explosion, which occurred at exactly five forty-five on the afternoon of December 24, the anniversary of the founding of the People's Army of Vietnam. Our commanders had ordered us to attack the place when the most Americans were there. And it was precisely as we had expected, since they were at the Brink's Hotel to plan their Christmas activities. Many Americans had also gone there from the Rex Hotel. As a result, the attack succeeded and we were never detected.

 

NARRATOR

The Christmas Eve attack was the second major assault on Americans in two months. Ambassador Taylor called once more for a bombing strike against the North. Again, Johnson refused.

 

MAXWELL TAYLOR

Again, recommended retaliation, got turned down. I felt reasonably sure, who wants to bomb Santy Claus?

 

NARRATOR

Four days after the Vietcong team blew up the Brink's Hotel, two Vietcong regiments prepared to strike the village of Binh Gia near Saigon. They inflicted the first of a series of devastating defeats on Saigon's army.

 

GENERAL WILLIAM C. WESTMORELAND

This was the use of battalion sized units, reinforced battalion sized units, by the enemy, and the successful use that I feared would spread and was perhaps the beginning of a gradual movement toward a major effort, using not guerrillas, not small units, but large units.

 

DEAN RUSK (Secretary of State)

It was not until we were presented with a larger war that the decisions then had to be made as to whether we would let them get what they were after or whether we would make a greater effort ourselves.

 

NARRATOR

National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy already favored a greater effort when he arrived in Saigon in early February 1965. He had recently urged the President to bomb North Vietnam.

 

MCGEORGE BUNDY (February, 1965)The President has asked me to extend the New Year's greeting to all the people of Vietnam and to express his conviction that the Year of the Snake can be one in which security and prosperity grow in Vietnam.

NARRATOR

While McGeorge Bundy was in Saigon, the Vietcong attacked an American outpost at Pleiku, in the Central Highlands. It was the third attack on Americans in three months. Eight died. One hundred twenty-six were wounded.

 

MCGEORGE BUNDY

We found our friends in Washington on the wire, and they wanted our recommen-dation. It took us a little while to concert a view which was that this episode did call for a reply.

 

NEWSREEL, February 1965

In the first raid, land-based planes were forced back by the weather, but the carrier jets completed their strike with the loss of one American plane. Later, photo-reconnaissance flights prove that much of the staging area had been completely destroyed.

The confrontation between the Reds and the West was the most critical since the Gulf of Tonkin incident last summer, when the U.S. replied just as swiftly to North Vietnam PT boat attacks.

 

NARRATOR

A few days later, Johnson gave the green light to sustained bombing in North Vietnam. He hoped to bolster Saigon's morale. But there was a coup attempt in Saigon on February 19. The bombing was to begin the next day coordinated with the Saigon government. Ambassador Taylor cancelled it. The government was in turmoil. In fact, it had been in turmoil for months. When Khanh took advan-tage of the Tonkin incidents the previous August to tighten his grip, students had rioted. Buddhists also protested. But demonstrating Buddhists threatened the Catholics. They staged a sit-down strike. After ten days, Khanh formed a triumvirate to try to rule South Vietnam. Four days later, Khanh resigned. He said he was ill.

 

SAIGON INTERVIEW, September 1964

Reporter: Who is the man who can lead Vietnam to victory?

Nguyen Oanh: Well, I think you've got me there.

NARRATOR

Acting Prime Minister Nguyen Oanh, a Harvard-educated economist, lasted three days. Then Khanh returned.

 

GENERAL KHANH, August 1964

Although I have not yet quite recovered from my illness, I do my best to return today to assume the responsibility of leading the government in these critical times.

NARRATOR

A week later, in mid-September, there was a coup attempt.

 

JACK VALENTI

The thing that worried Johnson -- and constantly worried him -- was the instabili-ty of the South Vietnamese government. I guess you might call -- the coat of arms of the Vietnamese government was a turnstyle, for God's sake. And, and I remember very vividly somebody would come in his office and say, "Looks like there's a coup beginning in Vietnam." There'd be another coup. You know, coups were like fleas on a dog, and Johnson said, "I don't want to hear any more about this coup shit. I've had enough of it, and we've got to find a way to stabilize those people out there."

 

NARRATOR

That proved difficult. Khanh turned the government over to civilians in the fall, but continued to intrigue as head of the armed forces. The political turmoil intensified. In February, with Ambassador Taylor's approval, Khanh's own military colleagues rebelled against him and banished him to the United Nations. Though a stable government remained elusive, the campaign of bombing North Vietnam began. It was called "Rolling Thunder."

 

WILLIAM BUNDY

We thought that at a certain point -- and in conjunction with a situation within the South that was turned around -- it would be a decisive thing in getting Hanoi to say, "Alright, we can't get there now, we will fall back, not abandon the objective of taking over the South, but drop it for now." We never had the view that bombing would bring about quick results; certainly not on the essentially measured scale that was actually carried out. We thought it would cut down the amount of the infiltration -- that by hitting the supply lines, you'd make it much more difficult.

 

GEORGE BALL

I had been a director of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey at the, toward the end of the Second World War. And we'd made a detailed study of the effects of strategic bombing on not only the German war economy, but on the psychology of the German people. I was convinced that we were not going to achieve our will by bombing the North; that in the first place, it was a fairly primitive industrial society, and that there weren't the kind of targets that were adapted for strategic bombing. And secondly, I was convinced that we would never break the will of a determined people by simply bombing; and in fact, we would probably tend to unite them more than ever.

 

NARRATOR

The Thanh Hoa Bridge, 80 miles from Hanoi, was an important target in the spring of 1965. It was bombed and repaired, year after year.

 

GENERAL WILLIAM WESTMORELAND

When the bombing program started, I realized that the airfields -- and we had three jet-capable airfields -- were extremely vulnerable. If that strategy was to be a viable one, we had to protect those airfields. I feared that the Vietnamese did not have the capability of protecting the American aircraft on those airfields, and therefore, my first request for troops was associated with protecting the airfields.

 

NARRATOR

The President granted Westmoreland's request with little debate. On March 8, 1965, 3,500 U.S. Marines landed to protect the air base at Danang. The decision to deploy these first Marines was not part of a plan for a massive troop buildup. But 200,000 troops would be committed by the end of the year.

 

AMBASSADOR MAXWELL TAYLOR

My opinion was: Let's not bring any ground forces in until we have to. Once you get into this business, how do you turn back?" No one was blind about the danger of that first soldier, marine coming ashore. I certainly wasn't. Once that decision was made and the Marines started coming ashore, as far as I was concerned, that's that. Let's go, boys, as fast as we can receive these troops logistically and have a real mission for them.

 

NARRATOR

Three weeks after the Marines landed, the Vietcong attacked the American Embassy in Saigon.

 

NEWSREEL, March 1965

Voice #1: We need a stretcher over here!

Voice #2: Stretcher?

Voice #3: Right over here is one!

Voice #4: I want some help over here!

PRESS CONFERENCE, April 1965

Reporter: Mr. Secretary...more Americans?

Robert McNamara: No, principally logistical support, arms, munitions, training assistance.

Reporter: As many as 5,000 sir? We've heard this report...

Robert McNamara: No, I'm not discussing primarily additional personnel.

NARRATOR

In early April, Johnson tried to keep the troop deployments a secret. In fact, two additional Marine battalions had already hit the beach as Secretary McNamara spoke. Others followed, week by week, with little fanfare. Seventy-two thousand troops were committed that spring.

 

DEAN RUSK

One of the reasons for this gradualness in our buildup of resistance in South Vietnam was due to the fact that we did not want to present Moscow and Hanoi with a major new situation during any given week, which would require them to go through an orgasm of decision-making based upon worldwide strategic considerations. And so each week was not all that different than the week before.

 

NARRATOR

In early April, Johnson also changed the mission of troops. The passive defense of air bases lasted less than a month.

 

NEWSREEL, April 1965

Reporter: When the Marines were first landed at Danang, we were told that the objective was to defend the air base. How do you resolve that, sir with your statements in Saigon that their objective is to kill the Vietcong -- to seek them out and kill them?

General Wallace Greene, Jr., Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps: Well, I did say that; I think that goes along with our objective, our mission, our assignment to defend that big complex at Danang and Phu Bai. You can't defend a place like that by sitting on your ditty-box. You've got to get out and aggressively patrol. And that's what our people are doing. And the one thing I emphasized to them while I was out there was to find these Vietcong and kill them.

NARRATOR

A U.S. president, for the first time, had authorized ground troops for offensive operations in Vietnam. Their patrols were limited to a 50-mile radius of coastal bases. Johnson was moving with caution. But these additional troops -- and their expanded role -- were also designed to show Ho Chi Minh his determination. Five days after he committed them, Johnson made Ho an offer.

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON AT JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

The vast Mekong River can provide food and water and power on a scale to dwarf even our own T.V.A.

NARRATOR

Johnson offered Ho a vast development project to benefit all of Southeast Asia if Ho would abandon his goals.

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON

And we remain ready with this purpose, for unconditional discussions.

BILL MOYERS

Coming back in the helicopter from that speech in 1965 at Johns Hopkins University -- where he had promised a T.V.A. for the Mekong valley, if only Ho Chi Minh would be reasonable -- he leaned across to an assistant, put his hand on his knee, and said, "Old Ho can't turn that down. Old Ho can't turn that down." You see, if Ho Chi Minh had been George Meany, Lyndon Johnson would have had a deal.

 

PRESS CONFERENCE, April 1965

Reporter: Mr. Secretary, what is your reaction to the announcement from the Communist side, rejecting our offer of negotiation?

Robert McNamara: Well, we regret that. As President Johnson said Saturday, there've been many disappointments over the past week; that is one. We stand ready and willing to talk anytime, any place.

Reporter: Has our bombing attack really hurt the North Vietnamese?

Robert McNamara: I don't think there's any question but what it has. In particular, during the past two weeks, we've concentrated on bridges and the routes of communication and destroyed many of these, and this can't help but delay the movement of men and material to the Communists in the South.

NARRATOR

This film was staged by the East Germans. But the message was true. The bombing campaign was not working. Supplies from North Vietnam were reaching far into the South.

 

BILL MOYERS

In the spring of 1965, every report -- the CIA, the military, the embassy, independent observers who had been there -- were saying Vietnam is on the verge of collapse. And the President says, "I feel like a hitchhiker caught in a hailstorm on a Texas highway. I can't run, I can't hide, and I can't make it stop."

 

NARRATOR

By the spring of 1965, the war had changed. Large units of Vietcong replaced guerrillas as the main fighting force. In June they destroyed the military outpost of Dong Xoai. And much of the village. Saigon lost 800 of its best troops. The army of South Vietnam was near collapse. The civilian government

did collapse at that time. And the military took over.

 

NGUYEN CAO KY

I asked all of them -- 60 or 70 of them, you know, in the room. I said, "Okay -- ah, one more time. Anyone want to be prime minister?" And they said no. So Thieu said, "I propose Ky." And all of them just stood up and accept the offer. But then I, I didn't give them the answer. I said, "I have to go back and talk with my wife first." And when I told her about that offer, you know, she was not excited. She said, "Oh no! Not that job! Not as a prime minister!" Ha, ha. I'm not a good politician. I'm not a good diplomat. You know, I think all I know, the only thing I can do well is, you know, flying the airplane. I said, "Well? What can I do now?"

 

GENERAL WILLIAM WESTMORELAND, July 1965

I feel it's important at this juncture that we prepare for the long pull.

NARRATOR

The situation was desperate. Westmoreland conferred in July with Secretary McNamara and General Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He had asked for an immediate troop increase to 125,000 men, 200,000 by year's end.

Johnson approved the request while McNamara was in Saigon. The President then had a series of high level meetings staged as a genuine debate, to seek consensus on the decision he had quietly made.

 

JACK VALENTI (Presidential Aide)

I remember him turning to Wheeler, and he said to him, "You're asking for 200,000 more men now. What happens if in two, three, four years you ask me for 500,000 men?" (A very prophetic statement.) "What do you expect me to do? How can I respond to it? What makes you think Ho Chi Minh won't match us for every man we send in?" And another time to the group he said, "We've got two questions that we've got to answer. Can Westerners fight a war in Asian jungles? And, number two, how on earth can we fight a war under the direction of others whose governments topple like bowling pins?" He said, "Now somebody answer those questions for me."

 

GEORGE BALL (Undersecretary of State)

In explaining to the President the concern that I felt about a mounting escalation, I said to him, "You know, once on the tiger's back, we can't pick the time to dismount. You're going to lose control of this situation, and this could be very serious."

 

BILL MOYERS

Secretary McNamara framed the three options. Option number one was to cut our losses and get out. Option number two was a middle course. Option number three was to give the military in Vietnam what it wanted. Listen to the way the first option was phrased: "cut our losses and withdraw under the best condi-tions that can be arranged. Almost certainly, conditions humiliating the United States and very damaging to our future effectiveness on the world scene." Now you're president, and you have this memorandum from the secretary of defense, and it says you can cut our losses and withdraw under the best conditions; however, it's going to make a fool of you in the world. I mean, that was an option the very framing of which presumed its rejection.

 

GEORGE BALL

Our reputation as a nation consisted of many things. Not the least of which was that we had some sense of perspective and, therefore, had some judgment. While many of our allied countries were beginning to think that we had, we were out of our minds to pursue such a futile war.

 

DEAN RUSK (Secretary of State)

Peace has been maintained because people in certain other capitals would say to themselves, "Now look, comrades, we'd better be a little careful here because those damn fool Americans just might do something about it." If that question in their minds got to be a sense of certainty that we would not do something about it, then I think we'd be exposed to very great dangers.

 

GEORGE BALL

I found him the most sympathetic of all of the people in the entourage. He was the one who seemed to take my cautionary views most seriously. He was the one who seemed to be probing more and more deeply for a way out. But he could never reconcile extrication with his personal commitment that he would not be the first president to lose a war.

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, July 28, 1965

We do not want an expanding struggle with consequences that no one can foresee. Nor will we bluster or bully or flaunt our power. But we will not surrender. And we will not retreat. We intend to convince the Communists that we cannot be defeated by force of arms or by superior power. I have asked the commanding general, General Westmoreland, what more he needs to meet this mounting aggression. He has told me, and we will meet his needs.

 

NARRATOR

There was no major address before Congress. Johnson already had his Tonkin Gulf Resolution. And there was no major announcement on prime time television. Johnson disclosed his decision in a press conference at midday.

 

MCGEORGE BUNDY (National Security Adviser)

I think it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the President wanted as low-keyed an announcement as he could get, and as little energetic public debate as possible.

 

DEAN RUSK

We did make a deliberate decision not to create a war fever in this country. You didn't see members of the armed forces or units of the armed forces parading through American cities. You didn't see pretty movie stars out selling bonds in factories and things like that -- all the things we did during World War II -- because we felt that in this nuclear world, where thousands of megatons are lying around in the hands of frail human beings, it's just too dangerous for an entire people to become too angry.

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, August 3, 1965

We are going to do everything we can with our left hand, to negotiate an agreement that will allow people to breathe free independently. Independent of any ideology of ours, or of anyone else's. Give them the right of choice. And if we do that, we'll come home tomorrow.

NARRATOR

As Lyndon Johnson spoke on the White House lawn, a Marine rifle company left Danang for a cluster of hamlets nearby. Vietcong from this area had recently hit Danang in a mortar attack. And they had shot seven marines on an earlier sweep.

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON

If I resist them, if I deter them, if we keep our commitment that three presidents have made -- President Eisenhower, President Kennedy and the present president -- then the people say, "Well, you should come on home. What happens there doesn't matter." If you stay there, there's some that say, "Well, you ought to get it over with in a hurry." So some want to go and blow up every-thing. Some want to come and blow up nothing and leave and get out and forget them.

We're trying to do the reasonable thing, to say that power and brute force and aggression are not going to prevail. You can't do this thing by force. Now let's sit down and reason it out, and let's try to allow these people a choice. That's what I'm trying so hard to do, and that's what I need your help on.

Why, oh why, oh why don't people concern themselves with a country that's trying to maintain her independence from aggression? That's being invaded?

NARRATOR

Johnson called it invasion. Hanoi called it liberation. In the fall of 1965, three North Vietnamese regiments massed in the Central Highlands. Nearly two years had passed since Johnson renewed the U.S. commitment to defend South Vietnam. Nearly two years had passed since Ho Chi Minh renewed his commitment to liberate the South. Now their two armies braced for battle. Westmoreland feared the North Vietnamese would cut South Vietnam in two. He would block them with his skytroopers, the First Air Cavalry.

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON

Now, America wins the wars that she undertakes; make no mistake about it. And we have declared war on ignorance and illiteracy. We have declared war on poverty. We have declared war on disease. And we have declared war on tyranny and aggression. And we not only stand for these things, but we're willing to stand up and die for these things.

 

NARRATOR

Westmoreland sent the Air Cavalry in search of Hanoi's army, poised in a river valley, at the foot of the Chu Pong Mountains.

For the first time, in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley, Americans fought the North Vietnamese -- face to face.

For the first time, B-52s supported troops in the field.

And for the first time, to Americans, Vietnam meant a major new war.

 

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, January 12, 1966

How many men who listen to me tonight have served their nation in other wars? How very many are not here to listen? The war in Vietnam is not like these other wars. Yet, finally, war is always the same. It is young men dying in the fullness of their promise. It is trying to kill a man that you do not even know well enough to hate. Therefore, to know war is to know that there is still madness in this world. For we have children to teach, and we have sick to be cured, and we have men to be freed. There are poor to be lifted up, and there are cities to be built, and there is a world to be helped. Yet, we do what we must. I am hopeful, and I will try with the best I can, with every-thing I've got, to end this battle and to return our sons to their desires. Yet, as long as others will challenge America's security, and test the dearness of our beliefs with fire and steel, then we must stand, or see the promise of two centuries tremble.


Credits

Written and Produced by AUSTIN HOYT

Associate Producer MARILYN HORNBECK

Film Editor ERIC NEUDEL

Narrator WILL LYMAN

Film Research JANET HAYMAN

Assistant Editor ALFREDO PORTILLA

Camera PETER HOVING

Additional Camera
GERRY PINCHES
WERNER BUNDSCHUH

Sound Recordists
ALLAN BYER
FLORA MOON
JOHN H. MOSS
LESLIE OTIS
STEVE PHILLIPS
PAUL RUSNAK

Assistant Camera
BILL COOPER
ROGER HAYDOCK
MICHAEL PENLAND
JULIAN WHITE
DICK WILLIAMS

Sound Mixer FRANK CUNNINGHAM

Film Archives
CBS NEWS
EDUCATIONAL AND TELEVISION FILMS, UK
HEARST METROTONE NEWS
JOHN F. KENNEDY LIBRARY
METROMEDIA PRODUCERS CORP.
NATIONAL ARCHIVES
NBC NEWS
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL ARCHIVE
ROGER PIC COLLECTION
STUDIO H & S, BERLIN
US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE; AIR FORCE, ARMY, MARINES and NAVY ARCHIVES
VISNEWS LIBRARY

Special Thanks to
ABC NEWS
LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON LIBRARY
US ARMY CENTER FOR MILITARY HISTORY

Archivist KENN RABIN

Additional Film Research BRADLEY BORUM

Unit Production Manager JAN LANGMACK

Post Production Supervisors
TONY PRIANO
CYNTHIA MEAGHER KUHN

Post Production Assistant ALISON SMITH

Production Secretary KARAN SHELDON

Publicity SARA ALTHERR

Titles and Graphic Design CHRIS PULLMAN

Translator NGO VINH LONG

Sound Effects CINESOUND EFFECTS LIBRARY, UK

Video Enhancement AUBREY STEWART

Music Composed by
MICKEY HART
BILLY KREUTZMANN

Music Performed by
VIC FIRTH
MICKEY HART
ZAKIR HUSSAIN
BILLY KREUTZMANN
AIRTO MOREIRA
MERL SAUNDERS
BOBBY VEGA

Music Recorded by PHIL KAFFEL

Director of Media Research LAWRENCE LICHTY

Chief Correspondent STANLEY KARNOW

Executive Producer RICHARD ELLISON

A coproduction of WGBH Boston with Central Independent Television, UK, Antenne-2, France in association with LRE Productions


For THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

Coordinating Producer DANIEL McCABE

Executive Producer MARGARET DRAIN

Major funding for the series was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television stations, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Additional funding was provided by the George D. Smith Fund, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This program was originally broadcast on PBS on October 4, 1983.

THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
is a production of WGBH/Boston.

© 1983, 1997 WGBH Educational Foundation
All rights reserved

==

Vietnam: A Television History
America Takes Charge (1965-1967)
Transcript


VIETNAM: A Television History is a 13-part documentary film series produced for public television by WGBH Boston, in cooperation with Central Independent Television/United Kingdom, and Antenne-2/France, and in association with LRE Productions. A six year project from conception to completion, the series carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of war in Vietnam for everyone involved, beginning with early history, through the French colonial period, and up to the fall of Saigon and unification of the country in 1975. Executive producer Richard Ellison, chief correspondent Stanley Karnow, and Director of Media Research Lawrence Lichty, with some 60 consultants and four production units, comprised the production team, centered at WGBH in Boston. Its members garnered hundreds of interviews, researched 70 film archives worldwide, and traveled the length of Vietnam to create perhaps the most exhaustive historical documentary series in television history.

CAPTAIN TED DANIELSEN, May 1966

Come on, First, come on, let's go! We're falling behind, we might have some-thing up there. (Gunfire) Just keep going up to the top of the hill, pull up behind 2-6 maybe...Come on Sergeant Havard, you're overdue. Take a deep breath. Come on, keep movin'. (Gunfire) If y'all move out up there to get up on the top, go ahead. Let the second platoon handle it if they can. (Gunfire)

 

LT. COL. TED DANIELSEN

The soldiers got a great deal of support from the States. Classes by the hundreds would write letters addressed to a soldier in Vietnam, and these were packed up and sent to our unit, and by and large, the soldiers would try to respond to these things. There was a groundswell of popular support behind the troops in 1965.

NARRATOR

American combat troops went to South Vietnam to prevent the Communists from taking over. Before that, Americans had served as advisers to the South Vietnamese army. The advisory effort had vailed. Now America was taking charge of the war.

South Vietnam was on the other side of America's world. It was a strange, incomprehensible country for the American soldiers. A land whose people, language and culture were completely unfamiliar.

Over the next two years the American force built up to nearly half a million troops. They were deployed in mountains, plains and deltas. They fought highly trained North Vietnamese regulars and lightly armed South Vietnamese guerrillas. This is the story of a few of those men.

BILL EHRHART

I had been accepted in, at several colleges, four colleges, by my senior year. And then I just decided, no, I'm gonna join the Marines. And I had to spend a lot of time talking to my parents about it, because at 17, of course, I would not have been allowed to sign an enlistment contract in my own right. They had to sign it too, and really what I think tipped the scales in the discussion was at one point, after talking for a long time I said, "Mom, is this the way you raised me, to let other mothers' sons fight America's wars?" And they were young people during World War II. They believed in their country and that was it. They hadn't raised me that way.

NARRATOR

Before going to Vietnam, recruits were shown an official film, produced to explain America's commitment.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT FILM

PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON, July 1965

I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth, our finest young men into battle. I have seen them in a thousand streets, of a hundred towns in every state in this Union, working and laughing and building and filled with hope and life. But as long as there are men who hate and destroy, we must have the courage to resist.

 

BILL EHRHART

During my senior year, when the government said that the Communists were taking over Vietnam, and if we didn't stop them there we would have to stop them eventually in San Diego, I took that at face value. And I saw my oppor-tunity to really, to be a hero.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT FILM (Cont.)

PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON

The people of South Vietnam have fought for many long years. Thousands of them have died. Thousands more have been crippled and scarred by war. And we just cannot now dishonor our word. Or abandon our commitment. Or leave those who believed us, and who trusted us, to the terror and repression and murder that would follow. This then, my fellow Americans, is why we're in Vietnam.

 

NARRATOR

The buildup of American forces accelerated during 1965.

Trained to fight a conventional war against the Soviets in Europe, the Americans found themselves unwrapping hand grenades in South Vietnam.

By the end of the year, nearly 200,000 American troops had landed.

MARK SMITH

One of the things that struck me first upon arriving in Vietnam -- and still strikes me now -- was that it's probably the most beautiful country I've ever seen, and the one aspect of it that strikes me most deeply and stays with me, and it's the hardest to describe, is the intensity of the colors, especially the greens. They virtually, I mean, they almost vibrated, they were that intense.

NARRATOR

American soldiers were unprepared for the complexity of South Vietnam. Some Vietnamese were loyal to Communist North Vietnam and the Vietcong guerrillas. Some belonged to various religious and political factions. Many tried to remain neutral. Others supported the anti-Communist government backed by the United States.

The Vietcong and the North Vietnamese army, the NVA, controlled large parts of South Vietnam. GIs called these areas "Indian Country."

MARK SMITH

The villages were hidden because they were almost always surrounded by very thick hedges. From outside the village you might not even see any evidence of a village. And then you'd walk through this hedge, and here was this whole society. We knew that the people who lived there probably lived normal lives, that we might even understand if we were a part of it. But we weren't a part of it. All we saw were the people staring at us like we were from Mars.

BILL EHRHART

One of the first things that I began to wonder about -- really wonder about -- is the soldiers who were our allies, the Army of the Republic. We called them the ARVN -- they wouldn't fight! At least in our area, in heavily populated civilian areas where the enemy was literally the old farmer-by-day, fighter-by-night kind of thing. With virtually no equipment except what they could capture from the Americans and the ARVN, tremendously outnumbered, the Vietcong were there day after day after day picking away at us. You know, I don't know, like gophers at the feet of a buffalo or something. And it occurred to me that these are the same people. The ARVN and the VC are the same people, the same race, the same culture, and yet one side seems to be chicken and the other side seems to fight in the face of overwhelming disadvantages. And I started wondering why, you know, why is this? They were far more mobile than we were. It was their country, they knew where they were going, they didn't need guides to get them around, they didn't need interpreters.

When we went into the field we took 50 or 60, 70 pounds of gear. Your average Vietcong guerrilla might have carried, might have been carrying ten pounds worth of stuff. He'd carry a rifle and a few rounds of ammunition and a little plastic bag or a leaf filled with some rice, and that's all that man needed -- or woman.

There were a lot of female guerrillas. They were quick, they could get around, and if they did not want to engage you, they simply melted away -- they dis-appeared, you didn't see them.

MARK SMITH

Whenever you did make contact with the enemy, you'd go from the most horrible boredom, I mean just absolute deathly boredom to absolutely the other extreme, the most intense continual excitement I've ever known in my life. I'm not sure how to describe the energy you would feel and the excitement you would feel, however you felt about it in terms of being scared or liking it or disliking it or whatever.

The excitement was there, I think, for everybody. You couldn't go through combat and remain detached. It was the idea of someone shooting at you, someone trying to kill you. You were trying to kill someone. You were using that finger to try to take someone's life. And that sends a real charge through you.

May 1966

SOLDIER IN HELICOPTER: ...break left.

CAPT. TED DANIELSEN: Two calling six, I've got 'em on corral. I've got contact with some snipers. Over. ...Everybody get off the middle of this L. Z. Everybody. Move out! Get out there. Four-six get that mortar set up on the hill, I want fire in one minute.

NARRATOR

American strategists planned to use fire power to break the will of the enemy. And make them talk peace on America's terms.

It brought to bear the power of its industry and technology. And also its young men.

VERNON GILLESPIE

I can recall one time when the 22d NVA Regiment was located down on the coast in an open area. They were trying to move from one point to another and had hoped to be able to carry out this movement without being detected. But the First of the 9th Cavalry did detect them. They detected them very late in the evening. It was around five-thirty or six o'clock. And throughout the next two days proceeded to eliminate them once again, I might point out, primarily through the use of awesome fire power. I know that my battalion alone fired 22,000 artillery rounds into a very small area. And this are had been heavy jungle when we started the fight, and it really looked like the moonscape when we got through.

But it wasn't just artillery fire. You had had air strikes coming in and tanks were brought up and this was the third time we had run up against the 22d NVA Regiment. And every time we ran up against them, why, we would tear 'em up, and they would fall back into the mountains. And six months later, they'd come back completely refurbished -- a new regiment -- and we'd have to go through this drill again.

We captured the operations officer of the 22d NVA Regiment. He was very interesting to talk to after we'd had him for about a month. This man was a senior captain, which would be the equivalent probably of a major or lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army. He was as dedicated to his leaders as I was dedicated to mine. I wasn't questioning what I was doing in Vietnam either. My leaders decided that I should go, and I went. And I was a good soldier. He was in the same position. And he was down there reunifying his country, as far as he was concerned. And that was all that he needed to know.

NARRATOR

Infiltration of large North Vietnamese army units into South Vietnam increased rapidly as American troops expanded their combat role. When the North Viet-namese reached the South, they often relied on Vietcong guerrillas recruited from Vietnam's predominantly peasant society.

EVERETT BUMGARDNER (U.S. Civilian Adviser)

In Vietnam, for generations the real power and the economy of the education through which you get power, was in the hands of a very few people. Maybe three to five percent of the population controlled the government, controlled the economic life of the country. If you were a peasant or a lowly born, it was almost impossible to break out of this chain of your father and your grandfather. The Vietcong quite often can turn the peasant's mind into the idea that if you revolt, if you join us, we can change this system. As a result, many young men and women voluntarily, willingly joined the Vietcong in Vietnam. He's developed into a savior of his village and his family -- a super nationalist. He has to be able to be a pretty savage fighter -- ambushes, quick hit and run operations, participate in the terrorism and beheading or assassi-nations of village chiefs of effective government officials who were opposed to him.

He might be an extremely sensitive young man, may be even Buddhist. He may regard human life very highly, and actually lose merits for his passage to the life beyond by taking human life. It's a complete metamorphosis when he was riding that buffalo in the paddy field and became a fighting soldier against the government.

BILL EHRHART

Most of our enemy contact at that time was not contact at all, it was mines and snipers, mostly mines. Our battalion, if I recall correctly, had something on the order of 75 mining incidents per month. Most of them, many of them producing casualties.

And so, day after day, you had dead Marines, wounded Marines, and nobody to fight back at. In the meantime, you've got guys, you know, you go out, you run a patrol, somebody hits a mine and there's a couple of dead people. And here's Joe the rice farmer out in his field. He just, he don't even stop. He don't even, it's like he didn't even hear the blast. And after awhile, you start thinking, well, these people must know where these mines are. How come they never step on them? They must be, they must be VC. They must be VC sympathizers.

And so over a relatively short period of time, you begin to treat all the Vietnamese as though they are the enemy. If you can't tell, you shoot first and ask questions later.

NARRATOR

To deprive the enemy of peasant support, the American command tried a new tactic: moving the population out of Vietcong base areas.

LT. COL. ALEXANDER HAIG

Actually, the operation itself consisted of a mobile landing -- air mobile landing, by helicopter -- in seven separate landing zones. And this simultaneous landing, of this much force, enabled us to get complete surprise, and as a result of the surprise achieved, the VC -- many of whom were in the town, some in the area just adjacent thereto -- were caught totally by surprise -- many without weapons -- running to tunnels and hiding places which they had developed over the years.

Because of this complete surprise, we got -- either by killing or capturing -- over 30 VC in the initial wave.

DAVID ROSS (Army Medic)

The main goal of it was to eliminate the National Liberation Front political and military structure from a triangular area about 50 to 60 square miles. And it was decided that in order to do this, they would move out the entire population. The part I was involved in was the evacuation of Ben Suc which was a decent size city of perhaps around 3,000 people. We were provided some medical screening, and medical back-up for the operation...

During the evacuation of villagers from Ben Suc, I was struck by a sense of resoluteness in the villagers. They understood what was happening; they understood that they couldn't really change the situation. They were going to be taken out of their homes. I'm sure that deep down inside they knew that that was the end of Ben Suc as a village -- that we were going to destroy the village. They seemed to accept it with a very special kind of strength.

It was kind of sad in a way because Ben Suc was a pretty village. It was a very old village and the people there seemed to enjoy a little better standard of living than people in many of the other villages.

The villagers were taken out by boat, by helicopter and by truck to relocation centers. Basically, once the people were taken out, the whole thing was just turned into a parking lot.

At the same time the villages themselves would be destroyed -- anything of material value would be eliminated -- mattresses would be slashed, rice would either be taken out or poisoned or dumped in the river, crops would be defoliated. And it made it much more difficult for the Liberation Front to continue without this material and population base.

NARRATOR

The press corps in Saigon was briefed on the operation, called "Cedar Falls" by its commander, General Jonathan Seaman.

JONATHAN SEAMAN, January 1967

They'll have a little trouble using them, but I should say right now that to destroy these vast tunnel complexes is a pretty formidable job. And we do the best we can. And I'm sure that if they're willing to go back in with just a whale of a lot of effort, and expend all that effort, they could probably rehabilitate them over a period of years, or months. But when you realize that it's taken them about 20 years to build this thing up, well, if I were a VC, I'd be somewhat discouraged.

 

NARRATOR

American forces ended the operation and withdrew. Soon, even without help from the civilian population, the enemy was back in its base, again threatening the region around Saigon.

BILL EHRHART

What really began to happen after a few months is that you begin, you could get as far as understanding that this was crazy. What was going on here was nuts. But didn't dare begin to draw conclusions from that, because they pointed in directions that were just terrifying. I mean, America might not be the guys on the white horses with the white hats, maybe we shouldn't be in Vietnam, maybe I've gotten my ass out here in the bushes for nothing. You can't think about that kind of stuff in a situation like that. For instance, it never occurred to me to quit -- lay down my rifle and I'm not going to do this. Somewhere lurking in the back of my mind was 20 years of making big rocks into little rocks.

I knew when I went to Vietnam that I had to be there for 395 days, and if I was still alive when I got to the end of those 395 days, I could go home and forget the whole thing.

You wondered, you know, are we going to make contact today, are we going to get hit? But if you spent a lot of time thinking about that -- particularly, is this the day I'm going to buy the farm -- you'd go nuts! You'd go nuts!

You found ways, without even doing it consciously, of keeping your thoughts well within the immediate environment that you were dealing with.

There were leeches everywhere, and so whenever you stopped for a break you'd have to take your boots off and check for leeches. One of the major problems that guys had was a thing called "immersion foot." You'd get this kind of rot on your feet because your feet were always wet.

It did get cold at night when we were out on operations during the monsoon. The heat was a lot harder to deal with in the summer months. You had been used to 100, regular 100 degrees up to 110 -- some days it would get up to 120 -- and we ended up taking a lot of chances. You'd go without flak jackets, you'd go without a helmet trying to decide what the odds were of getting heat stroke as opposed to what the odds were of getting hit.

I don't have nightmares about killing armed soldiers in combat. The thing I have the nightmares about is the woman in the rice field that I shot one day because she was running -- for no other reason -- because she was running away from the Americans who were going to kill her, and I killed her. Fifty-five, 60-year-old, unarmed. And at the time I didn't even think twice about it.

CAPTAIN EDWARD BANKS

It's not like the San Francisco 49ers on one side of the field and the Cincinnati Bengals on the other. It's just not like that. It's, the enemy is all around you. One second you may be fired upon from the rear, the next second from straight ahead, or either flank. You never know.

In other words you never knew who was the enemy and who was a friend. They all dressed alike, they were all Vietnamese. Some of them were Vietcong; they all looked alike.

NARRATOR

What follows is an account from both sides -- American and Vietnamese -- of what happened in a village Marines were trying to clear of Vietcong, ten miles from where U.S. troops first landed in 1965. It's January 1967.

EDWARD BANKS

We planned a detailed two-company operation involving Golf Company of the second battalion, First Marines, and Hotel Company which I command. I was put in charge of the operation as a senior company commander.

JACK HILL

Well, I could say like, normally you come through on a village operation, you come through on a sweeping motion on line and you're sweeping through the village. So we get up to this village and first you start off with a little light sniper fire, you know. Then, then you get these 50 calibers opened up, you're getting 30 calibers opened up and you're getting people falling all over and so you're, you're running around trying to find out what you're doing. So we spread out and dug in.

EDWARD BANKS

The lead squad of that third platoon got about 100 to 150 meters from the tree line, and fire increased from the tree line directly to their front, and they also started receiving fire from both their flanks.

JACK HILL

It was intense gun fire and it sounded like a jackhammer. You ever hear a jackhammer going off? Sounded like they had about 10 to 15 jackhammers going off at the same time, I mean, total chaos.

EDWARD BANKS

And I called in artillery support to fire on the tree line.

JACK HILL

Waiting for the word to advance, but there wasn't no advance. So we was pinned down, we were pinned down all day, all night. In the rain, and it rained like somethin' pitiful. And we couldn't see nothin', we couldn't see nothin', we were just pinned down. And we had casualties, we took on a lot of casualties.

EDWARD BANKS

Out of about 30 men, there were 11 left. And we called in helicopters to come in that night in the darkness, to get the wounded and killed out. The first helicopter load we got out was the last one because the Vietcong opened up on the helicopter wounding the pilot, and no other pilots were willing to volunteer to come in.

JACK HILL

I'd watch guys lay there and cry for their mothers all night long. Dyin', slowly dyin', askin' to be shot because they can't take it no more. And you're sitting up there with your -- but you're a bundle of nerves. You're a bundle of nerves and all you can do is wait, wait, wait, wait, wait...

EDWARD BANKS

We ended up going some 36 plus hours without food or water, or sleep obvious-ly. And uh, that is saying a lot when you consider the temperature was around 100 degrees, no water, no food, no rest. We were pretty tired Marines at the end of that first day.

There were two villages there that the battalion wanted swept and searched to see if there were any remaining VC in there.

JACK HILL

It lightened, lightened up and then we advanced toward the village.

NGUYEN BAY

When the Americans came, I was a boy in the fourth grade. I was on my way to school when I heard the Americans were coming. I was very scared and ran back home with my friends. By the time I got thee and had hidden my things the Americans were close to the village. Airplanes were overhead bombing, soldiers were coming and shells were exploding.

EDWARD BANKS

Somebody had seen some movement in some of the houses, and the next thing we knew were were receiving automatic weapons fire. Lt. O'Connor was hit in the left shoulder above the heart. And he was bleeding quite severely. I remember sloshing back to where he went down with the company corpsman and uh, we started returning fire and providing a covering base of fire, calling artil-lery in and scheduled an emergency medivac helicopter to come in and get Lt. O'Connor out.

Lt. O'Connor, I recall, was delirious. He kept trying to get up. It was taking the three of us to keep him on the ground. He kept trying to get up to get to his platoon to deploy them and command them, not realizing how seriously he was hurt. The corpsman put a hemostat on the artery to stop the bleeding, and we were successful in getting a helicopter to take out Lt. O'Connor at the same time as we assaulted the village two or three hundred meters to the front of us where the fire was coming from.

JACK HILL

We was the first team in, we unloaded several rounds. We dropped a couple of grenades in the hootches to get the people out, because to get one Vietnamese out of that hole, they won't come. I mean we didn't speak perfect Vietnamese so in order to get them out of there you either cranked off a couple of rounds or you dropped your M-26 grenade down there and they get the message and they come out of there.

EDWARD BANKS

The assault took anywhere from two to three minutes, maybe five minutes at the outside. As quickly as I could determine that there were, or there was no longer any fire being returned, I ordered cease fire and consolidation.

LE THI TON

When they came to my house, there were ten family members inside, including my 14-year-old son. Four or five soldiers came right over. When they came in, I stood up and greeted them. They laughed when I did that, they seemed to hate us. They just turned around and threw a grenade into the house. Nine or ten people were blown to pieces. I was the only one who was wounded and survived. My son and everyone else just fell dead. I was wounded and extremely frightened and crawled quickly into a corner of the house. Although the grenade had already exploded, the soldiers fired their guns at the people to make sure that nobody would survive.

JACK HILL

It was mass chaos. Like I say, everybody's running around screaming. We got in the village and asked where the VC were and people in the village were saying no VC, and like at one end of the village you could hear machine gun fire going off and people screaming, you know, and you know that somebody was either down in one of them holes getting dug out of there or something. And we dropped plenty of hand grenades down in booby traps, and I mean in holes and stuff to see if we could root them out. And, you go into a hootch and you got, you got tunnels in there and you got old ladies and kids in there running out and, we didn't, I didn't shoot any old ladies and kids. I know, I know half the guys in my squad didn't shoot no old ladies and kids because it just -- that wasn't the fight there.

NGUYEN BAY

They came and asked us about the Vietcong. There were only women and children around then and we didn't know where the VC were. But they shot at us anyway. They burned down the houses and then they killed all of our farm animals.

THUONG THI MAI

After they killed the people, they burned down all the houses so the survivors had no place to live. They burned everything. Even dead children were burned. So I could collect only this much of the remains of three children. It was only a handful of bones.

JACK HILL

Like I say, you get in the way of an M-14 or M-60 caliber machine gun and there's no tellin' who's gonna get killed. And you got an angry 18-year-old kid behind the gun and he's just seen his buddy gettin' killed. And he's not gonna have no remorse for who's on the receiving end of that 60 caliber machine gun.

NGUYEN BAY

The soldiers used their guns in a very brutal way. Some of the wounded people went to their beds to lie down. The soldiers shot their ears. Blood was coming out in pools as they lay there. Then the soldiers shot at their stomachs and their insides splattered all over. Then they smashed people's heads, using the butts of their guns. This terrified everyone who was still alive; the children screamed at the brutality they were seeing. But the soldiers kept on with their questioning. First, they shot our water basin to pieces, then they just opened fire at us, just opened fire continuously. I was wounded and fell down.

Looking back at that time I have to say that it was so horrible that I can't describe it all. After I was wounded -- I was wounded here and there's still a scar from the gunshot wound, right here -- several dead people fell on me. So I escaped being killed.

JACK HILL

Probably, in his eyes, from a kid's point of view it probably did, he probably seen it that way, you know. But like I said, we done a dog-down[sic] job that third day and it wasn't nothing unusual about burning them hootches down and digging them Vietnamese people out of them holes and scattering animals, pigs and chickens around like we normally do. It's just a normal procedure we do. Especially after three days. Three days of blood and guts in the mud.

Hey! You can't take it. We couldn't take it, and like I said, I can't account for every Marine that was there and what they done at, at that particular time, they done it because they felt that, that's what they had to do. I can't account for how they acted, you know. Everybody's got their own way, but if he seen it that way, that's the way he seen it. And the way I seen it, it was war.

NARRATOR

After military operations in the field, men returned to their base camps. They were little American islands in the midst of South Vietnam.

TELEVISION IN BAR ON AIR BASE

"OK, let's saddle up."

"Go on with your digging Miller, I'll go."

"You're feeling all right, Little John?"

"Never better. Besides, I wouldn't know what to do with myself, sitting around here without you guys."

 

NARRATOR

Next to the bases, small Vietnamese towns grew up. For the men here and on the new American air bases, there was never much time off from the war. Bombing operations were conducted around the clock. North Vietnam was a main target.

LESLIE GELB (Department of Defense)

The bombing of North Vietnam was considered a linch pin of the whole war strategy for two reasons. First, it was the way you applied pressure and caused pain in North Vietnam itself. Secondly, it was supposedly the way you cut off the necessary flow of supplies from North Vietnam to the North Viet-namese and Vietcong troops fighting in South Vietnam.

Interdiction was the key term. And it looked to us that even though we were stepping up the bombing, almost month by month, that there was no impact on North Vietnamese and Vietcong military activities in the South. So we had to ask the question: was the interdiction campaign working at all? So we started to make the calculations: how much supplies would have to come from north to south to keep 150,000 troops in the field and fighting, producing as much devastation as they were? And we had a pretty good fix on how many trucks the North Vietnamese were sending down and we estimated, as I remember it, some-thing like 50 to 100 trucks a week. And that they only needed to get through ten or 20 of those trucks to maintain just that level of military activity that they had been carrying out. And we estimated that based on past experi-ence, there was no way we could eliminate those, that 20 percent. No matter how effective the bombing was, they were going to get at least that through. In other words, the interdiction campaign was not working and would not work.

PAUL WARNKE (Assistant Secretary of Defense)

Now, of course, there was one alternative. You could have engaged in the kind of bombing of North Vietnam that would've devastated the society totally. You could have bombed the dams, you could have destroyed the population, I suppose you could have used nuclear weapons. We, I think, fortunately had the good judgment, had the basic humanity not to consider that kind of bombing campaign.

NARRATOR

By the end of 1967, the war was draining America's armed forces. When experi-enced soldiers completed their one-year tour of duty, their replacements included a growing proportion of draftees.

CHARLIE SABATIER (Specialist 4th Class)

When I first spotted Vietnam -- when I first spotted the country from the plane -- is when I really started to understand that there's really a war going on here. You know? I mean, I could tell by looking at the countryside. There were bomb craters, artillery craters everywhere. I mean, it wasn't as if you saw a nice beautiful forest and then you went on in and you saw a battleground then. The whole country was covered with bomb craters.

As soon as the plane landed and we got off the plane we got onto these buses. A typical bus, except that they looked like prison buses, army green prison buses with wire mesh over the windows. And I asked why, you know, this kind of bus. I thought we were in friendly country here, you know. And they told me that it was to stop people from running up and throwing grenades into the bus. Oh my God, you mean people are trying to kill me? Wait a minute, you know. I never really thought about dying before.

I was drafted, pretty naive 20-year-old kid, really, hardly a man. And with a pretty narrow view of what the world was really like.

As soon as I got there things just, it was almost like there were a bunch of guys that got together and gone camping one afternoon, that had never camped in their lives.

I probably saw half a dozen dead Americans before I ever shot at the North Vietnamese or Vietcong. Strictly from our own mistakes. People walking along behind somebody with their trigger guard undone and tripping and shooting somebody in the back accidentally. You trusted yourself only. You weren't likely to trust many other people, because you know your life was on the line here.

SOLDIER: Where the fuck was that Second Platoon when we got up there?

SOLDIER 1: All right, I need a perimeter set up here quick!

WOUNDED SOLDIER: Oh man!

SOLDIER 1: You got any first aid dressing?

SOLDIER 2: I don't have any...

WOUNDED SOLDIER: Oh! I knew they were going to get us today!...Goddamn...

SOLDIER 1: Get the perimeter set up around us. You got the first aid?

WOUNDER SOLDIER: I got it in the back -- you better get me a doctor. What's that? Another day in the 'Nam.

 

CHARLIE SABATIER

The third time I heard it somebody was saying, "Tex, help me, Tex." And so my friend says, "Don't be a fool. Don't go out there, you're gonna get killed." And I probably think that he was more scared of me leaving him alone than me getting hurt. But I didn't go out for like ten minutes, I kept hearing this, this friend of mine hollering, "Tex, help me, help me." And so finally I don't know what happened. I didn't really think it over or anything, I just in-stinctively jumped out of the bomb crater and ran over to help this guy.

Just as I got to him I was putting one knee down on the ground and was just reaching for him and I felt this thud in my back, and I thought my other friend had run out too and had tripped or something when I stopped, you know, and had like accidentally kneed me in the back.

It was just, you know, like if somebody had punched you right in the back as hard as they could. Well, it knocked the breath out of me. I took this deep breath. When I took the breath, this blood just came flying right out of my throat as if I had a faucet in my mouth, and, you know, like my chest hits the ground. I'm laying on my M-16. And uh, I realized that I'd been shot.

I went back, I flashed back to my training, and I remembered yelling and screaming things. They would yell, "What's the spirit of the bayonet?" And you would have to scream back, "To kill." That was the spirit of the bayonet. And I'm thinking, you know, my whole job is to kill -- I'm a trained killer. That's all I know how to do -- I'm an 11-B40, light weapons infantry, I'm just a trained killer. And it's a, you know, all of a sudden I thought: how did I get here? I never wanted to be a trained killer, I didn't want to kill anybody, I didn't know the first thing about -- I started thinking, you know, for the first time, what the hell is communism? I couldn't define it and I'm layin' here and going to die for killing a bunch of people 'cause they happen to be Communist!

And we began to realize that if somebody will actually live out here in this stupid jungle, dig tunnels all day long, live in these tunnels for ten years, just to fight us, you know, when we're there to do good, it made you start wondering. You know, if they're willing to go through all that -- and I must admit, you know that those things weighed on our minds. Maybe if it had been a different kind of war, we wouldn't start thinking like that, but the troops who were actually out there doing the killing really began to respect the people that they were killing.

NARRATOR

By late 1967, the American forces in South Vietnam numbered nearly half a million and U.S. commanders were asking for more.

Vice President Hubert Humphrey came to Saigon to reaffirm America's commit-ment.

VICE PRESIDENT HUBERT HUMPHREY, October 1967

And may I say that despite public opinion polls -- none of which may I say have ever been friendly toward a nation's commitment in battle -- despite criticism, despite understandable impatience, we mean to stick it out, until aggression is turned back and until a just and honorable peace can be achieved, until the job is done. That is the policy of the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States and the Congress of the United States. So let people understand that. (APPLAUSE)

 

AWARDS CEREMONY

...In the Republic of Vietnam for wounds received in connection with military operations against a hostile force.

Congratulations. For heroism against a North Vietnamese unit.

 

MARK SMITH

I think after a while I began to feel that someone was taking advantage of our bravery and our courage, and I think there was that, to no good end. So we were being used, really, for God knows what purpose, at least in terms that we could understand and appreciate on a gut level, which was the level on which you operated in Vietnam.

Words like "Peace with honor" and "negotiations," they didn't pay the bills over there. Not when you were out in the field.

JACK HILL

Well, the things I tried to put away was seeing my partners gettin' killed. Layin' out there in that mud and that rain for so long. That's the only thing that really upset me about that whole operation. I could'a give a damn about what happened inside that village. Those are my personal feelings.

BILL EHRHART

In grade school we learned about Redcoats, the nasty British soldiers that tried to stifle our freedom, and the tyranny of George III, and I think again, subconsciously -- but not very subconsciously -- I began increasingly to have the feeling that I was a Redcoat. I think it was one of the most staggering reali-zations of my life that to suddenly understand that I, I wasn't a hero, I wasn't a good guy, I wasn't handing out candy and cigarettes to the kids in the French villages. That somehow I had become everything I had learned to believe was evil. Now when I went on R & R in Hong Kong, I came very close to deserting. Somehow in the space of eight months I'd reached the point from being a volunteer hurrying off to do his duty for his country, to seriously contemplating desertion, to just disappearing into the world somewhere.

JACK HILL

We had just gotten there and we was sort of eager to do a good job and, and gain the respect as good Marines, you know? And we kinda looked after each other, 'cause like I say, we came out of boot cap and we was on that, on that first team there, and we got real close, 'cause the old guys that was rotat-ing, they had their time and we was trying to set a pattern for our own selves to do good.

TED DANIELSEN

And there just seemed to be no label on anyone except "soldier." And "comrade" and "buddy." And based on that, they performed well, extremely well. And it was a pleasure to have, and a privilege to have commanded them.

MEDIA CEREMONY

LOUDSPEAKER: For wounds received in connection with military operations against a hostile force.

OFFICER: When did you get hit?

SOLDIER: 25 October sir.

OFFICER: 25 October.

SOLDIER: Yes, sir.

OFFICER: You're one of our early ones...

SOLDIER: Yes, sir.

OFFICER: Congratulations.

LOUDSPEAKER: Meritorious service...

OFFICER: Congratulations. You've done an outstanding job. That's uh...quite a medal.

LOUDSPEAKER: By direction of the President under provisions of regulation 672-5.

NARRATOR

After almost three years, American combat forces had won major battles, but not the war. American commanders had expected their massive firepower to grind down the enemy. But despite the enormous casualties, the Communists were in-creasing their infiltration into South Vietnam as they prepared for the biggest offensive of the war.


Credits

Written and Produced by ANDREW PEARSON

Associate Producer TUG YOURGRAU

Film Editor RUTH SCHELL

Narrator WILL LYMAN

Film Research MARGOT EDMAN

Production Assistant KARAN SHELDON

Assistant Editors
KATYA FURSE CHELLI
MARYJO WHEATLEY
CHARLES SCOTT

Camera
MURDOCH CAMPBELL
JOHN GORDON
JOSEPH VITAGLIANO

Sound Recordists
JOHN FITZPATRICK
JOHN OSBORNE
PAUL RUSNAK

Assistant Camera
BARBARA HANANIA
ROBERT NOLL
JOHN WELLEMEYER

Sound Editor ERIC NEUDEL

Editing Room Assistant ANN BARTHOLOMEW

Sound Mixer RICHARD BOCK

Film Archives
SHERMAN GRINBERG FILM LIBRARIES, INC.
US AIR FORCE, ARMY, MARINES AND NAVY ARCHIVES

Special Thanks to ABC NEWS

Archivist KENN RABIN

Contributing Producer MARTIN SMITH

Additional Research BRADLEY BORUM

Unit Production Manager JAN LANGMACK

Post Production Supervisor CYNTHIA MEAGHER KUHN

Post Production Assistant ALISON SMITH

Publicity SARA ALTHERR

Titles and Graphic Design CHRIS PULLMAN

Translator NGO VINH LONG

Sound Effects CINESOUND EFFECTS LIBRARY, UK

Video Enhancement AUBREY STEWART

Music Composed by MICKEY HART BILLY KREUTZMANN

Music Performed by
VIC FIRTH
MICKEY HART
ZAKIR HUSSAIN
BILLY KREUTZMANN
AIRTO MOREIRA
MERL SAUNDERS
BOBBY VEGA

Music Recorded by PHIL KAFFEL

Director of Media Research LAWRENCE LICHTY

Chief Correspondent STANLEY KARNOW

Executive Producer RICHARD ELLISON

A coproduction of WGBH Boston with Central Independent Television, UK, Antenne-2, France in association with LRE Productions


For THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

Coordinating Producer DANIEL McCABE

Executive Producer MARGARET DRAIN

Major funding for the series was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television stations, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Additional funding was provided by the George D. Smith Fund, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

This program was originally broadcast on PBS on October 4, 1983.


THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
is a production of WGBH/Boston.

© 1983, 1997 WGBH Educational Foundation
All rights reserved

==

VIETNAM: A Television History
America's Enemy (1954-1967)
Transcript


VIETNAM: A Television History is a 13-part documentary film series produced for public television by WGBH Boston, in cooperation with Central Independent Television/United Kingdom, and Antenne-2/France, and in association with LRE Productions. A six year project from conception to completion, the series carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of war in Vietnam for everyone involved, beginning with early history, through the French colonial period, and up to the fall of Saigon and unification of the country in 1975. Executive producer Richard Ellison, chief correspondent Stanley Karnow, and Director of Media Research Lawrence Lichty, with some 60 consultants and four production units, comprised the production team, centered at WGBH in Boston. Its members garnered hundreds of interviews, researched 70 film archives worldwide, and traveled the length of Vietnam to create perhaps the most exhaustive historical documentary series in television history.

HO CHI MINH

In a war, it is natural that there are losses and sacrifices. Our people are determined to fight on. We will endure all sacrifice for ten years, 20 years or longer, until complete victory.

PREMIER PHAM VAN DONG

Throughout Vietnam's history, this has always been the case. It was so in the past, it will be so in the future. This is something we can be sure of.

GENERAL VO NGUYEN GIAP

One of the most essential -- if not to say the most essential -- rule in Vietnam-ese military science, in war we have to win, absolutely have to win.

NARRATOR

In October 1954, after nine years of war, French troops left Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh had led the Communist-inspired Vietminh nationalists to victory.

A cease-fire agreement signed at Geneva provisionally partitioned Vietnam into two zones. Ho's forces were to regroup in the North and leave their families and unarmed comrades in the South. A nation-wide election to reunify Vietnam was to be held in two years. Colonial rule was ending.

MME. NGUYEN THI DINH (National Liberation Front)

The northern part of the country had been totally liberated. According to the agreement, in only two more years, the South too would be completely liberat-ed. The people in the South truly believed that there would be a national reunification in two years.

NARRATOR

The United States, which had largely financed the French war, promised not to disrupt the Geneva agreements by force. Vice President Nixon flew to Saigon to dramatize America's support of South Vietnam's new leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, who had rigged a referendum and set up a separate South Vietnamese state.

PHAM VAN DONG

After the Geneva Conference, the United States pushed the French out of the South and backed Ngo Dinh Diem to organize a government there. Ngo Dinh Diem was a cruel and reactionary tyrant. He used extremely barbaric methods to repress the revolutionary movement and to stifle demands that the Geneva agreements be carried out.

NARRATOR

The Eisenhower Administration backed Diem's rejection of the nationwide elections called for at Geneva. With American aid and advisers, Diem strengthened his power, using soldiers and police who had formerly served the French.

MME. NGUYEN THI DINH

They arrested, imprisoned and assassinated former participants of the resis-tance against the French. And, they forcibly registered all families whose sons, husbands and other relatives had regrouped in the North.

MAJ. DUONG SANG

While I was in the North, I heard that people in the South were being killed in droves, among them members of my family. I was very worried, and my heart ached for them. I went to my superiors and volunteered to return to the South to fight in any way I could.

NARRATOR

Ho Chi Minh wanted a political solution. So did the Soviet Union and China, who feared a possible war with America.

Rural poverty was all too apparent. A decade earlier, a famine in the North had taken an estimated two million lives. Raising food production was a priority. The Hanoi leadership launched a program to distribute land to the peasants. The estates of rural landlords were shared out among three quarters of the peasantry. The political aim was to break the influence of the old landowning class.

HOANG LOC

A land reform team came from the central government to coordinate the program with the local inhabitants. The people in the area would then be invited to meetings where the poor and landless peasants would describe their situation. In this way, we found out how the rich exploited the poor and landless peasants.

With help from the government team, we classified the landlords in different categories. Then the landlords were brought before a people's court set up in the village. Those found guilty of actual crimes were sent to jail.

NARRATOR

Following Chinese Communist practice, people's courts had to meet fixed quotas of criminal landlords. Thousands of innocent people were arrested, and many -- possibly between three and 15,000 -- were executed. Alarmed by the turmoil, the leadership curbed the excesses, calling them "serious mistakes."

North Vietnam's economy, ravaged by war and neglect, was being rebuilt.

The Hanoi leadership was coming under increased pressure from southerners to resume fighting. Finally, in 1959, they decided to back armed struggle in the South.

MME. NGUYEN THI DINH

The first battle took place in Bentre province. We attacked a company of the regime's self-defense forces, and took over a notorious police garrison. In only three hours, without any weapons of our own, we succeeded in capturing 30 guns.

NARRATOR

In 1960, the Communist Party created the National Liberation Front, a coali-tion of southern forces opposed to the Diem regime. Diem labeled it "the Vietcong." The Front called for Diem's overthrow, an end to foreign inter-ference and the eventual peaceful reunification of Vietnam.

The United States sent more aid and advisers.

EARL YOUNG (U.S. Province Adviser, Long An)

We continually were amazed at the professionalism -- the ability to be good psychologists -- that these people had. They knew exactly how to deal with the Vietnamese farmer. Now this the Americans generally never did, and the Vietnamese government might have but really wasn't that interested, so we found that a whole structure had been superimposed on this province, and it was a Vietcong structure -- Communist Vietcong structure. They had people at every level and they were running a shadow government coincidentally with the government's operation.

NARRATOR

To isolate them from the Vietcong, Diem shunted peasants into fortified villages called "strategic hamlets." Many peasants had resented the return of the landlords and the loss of land given to them earlier by the Vietminh.

EARLY YOUNG

There were some very substantial grievances which these people had. They had been perhaps moved off their land. They were being taxed unfairly. They were promised things which were never delivered. The Vietnamese military would per-haps molest their women, would steal their chickens, in general be obnoxious.

NARRATOR

The Saigon government tried to control the rural population as Vietcong teams assassinated local officials.

EARL YOUNG

They would send in a small squad of people -- maybe five or six men in the middle of the night. They would seize the hamlet chief in his house, haul him out to the center of the hamlet and convene the whole village to watch this, and then they would cut his head off. They would make him kneel down and they would shoot him in the head -- whatever technique they wanted to use -- and, of course, this frightened the Vietnamese.

Because of the insecurity in the countryside, the normal Vietnamese government civil servant, the teachers, the agricultural advisers, could not go into these hamlets. The provincial junkyard was littered with blown-up ambulances, blown-up education vehicles. They simply put mines in the road and as the government people went out to a hamlet, the Vietcong destroyed them and they put the fear of God in them.

NARRATOR (National Liberation Front Film)

Saigon's government army swept through the countryside, in search of Vietcong suspects.

This film, released by the National Liberation Front in 1963, shows government officials torturing suspects by electrical shocks and hanging.

By now the Vietcong force had grown. Their objectives were the capture of government outposts and the destruction of strategic hamlets. Diem's army suffered from poor leadership and internal dissention. In late 1963, the United States encouraged a coup in which Diem's own officers killed him.

The Vietcong at first depended on captured or homemade weapons and arms hidden after the Geneva agreements. But by early 1964, as the North Vietnamese commitment increased, men and equipment flowed south along an old supply route, the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Former Vietminh soldiers who had regrouped to the North were returning to fight. They counted on growing support from the southern population. Stepping up sabotage activities, they struck at the heart of Saigon, attacking American installations.

LAM SON NAO

When I worked on the docks, I collected information on American facilities, on all their ships and their military warehouses. I learned that the U.S.S. Card was coming up the river carrying all kinds of aircraft to kill the Vietnamese people. I was able to transform my anger into action when I was given the job of trying to blow up the ship. Using commando tactics, we entered into a sewer

...crawling along because it was so narrow. Sometimes we could walk by crouching.

After we had placed the two mines, I checked the automatic ignition device again. It was 2 a.m. when I finished checking everything. My comrade and I then began to crawl back to the other end of the sewage system.

When the mines exploded at exactly 3 a.m., the whole area was blacked out and the two of us were so happy knowing that our mission had been accomplished.

NARRATOR

In August 1964, President Johnson reacted to reports of a naval clash in the Gulf of Tonkin by ordering a reprisal air raid.

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, August 1964

Renewed hostile actions against United States ships on the high seas and the Gulf of Tonkin have today required me to take action in reply.

NARRATOR

U.S. aircraft were bombing North Vietnam for the first time.

EVERETT ALVAREZ (POW 1964-1973)

Not until I was about halfway to our target area did I start to realize that this was actual combat. And the things that we had trained and prepared for, the eventual, the eventuality like this, I never really, you know, thought that it would really actually happen. But all of a sudden, here we were and I was in it.

PHAM VAN DONG

I was visiting Quang Ninh province, when suddenly I saw a formation of air-planes coming from the sea, flying straight toward the mining area. Then a fight broke out between the American airplanes and the Vietnamese air defenses.

EVERETT ALVAREZ

I was hit and the weirdest feeling...my airplane started to fall apart, I was over strange territory, you know, foreign territory, enemy territory.

PHAM VAN DONG

Shortly thereafter, an American airplane was shot down and its pilot captured. Before returning to Hanoi, I met with this pilot, Everett Alvarez. He was the first American pilot taken prisoner in Vietnam.

NARRATOR

A decade after the Geneva agreements, North Vietnam was under attack, its developing economy threatened. A decade during which land under irrigation had doubled, electrical production had increased tenfold.

Ho Chi Minh, who had devoted his life to winning independence, declared in 1964, "As long as the country is divided, as long as our compatriots continue to suffer, I can neither sleep well nor eat with any appetite." Ho personified the nationalist struggle, even for Vietnamese who feared communism. He inspired many southerners to fight.

TRAN NHAT BANG

I'll always remember August 1, 1964, when this village liberated itself. There were no revolutionary guerrillas or regular forces present. The villagers staged a spontaneous uprising. We were delighted. We convened a meeting of 2,000 people and introduced a revolutionary administration. We organized the people to dig trenches and tunnels to defend themselves against enemy artillery. Everyone dug booby traps and laid homemade mines. We knew that the enemy puppet troops would try to get revenge.

NARRATOR

The Saigon government troops faced traps and other primitive weapons. The military force of the National Liberation Front, the People's Liberation Army, drew on experiences gained in fighting the French, paying meticulous attention to detail and planning.

American helicopters had given their enemy superior speed and mobility. They devised counter-tactics -- to wait and lure the helicopters within range.

By late 1964, Vietcong troops were fighting sustained battles against numerically superior and better-armed Saigon forces.

On December 28, some 1,500 Vietcong, armed with machine guns and recoiless rifles, captured the village of Binh Gia, 40 miles southeast of Saigon.

On December 30, after U.S. helicopters flew in reinforcements, Saigon troops recaptured the village. The battle continued for five days. The Vietcong destroyed two South Vietnamese battalions, killing 158 soldiers and five American advisers.

By March 1965, U.S. Marines were in Vietnam...the first American combat troops to arrive. They had come as allies of South Vietnam. But to many peasants, they were yet another threatening foreign force.

Bienhoa, March 18, 1965.

The United States stepped up its bombing of the South, using more napalm and phosphorous bombs.

DUONG SANG

Unexploded American bombs and shells were dug up by the old people and the kids -- sawed up in order to get to the gun powder and explosives. They then produced various kinds of explosive devices themselves. In each hamlet and village we had a workshop for producing these devices.

LE THI MA

We unscrewed the detonators first of all, then used a saw to cut the bombs in half. We scraped the powder into two large cauldrons, bigger than this one here. Next we melted the powder down into a thick liquid and poured it into a container like this one, until it was completely full. We then made a detonator and inserted it here.

We placed these mines along the routes we knew the tanks were going to take. When the tanks went by they would hit this thing here, exploding the mine and causing the tank to turn over.

DUONG SANG

We had many old people who took part in the fighting. Have you heard of Mrs. Nguyen Thi Ranh, who was over 80 years old when she became a military heroine? We had many men and women who were more than 50 years old when they became heroes and heroines in the struggle against the United States. The children were even more active and creative. They mostly used homemade weapons, manufactured precisely to fight the enemy in each area.

NARRATOR

American pilots had been bombing in South Vietnam since 1961. Vinh Binh province, April 26, 1965.

On July 1, the Vietcong mortared the U.S. air base at Danang. American Marines were deployed to nearby Cam Ne, a cluster of hamlets. They drew fire.

THOMAS MURPHY

As we started moving, some of those so-called "civilians" quote, unquote, as is on the news, got killed. At this time some of the Marines used cigarette lighters and the hooches went up, grenades, some flame throwers were brought in and that was one way to quiet the fire from the village.

COL. RAY SNYDER

I told the squad leaders to approach it on simply a case-by-case basis and use their own judgment, that we were not getting a heavy volume of fire, that they should be able to pinpoint, at least to some extent, the source of the fire.

THOMAS MURPHY

I don't think that an order had come down to burn the village, but I think it was just something that was carried on through the operation.

NGO THI HIEN

The Americans shelled the village as they arrived. Then they burned down the houses, destroying everything. Nine members of my family were killed. I escaped which is why I'm alive today. But my whole family was wiped out.

NGUYEN THI THIEP

Many people were wounded. Where I'm sitting now, one person was shot as she returned from harvesting rice. She was taken to hospital and there she died.

NGUYEN THI THE

The Americans came into my house with their interpreters and drove us out. They refused to let us take any belongings with us.

THOMAS MURPHY

An eight-year-old or a nine-year-old can kill you just as quick as a 25 or 26-year-old man. Now these people have been fighting this war a long long time. Some of these people were actually fighting wars when they were nine, ten, and eleven years old. Where, back here in the States, the kids were playing cowboys and indians. Over there they had been playing it for real.

COL. RAY SNYDER

We did encounter a problem which, which was ultimately to become a very difficult situation in that we had -- I'd gotten a report from one of my squads that they had been fired on from behind. It meant either that our search was not sufficiently adequate or that we were facing some other kind of a problem, and that perhaps they had come from some other area of the village and come in behind us, or whatever.

TRAN NHAT BANG

I witnessed the destruction, because I was fighting there. After our clash with the Americans, my comrades and I ran along the communication trenches to our hidden shelters where the villagers could help us.

NGO THI HIEN

Wherever the Americans went, they burned and destroyed and killed. I didn't see any guerrillas being killed, only villagers.

TRAN NHAT BANG

On that day they couldn't locate any of us guerrilla fighters. Our unit suffered no casualties at all.

NARRATOR

In North Vietnam, villagers and militia now faced regular American bombing attacks. Called Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing had started in March 1965. The bombing was planned to last a few weeks -- a few months at most. It continued for more than three years.

ROBINSON RISNER (POW 1965-1973)

I was going right up Route 1, north from Thanh Hoa. I had to raise up to go over the hill just a little, and when I did, I was receiving automatic weapons fire right down my nose from some fixed positions, and I never quite reached my target. And they just shot me to pieces.

NARRATOR

The official list of bombing targets grew, from army and navy bases and radar sites to railways, roads, bridges and anything that resembled a military vehicle.

ROBINSON RISNER

When my head emerged above the rice, in the rice paddy, I looked right down a gun bore, and I didn't have my gun aimed at this guy, so I had to make a decision. Am I going to make a fight because this guy was -- already had a gun right in my head and I changed my mind. I remember telling the guys I would never be captured. But I changed my mind, and I dropped the gun without uncocking it. I ground it in the mud with my feet hoping they wouldn't find it, but an old one-eyed villager had seen it, seen me with it, saw me drop it.

He came up and while they were forcing me to kneel and tied my arms very painfully behind me, he searched around until he found it. And then he picked it up and I remember still, the water and the mud dripping from it, and he put the barrel between my eyes and I watched his finger almost as though I were fascinated or hypnotized. And I watched his finger curl around the trigger guard knowing full well he didn't know how finely tuned that trigger was and that was the only time out of my entire prison career that I ever wondered for even a milli-second if I were coming back alive or not.

NARRATOR

In South Vietnam, American aircraft met less resistance.

1965 CANADIAN DOCUMENTARY FILM

SKYRAIDER MISSION

"OK, his bomb burses...should hit now!"

(EXPLOSION)

"OK, look out to the right now. OK, right down there. Napalm now! There it goes...Ah, look at it burn, look at it burn!

PRESIDENT HO CHI MINH

The American imperialists have invaded the South with their troops and have tried to destroy the North with their aircraft. Thus they have committed untold crimes against the people of both regions. Vietnam is one. The Viet-namese people are one. As compatriots, the people in the North will do everything within their power to support the struggle of the people in the South.

NARRATOR

As their troops and supplies moved to the battlefield, Hanoi's leaders repeat-edly denied that their army was fighting in the South, claiming that the charge was a myth fabricated by the United States. To stop the flow, America stepped up the bombing campaign. North Vietnam responded by moving its factories into the countryside. The civilian economy was suffering, but the country was being mobilized with Ho Chi Minh's slogan: "Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom."

Earlier, Ho's Communist allies had discouraged his efforts to reunify Vietnam. In 1957, the Soviet Union even proposed that two Vietnams be admitted to the United Nations. But with the North under attack, the aid from Communist powers was increased. They sent weapons, fuel, rice, agricultural and industrial equipment.

GENERAL VO NGUYEN GIAP

We received help from sister countries -- from the U.S.S.R., from China, which had a stand different from the one she has now. Not only did we enjoy growing international help and support from other socialist nations, but also from the progressive forces in all other countries.

1967 FRENCH NEWSREEL (Subtitles)

On December 13 and 14, 1966, the escalation reached the center of the North Vietnamese capital.

This is the first film received from Hanoi.

Four districts were bombed. Entire neighborhoods of small houses were blown up or destroyed by fire.

Despite the French Press Agency reports from Hanoi, Washington only admitted the facts after several denials.

DR. TON THAT TUNG

As the bombs were falling our hearts naturally throbbed with fear. But when that happened we either carried the stretcher out to bring in the wounded or went out to visit the injured, and our fear dissipated as a result. My experience was that fear arose when you sat there worrying about things. But when you kept yourselves occupied, you lost your fear.

EVERETT ALVAREZ

One evening of July the 6, they came around and gave us new pajamas that we wore. These had numbers stamped, they had stamped numbers on our pajamas. We were always so hopeful and optimistic that this thing was going to end and we figured, ah hah, this is step number one and we're going to be going home guys. We were sort of feeling good about this, and as we started walking, you know, I thought we were going to walk right around the park. But no, as we got to the opening of a big street, I looked -- we could see down, and it was just, I mean this was, this was the New Year's Eve parade. I mean there was just thousands of people in stands and along the streets and as we started to march, I could hear the cheerleaders with megaphones getting the crowd going. And one of the interrogators, we called "the Rabbit," he saw me, and he turned to the crowd and he was leading them in this cheer. The cheer said, "Alvarez, Alvarez, son of a bitch, son of a bitch."

So pretty soon the whole cheering section started, you know. You know, I had played sports before, but this was a different sport altogether. But we progressed down, the crowd started to press in, and the guards would come along and they'd tell you to bow to the people, bow to the people. You know, I was just trying to keep my head, not to bow, but I was just trying to head in that direction. And after a few blocks of this the crowds became uncontrol-lable and they started throwing things. And then somebody hit from behind and I was, I just about went out, next thing I know, I was sort of drowsy and we were led to the infield and sat there, and they brought us all in, we all made it.

ROBINSON RISNER

Then they started with my wrists, with my arms behind my back, and wrapped my arms together under the armpits. Well, the two arms were together and they just pulled my shoulders out of joint, you know; that, and they did some similar things to my legs. I tried to endure the pain knowing that an American military man should be able to endure torture until he died, but never to give nothing to the enemy (never give anything to the enemy). And I tried my best, and my best wasn't good enough.

And during the night I heard someone screaming in the distance and I thought, my, they're torturing another prisoner, and I felt so sorry for him, you know. And then I could come back more closely to consciousness, and found out that it was me I was hearing in the distance; I was the one who was doing the screaming. And they tortured me all night. And by daylight, they had reduced me to such a place that I would give them more than name, rank, serial number and dates of birth.

And they hurt me pretty bad. They pulled my shoulders out of joint, and they did some things to my legs. But I found out that I was not as strong as I thought. I couldn't be tortured to death, that my will would give before my heart stopped beating. It was very disconcerting. I lived in abject misery for the rest of the time I was a prisoner.

NARRATOR

The bombing in the South continued without let-up. But it never stopped the flow of supplies and manpower to the Vietcong bases.

Many bases were tunnels stretching for hundreds of yards underground. Some, like the major Vietcong base at Cu Chi, only 20 miles from Saigon, were never destroyed.

DUONG SANG

We used Ci Chi as a training base and staging area. We enlisted recruits in Saigon and trained them here, in the tunnels. We raised their political consciousness and taught them tactical skills preparing them for big assign-ments such as attacking large enemy hotels. They learned to use automobiles and Honda motorcycles -- firing hand guns to hit the enemy with a single shot.

In the city, we had people who specialized in forging documents. Whenever the enemy produced any kind of document, we were always able to acquire a copy and produce an exact replica, right in the heart of Saigon itself.

NGUYEN THI ANH

I lived in Danang along with other sisters who participated in the revolution. We organized clandestine activities, and provided communication between the revolutionary base area and the city. We carried out political struggles against the enemy.

NARRATOR

Vietcong spies and agents continually passed useful information to the guerrilla bases. Couriers and saboteurs depended on sympathizers in the local population for their protection. If caught, they expected little mercy.

NGUYEN THI ANH

They tried to force me to confess that I was involved with the Vietcong. I refused to make such a statement and so they stuck needles under the tips of my ten fingernails saying that if I did not write down what they wanted, and admit to being Vietcong, then they would continue the torture.

But I was determined to say nothing. I was extremely angry at the enemy and I loved my country so much. This was because everyday, bombs and shells and the blood and bones of my people appeared before my eyes. I was extremely outraged and would never come out with any information.

They tied my nipples to electric wires, then gave me electric shocks, knocking me to the floor every time they did so. They said if they did not get the necessary information they would continue with the torture. Two American advisers were always standing on either side of me.

NARRATOR

Coastal towns and villages in the southern part of North Vietnam were constantly shelled and bombed by American warships and aircraft. People took refuge in tunnels.

HO MINH SAC (Tunnel Builder/Manager)

We spent more than two years building the whole complex. The largest number of people living in the tunnel at any one time was more than a thousand. The lowest number was more than 200.

NGO THI TAM (Woman in Tunnel)

My house had been bombed and I had to give birth to my baby in the tunnel. We remained underground for two months. There was little food to eat or clothes to wear. There was no firewood to cook with and little water to drink. All day long, I was going in and out of the tunnel trying to get water for my child.

HO THANH DAM (Schoolteacher)

They dropped napalm bombs and I was injured. Napalm bombs saturated the whole village, engulfing it in a gigantic fire.

When I was hit, the napalm set my whole body on fire. I lost consciousness. Many people died. Their bodies had been torn to pieces. Some of the pieces hung from the branches of trees and other pieces were covered with dirt thrown up by the explosion.

Some people were so shocked by the terrifying scene that they turned around and went back into the tunnel. But then the tunnel collapsed and they were buried alive.

NARRATOR

B-52 bombers had begun to bomb the South in June 1965. By April 1965, they were bombing the North.

GENERAL GIAP

The American Air Force is a very powerful air force, and naturally it influenced the battlefield. It was a great trump card. The Americans counted on their air force to somehow change the course of events.

PHAM VAN DONG

It must not be forgotten that General Curtis Lemay had said that the United States should bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age. But they were greatly mistaken. The destruction of the North -- with all the efforts and all the barbarity of imperial America -- only caused the people to be more resilient and more resolute in their determination to resist and to win.

The key factor in the struggle was the opening up of a trail -- appropriately called the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" -- to link the North to the South. The United States used every means at its disposal to block the trail. But to no avail.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail, developed day by day, becoming a network of roads over which weapons, military supplies and tens of thousands of soldiers were moved into the South for combat.

CAPT. TRAN VAN NGO

I left the North, taking three months to reach the South. On the way, we constantly faced flares, all kinds of bombs and rockets. We couldn't stop for any time along the route until we had reached our resting place. Then we would sleep in hammocks, and begin marching again at four o'clock the next morning.

NARRATOR

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was not a single trail, but a web of trails, some threading through Laos and Cambodia. They were kept open by armies of women, many drafted into service for two years at a time.

Throughout 1967, more and more soldiers were moving from north to south every month.

TRAN NHAT BANG

The northern brothers came here to fight because of their sense of solidarity and responsibility toward us. After all, this was not their native village and they did not have to fight here. There were never any problems between us southerners and northerners.

We guerrillas fought behind the enemy lines, disrupting his rear. We con-cluded that only with the regular forces would we be able to fight the big battles.

NARRATOR

The North Vietnamese troops were highly disciplined and tightly controlled. As in the Chinese Communist army, each soldier belonged to a three-man cell.

CAPT. NGUYEN VAN NGHI

When we encountered difficulties, the three-man cell functioned as one. If one of us was killed, the others suffered terribly. And that made us hate the American imperialists even more.

CAPT. TRAN VAN NGO

I killed three American soldiers when the American forces attacked Dsiem Hang.

We waited for them in ambush. We engaged them in close combat and I killed them with my bayonet. After this battle, my morale was very high because I had contributed to the liberation of the South.

CAPT. DANG XUAN TEO

We had a slogan, "To fight the Americans, you must cling to their belts." If we fought them at a distance we suffered a lot of casualties.

CAPT. NGUYEN VAN NGHI

Having fought against American troops many times, I came to the conclusion that they had a lot of bombs and shells -- that they were very powerful as far as war materials were concerned. But they did not fight very well at all. They moved very slowly and really were not that mobile.

NARRATOR

In both North and South Vietnam, daily life accommodated to the rhythms of war.

DR. TUNG

We always know when they were about to drop their bombs. For example, in the morning, they usually arrived about ten o'clock, just after breakfast. Then they took a break, and went back to their bases for lunch. Then they came back to drop their bombs again at about three in the afternoon. Since this was the routine, we tailored our schedule accordingly. We began our surgery at about five in the morning, and took a break at nine or ten.

When the bombs didn't fall on time, we felt extremely uncomfortable, wondering why they hadn't fallen yet. This wasn't fear. We simply wanted the bombing to be over with so that we could get back to our work.

NARRATOR

By 1968, Soviet-made missiles and anti-aircraft batteries ringed Hanoi.

DR. TUNG

At that time, we were filled with fervor. I can tell you, there's something strange about the Vietnamese. They could never remain long in a bomb shelter. Whenever an airplane was shot down, everybody including doctors rushed out to look at it.

NARRATOR

By 1967, nearly every military target in the North had been damaged or destroyed. But the bombing had not broken North Vietnamese moral nor stopped the flow of men and supplies to the South. Operation Rolling Thunder had failed.

GENERAL GIAP

They had spread the hostilities over the entire territory of our country. It was absolutely normal and necessary for us to mobilize all our forces -- political and military -- in order to carry on the struggle and to reach final victory.

NARRATOR

In January 1968, 20,000 northern troops moved south. They were poised for a fresh ambitious offensive -- the "Tet" offensive.


Credits

Written and Produced by MARTIN SMITH

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Film Editor JULIAN WARE

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Special Thanks to ABC NEWS

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A co-production of WGBH Boston with Central Independent Television, UK, Antenne-2, France in association with LRE Productions


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Major funding for the series was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television stations, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Additional funding was provided by the George D. Smith Fund, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This program was originally broadcast on PBS on October 4, 1983.

THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
is a production of WGBH/Boston.

© 1983, 1997 WGBH Educational Foundation
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==

Vietnam: A Television History
The Tet Offensive (1968)
Transcript


VIETNAM: A Television History is a 13-part documentary film series produced for public television by WGBH Boston, in cooperation with Central Independent Television/United Kingdom, and Antenne-2/France, and in association with LRE Productions. A six year project from conception to completion, the series carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of war in Vietnam for everyone involved, beginning with early history, through the French colonial period, and up to the fall of Saigon and unification of the country in 1975. Executive producer Richard Ellison, chief correspondent Stanley Karnow, and Director of Media Research Lawrence Lichty, with some 60 consultants and four production units, comprised the production team, centered at WGBH in Boston. Its members garnered hundreds of interviews, researched 70 film archives worldwide, and traveled the length of Vietnam to create perhaps the most exhaustive historical documentary series in television history.

 

GENERAL WILLIAM C. WESTMORELAND (Commander, Vietnam)

In 1968 a new phase is now starting. We have reached an important point when the end begins to come into view.

NARRATOR

Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. A massive Vietcong and North Vietnamese offen-sive struck the cities of South Vietnam. The attacks spilled into the living rooms of America and split the White House staff.

WALT W. ROSTOW (National Security Adviser)

Yes, I was optimistic after the Tet offensive -- even more optimistic in a sense than before -- because it's one thing to have confidence that you're going to cope with this maximum effort. It's another thing to see that everyone was coping. You'll see that the cables from Saigon, from Ambassador Bunker, told us that the enemy was defeated on the ground very early. It would take time to mop up.

HARRY MCPHERSON (Counsel to the President)

For the rest of us who were not in the National Security Council staff -- even though we were reading many of those cables and going down there for such reassurance as we could get -- we were also watching the American television. And American television was showing a different sight. That sense of the awfulness, the endlessness of the war. The unethical quality that did not recognize that when a man was taken prisoner, he was not to be shot at point blank range. The terrible sight of General Luan raising his revolver to the head of a captured Vietcong and killing him. They were awful contradictions -- the cables on the one side, the television on the other. It was very disturbing.

NARRATOR

Vietnam was history's first television war. Now as the fighting ripped into Saigon, millions of Americans watched the battle on the evening news.

MILITARY POLICEMAN

We've got another, two more alert forces that are trying to push him out this way but he's got -- he's heavily fortified. He's got a lot of ammo.

REPORTER 1

What's he got, small arms?

MP

Small arms, automatic fire, grenade launcher, and hand grenades.

REPORTER 1

You lost any men here?

MP

Well, I've got, uh five, five, six, six people I've had wounded.

REPORTER 2

Now CIA men and MPs have gone into the embassy and are trying to get the snipers out by themselves.

NARRATOR

Nothing dramatized the Vietcong's drive more vividly to Americans than the scene inside the U.S. Embassy compound in Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital. The center of American power in Vietnam had come under fire.

REPORTER 3

General, how would you assess yesterday's activities and today's? What is the enemy doing? Are these major attacks or (explosion)...

GENERAL WESTMORELAND

That's EOD setting off a couple of M-79 duds, I believe.

REPORTER 3

General, how would you assess the enemy's purposes yesterday and today?

GENERAL WESTMORELAND

The enemy, very deceitfully, has taken advantage of the Tet truce in order to create maximum consternation within South Vietnam, particularly in the populated areas.

NARRATOR

The consternation was indeed maximum. For years the North Vietnamese and Vietcong had fought mainly in the rice fields and jungles. Now, for the first time, they were fighting in the cities -- in their biggest offensive of the war. They hit nearly every province and district capital across South Vietnam. They hit Westmoreland's own headquarters near the Saigon airport. They hit key targets throughout Saigon, including the government radio station.

REPORTER, February 1968

This is the main Vietnamese language radio station in Saigon, and right now there are an undisclosed number of VC inside occupying the station. They're not broadcasting on the air and they're surrounded by South Vietnamese troops. And they're pinned down inside. We think they're going to be throwing, we think they're going to be throwing tear gas any moment now to try to get them out that way. There's been a lot of shooting out the windows from inside up on the second floor.

DANG XUAN TEO

A comrade inside the radio station had captured an enemy machine gun and had fought with it throughout the night. By nine o'clock in the morning, he had only 20 rounds left. He was wounded, his leg shattered. He asked me to go and find out whether he should try to hold the place or blow it up. At about ten o'clock in the morning, we had only eight men inside with a very large explosive. They detonated the explosive, destroying the entire radio station and sacrificed themselves in the blast.

NARRATOR

U.S. combat troops had been in Vietnam for nearly three years before Tet, 1968. Yet all their superior power had failed to grind down the enemy. The war was deadlocked.

In July 1967, Communist planners in Hanoi debated their next move. Some wanted to continue their war of attrition. But Ho Chi Minh approved a bold offensive designed to break the deadlock and open the way to power.

The war in 1967 posed a different problem for Lyndon Johnson. He had to raise taxes to continue both the war and his social programs. To rally domestic support, he had to promise light at the end of the tunnel.

November 16, 1967

REPORTER

How do you see it, General?

GENERAL WESTMORELAND

Very very encouraged. I've never been more encouraged during my entire, almost four years in this country. I think we're making real progress. Everybody is very optimistic that I know of, who is intimately associated with our effort there.

GENERAL EARLE WHEELER (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)

We feel that on the military side there has been substantial progress over the past two years, that in the last six months, the progress has been even more rapid than in the 18 months before that.

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, December 22, 1967

All the challenges have been met. The enemy is not beaten but he knows that he has met his master in the field.

NARRATOR

Johnson had orchestrated this campaign of optimism only weeks before Tet. But he had reason to believe an enemy attack of some kind was coming. During the two previous years, the Communists had staged winter offensives along South Vietnam's borders. Now as U.S. intelligence detected large deployments moving south, Westmoreland expected similar assaults. He rushed 6,000 American Marines and South Vietnamese troops to Khesanh, a remote frontier outpost near the Ho Chi Minh Trail. From here he had hoped to control North Vietnamese infiltration into South Vietnam's northern provinces. The North Vietnamese attacked Khesanh in January, several days before Tet. Westmoreland thought this would be a decisive engagement.

GENERAL WESTMORELAND, January 22, 1968

I think his plans concerned a major effort to win a spectacular battlefield success on the eve of Tet, which is the Chinese New Year, which takes place at the end of this month.

NARRATOR

Johnson was so concerned that he kept a model of Khesanh in the White House. But neither he nor his generals then fully knew the Communists' real purpose in fighting there.

GENERAL WESTMORELAND

I did feel it was a target that the enemy was very much interested in, that he would want to seize it. And I wanted to fight him in the hinterland rather than allow him to get down among the people, which would have been very costly in casualties.

CAPT. TRAN DINH THONG (North Vietnam)

Our objective was to inflict casualties on the enemy of Khesanh, thus compel-ling him to shift more of his forces there from the southern part of the country. In that way, it would be possible for our people to organize in order to liberate the South. But because we drew larger enemy forces into Khesanh, and allowed them to supply and reinforce themselves, we could not turn the encounter into a final big battle.

NARRATOR

Days after they began to shell Khesanh, the Communist commanders issued final orders for their nationwide offensive against South Vietnam's cities. The longest battle was waged for Hue, the old imperial capital. Survivors of the battle tell different stories. One is a refugee with family still in Vietnam.

REFUGEE FROM HUE

The night of Tet, the lunar New Year, was different from other New Year's eves. Firecrackers went on longer. They came faster and faster. There were more -- many more -- than on other New Years. The sounds of firecrackers and gunfire interspersed. Nobody realized that it was the gunfire of Communists who were overrunning the city of Hue.

PHAM THI XUAN QUE (Vietcong)

At that time, I was at the nursing school, now the secondary school for nurses. I was among the students there, and weapons were smuggled into us. At the nursing school we also managed to print a number of leaflets and tracts for the National Liberation Front calling on the population to remain calm and not carry out reprisals when its forces entered the city. For example, when people arrested an enemy agent, they were to turn him over to the cadres.

REFUGEE FROM HUE

Communist soldiers came in and asked my father his occupation and his residence. They told my father to describe his background. My father replied that he was deputy district chief of Trieu-phong and that he was already old and would retire in one year. They wrote down everything, then went on to other houses.

NARRATOR

The North Vietnamese and Vietcong dominated Hue for three days. They rounded up South Vietnamese officials and government sympathizers. Some eluded arrest and fled with other civilians. Many did not.

REFUGEE FROM HUE

My father was ordered to attend a study session for ten days, and he was told that he would be released afterward. My mother and I accompanied him to the school. There were about 100 persons there. We stayed there until we saw my father leave. My mother and I were very worried because in 1946, my father's father had been arrested in the same way by the Communists. He never returned.

HOANG PHU NGOG TUONG

The people so hated those who had tortured them in the past that, when the revolution came to Hue, they rooted out those despots to get rid of them -- just as they would poisonous snakes who, if allowed to live, would commit further crimes.

NARRATOR

Troops of South Vietnam's First Infantry Division joined U.S. Marines in the counter-attack against Hue. Many were fighting for their homes and for an historic city. The Nguyen emperors had built the Citadel, Hue's walled fortress, early in the nineteenth century. They modeled it on the impregnable Forbidden City in Peking, the Chinese capital. The North Vietnamese army set up a command post next to the throne, in the Palace of Perfect Peace. Delta Company, First Battalion, Fifth Regiment, U.S. Marines headed for the Citadel.

CAPTAIN MYRON HARRINGTON

I think my most vivid memory as I went in was in talking with one of the other company commanders who had already been participating there in the action for a couple of days, and in a very matter-of-fact way without a great deal of embellishment on his part he just frightened the hell out of me in telling me how bad it was. And I thought in my mind right then and there that, you know, hey, here I am with a fresh company and I knew without having to be told that what my mission was going to be the next day, was going to be to go try to take this fortified tower position along the east wall. And, sure enough, that evening when I went in to be briefed, Major Thompson, he just said, "Delta Company, tomorrow you're going to take that east wall." And I said, "Aye, aye, sir" and went at it.

REPORTER, February 1968

What's the hardest part of it?

MARINE

Not knowing where they are -- that's the worst thing. Riding around, running in the sewers, the gutters, anywhere. Could be anywhere. Just hope you can stay alive, day to day. Everybody just wants to go back home and go to school. That's about it.

REPORTER

Have you lost any friends?

MARINE

Quite a few. We lost one the other day. The whole thing stinks, really.

NARRATOR

Two days later, on February 14, Delta Company took the fortified tower, then moved on.

CAPTAIN MYRON HARRINGTON

We tried our best to avoid malicious damage, if you would. We just didn't shoot at walls just to blow them down. But when we had to shoot at a house, we shot at a house. When we had to destroy a house, we destroyed it. But we didn't go in there with the express purpose that this is a wonderful oppor-tunity to show how great our weapons are and how much destructive power they possess. As a result of their being so entrenched, it required for us to bring maximum fire power at our disposal to eliminate them. But we were fortunate in that we did have the weapons that were capable of routing the NVA and the Vietcong out of their positions.

NGUYEN THI HOA

They directed artillery fire into the area where I lived. All the houses and trees were destroyed. They also directed rocket fire against the homes of the people in my neighborhood. The people here use kerosene and gasoline, and so their homes burst into flames when they were hit by the rockets. Old folks -- children and pregnant women who could not flee -- were burned alive in their homes.

CAPT. MYRON HARRINGTON

And throughout all of this, you constantly had this fear. Not so much that you were going to die, because I think to a certain degree that was a given. This was combined with the semi-darkness type of environment that we were fighting in because of the low overcast -- the fact that we didn't see the sun -- gave it a very eerie, spooky look. You had this utter devastation all around you. You had this horrible smell. I mean you just cannot describe the smell of death especially when you're looking at it a couple of weeks along.

It's horrible. It was there when you ate your rations. It was almost like you were eating death. You couldn't escape it.

NARRATOR

After 24 days of fierce fighting, South Vietnamese army units entered the Citadel and raised the flag of South Vietnam. Hue had been saved but destroyed. Seventy-five percent of its people were homeless. Eight thousand soldiers and civilians on both sides had been killed in the fighting. But the final toll was higher.

REFUGEE FROM HUE

In 1969, a Communist defected and told the chief of Thua Thien province that the Communists had buried a number of people in the Xuan O and Xuan Doi areas. The province chief ordered the bodies dug up, to exhume the remains of those who had been arrested during the Tet offensive. I, along with others whose relatives had been killed, inspected the remains. The smell was terrible, but we had loved and missed our relatives, and it was our duty to search for them. Those who found the remains of their relatives were gratified, and those who could not were sad. I continued looking along with others.

At Phu Tu, eight more tunnels were dug up. Strangely, all the skulls of the skeletons were smashed. Their arms were tied, and their positions indicated that they died kneeling. The skeletons were not stretched out. They were bundled up or huddled. I went on following the search party up until September 1969, but I never found my father's remains.

NARRATOR

The bodies found in the mass graves were solemnly buried by the South Viet-namese government -- bodies of officials, army officers, priests, students. Some, who bore no visible marks of violence, had presumably been buried alive. Twenty-eight hundred bodies were eventually found, and the massacre prompted U.S. and South Vietnamese officials to predict a bloodbath if the Communists won the war. For the Communists, however, the Tet offensive fell short of their expectations.

CAPT. TRAN DINH THONG

At that time, in the North, we had devoted our resources and our energy to the liberation of the South in 1968, and when this could not be achieved we certainly felt a little let down.

MAJ. GEN. TRAN DO

Looking back at it now, it is clear that the first objective -- the liberation of the South -- was not accomplished. But at that time we did attack the command centers of the American forces and the puppet regime in the urban areas as well as in the provinces. We attacked the provincial headquarters, the Saigon presidential palace, the various secret police headquarters and the radio stations. And in Saigon we fought our way into the American embassy, which was the most important American headquarters in the South.

We were able to occupy all these places, but we could not hold them. There-fore, we did not gain enough for the people to stage their general uprising.

GEN. VO. NGUYEN GIAP

For us, you know, strategy is never purely military. Our strategy is always a general, an integrated strategy: simultaneously military, political and diplomatic. Thus the Tet offensive of 1968 obviously had an objective that was both military and political.

NARRATOR

As a military operation, the offensive had failed. The southern Vietcong guerrilla forces had surfaced, to be killed or captured in large numbers. After 1968, the war was increasingly fought by North Vietnamese as a conven-tional conflict. The political goal of forcing President Thieu to accept a coalition government also failed.

NGUYEN VAN THIEU (President, South Vietnam), February 1968

What they have realized in the city that the people was against them. So I believe that the general uprising that they had hoped have not happened. They have met with the anti-Communist sentiment from the people in the city, so they failed in both countryside and city.

DEAN RUSK

But even though it was a considerable military set-back for the North Vietnam-ese and Vietcong out there on the ground, it was, in effect, a brilliant political victory for them here in the United States. I'm not sure I fully understand the reasons why that should have occurred, but it became very clear after the Tet offensive that many people at the grass roots, such as my cousins in Cherokee County, finally came to the conclusion that if we could not tell them when this war was going to end, and we couldn't in any good faith, that we might as well chuck it.

GEORGE CHRISTIAN (Presidential Aide)

The Tet offensive came as a brutal surprise to President Johnson and all of his advisers. We had been led to believe that the Vietcong were pretty well defanged by that period, that the pacification program had worked very well, that most of the villages in South Vietnam were secure and that it was virtually impossible for the Vietcong to rise to the heights that they did in 1968.

NARRATOR

The shock of the Tet attacks forced Johnson, the commander-in-chief, to seek refuge in the military. Johnson, the president, said nothing to the nation. Tet had crystallized the dilemma of the war. Johnson wanted victory. But his enemy, though rebuffed, was still not defeated. Could he win now without expanding the war and committing more troops?

GEN. WILLIAM WESTMORELAND

At the time of the Tet offensive, I asked for only those troops that were on the way to me anyway, that had been promised, and had been organized. And I asked that they be accelerated.

NARRATOR

Johnson approved this request and sent off an airborne unit. But by now, Vietnam was draining America's overall military force. Johnson's generals pressed him to take a step he had always resisted: to call up the reserves, to gird the nation for a bigger war.

GEN. WILLIAM WESTMORELAND

Mr. Johnson then sent a message, "If you need further reinforcements, please call for them." I took no steps in that regard, until General Wheeler came over. He was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And Wheeler told me that it was a good prospect that the reserves would be mobilized, that the strategy would be changed. And if reserves are mobilized and our strategy was changed to be an offensive strategy that would break down some of the geo-graphical barriers of Laos and Cambodia and allow us to take the war to the enemy in a more effective way through the bombing campaign -- what would I want to bring the war to an end? It was in the context, then, of a contingency plan based on an assumption of a decision. And it was not request per se.

NARRATOR

But it was presented as Westmoreland's request for 206,000 troops for Vietnam. General Earle Wheeler said they were needed to stop another attack. In fact, Wheeler planned to keep half the troops at home to replenish the depleted reserves. Another adviser wanted to use the troops to invade North Vietnam.

WALT W. ROSTOW (National Security Adviser)

I thought that the extra troops would be justified, only if we used them in a very active policy to force an end to the war on the ground, through putting forces into North Vietnam as far north as Vien, and blocking off on the ground with U.S. forces the multiple trails in Laos.

NARRATOR

Johnson turned the troop request over to Clark Clifford, his new secretary of defense, a trusted adviser and supporter of the war from the beginning.

CLARK CLIFFORD

President Johnson appointed a task force as soon as I went into the Pentagon and named me chairman of the task force. The reason was that the military had specifically requested 206,000 more troops to be sent to Vietnam. He wanted that analyzed, he wanted us to determine how the troops could be gathered and sent, what the social, political, economic impact might be on the United States.

NARRATOR

The troop request came at a time when Johnson was concerned about Khesanh, where the Marine garrison was still besieged. Johnson believed the North Vietnamese still planned a major assault against Khesanh. The Marines, surrounded and outnumbered, were enduring deadly artillery barrages as they waited for the North Vietnamese to storm the base.

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, March 1968

Now to meet the needs of these fighting men, we shall do whatever is required. Make no mistake about it. I don't want a man in here to go back home thinking otherwise. We are going to win!

NARRATOR

Johnson did meet the needs of his men at Khesanh. He unleashed the Air Force against the North Vietnamese encircling the base in one of the most intensive bombing campaigns in history. By early March, assured that Khesanh was safe and the Tet offensive repelled, Johnson quietly shelved the request for 206,000 troops. But the troop request had deeply influenced his new secretary of defense.

CLARK CLIFFORD

I know for three full days I spent down in the tank with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where you sit with all of the communications devices that go all over the world. We had long talks. How long would it take? They didn't know. How many more troops would it take? They didn't know. Would 206,000 answer the demand? They didn't know. Might there be more? Yes, there might be more. So, when it was all over, I said, "What is the plan to win the war in Vietnam?" Well, the only plan is that ultimately the attrition will wear down the North Vietnamese and they will have had enough. Is there any indication that we've reached that point? No, there isn't.

As a result of that kind of interview, and that kind of information, before the final examination was over and we submitted our reports to President Johnson, I had turned against the war.

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, March 1968

Well, we don't plan to surrender either, and we don't plan to pull out either, and we don't plan to let people influence us, and pressure and force us to divide our nation in a time of national peril. The hour is here!

CLARK CLIFFORD

I then decided that what I must do would be to get all of the strength that I could, because the mere fact that I had reached the conclusion was not very significant, because the decision really lay with President Johnson.

HARRY MCPHERSON (Counsel to the President)

Clifford said, "I noticed you this afternoon at the State Department and it seems to me you and I are on the same side. And I think we should form a partnership. You should be the partner in the White House and I'll be the partner in the Pentagon. You tell me what goes on over there that you hear, and I'll tell you what happens over here, and together we'll get this country and our president out of this mess."

GEORGE CHRISTIAN (Presidential Aide)

Harry was our "Secret Dove," Harry was very close to the President. Harry and I were close; Harry was close to other members of the White House staff.

CLARK CLIFFORD

We began to develop a group, and I know that after a while the question would be very secretly, "Is he with us?" That means, Is he a part of this group that is organized and dedicated to changing Lyndon Johnson's mind? It was almost like some very similar expression used in the French Revolution, "Is he with us?"

HARRY MCPHERSON

Without his having to say so, getting us out of this mess did not mean putting in another two or 300,000 men in order to beat North Vietnam, the Vietcong; it meant to begin the process of de-escalation, as it was called -- disengagement of the United States. I was exhilarated.

NARRATOR

On March 10, The New York Times revealed the Pentagon's request for additional troops. The request had been a closely guarded secret. The disclosure stunned members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then holding hearings on Vietnam. Secretary of State Dean Rusk was grilled on live television for two days.

SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE, March 10, 1968

SEN. WAYNE MORSE

There is incipient uprising in this country in opposition to this war and it's going to get worse. This talk about sending over 100,000, 200,000 more troops, you're going to create a very serious difficulty in this country if you people in the administration go through with that.

SEN. MIKE MANSFIELD

Now, Mr. Secretary, for some years we have been bombing the North. As I understand it, this bombing of the North had three purposes: one, to hurt North Vietnam. That's been done. Secondly, to stop the infiltration of men down across the parallel and the Ho Chi Minh trails. Has that been done?

DEAN RUSK

It has not been stopped completely, Senator. We never supposed that it could stop it completely, but we do know that it has had some major impact upon the capacity of the other side to carry out this infiltration and has cost them very heavily.

SEN. MANSFIELD

The rate of infiltration in 1965 was about 1,500 a month. In 1966 about 4,500 a month. In 1967 between 5,500 and 6,000 a month. And in 1968, it's my understanding that in January, 20,000 men came down from North Vietnam into South Vietnam. Is that a correct figure or a correct estimate?

DEAN RUSK

I would accept those as approximately correct, Sir.

SEN. MANSFIELD

Then, the third factor -- in addition to hurt, reducing infiltration -- the third factor was to bring Hanoi to the conference table. Are they any closer to the conference table now than they were when the bombing began?

DEAN RUSK

We have seen no evidence that they are prepared to undertake serious discus-sions toward a peaceful settlement of this situation.

NARRATOR

Senator Morse and Mansfield had long opposed the war. But after Tet, supporters like Senator Karl Mundt of South Dakota began to abandon Johnson.

SEN. KARL MUNDT

As one who has consistently supported the decision of the administration to stay on and press on with this war, I am totally and sorrowfully disappointed by your answer. And I think this is one of the great causes for dissension in this country. I am convinced the majority of Americans would like to see a priority, and unless it is established and announced by this administration, I think we're going to increase the divisiveness which I hate to see developing in this country.

NARRATOR

Now Congress wanted a change -- either victory or withdrawal. Congress, also concerned about the cost of the war, forced Johnson to trim his domestic programs. He could not spend more on a limited war, and he feared an expanded war.

HARRY MCPHERSON

Johnson's greatest fear, as he once put it, was that an American pilot was going to miss his target in Hanoi or Haiphong harbor and put a bomb down the smoke stack of a Russian freighter with the Russian minister on board and that the pilot would be from Johnson City, Texas. He was, he was extremely dis-turbed that we might provoke the Russians, or earlier the Chinese, into coming to the aid of Vietnam. And that was one of the, that was one of the tremendous dilemmas he had throughout the war when a great many Americans wanted the United States to go ahead and finish it off.

NARRATOR

Johnson also had to consider the war at home. Until then, he had dismissed street demonstrations. But 1968 was a presidential election year, and out of the growing anti-war sentiment, there emerged a peace candidate, thrust into prominence by the shock of the Tet offensive.

SEN. EUGENE MCCARTHY, February 1968

I am a candidate for the nomination of the presidency on the Democratic ticket. And I run for that office against an incumbent leader of our party, because I believe as I find many people in this country do believe now, and have for the last five or six months, that we are involved in a very deep crisis of leadership, a crisis of direction and a crisis of national purpose. The entire history of this war in Vietnam -- no matter what we call it -- has been one of continued error and of misjudgement.

NARRATOR

Senator Eugene McCarthy nearly beat Johnson in the New Hampshire primary, and the close vote jolted Johnson. At the time, it looked like a vote for peace. In fact, it was a vote against Johnson's conduct of the war. Most New Hamp-shire voters felt that he wasn't being tough enough. They favored getting out of a war he refused to win.

NARRATOR

Johnson was further rattled when Robert Kennedy joined the presidential race. The glamorous Kennedys had always worried him. Robert had switched to a peace platform, and Johnson smelled defeat in Wisconsin, the next primary. The faraway war was taking its toll at home.

Johnson turned to a group of elder statesmen called the "wise men." They had consistently backed his war policies. He convened them on March 25. They included establishment figures like former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, former Ambassador to Vietnam Maxwell Taylor, and former National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy.

MCGEORGE BUNDY

And our recommendation on the whole -- not without dissent and disagreement -- was that there should not be an increase in force levels in South Vietnam, and that there should be a modification of the policy of bombing North Vietnam.

CLARK CLIFFORD

Now here was a group saying, Mr. President, stop trying to win the war. Start cutting back. Don't send any more men. We think you ought to get out. It was a very bitter pill for him.

MCGEORGE BUNDY

I think he had himself decided really, that he would not do the ground force reinforcement, so it was more our gloominess in a way than our specific recom-mendations that he may have found troubling.

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON

To meet price increases...

NARRATOR

On the afternoon of March 31, after two months of indecision, Johnson re-hearsed an address to the nation scheduled for that evening.

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON

...the estimate of those additional expenditures is, so get Clifford in to see what figures...this fiscal year...well you're going to have to get him in the next hour so you can mimeograph because George is going to want them, in that fiscal year.

NARRATOR

As late as March 28 his aides were still divided on Vietnam policy.

HARRY MCPHERSON

It was a strong "we will be in there, we will be fighting, they will not drive us out, we will save Vietnam" speech. There was a meeting in Secretary Rusk's office. Rusk, Clifford, Bill Bundy, the assistant secretary for the Far East, Rostow and me. Clifford said, "The speech is a disaster."

CLARK CLIFFORD

I thought the draft was dreadful. I thought that it was harsh. I thought that it talked about the continuation of the war. It talked about Tet, how Tet could be resolved. There was some suggestion about sending some of the men, not the whole 206,000. To me, it needed much changing and much amendment.

HARRY MCPHERSON

The really, the really surprising thing was that Rusk and Rostow did not fight Clifford on that, but began to speak as if, alright, let's, what do we have to put in line to write a different kind of speech? I went back and wrote a different speech -- a very different speech.

CLARK CLIFFORD

As a quick illustration, the first few sentences of that speech in the original draft said, "I wish to talk about the war in Vietnam." That was the first sentence. By the time the speech was written and rewritten -- we worked days on it before it was given -- the first sentence read:

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON, March 31, 1968

Good evening, my fellow Americans. Tonight I want to speak to you of peace in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

CLARK CLIFFORD

And that speech was almost a complete reversal of what the speech started out to be.

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON

Tonight, I have ordered our aircraft and our naval vessels to make no attacks on North Vietnam, except in the area north of the demilitarized zone where the continuing enemy buildup directly threatens allied forward positions and where the movement of their troops and supplies are clearly related to that threat.

HARRY MCPHERSON

I had cut off the peroration, the ending of that speech, which was a kind of McPherson effort to write Churchillian. It had been on every draft of every speech from the beginning.

Clifford called me just before we met on that Saturday and said, "You know that peroration doesn't belong there anymore. The speech has changed. You can't make the kind of speech we've now got and then end it with the sort of 'we will fight them in the...lanes and the villages and the beaches' language that is in that peroration." So I just cut it off. I didn't have time to write a new one. Johnson asked me, "Where was it? I liked that." And I said, "Well, I didn't like it, it doesn't really fit with the speech. I'll go upstairs and write a new one. And I'll make it short because the speech is already a very long one." He said, "You don't need to worry about time. I may have a little ending of my own." And he walked out of the room leaving me and Clifford. I turned around to Clifford and said, "Good Lord, is he going to say 'sayonara', is he going to quit?" And Clifford looked at me as if I were out of my mind.

CLARK CLIFFORD

We'd all assumed of course that he would run. He loved the job. He reveled in it.

HARRY MCPHERSON

About five in the afternoon I got back to my office and Johnson called me and asked me what I thought about the speech that he was about to deliver in two or three hours. And I said I thought it was pretty good -- I was really proud and glad that we had turned, changed the speech. He said, "I've got an ending." I said, "I've heard that." He said, "Do you know what's in it?" I said, "I think so." He said, "What do you think about it?" And I said, "I'm very sorry, Mr. President." And he said, "Okay. So long pardner."

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON

With America's sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office -- the presidency of your country. Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.

CLARK CLIFFORD

As promptly as possible after he spoke, I had a press conference and announced formally that the 206,000 troops were not to be sent.

April 11, 1968

This is part and parcel, I believe, of the President's decision to place a limitation at this time upon our troop level at a point not exceeding 550,000.

It seemed appropriate that it should be said -- if that's what he meant -- and I assumed that that was what he meant from the tone of his speech on March the 31. There were still those who very much wanted to -- the military still thought the matter was hanging fire. That ended it. After that statement was made publicly, there was no further comment about the 206,000 troops.

NARRATOR

The Tet offensive had a further impact. In mid-May, North Vietnamese diplomats arrived in Paris to negotiate for the first time. That week the Vietcong launched a new offensive. Americans fought on, for the same objective: an independent South Vietnam. But after Tet the strategy changed. There were peace talks and the slow withdrawal of American troops. The talking and fighting went on for the next five years.


Credits

Written and Produced by AUSTIN HOYT

Associate Producer MARILYN HORNBECK

Film Editor ERIC NEUDEL

Narrator WILL LYMAN

Film Research JANET HAYMAN

Assistant Editor ALFRED PORTILLA

Camera PETER HOVING

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GEORGES JEANNET
FLORA MOON
JOHN H. MOSS
LESLIE OTIS
STEVE PHILLIPS
PAUL RUSNAK

Assistant Camera
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ROGER HAYDOCK
PHILIPPE MAURICE
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JULIAN WHITE
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Sound Mixer FRANK CUNNINGHAM

Film Archives
CBS NEWS
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THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE, ARMY,
NAVY AND MARINE CORPS ARCHIVES

Special Thanks to
ABC NEWS
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Archivist
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Additional Film Research
BRADLEY BORUM
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Post Production Supervisors
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Title and Graphic Design CHRIS PULLMAN

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Music Composed by
MICKEY HART
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Music Performed by
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MICKEY HART
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AIRTO MOREIRA
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Music Recorded by PHIL KAFFEL

Director of Media Research LAWRENCE LICHTY

Chief Correspondent STANLEY KARNOW

Executive Producer RICHARD ELLISON

A co-production of WGBH Boston with Central Independent Television, UK, Antenne-2, France in association with LRE Productions


For The American Experience

Coordinating Producer DANIEL McCABE

Executive Producer MARGARET DRAIN

Major funding for the series was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television stations, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Additional funding was provided by the George D. Smith Fund, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This program was originally broadcast on PBS on October 4, 1983.

THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
is a production of WGBH/Boston.

© 1983, 1997 WGBH Educational Foundation
All Rights Reserved

==

Vietnam: A Television History
Vietnamizing the War (1968-1973)
Transcript


VIETNAM: A Television History is a 13-part documentary film series produced for public television by WGBH Boston, in cooperation with Central Independent Television/United Kingdom, and Antenne-2/France, and in association with LRE Productions. A six year project from conception to completion, the series carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of war in Vietnam for everyone involved, beginning with early history, through the French colonial period, and up to the fall of Saigon and unification of the country in 1975. Executive producer Richard Ellison, chief correspondent Stanley Karnow, and Director of Media Research Lawrence Lichty, with some 60 consultants and four production units, comprised the production team, centered at WGBH in Boston. Its members garnered hundreds of interviews, researched 70 film archives worldwide, and traveled the length of Vietnam to create perhaps the most exhaustive historical documentary series in television history.

December 1968

MUSIC FROM HELICOPTER RADIO

"You've lost that lovin' feeling. Ooh that lovin' feeling..."

VOICES ON RADIO

"See that last hooch down there? See that last hooch?"

"Yeah."

"Alright, just this side of it, there are four guys with bushes on them. I want you to kill them."

"OK. I'm going to put tracers right here."

"Go!"

BOB HOPE

I'd planned to spend Christmas in the States, but I can't stand violence.

NARRATOR

The Bob Hope Show, Christmas, 1968.

ANN MARGARET (Singing)

"Dallas, Houston, Memphis, Boston, Atlanta, Denver, Frisco..."

NARRATOR

Paid with American aid, armed with American weapons, South Vietnamese soldiers on patrol in 1969.

CAPTAIN DO CUONG (South Vietnamese Soldier)

Foreigners didn't understand the psychology of the South Vietnamese soldiers who were carrying the guns and doing the fighting. We felt we had to fight. We were spilling our blood and suffering all kinds of hardships because we felt there was no other choice.

PRESIDENT NGUYEN VAN THIEU, June 1969

We never accept any form of government, any form of policy that the Communists would like to impose on us before the decision on all South Vietnamese people can be made through free choice and democratic procedures, without external interference and without atrocities.

NARRATOR

Pop singers livened up conscription campaigns, welcoming draftees into South Vietnam's armed forces. The military numbered more than a million, but each week more than 2,000 of its troops deserted. Each week more than 400 were killed.

(VIETNAMESE WOMAN SINGING)

"We will never forget you and your fight for freedom" was the refrain.

The South Vietnamese government was recognized by most Western countries. It had survived for 15 years on more than $100 billion in U.S. aid. It was still totally dependent on America.

BUI DIEM (Ambassador to the U.S.A.)

We had a lot of conversations about the impact of the huge American presence in South Vietnam. We South Vietnamese, we are very concerned about the fact that the Communists are, were very shrewd in trying to take advantage of the American presence in South Vietnam.

VICE PRESIDENT NGUYEN CAO KY

They said that we are puppets of American, we are working you know, for America, receive money from America, die for America. While they are the true liberators, you know. So, when you look just at the surface, a lot of people listened to their propaganda and believed it.

BUI DIEM

The Vietnamese couldn't think in terms of the Americans intervening in some-thing and not succeeding. When they saw that the Americans build with billions and billions of dollars the air strips in Danang and Camranh -- everywhere around the country -- they couldn't think that the Americans once having committed their troops in Vietnam, having spended so much money in Vietnam, could one of these days leave everything behind and call it quit.

NARRATOR

In early 1969, one-third of the forces defending the Saigon government -- half a million men -- were American.

ELEVENTH CAVALRY IN FIELD, February 1969

OFFICER

Just pull him over; if anything flies out, watch out.

NARRATOR

After four years in Vietnam, American combat troops still pursued -- and often caught -- an elusive enemy.

OFFICER

Tell...we'll pick him up there. Hello, got another one over here that's wounded.

Send me an aircraft over to pick up the one that's wounded up. We thought he was dead. He's wounded. Soon as you pick the one up on the stretcher come get the other one. Take him in also. The other fellow died but we gotta get him out of here.

NARRATOR

Every American had his own version of the Vietnam War.

CAPT. FRANK HICKEY

The aviation units in general had a very high espirit de corps. The morale was good. We enjoyed what we did. And part of it I think is due to the fact of the logistics of being a pilot.

You know, you go out and you fly your mission everyday, and you take, you know, very precarious chances, but at, you know, you come back home, you have a comfortable hootch. It might be air-conditioned. You got an officers' club across the street where you can get loaded every night and kind of forget about the world. And that kind of made...It was almost like a nine to five job. I mean, if I could put that kind of parallel. Go out and fight, come back and live, almost the way you lived in the states.

LT. BOB FRANCO

All of a sudden from up above on my radio I hear our battalion commander telling me that there were three dinks, his exact words, "There's three dinks to your west. Go get 'em." You know, and I said this must be Bunker Hill, you know. So I said to my men, "Okay, the colonel said there's three dinks to our west, we're going east." Because I always felt never follow them cause that's when you're gonna go.

LT. PETER PAUL MAHONEY

We were on our way back to our base and we were walking through the vill when a soldier came up to the guy who was in charge of patrol, and he had apparent-ly spotted three VC, or NLF, or whoever they were in one of the houses, so we surrounded the house.

BOB FRANCO

And that was, that was the story of go-get-'em, you know. And you don't just go get Charlie. 'Cause he's a little fast.

PETER MAHONEY

None of the South Vietnamese who were in the patrol fired at these three guys, and I was scared stiff. I was suddenly, I was feeling alone because I was the only American who was there and so I, I put my rifle on automatic.

I jumped up and I just fired the entire magazine at these three guys. I killed two of them and I didn't hit the other one and he got away in the darkness.

FRANK HICKEY

There were areas where you weren't supposed to fly over. There were areas where if you took fire you had to call back, maybe all the way back to the commanding general of the division to get permission to fight, to fire back, and to me that was absurd. We're fighting a war. Somebody's shooting at you. You turn around, you shoot back and you kill him.

PETER MAHONEY

The Americans gave a medal to the South Vietnamese soldier who was in charge of the patrol. This is part of, this was considered instilling morale in the South Vietnamese soldiers, so he was given a Bronze Star by the American army because this was like the first body count we had in our area in probably eight months, you know, and the South Vietnamese feeling the need to recip-rocate that ended up giving me a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

BOB FRANCO

I was a very lucky person to have the people I had with me, because they got me through it.

You know, I would say to them, "Look, you have one function. That's to protect me. 'Cause I can get you everything else. I can get you the beer in the field. I can get you the air mattresses." Because the people I sent in the rear still had the respect for me. So anything I needed I called in for and got.

FRANK HICKEY

I mean, we had some precarious situations and we lost some birds and we lost some people. But we always won. I mean, we, so to me, we were very successful, you know. But I, I'm, as I think of it now, I don't know what we won. We won a box on a map where the next day we left it and we never came back maybe. But every time we were engaged in that type of an operation, we won.

NARRATOR

The peace talks in Paris had not stopped the bombing in South Vietnam. American aircraft dropped six times more bombs on South Vietnam than on the Communist North. Many towns and villages in the South were destroyed in order to drive out the Vietcong, the North Vietnamese and their civilian supporters.

The number of northerners captured increased as more of their main battalions moved south. But most of the enemy troops were native southerners fighting in Vietcong units.

The destruction -- much of it deliberate -- created more than three million refugees.

Most American soldiers served with support units during their one-year tours. Their daily routine could be broken at any time by enemy rocket attacks or terrorism.

U.S. bases employed thousands of Vietnamese civilians. The jobs were highly prized. The American-financed war overheated the economy, creating new opportunities, new wealth, and a new commercial class.

NGUYEN NHAN HUU

Between 1967 and 1969, when the American forces were still in Vietnam, it was very easy for everyone to make money. Take a certain Mr. A. who worked for the Americans. He could earn much more working for the Americans than an official could earn from the South Vietnamese government. And since Mr. A. had a lot of money to spend, he would spend it in many ways.

BUI DIEM

It was so easy for everyone to get a share of the pie. That money was so easily available that it very easily corrupted everyone.

MR. NHAN

As for black marketeering, I did not see anything bad at all. When people bought goods from the American supermarkets for resale to make a little profit, then everybody said that this was black marketeering. But, to me, this was not black marketeering. This was only a transaction.

NGUYEN CAO KY

The press at the time tried to blame it on Vietnamese official or Vietnamese people. You know that most of the goods came, you know, that selling of the black market came from the various PX. So, it's war-time and a lot of people, both sides, American as well as the Vietnamese, are involving in the black market, you know. So it created a big, upside down society.

NARRATOR

Christmas, 1969. Nixon was steadily reducing the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam.

In South Vietnam's towns and cities -- swollen with refugees -- the enemy still planted bombs. Civilians still died. But business went on -- all kinds of business.

DUONG THI MY TRUNG (Prostitute)

I answered an ad in the newspaper for a job as a cashier. While I was working there, the woman who owned the establishment bought me a lot of new clothes. Every time I liked something, she bought it for me. I didn't think that she was going to deduct these things from my salary. But after a while, she began to demand repayment. I became very upset and flustered. I didn't know where I would get the money. Then she suggested that I ought to go with a certain man who would give me money so that I could repay my debt to her.

PROSTITUTE

The man asked me whether I would like to go some place to enjoy myself. I replied that I didn't know where to go, that since my childhood, I'd always been living with my family. Then he suggested that we go to the town of Cantho. I thought we were going to live together as husband and wife. But to my surprise, he stayed with me for only three days, then told me that he was returning me to the woman who was my boss.

NGUYEN CAO KY

Prostitution. Tell me somewhere in this world that there's no prostitution. Tell me some city, some country, where there is no prostitution. So there is prostitution in Vietnam, in Saigon, of course. There is corruption, of course. There is black market, yes. But, because we're living in war for long time.

Thirty years. And with the vast, the big presence of foreign troops in, you know, in Vietnam, it created a lot of social problems.

LECTURER TO U.S. TROOPS, July 1971

The first problem we have here is VD. Many of the South Vietnamese women suffer from at least one type of VD. Of course, the best protection here is to abstain from all sexual relations with the South Vietnamese women. However, facts have proven that not all of you will choose to do this.

SGT. RALPH THOMAS

I don't know if I should tell this story (chuckle), but my first day when I went into town and I got into this Vespa -- they had these little taxis that they called Vespas -- these three-wheeled jobs in which it starts like a lawn-mower. I got in and the first thing the guy asked me did I want a girl. I said, "No, I'd like to see the town first." And he said, "Would you like..." and he held up this big pack of what I assumed was marijuana. Now, I know it was marijuana. At the time I just assumed it.

PVT. GEORGE CANTERO

"GI, you want Vietnamese cigarette? I trade you one pack of Salem." Or "GI, can you get me Pham? I give you this, and make enormous dope deals." For a box of Tide, you could get a carton of pre-packed, pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes soaked in opium. For ten dollars you could get a vial of pure heroin about the size of say, maybe about that high, the size of a cigarette butt. And, you could get liquid opium, speed, acid, anything you wanted.

RALPH THOMAS

If I wanted it, it was available. I could either have drugs, I could have a girl, or I could go to any part of town I wanted to. Now, let's say you can turn down a girl or you can turn down going to a bar. I mean, it, whatever the taxi driver said, offered you, you couldn't turn down every one. I mean it was something he said that you were going to want.

BOB FRANCO

The only drugs I actually saw men taking was maybe smoking grass. A little marijuana on a three-day standout. Now, what I would do is when we came, when we came back for a three-day stand-down so to speak, or a three-day rest before going on another operation, I would just say to the men, "Look, go get drunk, do any...find a little Vietnamese girl, whatever you're gonna do. If you're gonna smoke a little dope, don't get caught," you know. "If you do anything worse, don't come back," you know. But they'd, they'd always show up on the third day straight. And, and, they frowned on drugs. My particular company, because they knew out in the field anybody that wasn't alert they could cost the other guy's life.

NARRATOR

In 1971, a Congressional study said that drugs in South Vietnam were "more plentiful than cigarettes and chewing gum." Another report estimated 30,000 American heroin addicts in the country. Narcotics were eroding discipline. Drug abuse, concluded an official survey, had become a "military problem."

SONG

But the pusher don't care if you live or if you die - Goddam."

NARRATOR

In 1969, more than 9,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam. Nixon aimed to reduce American casualties by Vietnamizing the war, letting the South Viet-namese do the fighting. In 1970, as U.S. troop withdrawals increased, American deaths dropped by more than one-half.

PRESIDENT NGUYEN VAN THIEU, January 1970

All of the U.S. troops cannot be withdrawn in 1970. It will take many years. Ambassador Bunker, General Abrams, everyone have assured me that the U.S. people and U.S. Government will continue to stay, to mend, to help the Vietnamese people and army to defend the freedom in Vietnam.

U.S. RADIO SAIGON

"Good morning Vietnam. Welcome to the time buster...Today is the day..."

NARRATOR

The total number of Americans in Vietnam continued to drop. But among new arrivals anti-war sentiments were spreading, morale was in decline. Vietnam gave the language a new term: "fragging." In more than 200 incidents during 1970, American troops tried to kill or wound their superiors using fragmenta-tion grenades. After five years in Vietnam, America's armed forces had changed.

FRANK HICKEY

I had an experience and I'll never forget it. I went in, on payday and the commissaries, well really the PX over there are just mobbed. Everybody has their money for the month, and the lines are really long, and really rank has no privilege. Everybody stands on line.

I came in one time and there was a long line and we were all standing there and a couple of black guys came in and they walked in front of the line. So I said to the one fellow, I said, "Hey boy, you'll have to get back on the line." And I didn't mean it in the derogatory sense. Well, the guy went crazy. I mean, he started to yell at me, "Who are you calling 'boy'? I'm," you know, "I'm no boy," and I don't remember exactly all the things he said to me, but I said to him, "Gee," I said, "look, I apologize." And, I was a captain and he was a PFC. I decided it was time to leave. He was really causing a scene.

So I walked out the back door and the guy followed me. And I turned around to say, "Hey look, I'm sorry," and the guy hit me. I mean, he punched me. And, he was, I don't know, he was about 5'8", 5'9", 120 pounds. He couldn't have hurt me, but in my mind I said, this guy is a PFC. He just hit a captain. I mean, it wasn't him hitting me. It was the whole relationship that I'd grown up with. You know, enlisted men don't hit officers. I mean you go to jail for that.

RALPH THOMAS

The racial polarization was deeper there than I've ever seen. They had black sides of town, white sides of town. And even the Vietnamese accepted it. And woe to the white who walked in a black area unaccompanied, and vice-versa. Woe to the black who would walk into a white area of town unaccompanied.

PRIVATE PHILLIP KEY

I just found myself isolating myself from the white soldiers and things. As blacks we began to associate among ourselves. More so, we began to have political education classes. We began to come together to sit down to talk about, you know, some of the problems that we was confronted with. Our, our commitment.

RALPH THOMAS

For blacks such as myself, it was reading, after reading Malcolm X and black history. Martin Luther King and other, other more black militants, Eldridge Cleaver, etc. It naturally led into a political reading, and I read Dr. Spock on Vietnam. There was anti-war literature in Vietnam. Readily available.

PHILLIP KEY

A lot of guys felt that we shouldn't, you know, risk our life or put our life on the line when there was a war back in America, when we wasn't free, you know, like when dogs were being turned on to our peoples, young children were being bombed in churches. It was very confusing. Most blacks still was, you know, very supportive. Most blacks was very supportive of the system, what they had to do.

NARRATOR

The closer they got to combat -- the more blacks and whites needed each other -- the better they got along.

SINGER AT THE BOB HOPE SHOW

"How many people here got a lot of soul? You got a lot of soul?"

"Yeah."

"Right on, right on."

NARRATOR

Bob Hope's 1970 Christmas show played to shrinking audiences. In two years, the U.S. force in Vietnam had been reduced by more than 300,000.

BOB HOPE

I'm surprised to see you. Where were you fellow hiding when the withdrawals took place?

NARRATOR

In Saigon, demonstrators protested against the Thieu government. Many favored an immediate peace. Others denounced corruption or sought to discredit the 1971 presidential election. The army fought on.

NARRATOR

Anxious to give South Vietnam a democratic image, American officials searched for an anti-Communist contender to run against Thieu. But Thieu stifled domestic opposition.

To Thieu, like his predecessors, the election was a means to control the population and placate the Americans. President Thieu declared that the election and his victory were an expression of civil rights in a free and democratic society.

The only effective opposition to Thieu was the Vietcong, which now labeled itself the "Provisional Revolutionary Government." It was active in much of the countryside.

JANE BARTON (Civilian Aide Worker)

It would get to be about three thirty, four o'clock and people would say, you know, "It's getting late in the afternoon, you'd better go home because the government's going to change." And literally, the Saigon government sort of closed up and went home and the PRG people would come in, help the people, maybe even work at night, you know, helping to sift the rice or put it in bags, talk to the people, bring them movies or just visit.

They could because, of course, the PRG in the area were not, as people thought, North Vietnamese that had come south, but were really the people themselves. One of the things that was a problem for a foreign government coming in and trying to control an area where it was not popular was figuring out who, who was against the government. Their way of solving it seemed to be to round up groups of people and interrogate them.

NARRATOR

Identifying subversives was part of a broader effort called "pacification," always a key American strategy in Vietnam.

In 1968, America's Central Intelligence Agency started the Phoenix program. Its teams scoured the countryside, rounding up Vietcong suspects.

WILLIAM COLBY (Director, Phoenix Program)

They're obviously much more valuable to you alive than dead, and therefore, the incentive was to capture them so that they could be interrogated, so that we could learn more about them. Now, we also had a program of trying to invite these people to rally.

We'd put up posters in various parts of Vietnam with a picture of the indi-vidual and description of who he was. Wanted posters. Like the old Jesse James ones, but a little different because at the bottom of the poster it said very clearly: And Mr. James, if you will turn yourself in, you will be freed of any punishment for anything you may have done while you were on the other side. And, 17,000 of these people turned themselves in.

MAJ. DANG VAN SON (South Vietnamese Phoenix Operative)

In Cantho province, we organized a unit of Thien Nga -- wild geese -- composed of young, beautiful high school girls. We infiltrated these girls into the local Communist apparatus, and they provided us with information on the Communists. During the time I served in Cantho, almost all the Communist organizations were neutralized.

NARRATOR

The Phoenix program was managed by South Vietnamese operating with CIA advisers. Thousands of civilians -- men, women, and even children -- were classi-fied as Vietcong suspects. The system relied on a network of informants and secret agents. Communist officials later conceded its effectiveness.

Criticism at the time prompted program managers to turn to public relations. For the news cameras, a search for a husband and wife team of Vietcong terrorists. Despite the public relations, reports of abuses persisted: there were rumors of extortion, blackmail, private revenge, and political assassi-nation.

WILLIAM COLBY

Twenty thousand of the names that we had collected we found were killed. Now, it's on that basis that people have made totally false accusations that this was a program of assassination. Not true. What this was was that we had the names from our intelligence collection and when there was a battle outside the village some night, and people were killed on both sides. We went out in the morning to find out who had been killed on which side, and sure enough Mr. Nguyen who was down as the local guerrilla chief, he had been killed in that fight, but he certainly hadn't been assassinated. He had been killed in a military fight, but he hadn't rallied and he hadn't been captured. He'd been killed and so that was the phase used. Killed.

CAPT. SIDNEY TOWLE (Head of District Intelligence, Vinh Long)

The colonel who ran the province who was actually an engineering colonel, created a contest throughout the province, and the contest was among the irregulars in the districts and that was, the team that could bring in the most bodies on a monthly basis would be given cash prizes to the groups. This just seemed to me totally out of line and I think that it increased the possibilities that many civilians were killed who had nothing to do with the war whatsoever.

WILLIAM COLBY

Now, I'm not going to say that there was nobody wrongfully killed in all of Vietnam during all the years of the Phoenix program, but I do say that the purpose and the effect of the Phoenix program was to reduce and eliminate as far as possible the abuses on the government, although not on the enemy side.

SIDNEY TOWLE

While we were having dinner one evening at our table -- there were five of us sitting in there -- and we had an old French villa we lived in. Well, these irregulars came in with a district village chief just, you know, covered in blood.

They obviously had just come back from a battle. They had five or six weapons and they threw the weapons down. They were just disgusted with the whole situation. They were going to prove something. Came up. Threw a bag on the table and the bag had 11 ears in it. And he just looked at us and he said, "You don't need the twelfth ear," and walked out.

MAJ. DANG VAN SON

Some Americans now in the United States may misconstrue that this Phoenix program was an extremely vicious program designed to neutralize various Communists factions by means such as assassination and illegal arrests. However, the Phoenix program was an extremely effective program and one which enabled us to distinguish clearly between nationalists and Communists by intelligence methods which we had organized.

WILLIAM COLBY

If you torture, you'll get what you want to hear or you'll get something that the fellow invents. If you're clever about your interrogation and use sophisticated systems, you'll learn what the truth is and you'll learn it without any abuse.

NARRATOR

Prisoners were held without trial in hundreds of jails and internment camps throughout South Vietnam.

JANE BARTON

There was no doubt whatsoever that the Americans were responsible, I feel, for the entire prison system in the province where I worked. The Vietnamese knew that. You know, you, they saw all the results of what happened. They were chained to their bed with Smith and Wesson handcuffs. When they were tortured it was either by Americans in the latter sixties, or in the early seventies there would be American advisers there.

SIDNEY TOWLE

My first inkling that anything was going on that I had a problem with was hearing screams from next door and finding out that was their interrogation center and that the way they got their information from these people was with a crank telephone and wiring these people in various manners.

JANE BARTON

They had electric, you know, certain devices that gave them electrical shocks at the interrogation center and these electrodes were attached to sensitive parts of their bodies, and the women that were tortured by electricity were the ones that we saw having the seizures.

And I remember seeing this 67-year-old woman that was lying on a bare bed frame springs, and they had just put cardboard on the top of it with a hole cut in it through which she was supposed to defecate and she had no clothes and just a blanket that the other prisoners had given her.

She had been partially paralyzed because she had such a severe injury to her head. So, I guess that was one of my first impressions was, you know, the real horror of the, of the situation. I mean this old woman being treated like this and how could she possibly be dangerous to the government enough that they had to torture her into being paralyzed.

NARRATOR

Operation Wandering Soul. From helicopters came Vietnamese voices pretending to be from beyond the grave. They called on their "descendents" in the Vietcong to defect, to cease fighting.

Vietnam was deluged with propaganda. In some provinces up to a million leaflets a day were distributed, exhorting, cajoling or warning the peasants to back the government of South Vietnam.

American V.I.P.s -- like Secretary of State William Rogers -- regularly toured South Vietnam to observe the progress and repeated the official claims that pacification was working. But loyalty to the Saigon government was difficult to measure.

LT. PETER PAUL MAHONEY

The Vietnamese that we were training were very responsive. They asked questions. They were very interested in, you know, in what was going on, and this, you know, made me feel good because, you know, the standard rap on the South Vietnamese was that they, they just weren't interested. They were lethargic and this particular group seemed like very involved in what was going on. So it made me feel good. It made me feel as if I was accomplishing something. We put them through a six-week training program. At the end of the training program the province chief came down and there was a big graduation ceremony and they all got these little colorful neckerchiefs as sort of souvenirs of the whole thing and, you know. It was like this whole sort of media publicity thing about how, you know, these people have been trained and everything.

Then it was about a month after the training program was completed and this graduation ceremony happened that three NLF cadre came into the vill one night, and all 29 of those people's self-defense forces that I trained walked off and joined the NLF, taking all their weapons and all their training with them.

NARRATOR

By 1971, South Vietnamese officials were claiming that the government had won over 95 percent of the population.

WILLIAM COLBY

Pacification involved a lot of other programs. The development of the land reform program. The building of schools, the development of the whole refugee program and the resettlement of the refugees in the areas from which they had come and were now able to go back, thanks to their having some local security.

NARRATOR

Years of fighting had failed to topple the American-supported Saigon govern-ment.

In March 1972, a dramatic change of strategy: regular North Vietnamese units crossed the demilitarized zone in force. This time they massed tanks and heavy artillery in an all-out offensive.

NARRATOR

The swift enemy advance left little time for retreat. Along Route One, American advisers had to blow up their headquarters. Taking their colors, and whatever else they could carry with them, they escaped by air.

SGT. THO HANG (South Vietnamese Soldier)

In fact, we didn't know what was going on. There were American advisers with the 56th regiment. But helicopters suddenly arrived and took them away, leaving behind our commander, who didn't know anything at all.

People called this road the "highway of terror." There were refugees every-where. Then Vietcong tanks came. We realized that we couldn't resist, and we fled toward the sea.

NARRATOR

Amid the retreat, several South Vietnamese army units stood and fought. With no American combat troops to support them, the South Vietnamese army seemed to be fighting a losing battle.

On May 1, the South Vietnamese were forced to surrender the province capital of Quangtri.

President Nixon reacted by mining Haiphong harbor and stepping up the bombing of North and South Vietnam. Along with conventional bombs, the planes dropped napalm.

The North Vietnamese offensive was blunted. Masses of American equipment, and massive American bombing made the difference. South Vietnamese troops prepared to counter-attack. They still needed American help. With their northernmost province in Communist hands, South Vietnamese tactics included amphibious landings behind enemy lines.

The U.S. Air Force and Navy provided air and artillery support. But now the ground war was left to the South Vietnamese.

Stopping the northern offensive did not stop civilian panic. People near the battle zone struggled desperately to get away.

South Vietnamese troops and their families who travelled with them battled for aircraft space.

During and after the spring offensive, battles raged, not only in Quangtri province, but also in the Central Highlands, and in the Mekong delta far to the south. Each week more than 3,000 northern soldiers moved south to join the fight.

The fighting in 1972 was the heaviest of the war. Forty thousand South Viet-namese soldiers died.

The last enemy hold-outs in the city of Quangtri finally surrendered on September 15, 1972. That week, for the first time in seven years, there were no American battle deaths. That week more than 5,000 Vietnamese died. The war had been Vietnamized. Over Quangtri city, once home for 80,000 people, the flag of South Vietnam flew again.

CAPT. DO CUONG

After this battle, we became masters of the situation again. The morale of all the soldiers seemed to be high. We seemed to be confident in the fighting ability of the South Vietnamese armed forces -- and in our own unit. We thought that, with continued American help and the support of people everywhere in the world who cherished freedom, we could defend a free South Vietnam by ourselves.

NARRATOR

Crowded Saigon had been spared the enemy offensive. Its population had become accustomed to the war. Then, on October 22, Henry Kissinger informed Thieu that the United States had reached a ceasefire agreement with North Vietnam. The agreement was to be initialed by October 31, a week before the American election. Under the agreement, northern troops could remain in the South, a concession that Thieu had always opposed.

President Thieu refused to sign. He went on television and told the South Vietnamese to keep fighting. The war continued. Without Thieu's acquiescence, the agreement was impossible. Peace seemed far away.

But the South Vietnamese could not easily continue the war alone. The American troop withdrawal weakened the economy. Jobs were scarce. Inflation soared. Dollars were disappearing from a society based on the dollar. The bars, the clubs and the hotels built for the American trade, had seen more lucrative days. But South Vietnam still spent more on imported cosmetics and beauty aids than it earned from all its exports.

Saigon beauty parlors still offered the Western look -- surgery to make Viet-namese eyes round. The Vietcong still exploded their bombs.

As U.S. bombs fell on Hanoi and Haiphong, the remaining American troops watched Bob Hope's last Vietnam Christmas show. At the time, Ambassador Bunker was urging Thieu to sign the agreement, to trust Nixon.

HOANG DUC NHA

Right after the Christmas bombings we were deluged with letters. Almost once every three or four days from Mr. Nixon, care of Mr. Bunker or Mr. Haig that we, the South Vietnamese, should close ranks with the U.S.

And, I remember on the 16th of January when Mr. Thieu gave his daughter away in a wedding, Mr. Bunker wanted to see him to communicate the latest letter from Nixon and that really angered Mr. Thieu. He say, on this day, the happiest day of my life, the most important day of my life, I'm still bothered, you know, with that.

One day later, that's when the pressure came and say, if you don't sign, we go alone. And, that's what the, that's when our political pragmatism dictate to us. He say okay. You know, we're not going to be dumb enough to stand in front of a steam roller.

NARRATOR

America had viewed Vietnam as a crusade, as a challenge, and finally as a burden. Now like the Chinese, Japanese, and French before them, the Americans were leaving.

BUI DIEM

The Vietnamese couldn't think in terms of the Americans intervening in some-thing and not succeeding, and so it is a kind of blind trust that the South Vietnamese wrongly or rightly put into the Americans. They couldn't think that the Americans -- once having committed their troops in Vietnam, having spent so much money in Vietnam -- could one of these days leave everything behind and call it quits.


Credits

Written and Produced by MARTIN SMITH

Associate Producer BRUCE PALLING

Film Editor GLEN CARDNO

Narrator WILL LYMAN

Film Research RAYE FARR

Assistant Editor MARK ANTISS

Camera
GERRY PINCHES
JERRY HOGREWE

Sound Recordists
STEVE PHILLIPS
JACK OSWALD

Assistant Camera
JULIAN WHITE
ROBERT BALLO

Sound Editors
NIGEL MERCER
TONY POUND

Sound Mixer RICHARD BOCH

Film Archives
ATV NETWORK, UK
JANE BARTON
SHERMAN BRINBERG LIBRARIES, INC.
THE UNITED STATES ARMY AND AIR FORCE ARCHIVES
UPITN
VISNEWS LIBRARY
WORLD IN ACTION, GRANADA TV

Special Thanks to
ABC NEWS

Film Archivist KENN RABIN

 

Archivist, UK CYRIL HAYDEN

Additional Film Research BRADLEY BORUM

Unit Production Manager JAN LANGMACK

Post Production Supervisors
CYNTHIA MEAGHER KUHN
RONY PRIANO

Post Production Assistant ALLISON SMITH

Production Secretary KARAN SHELDON

Publicity SARA ALTHERR

Titles and Graphic Design CHRIS PULLMAN

Translator NGO VINH LONG

Sound Effects CINESOUND EFEFCTS LIBRARY, UK

Video Enhancement BILL FAIRWEATHER

Music Composed by
MICKEY HART
BILLY KREUTZMANN
Music Performed by
VIC FIRTH
MICKEY HART
ZAKIR HUSSAIN
BILLY KREUTZMANN
AIRTO MOREIRA
MERL SAUNDERS
BOBBY VEGA

Music Recorded by PHIL KAFFEL

Director of Media Research LAWRENCE LICHTY

Chief Correspondent STANLEY KARNOW

Executive Producer RICHARD ELLISON

A co-production of WGBH Boston with Central Independent Television, UK, Antenne-2, France in association with LRE Productions


For The American Experience

Coordinating Producer DANIEL McCABE

Executive Producer MARGARET DRAIN

Major funding for the series was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television stations, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Additional funding was provided by the George D. Smith Fund, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This program was originally broadcast on PBS on October 4, 1983.

THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
is a production of WGBH/Boston.

© 1983, 1997 WGBH Educational Foundation
All Rights Reserved

==

VIETNAM: A Television History
Cambodia and Laos
Transcript


VIETNAM: A Television History is a 13-part documentary film series produced for public television by WGBH Boston, in cooperation with Central Independent Television/United Kingdom, and Antenne-2/France, and in association with LRE Productions. A six year project from conception to completion, the series carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of war in Vietnam for everyone involved, beginning with early history, through the French colonial period, and up to the fall of Saigon and unification of the country in 1975. Executive producer Richard Ellison, chief correspondent Stanley Karnow, and Director of Media Research Lawrence Lichty, with some 60 consultants and four production units, comprised the production team, centered at WGBH in Boston. Its members garnered hundreds of interviews, researched 70 film archives worldwide, and traveled the length of Vietnam to create perhaps the most exhaustive historical documentary series in television history.

NARRATOR

Phnompenh, June 1979, six months after Communist Vietnam had invaded Communist Cambodia, ousting its rulers, the Khmer Rouge.

Phnompenh, four years after the Communist Khmer Rouge had defeated an American-backed government: four years of terror that followed five years of war.

On the day of victory, the Khmer Rouge began to empty all of Cambodia's cities and towns at gunpoint. They went on to starve or slaughter hundreds of thousands, perhaps two million Cambodians -- nobody knows.

The Geneva Conference of 1954 had guaranteed the neutrality of Cambodia and Laos. But neither country could prevent the war in neighboring Vietnam from spilling across its borders. The neutralist government in Laos included members of the pro-Communist Pathet Lao. The Pathet Lao were supported by the North Vietnamese who moved supplies through eastern Laos to the Vietcong fighting in South Vietnam. The United States backed the anti-Communist forces in Laos.

JFK PRESS CONFERENCE, March 1981

Here now is the Chief Executive.

PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY

My fellow Americans, Laos is far away from America. But the world is small. Its two million people live in a country three times the size of Austria. The security of all Southeast Asia will be endangered if Laos loses its neutral independence. Its own safety runs with the safety of us all. In real neutrality, observed by all. All we want in Laos is peace, not war.

NARRATOR

To back up Kennedy's words of support for Laos, his administration secretly organized the largest of the hill tribes, the Meo or Hmong.

EARL YOUNG (Air America)

Now most people don't know that in '61 and '62, there were teams of U.S. special forces in the mountains of Laos -- and it's a very rugged country -- who were training and equipping and leading the Meo guerrilla forces against the Pathet Lao.

NARRATOR

Later, the CIA took charge, often using its airline, Air America, as cover.

VINT LAWRENCE (CIA)

I was working for an airline the whole time I was there basically. That was my cover -- thin though it was. Everybody knew exactly what I was doing. But then no one ever saw me so it didn't really make a whole lot of difference. But that if I were killed, my identification was as an airline employee.

NARRATOR

Like the Soviet Union, America supplied its allies -- in the case of the Hmong, covertly.

EARL YOUNG

Now it obviously wouldn't have done to publicize in The Washington Post, for example, we had just lost three aircraft in Laos because of enemy groundfire, because we weren't supposed to be there in the first place. So the general subterfuge was that any incident was called "aircraft malfunctioning" or "inclement weather." And so the families of survivors of these people at home would simply be told that unfortunately your husband or your son was killed in a crash in the mountains of Laos.

NARRATOR

In 1961, Laos was the major Southeast Asia crisis. But nobody wanted to fight, least of all the big powers. At an international conference in 1962, they patched together another neutralist government giving the pro-Communist Pathet Lao more prominence. But despite early optimism, Laos was still divided, and as the war in neighboring Vietnam escalated, the fragile coalition fell apart.

In March 1964, five months before the first American bombing raid on North Vietnam, the United States organized a secret bombing campaign in Laos. Using unmarked planes, they mainly attacked the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the increasingly important Communist supply route from North to South Vietnam. The air war intensified, hitting Laotian villages and driving a million peasants from their homes. For eight years, Laos was the most bombed country in the world.

The Pathet Lao forces grew. Equipped with heavier weapons by the North Vietnamese, their guerrillas began to fight in battalion-sized units against their principal enemy, the Hmong.

VINT LAWRENCE

When the whole context of the war in Southeast Asia changed, and it became expedient, perhaps, for the Americans to push the Hmong into something other than their traditional way of fighting, this is the place where we sold them down the river.

NARRATOR

The United States spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the war. The Hmong army, suffering heavy casualties, recruited children.

HMONG BOY/SOLDIER INTERVIEW

Q: What sort of gun is that he's carrying?

A: M- 16. He says can do two things: automatic and semi-automatic.

Q: How old is he?

A: Ten years old.

NARRATOR

In Vientiane, the Laotian capital, the mountain war seemed far away.

There were no American combat soldiers in Laos -- only officials, aid workers, military advisers and CIA agents. No troops. Yet American spending was ten times bigger than the Laotian national budget.

WILLIAM COLBY (Head of Phoenix Program)

We provided the logistics, the air support, transport, the communications, ammunition weaponry and so forth, while the North Vietnamese forces grew from seven to 70,000. These tribal forces up in the country that were supported by CIA -- not the Royal Lao army, which stayed right down in the comfortable valley and almost never heard a shot fired in anger. But the forces supported by CIA held that increase force off for about ten years. Now I think that's a pretty good record.

NARRATOR

Ammunition was plentiful, but the Hmong were running out of soldiers. The United States covertly imported and paid for 8,000 Thais to fight in Laos.

In early 1973, cease-fire agreements were reached in Vietnam and Laos. Two years later, the Communist Pathet Lao took over.

Ten years after the 1954 Geneva agreements, neighboring Cambodia was still at peace. Cambodia's ancient grandeur was carved in the stones of Angkor, once the center of an empire that stretched across Southeast Asia.

Hindu God-Kings had ruled a powerful state constantly at war with its neighbors. In the fifteenth century, the empire collapsed. Angkor was overrun and abandoned for more than 400 years.

In 1960, the last king of Cambodia was cremated.

His son, Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Sihanouk had been put on the throne by colonial France. After independence, he abdicated in favor of his father, in order to play a more direct political role. Sihanouk remained chief of state, and skillfully maneuvered to preserve his nation's neutrality.

Cambodian folk dancers celebrated the country's abundance of rice and fish.

Nearly 90 percent of all peasants owned their land. Cambodia prospered. Unlike Vietnam and Laos, it was at peace.

To Cambodia's peasants, Sihanouk was almost divine. Many believed that he was even responsible for the success of their crops. Sihanouk relied on them, rather than on the urban population, for support. But Sihanouk's prestige and popularity could not change Cambodia's geography.

In 1963, Sihanouk organized denunciations of America's growing involvement in Vietnam. He feared that the war would spread across his borders as South Vietnamese troops pursued the Vietcong into Cambodia. He was willing to be-friend any country or leader that he thought might assure Cambodia's survival. He formed a close relationship with China's Mao Zedong. He also courted leaders of non-aligned nations like Indonesia's President Sukarno. He strengthened his ties with France's President Charles de Gaulle. He also wrote, directed and starred in his own feature films -- all of them glorifying Cambodia.

In 1966, Cambodia continued its carefree festivities despite growing dangers within the country and along its borders.

Sihanouk had broken relations with America. His officers were becoming restless. They no longer received American military aid.

Sihanouk was also beginning to face trouble in the countryside, where small groups of Cambodia Communists, the Khmer Rouge, were recruiting some dis-contented peasants.

Sihanouk continued to juggle. In 1967, he invited Jacqueline Kennedy to Cambodia, hoping to draw America's attention to his dilemma. Sihanouk was concerned by the Vietnamese Communist buildup in the sanctuaries, and he feared a large-scale U.S. attack across his borders. As a counterbalance to this visit he denounced America's Vietnam policy.

NORODOM SIHANOUK, November 1967

It would be immoral to support, you know, your aggression, the aggression of the United States against the people of Vietnam. We want to have the right to continue to have the right to be united, to be free, and how could we deny to Vietnam the right to self-determination?

NARRATOR

Pursuing their enemy, American and South Vietnamese aircraft often attacked across the Cambodian border. Sihanouk criticized Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who was then trying to repair relations.

PRESS CONFERENCE, November 1967

SIHANOUK: There is a contradiction between the declaration of friendship and

respect from Mr. Dean Rusk on one hand and on the other hand your

forces in South Vietnam continue to come into Cambodia and to kill..

INTERVIEWER: ...what is necessary...

SIHANOUK: ...our peasants and innocent peasants, innocent civilian servants.

NARRATOR

In 1969, newly elected President Nixon launched secret B-52 bombing raids over Cambodia against North Vietnamese and Vietcong sanctuaries driving them further into the country. Nixon neither informed Sihanouk, nor sought his approval for this escalation.

HENRY KISSINGER (National Security Adviser)

We had many indirect evidences of Sihanouk's acquiescence in the bombing. Repeatedly, when he was asked at press conferences he would say that of course he did not approve attacks on Cambodia territory, but he did not know what was going on in territory occupied by what he called the Vietminh, which was the earlier name for the North Vietnamese sponsored guerrilla activity. He invited Nixon to visit Cambodia while the bombing was going on. He reestablished diplomatic relations with us.

LLOYD "MIKE" RIVES (U.S. Embassy, Cambodia)

I didn't know anything about the bombing when I went to Cambodia, and in fact i didn't know anything about it until after it broke in the newspapers. For some reason I was never briefed on what was going on. I was aware of the bombing, but not necessarily in Cambodia, because in my house on the banks of the Bassac River, at night, I not only could hear the bombing, but the whole house shook from the load of bombs when they were dropped, I assumed, in Vietnam. I suppose it eventually, I mean, most of them were being dropped in Cambodia.

NARRATOR

In January 1970, Sihanouk departed for a vacation in France -- a trip that would take him on to Moscow and Peking. He wanted help to curb the Vietnamese Communist presence, which was arousing Cambodian hostility.

In March, anti-Communist officers unleashed mobs against the North Vietnamese and Vietcong embassies in Phnompenh. They demanded the expulsion of the Vietnamese Communists.

NEWSREEL, 1970

NORODOM SIHANOUK

I can say that some officers in our army and many deputies and many members of the government in Phnompenh, they want to be your allies in order to have a bowl of your dollars. They do not take, they don't think about the destiny and the weight of our homeland. They don't mind about it. They are more patriot for dollars than for Cambodia.

NARRATOR

A week later, Sihanouk's anti-Communist opponents ousted him and issued orders for his execution. Sihanouk's former prime minister, General Lon Nol, led the new government, which promptly received secret American military aid.

LLOYD "MIKE" RIVES

Well after the coup, and of course Lon Nol's government gave the Vietnamese I think 48 hours to get out as I remember, there was wild enthusiasm in Phnompenh itself. All the children from the schools turned out and enlisted and got weapons and went off to the front and that kind of thing -- it was really real enthusiasm.

NARRATOR

Within three weeks, the Cambodian army gained 60,000 recruits. They were convinced that U.S. aid would quickly help them drive the Vietnamese Communists out of Cambodia.

Sihanouk, now in China, sided with the Khmer Rouge, his former opponents. He became chief of state of a government in exile.

TONG TEN

Norodum Sihanouk appealed from Peking over the radio. "Brothers and sisters," he said, "go to the jungles and join the guerrillas." Back in that period none of us even knew who the guerrillas were. I didn't know who the guerrillas were. I didn't know.

NARRATOR

In the countryside, several thousand peasants were on rampages, demanding Sihanouk's return. In the town of Kompong Cham a mob killed two members of Parliament.

FATHER FRANCOIS PONCHAUD

I saw the livers of the two politicians being carried past my church. Then a little while later, around four or five in the afternoon, the livers of the two men were skewered and grilled in the marketplace of Kompong Cham. Through examples like this, one can understand a little the brutality of the Khmers, who are a race of warriors. And that should not be forgotten.

NARRATOR

The next day, Lon Nol's troops shot and killed nearly 100 unarmed peasants. Many Cambodians still displayed Sihanouk's portrait and continued to protest in his favor.

The Lon Nol regime whipped up hatred against the Vietnamese. The victims were not the Vietnamese Communists in the border sanctuaries. The victims were Vietnamese villagers and merchants, whose families had lived in Cambodia for generations. Centuries of hatred erupted as Cambodian troops butchered Vietnamese.

Taking advantage of Lon Nol's hostility towards the Communist sanctuaries, South Vietnamese army units launched raids into Cambodia. President Nixon also decided to send U.S. ground forces into Cambodia to wipe out the sanctuaries and the elusive Communist headquarters, COSVN.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON, April 30, 1970

For the past five years, as indicated on this map that you see here, North Vietnam has occupied military sanctuaries all along the Cambodian frontier with South Vietnam.

NARRATOR

As Nixon spoke, U.S. troops were preparing to move into Cambodia. The decision to invade, like the earlier secret decision to bomb, was withheld from the Cambodian government.

BRIG. GEN. DOUGLAS KINNARD

When we began detailed planning of this operation, it was evident to us, since we'd never operated in Cambodia, that we needed some kind of map or aerial photo, so I dispatched the G-2 down to pick these up at the headquarters in Saigon and he had great difficulty in getting them. And in a few hours he returned with the photographs and then we found out why: the photographs of course disclosed these huge craters; the B-52 bombing had been going on for some time and we weren't aware of it officially, and indeed I wasn't aware of it at all, and most of us weren't.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON, April 30, 1970

Tonight, American and South Vietnamese units will attack the headquarters for the entire Communist military operation in South Vietnam. This key control center has been occupied by the North Vietnamese and Vietcong for five years in blatant violation of Cambodia's neutrality.

DOUGLAS KINNARD

One of the things that I found interesting was, as I looked at Nixon's speech on the incursion, after we had started it -- a few minutes after we had started it -- was the great emphasis he had placed on the COSVN headquarters, sort of portrayed it as a kind of a Pentagon that we were going to capture. And my guess is that at best it was a foxhole and a couple of radios, but in any case, we knew that in the last 24 hours, it was well out of the area we were going to operate in, which we knew from our normal intelligence means. And so it was never really an objective, although as he portrayed it, it was a major objective to the American people.

NARRATOR

More than 20,000 American and 40,000 South Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia. The operation, Nixon said, would protect American forces in Vietnam.

The Americans first clashed with their enemy at the Cambodian town of Snoul. Responding to rifle fire, jets and tanks pounded the town for two days. The Americans were meeting little resistance. The body count was four civilians and three Vietnamese Communist soldiers.

COL. GAIL BROOKSHIRE, June 1970

My soldiers haven't been looting. They have strict instructions not to. We of course destroy or evacuate any war material -- anything that's obviously identifiable as war material -- or associated with the NVA. As far as civilian property is concerned, our instructions to them, and what we've been doing is just leaving it in place, hoping the civilians will come back in and recover it.

NARRATOR

A U.S. spokesman said that the tons of captured enemy equipment had reduced the pressure on American troops in Vietnam.

DOUGLAS KINNARD

We did destroy a good number of supplies, and so I think in that very narrow sense, that the operation was probably a success. But of course one must weigh that versus what happened later in Cambodia and what the impact was political-ly at home, and it turns out to be a rather small part of the equation, a sort of technical...

NARRATOR

More than 350 American soldiers had died during the invasion. Within 60 days, as promised, the American forces pulled out of Cambodia. Nixon called the operation the most successful of the war. The U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam were speeded up.

HENRY KISSINGER

Whether Nixon and his associates, like myself, were right in ordering the incursions into Cambodia can be discussed forever. But once they had taken place, the only way out was to prevent the Khmer Rouge from taking over the country.

NARRATOR

A plan to save American lives had plunged Cambodia into full scale war. As the war widened, the North Vietnamese moved into the interior, helping the Khmer Rouge to organize and expand.

Cambodia was now a battlefield.

Financed by American money, Cambodia's army, FANK, was now the best paid in Southeast Asia. But it was inexperienced and inefficient as it sought its elusive enemy.

COLONEL JONATHAN LADD (U.S. Embassy, Cambodia)

My view was that the Cambodians were certainly an amateurish army without much capability but a tremendous amount of enthusiasm.

NARRATOR

Some Cambodians had been fighting and training with the American special forces in Vietnam.

TRAINING FORCES, July 1970

OK, stop right there...bang...bang...

NARRATOR

They became the elite force in Lon Nol's army.

TRAINING FORCES

...at the same time we will yell at the top of our lungs we will move...ARGH! Fear...it makes a man scared...you know, fear.

NARRATOR

In October 1970, Lon Nol ended the centuries-old Cambodian monarchy and created the Khmer Republic. The early optimism had crumbled and the economy was in a shambles, but the army, with U.S. aid, had grown four-fold, to 100,000 men.


Lon Nol was still opposed by Prince Sihanouk, still in China.

NORODOM SIHANOUK, May 1970

We can only fight and fight until, you now, the Americans accept to withdraw from our country. And I am optimistic, so far as the defeat of the Americans is concerned. It will be inevitable.

NARRATOR

On January 22, 1971, the Vietnamese Communists hit Phnompenh for the first time, destroying ammunition dumps and oil supplies and wiping out the Cambodian air force. Within days, help arrived. Twenty American soldiers flew in from Vietnam, carrying guns but wearing civilian clothes.

JONATHAN LADD

They formed what they called the military equipment delivery team, M.E.D.T.C. By the time they got themselves organized, they replaced my little group of myself and four people with a general and about 113 people.

In effect, they took over most of the military activities for the FANK headquarters, which was what I hoped to preclude the Yankees running all over the place, and making decisions and providing all guidance.

NARRATOR

Only American airpower and funds kept Lon Nol's army from defeat. No Americans were dying in Cambodia, and they still were in Vietnam. For the moment, Congress went along with Nixon's war.

NIXON PRESS CONFERENCE, November 1971

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON

Now let's look at Cambodia. We've made a conscious decision not to send American troops in. There are no American combat troops in Cambodia. There are no American combat advisers in Cambodia. There will be no American combat troops or advisers in Cambodia. We will aid Cambodia. Cambodia is the Nixon doctrine in its purest form. Vietnam was in violation of the Nixon doctrine because in Cambodia what we are doing is helping the Cambodians to help themselves.

NARRATOR

The doctrine was also tested against the Ho Chi Minh Trail in southern Laos. In early 1971, South Vietnamese forces, using American equipment, moved against the Communist supply routes. The Laotian government was not informed in advance.

SISOUK NA CHAMPASSAK (Defense Minister, Laos)

The prime minister said to me, "I don't know anything about this either. I only just learned about the operation from the American ambassador." I answered, "This is quite serious." He replied, "Yes, quite serious. Military operations are being conducted in our country. It is very serious but what can we do? They have taken the decision. All we can do is to lodge a protest. That is all."

NARRATOR

The United States planned the invasion and gave it air and artillery support. But without American combat troops beside them, the South Vietnamese forces fled in disarray. They took 3,000 casualties in the first week alone. In Laos, the Nixon doctrine had failed. But in Cambodia it was still intact.

As American aid poured in, corrupt Cambodian officers invented phantom soldiers. A quarter of Cambodia's army existed only as names on pay slips, endangering the lives of those who fought on in understrength units.

NARRATOR

In 1973, after three years exile in China, Sihanouk went into the Khmer Rouge zone of Cambodia.

NEWSREEL, 1973 CHINESE FILM

NARRATOR

Norodum Sihanouk embraces Khieu Sampan, vice prime minister of the royal government of the National Union of Cambodia, and Commander-in-Chief of the People's National Liberation Armed Forces. The enemies say that Mr. Khieu Sampan has been dead for several years. But here you can see him chatting cordially with Norodom Sihanouk.

NARRATOR

Sihanouk also embraced another Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot.

Sihanouk knew he was only a figurehead. The Khmer Rouge leaders planned to remold Cambodia into a rural Communist utopia and would spare no life to do it. "When they gain power," Sihanouk said, "they will spit me out like a cherry stone." They were using Sihanouk's prestige to mobilize peasant support.

CHHIT DO (Khmer Rouge Organizer)

The Khmer Rouge leaders said that important cadres like us were Communists. The people believed in Sihanouk, but they said that we who had joined the party should not believe in him. Starting with candidates for party member-ship, there was this kind of education, no one should have faith in Sihanouk. But they still allowed the people to believe in him. You see, there was public education and covert education. If we still believed in Sihanouk, they explained, there was no point in our making revolution. Sihanouk and the revolution they told us secretly, were enemies of each other.

TONG TENG

If, at any time, the Khmer Rouge had not aligned themselves with Sihanouk, they would not have been able to carry on their fight. They wouldn't have been able to challenge Lon Nol. That's why they got Sihanouk on their side and put him up front. They made him front man because his subjects had admired and respected him for so long.

NARRATOR

In less than three years, the Khmer Rouge forces had grown from 3,000 to 60,000. The Khmer Rouge were no longer completely dependent on their Vietnamese Communist allies.

America stepped up the bombing. During six months of 1973, more than a quarter of a million tons were dropped on Cambodia.

CHHIT DO

The ordinary people were terrified by the bombing and the shelling, never having experienced war, and sometimes they shit in their pants when the big bombs and shells came. Two hundred to 400 shells would fall in each attack, and some people became shell-shocked -- just like their brains were completely shattered. Even after the shelling had stopped, they couldn't hold down a meal. Their minds just froze up and they would wander around mute, not talking for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, they would believe anything they were told. And because there was so much shelling, they believed whatever the Khmer Rouge told them.

TONG TENG

The fear was pervasive. Everybody was scared. But the real Reds weren't dying. They weren't being hit. The Khmer Rouge, who were doing the fighting, had dug bomb shelters. So whenever the planes came, they jumped into their holes while the people, sometimes didn't even have time to get out of their houses.

CHHIT DO

The Khmer Rouge would say that the purpose of the bombing was to completely destroy the country, not simply just to win the war, but to annihilate the population, and that it was only because we were taking cover -- moving around to avoid the bombing -- that some of us were surviving. So they used the bombing, the bomb craters and the bomb shrapnel to educate the people politically, to make the people hate and be enraged at the Americans.

HELICOPTER/BOMBING SEQUENCE, August 1973

"OK, we'd like to go ahead and hit that same target again, it looks like it still might be lucrative, we can see some stuff down there, and if it's OK with you we'll just go ahead and put this set of air in on that target and see if we can put the next one on the first target...OK?"

"OK...Ol Hotel 4/3, the charlie, charlie 01, will you put some bomb over there, sir? And move to the number 1 target please."

NARRATOR

Despite Congressional restrictions, the U.S. embassy in Phnompenh coordinated bombing targets.

The extent of Nixon's secret bombing was not uncovered by Congress until July 1973, four years after it had started. Nixon had waged war in Cambodia without Congressional approval. It prompted angry Congressional reaction and led to the first call for Nixon's impeachment.

HENRY KISSINGER

No, the President doesn't have the right to bomb a neutral country. The question is, does the President have the right to react against concentrations of enemy troops that have already occupied neutral territory, have established themselves there for three years, and are killing, have expelled the local population and are killing Americans from that territory? All the opinions we received was that this was a clear exercise of the right of war.

ROBERT SEMANS (Secretary, U.S. Air Force)

On this matter of the bombing of Cambodia, it was considered sufficiently sensitive that I was not privy to the information at the time it was going on, nor at the time that I submitted the reports to the Congress.

SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, August 1973

ADMIRAL THOMAS MOORER (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)

I'm sure, Mr. Chairman, you will agree, and I think the American people will agree, that we should take whatever action is necessary in order to protect the lives of the American people. And that's what this operation was all about...and it was very effective.

SENATOR STUART SYMINGTON

Why didn't you tell us about it and justify it? Why do we have to rely on false information? Why does the secretary of the Air Force have to come before this committee and say he "deeply regrets" and he's ashamed of the fact that he didn't give us accurate information, because he himself was misinformed?

NARRATOR

In August 1973, a B-52 dropped its bombs on Neak Luong, the river town just 30 miles from Phnompenh. The bombing was a mistake. More than a hundred villagers were killed and several hundred were wounded. A crew member was fined $700 for the error. The American ambassador, Emory Swank, handed the survivors $100 each.

Congress had finally forced a bombing halt on August 15, 1973.

EMORY SWANK, August 1973

Mes condoleances personnelles et les condoleances de tous les peuples Americaines.

NARRATOR

With the end of American bombing, they tiny Cambodian air force was on its own. The Khmer Rouge had rebuilt their forces and prepared to launch their biggest offensive yet.

CHHANG SON (Minister of Information, Khmer Republic)

From one-twenty in the morning of the new year, 1975 on, the Communists launched a very fierce attack from every point of the compass against Phnompenh. They used first some 80,000 troops which would increase, as the attack progressed.

NARRATOR

Many Cambodian government posts were soon to be overwhelmed. The Khmer Rouge, now close to Phnompenh, fired rockets into the city every day.

More than two million refugees had fled to Phnompenh, to escape the American bombing and Khmer Rouge brutality. They survived on meager rations provided by Western aid organizations. The city was slowly starving.

CAPTAIN PENG THUON (Khmer Republic Army (FANK))

People were running back and forth every which way, afraid to stay in the same place for long.

Sometimes the shells would fall right in the center of town, and everybody would flee to the river bank. Then the shells would fall near the river bank, and everybody would run back to the middle of town. It just went on like this, chaotically.

NARRATOR

To skirt Congressional restrictions, the U.S. military chartered civilian planes to fly in a thousand tons of rice, fuel and ammunition a day. They came under constant rocket and artillery attack. Supplies ran low.

Lon Nol's air force now strafed their enemy on the outskirts of the city. road and rail links had already been cut. In the countryside, the Khmer Rouge decided to push for the final victory. Phnompenh was being strangled.

Rocket attacks against Phnompenh continued daily. A single rocket hitting the center of the city killed 11 people and injured more than 20 others. Govern-ment troops became desperate as the areas under their control shrank. In one town, they resorted to cannibalism to survive.

Cambodian officers used ambulances to carry ammunition until the International Red Cross stopped them. Phnompenh's hospitals were overflowing with wounded, basketball courts were covered with makeshift beds. Medicine had to be bought on the black market. Blood plasma was running out. The Cambodian army had fewer than 20 surgeons.

CAMBODIAN DOCTOR, 1975

I feel this war is a real genocide. Khmer are killing Khmer. At the beginning of the war, of course, there were a lot of North Vietnamese in our country. But now there is only Khmer. Khmer are killing and fighting Khmer. And many, many of we, of us are dead or get casualties, or wounded. I suppose since five years of war, half million of Khmer in this country, among seven million, half million are dead or wounded.

NARRATOR

In the once abundant land of Cambodia, there was famine and disease. Volunteer doctors from abroad flew into Phnompenh to help.

DR. JOSEPH MURPHY, March 1975

It's worse than I expected. The conditions that I've seen have been pretty bad. I've been helping with the malnutritioned infants. I also assisted on some surgery last night. We did an amputation on one of the soldiers, amputated his arm. The soldier's ten-month-old daughter also had her left arm amputated. As you know, the families follow the soldier/father into the battles and live near them.

NARRATOR

Lon Nol was encouraged to leave the country on April 1, by American diplomats who thought negotiations might be possible with Prince Sihanouk. The Khmer Rouge, poised for victory, was not about to bargain. They broadcast lists of traitors to be executed after they won.

On April 12, Operation Eagle Pull began. Helicopters evacuated the remaining Americans from Phnompenh to a naval task force in the Gulf of Thailand. Most Cambodian government ministers declined to leave. One who stayed -- and died -- wrote to the American ambassador: "You have refused us your protection, and there is nothing we can do. I hope that you and your country find happiness under Heaven."

CHHANG SON

We try so hard to please the Americans, but I now looking back to that time, think we should not have done that much, because the withdrawal of the American was decided upon without taking into consideration all the Cambodian affairs, without taking into consideration even of the Amer-, of Cambodian lives...

NARRATOR

An air of death hung over Phnompenh. Less than one week later, the Khmer Rouge overran Phnompenh airport.

PENG THUON

The people were fleeing, running across the fields in front of the airport. The planes came and thought that they were Khmer Rouge and bombed them. The bodies were all mixed up. Some soldiers, some ordinary people, some Khmer Rouge. The survivors jumped over the corpses. Then there was shelling and everything was aflame. It was already dusk and people could hardly recognize each other. When everyone was gone, the Khmer Rouge came in. The next morning they went on to Phnompenh.

NARRATOR

The Khmer Rouge soldiers had captured Phnompenh. They broadcast appeals to politicians and officers to cooperate. Those who showed up were taken away and executed.

FRANOIS PONCHAUD

The Khmer Rouge fired a few shots and shouted, "Leave! Leave quickly! The Americans are going to bomb the city." And having experienced bombing, the people of Phnompenh had reasons to be afraid. It was terrifying, the B-52 bombing; you could see the sky redden at the horizon, then feel the air burst, then hear the explosion. So you can understand why the population in my neighborhood left even though the Khmer Rouge committed no violence. Everyone took his belongings and left.

NARRATOR

There were no American plans to bomb Phnompenh. Within two days, its population was driven into the countryside. The war had ended. Starvation and slaughter lay ahead.


CREDITS

Written and Directed by BRUCE PALLING

Producers
BRUCE PALLING
MARTIN SMITH

Film Editor PAUL CLEARY

Narrator WILL LYMAN

Film Research RAYE FARR

Assistant Editors
PETER CANNON
HAZEL SAMSON

Camera
WERNER BUNDSCHUH
PETER HOVING
JEAN-CLAUDE LARRIEU
GERRY PINCHES

Sound Recordists
JOHN H. MOSS
STEVE PHILLIPS
LAURENT POIRIER

Assistant Camera
BERNARD BLAISE
STAN LEVEN

Sound Editors
NIGEL MERCER
TONY POUND

Sound Mixer RICHARD BOCK

Film Archives
ATV NETWORK, UK
CBS NEWS
EDUCATIONAL AND TELEVISION FILMS, UK
CHRISTOPH MARIA FROHDER
JIM GERRAND
HUGH GIBB
NIHON DENPA NEWS, LTD.
SHERMAN GRINBERG LIBRARIES, INC.
NORODOM SIHANOUK
THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ARCHIVE
VISNEWS LIBRARY
WORLD IN ACTION, GRANADA TV
EARL J. YOUNG

Special Thanks to ABC NEWS

Film Archivist KENN RABIN

Archivist, UK CYRIL HAYDEN

Additional Film Research
BRADLEY BORUM
HARTLEY PLESHAW

Unit Production Manager JAN LANGMACK

Post Production Supervisors
TONY PRIANO
CYNTHIA MEAGHER KUHN

Production Secretaries
KARAN SHELDON
ALISON SMITH

Publicity SARA ALTHERR

Titles and Graphic Design CHRIS PULLMAN

 

Translator NGO VINH LONG

 

Sound Effects CINESOUND EFFECTS LIBRARY, UK

Video Enhancement AUBREY STEWART

Music Composed by
MICKEY HART
BILLY KREUTZMANN

Music Performed by
VIC FIRTH
MICKEY HART
ZAKIR HUSSAIN
BILLY KREUTZMANN
AIRTO MOREIRA
MERL SAUNDERS
BOBBY VEGA

Music Recorded by PHIL KAFFEL

 

Director of Media Research LAWRENCE LICHTY

 

Chief Correspondent STANLEY KARNOW

 

Executive Producer RICHARD ELLISON

A co-production of WGBH Boston with Central Independent Television, UK, Antenne-2, France in association with LRE Productions


For The American Experience

Coordinating Producer DANIEL McCABE

Executive Producer MARGARET DRAIN

Major funding for the series was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television stations, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Additional funding was provided by the George D. Smith Fund, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This program was originally broadcast on PBS on October 4, 1983.

THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
is a production of WGBH/Boston.

© 1983, 1997 WGBH Educational Foundation
All Rights Reserved

==

VIETNAM: A Television History
Peace is at Hand (1968-1973)
Transcript


VIETNAM: A Television History is a 13-part documentary film series produced for public television by WGBH Boston, in cooperation with Central Independent Television/United Kingdom, and Antenne-2/France, and in association with LRE Productions. A six year project from conception to completion, the series carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of war in Vietnam for everyone involved, beginning with early history, through the French colonial period, and up to the fall of Saigon and unification of the country in 1975. Executive producer Richard Ellison, chief correspondent Stanley Karnow, and Director of Media Research Lawrence Lichty, with some 60 consultants and four production units, comprised the production team, centered at WGBH in Boston. Its members garnered hundreds of interviews, researched 70 film archives worldwide, and traveled the length of Vietnam to create perhaps the most exhaustive historical documentary series in television history.

RICHARD NIXON, April 1964

The first issue is what the goal of the United States should be. I believe that the goal can be nothing less than victory.

RICHARD NIXON, February 1965

What is involved here is, in effect, to let the Red Chinese know in Vietnam as we, in effect, let Khrushchev know in the confrontation in Cuba that the United States will not stand by and allow any power, however great, take over another country by aggression.

RICHARD NIXON, May 1966

A retreat by the United States from Vietnam would be a Communist victory, a victory of massive proportions and would lead to World War III.

NARRATOR

By early 1968, America had dropped almost three million tons of bombs on Vietnam -- twice the tonnage dropped on Germany and Japan in World War II.

America was trying to stop North Vietnam from sending soldiers and supplies to the South, trying to force the Communist leaders in Hanoi to give up their long-held goal of a unified Vietnam.

After the impact of the 1968 Communist Tet offensive, President Johnson ordered a bombing cutback and peace talks began.

JOHN NEGROPONTE (Delegate to Paris Peace Talks)

We all went and stayed in hotel rooms rather than renting apartments or finding other kinds of long-term accommodation. It didn't occur to any of us at the time that five or six years later there would still be a delegation in Paris still going over very much of the same ground. So, I would say that when we first arrived there was an atmosphere of heightened expectation, of early progress.

NARRATOR

The Americans brought in South Vietnamese government officials. The North Vietnamese brought in the National Liberation Front, the Vietcong, the Communist-led movement in the South.

JOHN NEGROPONTE

The negotiations, one could say, were very stereotyped and were not negoti-ations in the classic sense of the word. There wasn't the kind of give and take that you would have in a labor negotiation or a business negotiation in the United States, or for that matter even in a more normal international negotiation between governments. They tended both in public and even in private, I should say, to follow a very set pattern. One side or the other would make a prepared statement and then the other side would reply with a prepared statement and then we might adjourn for a break and have tea and some refreshments, and then there would be a little bit of give and take.

NARRATOR

As the diplomats haggled over the political implications of the seating arrangements, President Johnson prepared to leave office.

President Lyndon B. Johnson (Press Conference, October 24, 1968)

We want peace very much. We've been doing all we could for several months to try to bring about some kind of an understanding that would result in substantive discussions and ultimate settlement of the Southeast Asia problem.

NARRATOR

A few days before the American presidential elections, Johnson halted all bombing of North Vietnam.

NIXON CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL, November 1968

RICHARD NIXON

Never has so much power been used so ineffectively as in Vietnam. If after all of this time, and all of this sacrifice and all of this support there is still no end in sight, then I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership, not tied to the policies and mistakes of the past. I pledge to you we shall have an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.

COMMERCIAL NARRATOR

This time vote like your whole world depended on it.

NARRATOR

By a narrow margin Nixon won.

The 1968 Tet offensive had hit South Vietnam's cities and towns, but now the main fighting had shifted back to the countryside. More than half a million American soldiers were still in Vietnam.

Four years since American combat troops had landed in Vietnam. The densely populated Mekong Delta was still far from pacified.

During the first six months of 1969, an average of more than 800 Americans were wounded each week. Each week more than 200 Americans were killed. Each week more than 450 of their South Vietnamese allies died alongside them. Each day more than 500 North Vietnamese and Vietcong were counted dead.

NARRATOR

In July 1969, President Nixon had good news for the troops. They could soon go home, and leave the fighting to the South Vietnamese. He called the policy "Vietnamization."

MELVIN LAIRD (Secretary of Defense)

The policy of Vietnamization was to turn over the responsibility for the ground combat and air combat to the South Vietnamese. It was a policy of giving them the equipment and the training so that they could follow up their responsibility to their country. You cannot guarantee the will and the desire of any country, but you can give them the tools to do the job.

NARRATOR

The Saigon administration faced a new political challenge -- the Vietcong pro-claimed themselves the Provisional Revolutionary Government. America was still committed to troop withdrawals.

HENRY KISSINGER (National Security Adviser)

We made up our minds from the beginning that we were going to try to disengage from Vietnam. And, all of the debate afterwards were really about, with the moderate critics, were about rates of disengagement, not about the fact of disengagement. So it had to be a high priority.

MELVIN LAIRD

The pressures were on as far as the American people were concerned. The pressures were on as far as the Congress was concerned and, if we wouldn't have moved in the direction of Vietnamization, our whole military force structure would have been destroyed in the United States and we would not have been able to meet the NATO commitments and the other commitments which were treaty commitments that had been made but, had been made by the American government.

MORTON HALPERIN (National Security Council Staff)

The major preoccupation of Kissinger and Nixon was U.S./Soviet relations. They believed that world peace depended on getting the Soviet Union into a relationship with the United States so that it ceased to do things which threatened American security interests. And, it was in this context that they approached every issue from the Middle East to China to Vietnam.

Vietnam was important because the United States had made it important. Kissinger was always fond of saying that we inherited 500,000 troops in Vietnam. We didn't put them there.

COMING HOME SOLDIERS, July 1969

"Home, I'm coming home, coming home, from across the sea."

NARRATOR

For the cameras, U.S. troops celebrated their departure.

SOLDIERS

"Home, I'm coming home, no more marching and fighting for me. I am a soldier, a coming home soldier, no purple heart do I wear on my chest. I am a soldier, a coming home soldier, I know that I, I've done my best -- I'm coming home, I'm coming, I'm coming home, I'm coming h-o-m-e."

NARRATOR

As the American troops left, Nixon stepped up air and artillery attacks.

NARRATOR

Hundreds of miles of tunnels were dug to shelter factories and homes. The songs and poetry of Ho Chi Minh promised victory and independence. The Americans and the American-sponsored government in the South would be defeated. Korean, Australian, Thai and other troops would be driven out. "We will rebuild our land ten times more beautiful," claimed Ho Chi Minh.

TUU KY (Ho Chi Minh's Secretary)

He was really very ill by the end of 1968. It was very difficult for him to move about. And yet Comrade Ho Chi Minh patiently continued his exercise and his walks. Early in 1969 he was still visiting the villages but his health deteriorated after that, although he still continued to work.

NARRATOR

Ho Chi Minh died on September 3, 1969.

TUU KY

He said that he was only going to visit Lenin and his other predecessors. And by the word "predecessors" he could have meant that he was going to visit past Vietnamese leaders.

NARRATOR

Vietnam's Communist Party leader, Le Duan, delivered the eulogy.

PREMIER PHAM VAN DONG

This was so painful to the nation and to me personally that I cannot find the words to describe it. But to us, it was not just a painful event. We also faced the problem -- how to continue his work, how to accomplish all the things he wanted us to achieve.

NARRATOR

American troops, some just returned from Vietnam, were deployed to Washington

-- to protect the capital against anti-war demonstrators.

ANTI-WAR DEMONSTRATION, November 1969

Peace now, Peace now!

NARRATOR

Nixon and his aides, claiming that anti-war critics were helping the Commu-nists, ordered illegal wire taps and drew up a list of their domestic "enemies".

SONG PROTEST

"All we are saying is give peace a change" -- Are you listening Nixon? "All we are saying is give peace a chance" -- Are you listening Agnew?"

NARRATOR

In a single Washington demonstration, a quarter of a million Americans denounced the war.

SONG PROTEST

Are you listening in the Pentagon? "All we are saying..." -- Are you listening Nixon?"

NARRATOR

Hanoi radio publicized the protests.

ROBINSON RISNER (POW, 1965-1973)

If 200 people marched on Washington, they made it 200,000. We learned how to deal with the numbers. Of course, every protest, every anti-war speech made by a person such as McGovern, Jane Fonda, Galbraith, all of those only encouraged the Vietnamese, prolonged the war, worsened our condition and cost the lives of more Americans on the battlefield.

ADMIRAL THOMAS MOORER (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)

So many people in and out of the government, and certainly I would put the media at the top of the list, seem far more concerned about the lives of the people in Southeast Asia than they were the lives of the young men that were fighting for their country. Let me give you an example of this: For instance, when I was describing the torture that was being inflicted on the POWs in North Vietnam, I've actually had the American citizens tell me, "Well it serves them right -- they had no business volunteering."

NARRATOR

Defense Secretary Laird was ahead of the timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal. By April 1970, he had reduced the forces in Vietnam by more than 100,000. Nixon had resumed full scale bombing of the North. American generals had asked Laird to endorse a major offensive against Communist sanctuaries in Cambodia. They said it was vital to a continued U.S. force reduction. Laird opposed the use of U.S. ground troops. Nixon made the decision.

PRESIDENT NIXON (Television address, April 1970)

I have concluded that the time has come for action. Tonight American and South Vietnamese units will attack the headquarters for the entire Communist military operation in South Vietnam. This key control center has been occupied by the North Vietnamese and Vietcong for five years in blatant violation of Cambodia's neutrality. This is not an invasion of Cambodia.

NARRATOR

The control center was never found. The action further divided America.

BILLY GRAHAM (University of Tennessee, May 1970)

All Americans may not agree with the decision a president makes, but he is our president.

NARRATOR

Evangelist Billy Graham, an old friend and supporter, who once told Nixon: "It is your destiny to be president."

BILLY GRAHAM

Mr. President, we welcome you and Mrs. Nixon. We honor you as our President (applause) and we pray for you that God will continue to give you the wisdom, the courage and the faith as you bear the heavy responsibilities of your office.

NARRATOR

Three weeks earlier, four students had been shot dead by National Guardsmen during demonstrations at Kent State University in Ohio. Campus protests reached a peak. Polls showed that a majority of Americans supported administration policy. But opponents continued their protests, harassing Nixon wherever they could.

DEMONSTRATION CHANT (University of Tennessee, May 1970)

One, two, three, four, we don't want your fucking war...

PRESIDENT NIXON (University of Tennessee, May 1970)

If we're going to bring people together as we must bring them together, if we're going to have peace in the world, if our young people are going to have a fulfillment beyond simply those material things, they must turn to those great spiritual sources that have made America the great country that it is. I'm proud to be here and I'm very proud to have your warm reception.

COMMUNITY SINGING (University of Tennessee, May 1970)

"God bless America, land that I love, stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with the light from above. From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam, God bless America, my home sweet home."

ANNOUNCER

This is NBC News.

PRESIDENT NIXON, October 1970

I propose that all armed forces throughout Indochina cease firing their weapons and remain in the positions they now hold. This would be a cease-fire in place. I do not minimize the difficulty of maintaining a cease-fire in a guerrilla war where there are no front lines. But an unconventional war may require an unconventional truce. Our side is ready to stand still and cease firing.

NARRATOR

By implication, a cease-fire in place would leave North Vietnamese troops in the South. Hanoi's leaders did not respond.

In Washington, impatient senators urged ending the war in nine months -- in exchange for the release of U.S. prisoners of war.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, June 1971

The only possible excuse for the continuing discredited policy of Vietnami-zation, the war, now and in the months ahead seems to be the President's intention to play his last great card for peace at a time closer to November 1972.

SEN. BIRTH BAYH, June 1971

I cannot, I cannot believe and I do not believe that most of our countrymen believe, that a plan for peace necessitates bombing four countries, invading two, in order to get out of one.

SEN. MIKE MANSFIELD, June 1971

There are many who today are disenchanted with the conflict. There were very few at the outset, either Republicans or Democrats, who opposed the ever deepening involvement; indeed, who did not support or acquiesce in it.

NARRATOR

Anti-war sentiments grew among academics and opinion leaders. The New York Times published the stolen Pentagon Papers, a secret history of official war decisions.

MIKE MANSFIELD, June 1971

We went into Vietnam on the wheels of the same policy and for many of the same reasons that we had gone into Korea a decade and a half earlier. We did so, however, almost as an habituated response with far less understanding of the actual situation in Indochina, unmindful of the changes in this nation, in Asia and in the world.

Vietnam was a mistake, a tragic mistake. To persist in it now is to add outrage to the sacrifices of those who have suffered and who have died in this conflict. To persist in it now is to do violence to the welfare of the nation.

NARRATOR

Nixon's envoys were a familiar sight on Saigon's boulevards. But behind the diplomatic rituals, Henry Kissinger concealed from South Vietnam that he had been secretly meeting with the Communists since August 1969. Even top U.S. officials had been kept in the dark.

WILLIAM SULLIVAN (Deputy Assistant Sec. of State)

My first inkling of the secret talks came from conversations that I had quite regularly on the secure telephone circuit with Phil Habib who was the head of our, or the acting head of our delegation in Paris that was meeting with the Vietnamese. He and I comparing notes on various things that were occurring, came to the conclusion that there must be some secret talks taking place elsewhere. Our conclusion, just from the way in which things were evolving at that time, was that they were being carried on by Henry Kissinger.

NARRATOR

The adversary in the secret talks was Le Duc Tho, a member of North Vietnam's ruling Politbureau.

HENRY KISSINGER

Le Duc Tho had a tendency to make the same speech every day, months on end, and it was sort of like a prayer session at the beginning of a meeting, and it meant, what it symbolized, was that they had all kinds of time, that we were going to have to collapse long before they would even think of yielding.

NARRATOR

From Peking, a television spectacular -- a diplomatic bombshell: Richard Nixon, honored guest of the nation he once accused of fomenting aggression in Vietnam. With Mao Zedong, the Communist leader he once reviled.

Relations between China and the Soviet Union were in shreds. But both gave aid to North Vietnam. Could Nixon widen the rift to America's advantage?

Before China's revolution, China and Vietnam had been traditional enemies. Could China be induced to abandon the North Vietnamese?

PRESIDENT NIXON, February 27, 1972

Mr. Prime Minister, our two peoples tonight hold the future of the world in our hands. And as we think of that future, we are dedicated to the principle that we can build a new world.

NARRATOR

Nixon offered the Chinese trade, recognition, a counterweight to the Russians. China's isolation was coming to an end.

PRESIDENT NIXON

We have been here a week...this was the week that changed the world.

NARRATOR

On March 31, 1972, the North Vietnamese launched a new and ambitious offen-sive. Deploying tanks and large troop units, they poured directly across the 17th parallel into South Vietnam.

Refugees and South Vietnamese troops fled before them. By April 2, the Communists had conquered half of Quangtri province. By May 1, they had taken it all.

HENRY KISSINGER

After the North Vietnamese had taken Quangtri we had a meeting in May 1972, which we had negotiated to arrange for months. When I arrived there all he did was read newspaper accounts to me. When I said I didn't have to come thousands of miles and negotiate for five months for a meeting to hear newspaper accounts, he said, "If they're true, what difference does it make?"

NARRATOR

The South Vietnamese Army was in disarray. In Washington, President Nixon searched for a response that would not require American combat troops.

ADMIRAL THOMAS MOORER (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)

I was called by the President and he questioned me about the prospects of mining Haiphong harbor. And...which I told him we were already ready, all ready for that, as a matter of fact, by the first time I had recommended it, and I personally made the plan myself when I was commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet eight years before. So there was no planning necessary. We already had the plan. And consequently his next requirement was to ask me can we do this without it leaking? Because I would like to be on the -- announcing it to the nation on T.V. at the same instant that the bombs were falling.

NARRATOR

Nixon mined Haiphong harbor and stepped up the bombing. Nearly a thousand U.S. aircraft pounded North and South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese offensive was blunted.

HENRY KISSINGER

Then we resumed negotiations. Le Duc Tho was much easier to deal with and made many more concessions after that than he had made in the years before that.

NARRATOR

Twelve days after the mining and the bombing, President Nixon was received in Moscow.

HENRY KISSINGER

Brezhnev's reaction to the bombing of Hanoi and the mining of Haiphong was very tough in rhetoric and really inconsequential in action. He made many tough statements but he never did anything. The fact that the Soviets received us after the intensification of the war on North Vietnam must have contributed to the sense of isolation and beleaguerment of Hanoi.

NARRATOR

The Nixon-Kissinger global strategy was intact. The United States and the Soviet Union signed a strategic arms control treaty.

Nixon faced re-election. The war in Vietnam dragged on. The North Vietnamese clung to a key demand that the Thieu government in Saigon must be dissolved. Then, after more than four years of fighting and talking, a breakthrough.

NGUYEN CO THACH (North Vietnamese delegate)

On 8 October, 1972, Le Duc Tho have make a proposal. In this proposal we have dropped the demand for the dissolution of the Thieu government and we propose to have the two governments in South Vietnam coexist.

HENRY KISSINGER

They dropped the demand that Thieu had to resign on October 8, I believe it was. At any rate, whenever they put forward their comprehensive proposal. And that, as far as we were concerned, was the breakthrough.

JOHN NEGROPONTE (Delegate to Paris Peace Talks)

I think that the principal element that we brought to it was that we were prepared to settle for a cease-fire in place, and the return of our prisoners of war in exchange for the removal of our military forces.

NIXON AT MIA MEETING, October 16, 1972

As you recall...(clapping)

NARRATOR

Peace seemed near. Nixon turned against his critics.

RICHARD NIXON AT MIA MEETING, October 16, 1972

As you recall, I made the decision to mine the harbors, to bomb military targets in North Vietnam. That decision was the right decision. Those who predicted that it would lead to the dissolution of the summit -- the leaders of the media, the great editors, and publishers and television commentators and the rest -- proved to be wrong. When that decision was made there was precious little support from any of the so-called opinion leaders of this country that I have just described. But what was the most heartwarming thing to me was that those who had so much at stake, those who had suffered so much, the great majority of those whose husbands and loved ones are now POWs or MIAs stood by that decision and I thank you very much for that support.

NARRATOR

Nixon sent his diplomats to Saigon with a text of the secret agreement.

HOANG DUC NHA (Aide to President Thieu)

We say, fine, you know, thank you, could, could we see the text? And, we want to have time to study the text. Of course, they gave us the text in English, and at that time I thought I say, if our opposition knew that, that right this moment we were discussing the fate of a country in a text in English, boy, you know, it would be so bad that we shouldn't even think about it! So I ask, I say, where is the Vietnamese text? Oh, we forgot, and I say, what do you mean, you forgot? The other side, I know they don't present a text to you in English. You know between Vietnamese, we know each other, you know, there is something called national pride, and you present your own language. They say, oh this is good translation, and we have our own translators, I don't know what the name, what is the name of the guy he gave; I say, you mean to tell me an American is, you know, understand Vietnamese better than Vietnamese? We want to see the Vietnamese text.

JOHN NEGROPONTE

The atmosphere in Saigon when we brought to Saigon the draft of the treaty that we had negotiated with the North Vietnamese was very, very tense and very unpleasant. And this I ascribed to the fact that it came pretty much as a complete surprise to the South Vietnamese. They had been briefed in very general terms in the preceding weeks and months. But no one had ever been so explicit as to show them significant drafts of treaty language.

HOANG DUC NHA

We realized that this is a very bad document to start with; number two, it did not change in any way the Communist position, it was just worded differently. Number three, the fact that the Americans, you know, presented to us and told us it was best they could have obtained is very ominous, because, it means that the Americans are out to push us to accept that.

JOHN NEGROPONTE

They raised the issue of North Vietnamese troop withdrawal and asked why that had not been dealt with in our document.

HOANG DUC NHA

The South Vietnamese government never did accept to have the North Vietnamese army stationed in South Vietnam, nor was it resigned to the fact that there is nothing that could be done about it.

HENRY KISSINGER

All of the proposals that we made to the North Vietnamese were seen and approved by Thieu. So that was not a new proposal by us in October of '72.

HOANG DUC NHA

We say, well, you know, I'm ready for any contingency, but we're not going to sign it, so please go back to Mr. Nixon, tell him that we're very sorry we cannot cooperate on that one.

NARRATOR

Unable to persuade the South Vietnamese to sign, Kissinger returned home. The North Vietnamese, fearing that the settlement was in jeopardy, made the agreement public.

JOHN NEGROPONTE

For a moment put yourself in the North Vietnamese shoes. They had gone through this entire negotiating process, they had reached agreement with us. They had even begun giving instructions to their cadre to prepare for a cease-fire. Some of the North Vietnamese leaders might have begun to think that they had been the victims of the biggest con job in history and that we had simply led them down the garden path, and then we're going to welsh on the deal.

NARRATOR

Kissinger tried to reassure America and both Vietnams.

HENRY KISSINGER (Press Conference, October 26, 1972)

We have no complaint with the general description of events as it was given by Radio Hanoi. However, there exists...there grew up the seeds of one particular misunderstanding. The North Vietnamese negotiators made their proposal conditional on the solution of the problem by October 31.

We did agree that we would make a major effort to conclude the negotiations by October 31. As far as Saigon is concerned, it is of course entitled to participate in the settlement of a war fought on its territory. Its people have suffered much and they will remain there after we leave. We believe that peace is at hand.

NGUYEN CO THACH (North Vietnamese Delegate)

I think the speech..."Peace is at hand," is first of all for the voters in the United States, to say to them that the Vietnam question is no more, there is no more Vietnam question, so they can elect Nixon as a hero of peace.

NARRATOR

As expected, Nixon won by a landslide, but faced a hostile Congress.

The negotiations resumed as Le Duc Tho returned to Paris. He faced 69 changes demanded by South Vietnam, presented by Kissinger and Alexander Haig -- among them, the demand that North Vietnamese troops leave the South.

HENRY KISSINGER

I presented Thieu's list of changes which he had whittled down already in Saigon because I felt I owed it to him to go through them, and frankly to demonstrate that most of them were unattainable.

NARRATOR

Kissinger flew to Florida to see Nixon, worried that the negotiations might collapse. He spoke of resigning. The North was again intransigent. In South Vietnam, too, the agreement was still unacceptable.

JOHN NEGROPONTE

In order to reassure Saigon, we had launched a major resupply program called Operation Enhance Plus where we provided several billion additional dollars of military equipment to the Saigon government.

If, in the Politburo in Hanoi, it had been a close decision in the first place to enter into this agreement, perhaps after the developments of October and November they were having real second thoughts.

WILLIAM SULLIVAN

The North Vietnamese engaged in a number of dilatory tactics. One of them was the question of tying the release of prisoners of war to the release of civilians in the South, but there were others, all of which generally reneged on arrangements that they had previously made and which were significant to the text and to the integrity of the document we had negotiated.

NARRATOR

In the South Vietnamese Parliament President Thieu denounced the agreement before U.S. Ambassador Bunker.

PRESIDENT THIEU, December 1972

Consequently, the essential basis is first, that the North Vietnamese troops should withdraw totally to North Vietnam and the internal political solution of South Vietnam should be left for the South Vietnamese people alone to decide between themselves.

HENRY KISSINGER, December 15, 1972

We are not continuing a war in order to give total victory to our allies. We want to give them a reasonable opportunity to participate in a political struggle, but we also will not make a settlement which is a disguised form of victory for the other side.

HOANG DUC NHA (Aide to President Thieu)

After October, Kissinger refused to go back to Vietnam, so Haig came, and we were told countless times by him, by Ambassador Bunker, that we should modify our position, we should do this, we should do that -- they had obtained some changes, you know, to please us, but they couldn't get everything we wanted. We said, "Well you know there are still some substantial issues that are not resolved, and we are not going to sign it." And when we were threatened of brutal reaction, we said, "Well, we know what brutal reaction means. We accept that." At that time, it was a calculated move from our part. We said, "All right, if we were the U.S. side, they have two options: either do something drastic in South Vietnam, or bomb the North."

NARRATOR

In Paris Kissinger's talks with North Vietnam seemed to be collapsing.

WILLIAM SULLIVAN

We told them several times. We warned them that our president would resume bombing of the North. They seemed not to believe the nature of this threat. They seemed to believe that the President would be inhibited from the bombing because the electoral trend in the United States had brought in a Congress that was going to oppose bombing and because the general attitude, as demonstrated in public opinion poles in the United States, was opposed to resumption of the bombing.

NARRATOR

North Vietnam's leaders made ready for the anticipated attack. Hanoi's popula-tion, swollen with refugees from other bombed towns, had to be evacuated. By December 16, one third of the estimated population, half a million people, had left.

NARRATOR

On December 18, B-52 bombers were over Hanoi and Haiphong.

CAPTAIN MICHAEL CONNERS

For miles and miles you could see the little firecrackers like going off and it was very distinct, very obvious that those were SAMS being shot up, and as you got closer they just started going up around you. And at first you were very afraid because you wanted to move away from every one you saw, but after you calmed down and realized, sure there's a SAM and it's going up, but it's going off there and you kind of ignored it. It took a little while to get used to that.

ROBINSON RISNER (POW 1965-1973)

We heard the bombs start hitting and we thought this is the first time they bombed the North in a long time. The fighters hadn't even been up for some reason. Well, then when we heard the bombs start landing half a mile short of the prison and walk right by us in a string -- we knew it had to be bombers because fighters don't carry that many bombs. And the jubilation was unbeliev-able. Guys jumping up and down and clapping each other on the back. People hollering and shouting and the Vietnamese guard excited and poking his gun in the door and telling us to get under our bunks. One of them looked in the door and said, "You know, they are trying to kill you." I said, "They're not trying to kill me, they're trying to kill you."

ADMIRAL THOMAS MOORER (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)

The targets selected in the 1972 Christmas bombing consisted entirely of military targets. For instance, they would consist of warehouses, command and control stations, missile sites, ammunition storage, communications sites, things of that kind. The accusation that we were conducting carpet bombing, of course, is absolutely false. For that matter, had we conducted carpet bombing, I think that there wouldn't be a Hanoi today.

NARRATOR

On December 22, American bombs hit Hanoi's Bach Mai hospital for a second time. Their target may have been a small airfield nearby.

DR. NGUYEN LUAN

Cries and moans filled the dark night. We had to use knives, hammers and shovels to break through the concrete walls in order to get to the victims trapped inside. As a surgeon, I operate on people to save their lives. Now I was using my surgical knife not to save people but to cut apart the corpses in the bomb shelter so we could rescue those still alive.

NARRATOR

The President ordered a one-day bombing halt for Christmas Day. On December 26, the B-52s resumed their missions.

The massive new raids had personally been ordered by President Nixon. His main concern, he said, was not domestic and international criticism, but high B-52 losses. Some of the bombs hit a Hanoi residential district, Khan Thiem. The North Vietnamese believed that the raids were a deliberate act of terror.

NGUYEN THI DUC

The shelter collapsed on me. The next morning, I was taken to the hospital. Only later on did I learn that five members of my family had been killed: my mother, my sister, and her husband, my older brother, my younger brother.

PHUNG THI TIEM

The most heart-breaking sight was in Son-quan alley. A whole family of seven -- husband and wife and five children -- had been killed. The oldest child was 20 and the youngest two. The whole family was wiped out. It was extremely painful to see. The site of their house is still an empty lot. What an outrage! A family of seven completely wiped out.

NARRATOR

The 11-day Christmas bombings were compared to the atomic blast on Hiroshima in World War II. And the tonnage of bombs dropped on the Hanoi-Haiphong area was actually greater, but the targets were more dispersed. The deaths were far fewer. In Hanoi they totalled 1,318.

HENRY KISSINGER

Nixon was of the view that something shocking had to be done. That was not my view at the time, but I didn't disagree with it, and I went along with it and I think Nixon turned out to be right.

NGUYEN CO THACH

After the Christmas bombing, the first day that Le Duc Tho and Kissinger had met in Paris, after shaking hands, Kissinger had told Le Duc Tho that "I am very sorry. I could not prevent the decision of the President in bombing North Vietnam on Christmas day." So Le Duc Tho say that: "I know who are respon-sible. All you are responsible. And you are criminals."

HENRY KISSINGER

Publicly, he refused to shake hands with me, and in all the pictures that were taken, he never appeared with me. But inside the negotiating room, he moved at tremendous speed and with as much human warmth as he was capable of generating towards a representative of the capitalist system.

WILLIAM SULLIVAN

It was a very somber meeting. No jollity, no joking as usually went on, and whenever points were pressed and we seemed to be at a point of suggesting that our patience was running thin, they either made a concession there or moved rapidly onto something else and set that aside.

NARRATOR

On January 11, Kissinger cabled Nixon that the agreement was ready. The terms were almost identical to those laid down in October. Le Duc Tho and the North Vietnamese were prepared to sign. The agreement affirmed that South Vietnam was one country with two governments. There were to be moves toward reconciliation. Prisoners of war would be released. American troops would leave. Northern forces could remain in the South.

President Nixon sent Alexander Haig and John Negroponte to Saigon with the news of America's decision.

JOHN NEGROPONTE

We made it quite clear that this time we really planned to go through with signing the agreement whether they intended to join us or not.

ANITA BRYANT (Singing at LBJ Burial, January, 1973)

"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord..."

NARRATOR

Lyndon Johnson, the president who had first sent U.S. combat troops to Vietnam eight years earlier, died the day before the agreement was signed.

ANITA BRYANT

'...coming of the Lord...he is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored...He hath loosed the faithful lightning of his terrible swift sword..."

NARRATOR

Fifty-eight thousand American troops had died in Vietnam.

ANITA BRYANT

"...His truth is marching on..."

NARRATOR

On January 27, 1973, all parties signed the peace agreement. Hanoi celebrated with fireworks. It was also Tet -- the Vietnamese New Year. But to the North Vietnamese and Vietcong, the struggle had not ended. Vietnam was still divided.

PHAM VAN DONG, January 1973

Le combat...The war we have fought for so many years continues. It is the same war for peace, and at the same time for independence, freedom and the peaceful unification of our native land.

NARRATOR

Nearly 600 American airmen had been taken prisoner during the course of the war. Many had been held in what they called the "Hanoi Hilton." Now they were going home. The Vietnamese photographed their departure. They called the film, "Goodbye Uninvited Guests."

North Vietnamese prisoners were also being released. As they crossed the river that divided Vietnam, they discarded the clothing issued to them by the South Vietnamese government they had fought -- a government whose future was still in doubt.


CREDITS

Written and Produced by MARTIN SMITH

Associate Producer BRUCE PALLING

Researcher BRADLEY BORUM

Film Editor JONATHAN MORRIS

Narrator WILL LYMAN

Film Research RAYE FARR

Assistant Editor TONY POUND

Camera
RON BLAU
WERNER BUNDSCHUH
JOHN GORDON
GERRY PINCHES

Sound Recordists
JOHN FITZPATRICK
FLORA MOON
MICHAEL PENLAND
STEVE PHILLIPS

Assistant Camera
CHARLES KELLY
ROGER HAYDOCK
MICHAEL PENLAND
JULIAN WHITE

Sound Editor NIGEL MERCER

Sound Mixer RICHARD BOCK

Film Archives
EDUCATIONAL AND TELEVISION FILMS, UK
HANOI DOCUMENTARY STUDIOS
HANOI WAR MUSEUM
NIHON DENPA NEWS, LTD.
ROGER PIC COLLECTION
SHERMAN GRINBERG LIBRARIES, INC.
THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ARCHIVE
UPITN
VISNEWS LIBRARY

Special Thanks to ABC NEWS

Film Archivist KENN RABIN

Archivist, UK CYRIL HAYDEN

Additional Research REBECCA CLAY

Unit Production Manager JAN LANGMACK

Post Production Supervisor CYNTHIA MEAGHER KUHN

Post Production Assistant ALISON SMITH

Production Secretary KARAN SHELDON

Publicity SARA ALTHERR

Titles and Graphic Design CHRIS PULLMAN

Translator NGO VINH LONG

Sound Effects CINESOUND EFFECTS LIBRARY, UK

Video Enhancement AUBREY STEWART

Music Composed by
MICKEY HART
BILLY KREUTZMANN

Music Performed by
VIC FIRTH
MICKEY HART
ZAKIR HUSSAIN
BILLY KREUTZMANN
AIRTO MOREIRA
MERL SAUNDERS
BOBBY VEGA

Music Recorded by PHIL KAFFEL

Director of Media Research LAWRENCE LICHTY

Chief Correspondent STANLEY KARNOW

Executive Producer RICHARD ELLISON

A co-production of WGBH Boston with Central Independent Television, UK, Antenne-2, France in association with LRE Productions


For The American Experience

Coordinating Producer DANIEL McCABE

Executive Producer MARGARET DRAIN

Major funding for the series was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television stations, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Additional funding was provided by the George D. Smith Fund, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This program was originally broadcast on PBS on October 4, 1983.

THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
is a production of WGBH/Boston.

© 1983, 1997 WGBH Educational Foundation

==

VIETNAM: A Television History
Homefront USA
Transcript


VIETNAM: A Television History is a 13-part documentary film series produced for public television by WGBH Boston, in cooperation with Central Independent Television/United Kingdom, and Antenne-2/France, and in association with LRE Productions. A six year project from conception to completion, the series carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of war in Vietnam for everyone involved, beginning with early history, through the French colonial period, and up to the fall of Saigon and unification of the country in 1975. Executive producer Richard Ellison, chief correspondent Stanley Karnow, and Director of Media Research Lawrence Lichty, with some 60 consultants and four production units, comprised the production team, centered at WGBH in Boston. Its members garnered hundreds of interviews, researched 70 film archives worldwide, and traveled the length of Vietnam to create perhaps the most exhaustive historical documentary series in television history.

NARRATOR

Washington, Christmas 1963. Five weeks after the assassination of President Kennedy. The new president spoke of the nation's losses and hopes.

PRESIDENT JOHNSON

We buried Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy, but we did not bury their dreams or their visions. They are our dreams and our visions today. So let us here on this Christmas night, determine that John Kennedy did not live or die in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time, the ancient vision of "Peace on earth, good will toward all men."

NARRATOR

Three months before President Kennedy's death, Martin Luther King, Jr. had focused national concern on civil rights with an impassioned call for racial harmony.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., August 28, 1963

I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today...

PRESIDENT JOHNSON, July 2, 1964

I'm about to sign into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

NARRATOR

President Johnson's liberal domestic policies dominated the news and eclipsed Vietnam. But the political consensus he built around civil rights and other Great Society programs was soon threatened by the war.

JOHN CHANCELLOR (NBC News)

In 1964 and early 1965, the country was going along with the President. The arguments were being made increasingly to the country and through the media that Vietnam was important, that the United States had a commitment there, that something would have to be done.

MARINE NEWSREEL, March 8, 1965, NARRATOR

United States Marines head for security duty in South Vietnam. Their landing is at a beach, north of Danang, where they will guard the American jet airfield against attack by Vietcong guerrillas and infiltrators from North Vietnam only 80 miles away.

JOHN CHANCELLOR

And I remember having in my mind the thought that, "My God, I hope we're not getting into something here that the country can't handle."

WHITE PREACHER, November 1965

If tomorrow they tell you it's a blessed murder, that you are to declare war holy, then there's only one thing to do: Say "No."

DEMONSTRATORS

Treason! Treason! Treason! We shall live in peace! We shall live in peace!

NARRATOR

Opponents and supporters of the war clashed early in the Johnson Administra-tion. At first, the anti-war groups were small and little-noticed. They included civil rights activists, members of old left and women's organizations, pacifists, students and clergymen.

WM. SLOAN COFFIN, JR.

So the clergy found themselves in a very difficult dilemma. Catholic bishops were very anti-Communist, so it was very hard to find a Catholic bishop who would say, "I am anti-Communist, but I think this war is evil." Rabbis were very afraid that if they opposed Johnson on the war in Vietnam, Johnson would not support them on Israel. So all these things were very much in the picture when it came to the clergy.

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 31, 1967

REPORTER: What is the purpose of your groups picketing the White House,

Reverend Newhouse?

REVEREND NEWHOUSE: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam are here today

holding a silent vigil, we'd like to think, rather than a

picket, in order simply to express a cry of anguish about

what we believe to be an immoral and self-defeating course,

which our country finds itself increasingly bogged down in

Vietnam.

REPORTER: You're being effectively counter-picketed by an almost equal number

of people. Reverend Reynolds, what is the difference in the opinion

of your group and that one across the street?

 

REVEREND REYNOLDS: Well, about as much difference as day and night. They

believe the war in Vietnam is immoral and inhuman, and we

believe it's essential to defend our freedom and to keep

our word and our commitments made to the South Vietnamese.

 

It's immoral to keep our boys over there in a battle where

they're suffering and dying if we're not going to win!

NARRATOR

Despite increasing draft calls, college students could avoid military service if they remained in school.

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, February 1967

STUDENT: I don't want to go to Vietnam, because I don't want to get killed.

...if I have to, I will.

NARRATOR

Student attendance at Vietnam teach-ins was growing.

TEACH-IN, 1967

PROFESSOR MICHAELS: I think we should stop having, letting the President fight

an armchair war from the White House and turn it over to

our generals in Vietnam who know how to fight a war.

PROFESSOR ROSS: As far as I remember American history it's been a traditional

principle that civilians exercise control over the military,

that we never turn into a warfare state, in which generals

have a completely free hand.

PROFESSOR MICHAELS: You are not afraid of the Communist menace. I'll put that

in quotes if you like. However, I am. In 50 short years,

the Communists, who started with 17 followers, have en-

slaved 40 percent of the earth's people, and 25 percent of

the earth's land mass. This is more than Christianity can

count standing after nearly 2,000, and you tell us there's

nothing to worry about? How can you stand there, insult

the intelligence of these, students, feeding them...

PROFESSOR ROSS: My apologies...

NARRATOR

Blacks were joining the military amid sharpening debate.

STOKLEY CARMICHAEL (Black Power Activist), May 1967

When they get up on television, and Lyndon Baines Johnson talk all that garbage about he's sending boys over there to fight for the rights of colored people, you ought to know that's a lie. 'Cause we live here with them, and they don't ever do a thing for us.

BAYARD RUSTIN (Civil Rights Activist)

As the caskets begin to come home, people begin to re-evaluate, and the very fact that there were a disproportionate number of blacks in Vietnam, meant that, very early, a disproportionate number of caskets began to come back to the black community. At that point they began to re-evaluate.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., April 15, 1967

Despite feeble protestations to the contrary, the promises of the Great Society have been shot down on the battlefield of Vietnam. The pursuit of this widened war has narrowed the promised dimensions of the domestic welfare programs, making the poor white and negro bear the heaviest burdens, both at the front and at home.

NARRATOR

As the war dragged on into 1967, street rhetoric grew tougher.

INTERVIEW WITH MARTHA RAYE, May 13, 1967

 

REPORTER: How much time have you spent there, Martha?

MARTHA RAYE: In Vietnam? Fourteen months.

REPORTER: Fourteen months.

MARTHA RAYE: Yes, sir.

REPORTER: Are you disturbed about the demonstrations like we had a month or so

ago, against our partici...

MARTHA RAYE: I just don't pay attention to 'em anymore.

REPORTER: You don't...

MARTHA RAYE: We got too many good Americans.

AMERICAN LEGIONNAIRE

99 percent of the people in this country are terrific Americans and disagree entirely with flag burnings, carrying enemy colors, giving medical supplies to the enemy, etcetera.

NARRATOR

A few Congressmen, led by Senator Fulbright, now questioned Johnson's right to wage war without a declaration of war.

SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE, August 21-24, 1967

SENATOR FULBRIGHT: Would the President -- if there was no resolution -- be with or

without constitutional authority to send U.S. soldiers to

South Vietnam in the numbers that are there today? If there

was no resolution.

NICHOLAS KATZENBACH (Undersecretary of State): It would be my view, as I indi-

cated, Mr. Chairman, that he does have that authority...

U.S. SENATOR: That's a difficult doctrine for me to agree to, that the Con-

gress cannot control the President of the United States from the

standpoint of the use of the withholding of the troops of this

country abroad. I simply can't go along with that doctrine.

KATZENBACH: But didn't that resolution authorize the President to use the

armed forces of the United States in whatever way was necessary?

Didn't it?

FULBRIGHT: Well, this is...

KATZENBACH: What could a Declaration of War have done...

FULBRIGHT: This is...

KATZENBACH: That would have, that would have given the President more authority and a clearer voice of the Congress of the United States than that did?

SENATOR GORE: Well, it was not the country's decision to land combat troops

in Vietnam. The country hasn't made that decision. The President has made that decision.

NARRATOR

The administration stood firm, and Congress continued to vote money for the war. Troop levels continued to rise.

Though some men fled the country to avoid service, most complied with the draft. Some who opposed conscription on grounds of conscience burned their draft cards. Some joined an anti-draft organization called the Resistance.

DAVID HARRIS (Anti-draft Organizer)

The Resistance was founded in an attempt to organize explicit public non-cooperation with conscription through the action of returning draft cards to the government. Very simple, open, public declaration that we would not cooperate, and if the government intended to enforce the Selective Service Act, then it was going to have to send us to jail.

Well, October 16 had been the date that we had set when we first had started the Resistance for the first national draft card return, during which all around the country and as it turned out, in 18 different cities, there would be demonstrations at which young people would collect draft cards and give them to the federal government. And in San Francisco, which was one of the two largest demonstrations on that date in the country, we all, 2,000 of us gathered on the steps of the Federal Building in San Francisco.

ORGANIZER, San Francisco, October 16, 1967

If it takes our lives to change this country, then that's what's going to happen.

DAVID HARRIS

We had this basket, and announced on the bull horn, okay, the time had come, and out goes the basket. There is this scene, of all these hands coming up holding draft cards, dropping them into the basket, and the basket circulates through the crowd, and comes back up to the front, and we sort of look at it and get ready to go inside, and then all of a sudden from the back of the crowd these shouts start coming, "More! Back here! Back here! We want it, send the basket!"

It was an attempt to call the question on the rest of the anti-war movement, to say "Put up or shut up," no more of this screaming against the war and then coming home and making sure you have your student deferment in your pocket. If you were going to be against the war, then put your body where your mouth was.

DAVID DELLINGER (Anti-war Organizer)

So we coined a slogan "From protest to resistance," which was that you'd keep marching and rallying, but that we would step up the pace of non-violent civil disobedience.

NARRATOR

The new tactics were tested in the March on the Pentagon, October 1967.

SENATOR JOHN STENNIS

It is clear from the evidence that I have that this is a part of a move by the Communists, especially of North Vietnamese government, to divide the American people, disrupt our war effort, discredit our government before the entire world. The leaders of North Vietnam consider the March on the Pentagon tomorrow as much of their war effort as the guerrilla warfare in South Vietnam and the North Vietnamese army assaulting our troops on the battlefield. Those who participate in these demonstrations tomorrow will be, in effect, cooperat-ing with and assisting our enemy.

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 21, 1967

CROWD: God Bless America! God Bless America!

PETER, PAUL, AND MARY: "There is no freedom in our land...Every hill and vale

and everywhere...Isn't this a time, isn't this a time,

a time to try the soul of men, isn't this a terrible

time."

DAVID DELLINGER

I want to ask you what has happened to a country whose political objectives must be secured at the end of a bayonet!

NARRATOR

More than 55,000 demonstrated -- united in opposition to the draft and the war, but divided on many other issues.

CROWD

Peace. Peace. Peace. Peace Now! Peace Now! Peace Now!

NARRATOR

The protestors, who were mainly students, faced other young Americans who were already in uniform.

Most protested peacefully, but 5,000 rushed the Pentagon, some taunting and cursing the troops. More than 600 were arrested during the march.

POLICE/DEMONSTRATORS

Take 'em on back, lock 'em up. Look out, look out.

NARRATOR

The demonstration had no impact on policy, but it outraged some officials, including the head of Selective Service.

GENERAL LEWIS HERSHEY (Selective Service Director)

To me a demonstration is some legal thing that you engage in under your right to let people know how you feel about things. Now, whenever we get to a place where the demonstrations more than accidentally, interferes with our operations, I don't think there's any question about it ceases to be a demonstration, and became a violation of the law.

SENATOR J. WILLIAM FULBRIGHT, November, 1967

I don't recall, since I've been here, as strong a division of opinion as to the wisdom of a policy as now exists with regard to the Vietnamese war. That's true, I believe, in the Committee; I think, from the reports in the newspapers and magazines, that that exists in the country.

NARRATOR

The economy was turning sour, and turning some businessmen against the war. Johnson discussed his decision to raise taxes with a group of federal home loan officers.

PRESIDENT JOHNSON, October 6, 1967

I know it's not a popular thing for a President to do, to ask anyone to, for a penny out of a dollar to pay for a war that's not popular either.

NARRATOR

By late 1967, for the first time, a poll showed that a majority of Americans considered the war a mistake.

PRESIDENT JOHNSON, November 17, 1967

We know that most people's intentions are good. We don't question their motives, we've never said they're unpatriotic. Although they say some pretty ugly things about us. And we believe very strongly on preserving the right to differ in this country, and the right to dissent, and if I have done a good job of anything since I've been president, it's to insure that there are plenty of dissenters.

SAM BROWN (Student Peace Activist)

In 1967, it's reasonable to say that most people who were concerned to try and create a political alternative to Lyndon Johnson because of the war in Vietnam, didn't much care who the presidential candidate was, as long as it was somebody who had a chance of winning.

NARRATOR

Early in 1968, voters, shocked by a massive enemy offensive in Vietnam, the Tet offensive, were courted by presidential challenger Eugene McCarthy.

EUGENE MCCARTHY, March 1968

I've been saying that I intended to stop the war, and I've been, I think, explaining how, by proceeding to negotiate a coalition government, or at least to be prepared to accept a coalition government. But both the President and Mr. Nixon are talking about ending the war, and are not saying when, or how, or at what cost. And I think that's the issue in the New Hampshire primary.

NARRATOR

Senator McCarthy's strong showing in New Hampshire encouraged another candidate -- Senator Robert Kennedy, brother of the late President. His campaign got an early lift from President Johnson's surprise announcement that he would not run for re-election.

ROBERT KENNEDY, April 3, 1968: But I need your help. I need your assistance.

So, over the period of the next 30 days, will

you help me?

CROWD: Yes!

KENNEDY: Will you tell your friends?

CROWD: Yes!

KENNEDY: Will you whisper it, or will you yell it?

CROWD: Yell it!

NARRATOR

War critics Kennedy and McCarthy dominated the Democratic primaries.

Under FBI surveillance and troubled by rising violence in the anti-war and civil rights movements, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in Memphis, and foreshadowed his own death.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., April 3, 1968

We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life, longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the moun-tain. And I've looked over and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I'm happy tonight, I'm not worried about anything, I'm not fearing any man...Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

NARRATOR

King's assassination the next day rocked the nation and sparked riots in more than a hundred cities. Black power militancy increased.

Unlike most political leaders, Kennedy had sympathized with King's opposition to the war.

April 4, 1967

REPORTER: Senator Kennedy, would you comment on the death of Dr. King?

ROERT KENNEDY: I wrote out some words. He dedicated himself to justice and

love between fellow human beings. He gave his life for that

principle. And I think it's up to those of us who are here, as

fellow citizens and public officials, and those of us in

government, to carry out that dream, to try to end the divi-

sions that exist so deeply within our country, and remove the

stain of bloodshed from our land.

NARRATOR

Opposed to both Kennedy and McCarthy, Johnson picked Vice President Hubert Humphrey as his heir-apparent.

HUBERT HUMPHREY

We've had some very severe blows lately, and we've got to try to bind up these wounds. And if this means, quite frankly, if it means that I don't have the time for campaigning like an ordinary candidate, that's the way it'll have to be.

NARRATOR

Over the next two months, Kennedy and McCarthy continued their rivalry in the Democratic primaries. The contest reached a climax in California.

Kennedy won. His assassin was waiting.

ROBERT KENNEDY, June 5, 1968

My thanks to all of you, and now it's on to Chicago, and let's win there.

NARRATOR

McCarthy's campaign workers were watching reports of Kennedy's victory celebration.

MCCARTHY HEADQUARTERS

I don't know who's been shot.

"As we get more definite details, we'll bring them to you. If you do not leave the room, we cannot get medical aid to the Senator. Now would you please leave the room."

Kennedy's been shot. Shh. Shh.

"Are there any doctors? Help clear this room. Are there any doctors? Will you please help clear the room. Help get medical aid to the Senator."

They've shot Robert Kennedy.

"You saw what happened. I'm sorry, I can't make a comment right now."

NARRATOR

To many, Kennedy's assassination two months after King's, seemed confirmation that the country was on the verge of chaos.

Then came Chicago. Torn by strikes and braced for violence, Mayor Daley's city welcomed the divided delegates to the 1968 Democratic convention.

Relations between the police and the press corps were tense.

Vice President Humphrey, choice of the party regulars, was assured of the nomination before he arrived.

HUBERT HUMPHREY, Chicago, 1968

Well, say, good to see you...

NARRATOR

But Humphrey and the Johnson Administration were still targets of McCarthy's muted attacks.

EUGENE MCCARTHY, August 1968

I think the case is rather clear about what's wrong about our involvement in Vietnam. And I think the case is rather clear as to what we ought to be doing about our problems here at home. It calls for some quiet and some restraint, a kind of backing off for a minute to look at America, and to consider what we ought to be doing, and the nation has done that, and with your help, and the help of others in these next three days, I believe that the Democratic convention will do the same here in Chicago. Thank you very much.

NARRATOR

Others had a different purpose.

DAVID DELLINGER, August 1968

Our position is that whoever the candidates are and whatever the platforms, that we must stay in the streets and stay in active resistance or else there will be no peace. Either in the ghettos or in Vietnam.

OUTSIDE CONVENTION HALL, Chicago, 1968

TOM HAYDEN (Students for a Democratic Society): We don't know...

REPORTER: Do you have a permit to march on the amphitheater?

HAYDEN: No...

REPORTER: But you gonna march anyway? Are you expecting trouble?

HAYDEN: We expect to march. We expect trouble all the time.

NARRATOR

Thousands of highly visible protestors descended upon Chicago -- militants, pacifists, and hippies -- with 500 undercover agents among them.

CONFRONTATION IN GRANT PARK

You're in an assembly which you have no permit for...

PEACE PEACE!

You are on our property which you are defacing. If you do not leave, you will be subject to arrest. Everybody...

NARRATOR

Some demonstrators were non-violent. Others deliberately provoked the police.

FRANK SULLIVAN (Chicago Police Spokesperson)

These people are revolutionaries bent on the destruction of the government of the United States of America. They're a pitiful handful. They have almost no support. But by golly, they get the cooperation of the news media. They're built into something really big. Gentlemen, the hardcore leadership of this group are Communist.

ROBERT GARVER (Chicago Policeman)

So I told my partner, I says, "Grab your club and jump out swingin' before they tip us because we'd sooner fight than roast." So we jumped out, or I should say I jumped out first, and he stayed in the wagon and called for help. We got out, I grabbed one, I hit another one down, and then somebody grabbed me from the rear and flung me into the crowd, and these dirty hippy son of a so-and-so's, they called me a mother-hunchin' so-and-so, and a white fascist

...They said, "You're gettin' some of your own medicine."

 

And then some citizen -- I don't know who he was, but I wish I could find out -- he stopped his car and jumped out with a little pinch bar, and he started helpin' us, otherwise I think they'd have either killed me or crippled me more than what I am.

NARRATOR

Amid the violence, talk of peace.

VICE PRESIDENT HUBERT HUMPHREY

Six months ago in Vietnam, the only alternative before us was force -- or withdrawal. And I think that withdrawal would be totally unrealistic and would be a catastrophe. The second alternative which I now speak of is the confer-ence in Paris. The negotiations are underway. They're not making a great deal of progress, but they are underway. Now we've been seeking to get those negotiations for years.

The roadblock to peace, my dear friend, is not in Washington, D.C. It is in Hanoi, and we ought to recognize it as such.

NARRATOR

Over four days and nights, sporadic battles in the streets were echoed by angry debates on the war inside the convention hall.

PAUL O'DWYER (NY Delegate): It is altogether too late here for us to begin to

discuss the merits of the war in Vietnam. That

question has been presented to seven million

Democrats across this nation. That question was

presented in the states where there are primaries.

And the people have found an indictment of that

war.

NY DELEGATES ON FLOOR: We want peace now! We want peace now!

PETERSON (Delegate): Most delegates to this convention do not know that

thousands of young people are being beaten in the streets

of Chicago.

CARL ALBERT: Wisconsin is not recognized for that purpose!

JOHN CHANCELLOR

The interesting thing was that the size of the protest against the war became so large that it was impossible to avoid it as a news story. A lot of people say we were manipulated by that. I don't think so. We had learned to avoid manipulation and we were simply responding to masses and masses of people. If you think of the 1968 Democratic convention and the fighting on Michigan Avenue in Chicago between hundreds and hundreds, perhaps thousands of demon-strators, it was a story of inescapable news value. It had to be covered.

NARRATOR

The demonstrators were trying to march on the convention hall without a police permit. Blocked they sat down in the street.

CBS NEWS FILM

SPECTATOR: I've never seen anything as horrible in my whole life!

CROWD: The whole world is watching!

WOMAN: "We shall overcome. We shall overcome."

CROWD: The victory is ours! The victory is ours! The victory is ours!

JOHN CHANCELLOR

And I remember Walter Mears of the Associated Press writing a lead the night that Hubert Humphrey received the Democratic nomination at that convention. And he wrote something like, "Hubert Humphrey, a man of peace, received the Democratic nomination tonight under armed guard."

JERRY RUBIN (Youth International Party)

It would have been impossible to hold the Democratic National Convention in any city in the United States, or throughout the world, without demonstrations or disruption. Daley's right on this point. Chicago just happened to be the city. It would have been impossible to hold it anywhere. Because the Demo-cratic party has blood on its hands. And because there's a struggle going on in the world today between young people and between those old, menopausal men who run this country. And it's a struggle about what the future of this country is about.

SAM BROWN

Well, Chicago was a sort of sad time, because we'd been involved in the politics and the process of talking to people, and going out and talking door to door. What was quite clear was that a great many of the American people in fact were sympathetic to the anti-war movement. And yet suddenly the image that they got was not of this nice young person coming to their door and saying, "Wouldn't you like to vote for Gene McCarthy," but of people shouting obscenities and disrupting the city.

DAVID DELLINGER

But it weakened the anti-war movement around the edges at least, and that became, the edges became what Richard Nixon played on.

NARRATOR

The Republican candidate delivered a familiar campaign message to Chicagoans a week after the Democrats went home.

RICHARD NIXON, 1968

My friends, let me make one thing clear. This is a nation of laws, and as Abraham Lincoln has said, no one is above the law, no one is below the law, and we're going to enforce the law. And Americans should remember that, if we're going to have law and order.

NARRATOR

Handicapped by his support of Johnson's war policies, Humphrey had trouble taking the offensive.

AUGUST 1968

HECKLERS: Dump the Hump! Dump the Hump!

HUBERT HUMPHREY: I believe the Republican candidate owes it to the people to come out of the shadows.

HECKLERS: Boo!

HUBERT HUMPHREY: Would you mind bringing your television camera down here? You

fellow do an awful lot to promote that with that camera. Come

on here, will you? Knock it off, will you please?

NARRATOR

While Humphrey tried to separate himself from Johnson, Nixon lumped them together in attacks on the administration's record.

RICHARD NIXON, October 1968

Let me tell you what those four years have done to America. The longest war that America's ever had in its history; The worst crime wave we've ever had in our history; The highest taxes we've ever had in our history; The highest raise in the cost of living that we've had in a generation. And the lowest respect for the United States of America in our history.

HUBERT HUMPHREY

Let America know that we can't be taken for granted. We're going to have the biggest election surprise that America has known in 20 years. We're going to win this election. Thank you very much!

NARRATOR

It was not to be. Humphrey's campaign took off when he called for a U.S. peace initiative, and it accelerated when Johnson declared a bombing halt. But Nixon, promising to end the war with honor, won by a slender margin.

NIXON INAUGURATION, January 20, 1969

You, Richard Milhaus Nixon do solemnly swear.

I, Richard Milhaus Nixon do solemnly swear.

NARRATOR

The "honeymoon" period traditionally granted a new president was charged with the expectation that Nixon would unveil a plan to end the war. But during the first six months of 1969, U.S. casualties were high.

Life magazine published portraits of GI's killed in a single week.

And week after week, every Thursday night, network news viewers saw the body counts.

HENRY KISSINGER (National Security Adviser)

I entered government with a conviction that one could create a large con-sensus behind a reasonable program, which would then impress Hanoi with our determination to be both conciliatory, but also to indicate the limits of our conciliatoriness. That objective we never achieved, because the moderate groups always felt they had to be a step ahead of the administration.

DEMONSTRATORS, Newton, Kansas, October 1969

This protest is directed not toward the young men, American or Vietnamese who have fought and died...

SAM BROWN

The notion of the moratorium was a pretty straightforward one, which was that we had to take the anti-war movement off the campus and build it back into the community. That meant you had to have language that was moderate and not strident and off-putting, that you had to have people -- events, which moderate people could participate in, it had to be locally organized so that people knew the people who were organizing it, sort of head-land folks had to feel that it belonged to them.

FAIRFIELD, CONNECTICUT, October 1969

STUDENT #1: But there's going to be a wake of deaths.

STUDENT #2: There are millions of government officials in all these little

towns that support the United States.

STUDENT #3: But the problem is, that most of South Vietnam support the

Vietcong.

NARRATOR

In Washington, the moratorium drew 50,000. Over one million participated nationwide.

North Vietnam's Premier Pham Van Dong sent a message of friendship to the organizers.

VICE PRESIDENT SPIRO AGNEW, October 1969

And this message from a Communist regime in North Vietnam is a shocking intrusion into the affairs of the American people by an enemy power. I think the leaders of the demonstrations are chargeable with the knowledge of this communication, and responsible to the extent that they must make perfectly clear what these demonstrations are for.

NARRATOR

At the same time, supporters of the government staged counter demonstrations.

NARRATOR

The moratorium ended with candlelight ceremonies in Washington and elsewhere.

BLONDE

All I wanted to say was, that I am for peace. That I'm not exactly sure how it should come about. But I'm saying that because I want peace, I'm standing here, I'm marching, I'm holding my candle.

RAY PRICE (Aide to President Nixon)

What the protestors did not know, could not know, and what most others did not know, was that for months, Nixon had been privately warning Hanoi that November 1 was their deadline. That is, the first anniversary of the Johnson bombing halt, which had produced nothing from North Vietnam. That unless they were ready to negotiate seriously, and showed us that they were by November 1, they would bear some very heavy, unstated consequences. With the implication that these would be military. Now, Hanoi was a diligent reader of U.S. public opinion and of U.S. demonstrations. Nixon was very worried that the October 15 moratorium, just two weeks before this deadline that he had privately given Hanoi, would be seen by them as evidence that he could not deliver.

PRESIDENT NIXON, November 3, 1969

So tonight, to you, the great, silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support. I pledged in my campaign for the presidency to end the war in a way that we could win the peace. I have initiated a plan of action which will enable me to keep that pledge. The more support I can have from the American people, the sooner that pledge can be redeemed. For the more divided we are at home, the less likely the enemy is to negotiate at Paris. Let us be united for peace. Let us also be united against defeat. Because let us understand, North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.

HENRY KISSINGER

The majority of the population on the whole supported the administration, so there was a conflict, strangely enough, between what the elite was thinking and what the general public was thinking. It was not that the anti-war move-ment ever achieved a majority, but when 30 percent of the population and many of those who write for the media and speak publicly, oppose a given cause, confusion is inevitable.

NARRATOR

Though Nixon had started major troop withdrawals from Vietnam, mid-November brought another, larger protest to Washington, called the "Mobilization." Vice President Agnew took a tough line.

SPIRO AGNEW, November 1969

The American who relies upon television for his news might conclude that the majority of American students are embittered radicals. That the majority of black Americans feel no regard for their country.

MOBILIZATION DEMONSTRATORS

One, two, three, four, Tricky Dick, stop the war!

SPIRO AGNEW

That violence and lawlessness are the rule, rather than the exception, on the American campus. We know that none of these conclusions is true. Perhaps the place to start looking for a credibility gap is not in the offices of the government in Washington, but in the studios of the networks in New York!

JOHN CHANCELLOR

After the Agnew attack -- I'm a pretty careful reader of the newspapers and I was then a contributing editor to the Huntley/Brinkley report -- I used to go around saying to people when they would say: well, what's your reaction to Agnew, I would say, well, a good journalist, when he gets into a serious subject, always thinks twice before using certain words, and I said then, and I believe now, that we were thinking thrice.

MOBILIZATION ORGANIZER, November 1969

Members of the press, just so you know now. All these people are going to form outside on the sidewalk. And they'll stand there for a number of minutes for you to take pictures, if you want to, ask questions. They'll then proceed very slowly across the bridge for more pictures and questions. On the other side of the bridge they will not speak to you. Thank you.

SPIRO AGNEW

How many marches and demonstrations would we have if the marchers did not know that the ever-faithful TV cameras would be there to record their antics for the next news...

NARRATOR

Amid arguments whether peace protests lengthened or shortened the war in Vietnam, the war in America was a continuing story.

After the Mobilization, another shock -- Life published pictures of Vietnamese peasants massacred in 1968 by U.S. soldiers in a village called My Lai.

The trial of Lt. William Calley and others implicated in the My Lai massacre haunted the news for months. Only Calley was convicted, in a swirl of contro-versy. Was he scapegoat or war criminal? Was the massacre an isolated case or a common occurrence? Had draft inequities hurt the morale of the Army?

The Nixon Administration reduced draft calls and instituted a lottery, which was meant to be more fair and more predictable. Men whose birthdates came up with low numbers knew that they would soon hear from their draft boards.

JAMES FALLOWS

I was coming back into Boston and I heard that my birthdate, August 2, had come up as number 45 in the draft list. And suddenly I realized that this was something that I had to figure what to do about as I had not really thought I would have to. The course I ended up choosing, and again, that was in the spirit of those times, was to look for the painless way out, namely a physical deferment. And with a combination of just generalized anxiety and with determination to get out, I lost about ten pounds over the next few months.

NARRATOR

Helped by a sympathetic doctor, Fallows succeeded in failing his physical.

JAMES FALLOWS

Near the end of the induction day as the people from Cambridge were getting ready to go back in to their new lives, the buses started arriving from a white working class district of Boston. And while nine out of ten of my comrades from Harvard and MIT were getting out with their doctors' excuses, the same proportion of people from this part of town were, were marching right through, were going off to the military, were going off to he war. Nobody could avoid recognizing what that meant then. We knew that while we were not going to war, we were seeing the people who were...We were seeing the people who were, were going to be killed.

STEVE BELL, ABC NEWS REPORTER, April 1970

The military command post, just across this road, is outside the town of Ghoda, only a few miles from the Cambodian border. As best we can tell, this is the South Vietnamese Command Post for the operation into the Cambodian Parrots Beak. But the strictest kind of security is being enforced here, even to the point where the one American adviser we've seen warned us not to ask questions.

NARRATOR

The same night this story was broadcast on the evening news, President Nixon went on television to announce that he was sending American troops into Cambodia to fight the Vietnamese Communists.

PRESIDENT NIXON, April 30, 1970

If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world. It is not our power, but our will and character that is being tested tonight. The question all Americans must ask and answer tonight is this: does the richest and strongest nation in the history of the world have the character to meet a direct challenge by a group which rejects every effort to win a just peace, ignores our warning, tramples on solemn agree-ments, violates the neutrality of an unarmed people, and uses our prisoners as hostages?

RAY PRICE

I don't think he meant it to have an inflammatory effect, but it did, and it sent the country into a spasm of hysteria which then was greatly exacerbated a few days later when four students were killed at Kent State.

NARRATOR

On the night of May 2, the Kent State ROTC hall was put to the torch. Two days later, students confronted Ohio National Guardsmen. Some guardsmen fired into the crowd. Four students were killed. Student protests erupted on hundreds of campuses. Many shut down.

PRESIDENT NIXON, May 1, 1970

You know, you see these bums, you know, blowin' up the campuses. Listen, the boys that are on the college campuses today are the luckiest people in the world.

NARRATOR

Nixon's earlier comment on student protests had been widely reported.

PRESIDENT NIXON

And here they are, burning up the books. Storming around about this issue, I mean, you name it, get rid of the war, they'll be another one.

HENRY KISSINGER

Nixon's handling of the anti-war movement was not generous, and contributed to the polarization of our society. Nixon, when challenged politically, tended to react with certain gut feelings, and he never found the language of respect and compassion which might have bridged -- creatd a bridge at least -- to the more reasonable elements of the anti-war movement, so that civil war conditions developed.

CONSTRUCTION WORKER, May 1970

I got a family, my boy went into the army when he was 18 years old and a day. Suppose they come over and take over the country. What are you going to do then if you don't back up your own president? And I don't care who's president, we back him up. And that's what all the working men do. They love the flag of this country. And they live here. And they're going to do everything they can to protect it.

ABC NEWS

This week straight from the heartland.

NARRATOR

Television covered the conflict in the cities and on occasion it turned to what ABC News Don Farmer termed the "heartland."

DON FARMER: There are many towns and counties like this one, and these people

make up an important segment of American society, but too often

their voices seem to get lost amidst the clamor from our urban

centers, and so ABC News came here to Grand Island to listen.

MAN IN THE STREET: Well, we voted Nixon in as our president and we have to go

along with his judgement.

WOMAN IN THE STREET: I think probably we do have closed minds of, for a lot of

things. We are going by the old rules and regulations and

we haven't advanced, and I have two children in college

now and they're for this moratorium and all this, and

very very concerned with the Cambodia situation.

YOUNG WOMAN W/FLAG: One of the reasons I bought the flag is because I have a

brother-in-law that's fighting in Vietnam right now, and I

feel this is one way that I can tell my feelings about

what he's doing over there and show some kind of support.

Another reason is because I want my sons to grow up with

a respect for the United States flag, and I feel if they

see it flown here every day that they will get this

respect.

NARRATOR

The heartland remained conservative. But some Americans were coming back from Vietnam with changed perspectives. One of them was Lt. John Kerry, here filmed in the Mekong delta with his own 8 millimeter camera.

JOHN KERRY

A typical mission really didn't have any sense to it. The logic that was explained to us by the command in Vietnam was that we were quote, "showing the flag in the back yard of the enemy." There were people who believed, there were people who believed that we were fighting communism and that this was terrific and it was important, and who were all swept up in it. But I think most people did not. Most people began to see that we weren't gaining any territory, we weren't winning the hearts and minds of anybody, we certainly weren't securing any particular stronghold or strategic objectives, we were simply doing a very macho kind of public demonstration of our presence.

People did not listen to the veterans of the war. The press itself had diffi-culty in perceiving of a group of Vietnam veterans being opposed to the war. And that it was a story of profound importance, why the war itself was wrong. And why we were not going to be successful, and why we had to recognize that. We just felt that story had to be told, and the only way to tell it was to take it to Washington in that form.

VIETNAM VETERANS DEMONSTRATION, April 1971

VETERAN

I volunteered for the whole thing. Volunteered to go into the service. Volunteered for Vietnam. Volunteered for every single mission I went on.

I was there ten days and I was in Cambodia. You people don't know that. I was in Cambodia with orders. Talk to veterans. They're here all week. Talk to them. They'll tell you things you won't believe.

The House on American Activities Committee has rated our organization the third greatest threat to internal security in this country. Right after the Weathermen and the Black Panthers. Ladies and gentlemen, you know, I did it. You know? I did it because I'm an American. I haven't changed. My politics have changed in that I'm not willing to take it anymore. But, I am still non-violent. I still believe in this system. I'm still visiting my senator.

WOMAN

A lot of taxes goes to support just what you're doing today. I wish you'd get out and get a job and work!

VETERAN ON CAPITOL STEPS

I'm from upstate New York. And I'd like to turn in my Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. I lost my leg in Vietnam, and I'm totally opposed to this war we're carrying on over there. And Senator Buckley and Congressman James Hanley will receive my medals next week in the mail.

NARRATOR

One by one, decorated veterans flung away their medals on the steps of the Capitol. The American war was winding down, GI casualties were decreasing, but those veterans who opposed the war were asking for something more than an end to hostilities.

SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMM. HEARING, April 1971, Lt. John Kerry

We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped their memories of us. And so, 30 years from now, our brothers go down the street, without a leg, without an arm, or a face, and small boys ask "Why," we will be able to say "Vietnam," and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but mean instead, the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning.

NARRATOR

Across America, thousands of families by now were visiting the gravesites of their children killed in Vietnam. And millions of Americans were sharing their losses.

FAMILY AT GRAVE

Our father, who art in heaven...Hail Mary, full of grace...in his memory.


CREDITS

Produced by ELIZABETH DEANE

Co-Produced by MARILYN HORNBECK MELLOWES

Teleplay by
RICHARD ELLISON
MARILYN HORNBECK MELLOWES

Story by ELIZABETH DEANE

Film Editor MAVIS LYONS SMULL

Narrator WILL LYMAN

Film Research
MAVIS LYONS SMULL
KAY MATSCHULLAT
DANIEL EISENBERG

Assistant Editor JOHN WAITE

Camera
KEVIN BURKE
DICK DURRANCE
JON ELSE
BOYD ESTUS
WAYNE MILLER
JOE VITAGLIANO

Sound Recordists
ALLAN BYER
VIC IORILLO
JOHN OSBORNE
BRENDA REISBERG
NELSON STOLL
THOMAS VOIGHT

Assistant Camera
MAUREEN FAHEY
CLAYTON GASKEL
BARBARA HANANIA
PETER THOMAS
DICK WILLIAMS

Post Production Assistant ALISON SMITH

Sound Effects CINESOUND EFFECTS LIBRARY, UK

Music Composed by
MICKEY HART
BILLY KREUTZMANN

Sound Editor DANIEL EISENBERG

Assistant Sound Editor CHARLES SCOTT

Sound Mixer FRANK CUNNINGHAM

Film Archives
AKRON BEACON JOURNAL
BOSTON HERALD AMERICAN
CBS NEWS
JOHN FILO
JOHN KERRY
LIFE MAGAZINE
LYNDON B. JOHNSON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY
METROMEDIA PRODUCERS CORPORATION
NATIONAL ARCHIVES, UNIVERSITY NEWSREEL
COLLECTION
PAUL RONDER MEMORIAL TRUST
SHERMAN GRINBERG LIBRARIES, INC.
PAUL TOPLE
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
HENRY USHIJIMA
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE

Excerpts from HOMETOWN: 1967 provided by WNET/Thirteen, New York

Special thanks to ABC NEWS

Film Archivist KENN RABIN

Additional Research SUZANNE GOLDSMITH

Animation Camera
EDWARD T. JOYCE
RITA NEIMAN

Unit Production Manager JAN LANGMACK

Post Production Supervisor CYNTHIA MEAGHER KUHN

Publicity SARA ALTHERR

Titles and Graphic Design CHRIS PULLMAN

Video Enhancement AUBREY STEWART

Music Performed by
VIC FIRTH
MICKEY HART
ZAKIR HUSSAIN
BILLY KREUTZMANN
AIRTO MOREIRA
MERL SAUNDERS
BOBBY VEGA

Music Recorded by PHIL KAFFEL

Director of Media Research LAWRENCE LICHTY

Chief Correspondent STANLEY KARNOW

Executive Producer RICHARD ELLISON

A co-production of WGBH Boston with Central Independent Television, UK, Antenne-2, France in association with LRE Productions


For The American Experience

Coordinating Producer DANIEL McCABE

Executive Producer MARGARET DRAIN

Major funding for the series was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television stations, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Additional funding was provided by the George D. Smith Fund, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This program was originally broadcast on PBS on October 4, 1983.

THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
is a production of WGBH/Boston.

© 1983, 1997 WGBH Educational Foundation

==

VIETNAM: A Television History
The End of the Tunnel (1973-1975)
Transcript


VIETNAM: A Television History is a 13-part documentary film series produced for public television by WGBH Boston, in cooperation with Central Independent Television/United Kingdom, and Antenne-2/France, and in association with LRE Productions. A six year project from conception to completion, the series carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of war in Vietnam for everyone involved, beginning with early history, through the French colonial period, and up to the fall of Saigon and unification of the country in 1975. Executive producer Richard Ellison, chief correspondent Stanley Karnow, and Director of Media Research Lawrence Lichty, with some 60 consultants and four production units, comprised the production team, centered at WGBH in Boston. Its members garnered hundreds of interviews, researched 70 film archives worldwide, and traveled the length of Vietnam to create perhaps the most exhaustive historical documentary series in television history.

NARRATOR

Saigon. April 29, 1975.

Two years after a cease-fire agreement promised peace in Vietnam; ten years after America sent combat troops into its longest war; twenty years after an international conference divided Vietnam; thirty years after the Communists launched their struggle for Vietnam's independence.

After a generation of battle, Hanoi's commanding general proclaimed their Great Spring Victory.

Finally, for America, it was the end of the tunnel.

PRESIDENT NIXON, January 23, 1973

A cease-fire, internationally supervised, will begin at 7:00 pm this Saturday, January 27, Washington time. Within 60 days from this Saturday, all Americans held prisoners of war throughout Indochina will be released. There will be the fullest possible accounting for all of those who are missing in action. During the same 60-day period, all American forces will be withdrawn from South Vietnam. The people of South Vietnam have been guaranteed the right to determine their own future.

CAPT. DO CUONG (Army of South Vietnam)

We are absolutely furious about the agreement. It was an injustice -- more of a death sentence for us than a peace agreement. We had never seen anything more illogical. It called for the withdrawal of only the American forces and not the withdrawal of other foreign troops, such as the Vietnamese Communists.

NARRATOR

The South Vietnamese government greeted the Paris Accords with a defiant display of flags.

The red and yellow banners were put out as symbols of loyalty on orders of the Saigon regime which had signed the agreement under intense pressure from President Nixon.

In the countryside, a checkerboard of flags -- often within sight of one another -- marked the territory of the opposing sides.

The agreement left Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces in the zones they controlled in the South, awaiting a political compromise. The Communists wel-comed the agreement as recognition of their legitimacy. They did not see themselves as aggressors -- to them, the Americans had been the aggressors.

COL. BUI TIN (Army of North Vietnam)

We always trained our soldiers to love their country, and to hate aggressors. We were not invading any country, and we were determined to prevent any country from invading us and trampling on the land of our ancestors.

NARRATOR

Both sides knew the struggle was not over. Two huge armies, one equipped by America, the other by the Soviet Union, stood poised head-to-head over a battered and exhausted land.

NARRATOR

At Arlington National Cemetery on February 5, Lt. Col. William Nolde was buried. On the list of Americans killed in Vietnam, he was number 57,597.

MINISTER (Funeral of Co. Wm. Nolde, Arlington National Cemetery)

May they receive strength at your promises of eternal life. Finally, may we continue to serve unselfishly for the ideals of freedom and peace, for which he sacrificed his life.

NARRATOR

Whatever their views of the war, most Americans now believed that the cost had been too great, and the greatest cost had been American lives. They believed that no more Americans should die for Vietnam.

A few days later, the American prisoners of war began to come home from Hanoi. They were the center of a month-long celebration, their homecoming played and replayed on national television. The last American fighting men were out of Vietnam.

But America was still committed to South Vietnam. At San Clemente in April, President Nixon publicly restated his support for South Vietnam's President Thieu.

PRESIDENT NIXON, April 1973

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. As our joint communique indicates, President Thieu and I have had very constructive talks with regard to how we shall work together in the years ahead -- working for the program of peace which we now hope will all be the wave of the future, not only for the Republic of Vietnam, but for all the countries in Indochina. Mr. President, we have been allies in a long and difficult war. And now you can be sure that we stand with you as we continue to work together to build a lasting peace.

NARRATOR

Nixon also renewed a secret pledge to Thieu: he would "respond with full force" if the Communists broke the cease-fire. Thieu expected American air power to save him. But Nixon's own power was under attack in Washington.

SENATOR ERVIN, Watergate Hearings, 1973

We are beginning these hearings today in an atmosphere of utmost gravity. The questions that have been raised in the wake of the June 17 break-in strike at the very undergirding of our democracy. The first phase of the committee's investigation will probe the planning and execution of the wire-tapping and break-in of the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate complex.

NARRATOR

Watergate was undermining the Nixon presidency. Televised hearings revealed the depth of the scandal, linking it in a complex tangle to Vietnam, and to Nixon's covert actions against the anti-war movement.

JOHN DEAN (Former White House Aide), Watergate Hearings, 1973

The White House was continually seeking intelligence information about demonstration leaders and their supporters that would either discredit them personally or indicate that the demonstration was in fact sponsored by some foreign enemy. We never found a scintilla of viable evidence indicating that these demonstrators were part of a master plan.

JOHN EHRLICHMAN (Former White House Aide), Watergate Hearings, 1973

Some of these events in 1969 and 1970 included intensive harassment of political candidates and violent street demonstrations which endangered life and property. Taken as isolated incidents, these events were serious. Taken as a part of an apparent campaign to force upon the President a foreign policy favorable to the North Vietnamese and their allies, these demonstrations were more than just garden variety exercises of the First Amendment.

JOHN DEAN

I believe that most anyone who worked at the White House during the past four years can attest to the concern that prevailed regarding leaks, any and all leaks. That concern too a quantum leap when The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers in June of 1971.

PRESIDENT NIXON, Speech to Former POWs, May 24, 1973

Had we not had secrecy, had we not had secret negotiations with the North Vietnamese, had we not had secret negotiations prior to the Soviet summit, had we not had secret negotiations over a period of time with the Chinese leaders, let me say quite bluntly there would have been no China initiative, there would have been no limitations of arms for the Soviet Union and no summit. And had we not had that kind of security and that kind of secrecy that allowed for the kind of exchange that is essential, you men would still be in Hanoi, rather than Washington today. And let me say I think it is time in this country to quit making national heroes out of those who steal secrets and publish them in the newspapers.

HENRY KISSINGER (National Security Adviser)

After June 1973 I did not believe that the cease-fire would hold. Watergate was in full swing. We had already acquired intelligence documents in which the North Vietnamese had made the very correct analysis that Nixon would not be in a position to repeat what he had done in 1972, because of his domestic diffi-culties. The Congressional agitation to end all military activities in Southeast Asia was already in full force, and every day a new amendment was being proposed. So it was just a question of time until one of them would pass, and Le Duc Tho would read them to me.

NARRATOR

Nixon and Kissinger were convinced that only the threat of American intervention would deter the Communists from rapidly taking over the South.

In June 1973, as the Watergate scandal continued to weaken Nixon, Kissinger initiated a new round of talks with Le Duc Tho, the chief Communist negotiator. The two put their signatures on a renewed cease-fire agreement.

But with the prestige of his presidency waning, Nixon lacked the power to stand firm in Vietnam, even though the anti-war demonstrators had dwindled to a dedicated few.

DEMONSTRATORS, ANTI-WAR DEMONSTRATION, Washington, D.C., August, 1973

We shall live in peace...

We shall live in peace someday...

NARRATOR

He had ended the draft and brought the troops home. Despite the continued bombing of Cambodia, to most Americans the war was finished.

Nixon's opposition now centered in Congress, which moved to limit his actions in Southeast Asia.

SEN. HUBERT HUMPHREY, June 1973

The Cambodia bombing is illegal. I think it violates the President's powers under the Constitution. It is ineffective and it is immoral. And yet the President stubbornly pursues it -- ignoring the will of the Congress as ex-pressed in votes and ignoring the will of the American people as measured by every public opinion sampling.

NARRATOR

On August 15, 1973, American bombers completed their final wartime mission over Indochina. The bombing cutoff was the first decisive step Congress had taken to end the war. The South Vietnamese army, resupplied with American weapons, held its own through the rest of 1973. But some of Thieu's officers were worried that they would lose their momentum without the Americans.

GEN. PHAN PHUNG TIEN (South Vietnamese Air Force)

When we expressed our concerns to President Thieu, he replied that he agreed with us. But he explained that the Americans had no choice -- they had to keep their armed forces out of the Vietnam quagmire. But he promised that the Americans would punish any Communist violations -- and we believed him.

NARRATOR

Late in 1973, President Thieu announced the start of the "Third Indochina War," launching an air and ground offensive against the Communists. Thieu saw no alternative to war. He was convinced that the political compromise called for in the agreement would lead to a Communist takeover.

He was determined to fight on, believing that America still stood behind him. The new U.S. ambassador, Graham Martin, encouraged Thieu's confidence in America. Some members of Martin's staff disagreed.

FRANK SNEPP (CIA Analyst)

There was Martin, encouraging Thieu to believe that aid would -- that the cornucopia would be there always; that there would be continuing aid from the United States, even, again B-52s. And he encouraged Thieu to accept this, and as I've said before, Thieu believed it with such conviction that he decided not to retrench, not to pull back until it was so -- much too late.

NARRATOR

In Washington, Congress was now on the offensive.

REP. PETER RODINO, July 24, 1974

We have reached a moment when we are ready to debate resolutions whether or not the committee on the Judiciary should recommend that the House of Representatives adopt articles calling for the impeachment of Richard M. Nixon...

COMMITTEE VOTES:

Mr. Danielson AYE

Mr.Drinan AYE

Mr. Rangle AYE

Miss Jordan AYE

Mr. Smith NO

Mr. Sandman NO

Mr. Railsback AYE

Mr. Rodino AYE

PRESIDENT NIXON, August 1974

To fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress. Therefore, I shall resign the presidency, effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour, in this office.

GERALD FORD

Almost immediately after becoming President in August of 1974, I wrote the heads of state of all of our allies, including President Thieu of Vietnam. It was a general letter, but I specifically indicated that I as President, would carry out the policy of my predecessors involving South Vietnam.

BUI DIEM (Ambassador at Large)

Mr. Thieu brought the letter written by President Ford then, and he read the letter to the whole cabinet meeting in Saigon, and it was quite a strong effect on all those people over there and they thought that, well, even if Mr. Nixon resigned, they can still believe on a commitment from the U.S. to help South Vietnam.

NARRATOR

By August of 1974, the military balance had begun to shift against President Thieu.

His troops were thinly spread. They no longer had American air support. The American military advisers were gone.

Congress had reduced aid, and South Vietnam also suffered from soaring oil prices after the 1973 Middle East war.

Gasoline was tightly rationed. Ammunition was scarce. Helicopters lacked spare parts and maintenance, and troop deployment by truck was slow and cumbersome.

FRANK SNEPP

In addition, there was the problem of corruption, the siphoning off of material destined to troops in the field. The U.s. establishment in Saigon never had a very good grasp on the subject of corruption because it was, from an intelligence standpoint, strictly off-limits, something verboten.

We, of course, realized that if the South Vietnamese looked anything but pristine pure, the U.S. Congress would not vote any additional aid to Saigon.

NARRATOR

Some South Vietnamese officers and government officials grew rich by selling stolen gasoline and other supplies. Pilots sometimes demanded bribes to evacuate wounded soldiers.

COL. WILLIAM LEGRO

When the military budget was so drastically reduced, the so-called one-time use bandages and syringes for the use of medical drugs, and blood bags, and that sort of thing for transfusions, those were gone. They had to wash the bandages. I don't know what they did for blood bags. Their medical support, which had been pretty good, was getting very, very grim.

NARRATOR

More than 31,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died in 1974 -- their highest number for any year except 1972.

GEN. TRAN VAN NHUT (Army of South Vietnam)

The Americans instilled in the Vietnamese soldiers and officers the American way to fight a war. Then, when the Americans withdrew and the supplies reduced, it was only natural that the morale and the combat effectiveness of the troops had to change for the worse.

NARRATOR

The Americans had spent lavishly in Vietnam. At Camranh Bay they built a two billion dollar deepwater port. Now, homeless Vietnamese improvised shelters out of its deserted barracks and clubs.

Aid had been cut, and the bombing stopped, but Thieu still counted on pledges from two U.S. Presidents, and from Ambassador Martin. Like many Vietnamese, he could not believe the U.S. would abandon its enormous investment in Vietnam.

In Hanoi in October 1974, North Vietnamese leaders reached a different con-clusion. General Van Tien Dung, a senior strategist, was present.

GEN. DUNG

During this meeting, we reached an important conclusion. The American imperi-alists had already withdrawn their troops from the southern part of Vietnam, and it would be very difficult for them to return. Therefore, no matter how much aid they gave the Saigon regime, they could not prevent the collapse of that regime.

NARRATOR (North Vietnamese Film)

After 30 years of almost continuous war, the Communists' dream of a reunified Vietnam seemed within reach. This North Vietnamese film depicts the beginning of the 1975 campaign, commanded by General Dung.

More than 100,000 fresh troops moved down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, now a modern truck route. They massed in Communist-held areas in the South.

Crack units attacked the province of Phuoc Long and easily took its capital city. They were probing -- testing America's reaction.

Thieu renewed his appeal for U.S. aid.

PRES. THIEU, January 31, 1975

What we need is to have enough means not only to sustain the current situa-tion, but as long as the Communists sustain the momentum of their offensive, I think we still need the means to defend ourselves.

NARRATOR

Backing Thieu, President Ford and Ambassador Martin affirmed that America had a moral responsibility to South Vietnam.

REP. PETE MCCLOSKEY

The Ford Administration was then trying to get Congress to vote more money for Vietnam and Cambodia, and a number of us went to Vietnam and Cambodia in late February and early March to try to appraise the situation to test against what Martin had been saying, what the reality was.

Graham Martin, the ambassador, and his station chief were incapable of giving a fair appraisal to a visiting team of Congressmen. They were so emotionally wrapped up in the desire to save South Vietnam. Martin was saying, "The Viet-namese can stand, all you got to do is give 'em more ammunition and more equipment."

NARRATOR

The delegation concluded that South Vietnam had received enough American aid. It would now have to fight alone.

At the same time, General Dung deployed three divisions encircling the city of Banmethuot, in South Vietnam's Central Highlands. He was confident that the Americans would not intervene, but he still expected that it would take two years to defeat Thieu's forces. He moved carefully.

NGO MINH KHA

In order to allow the tanks to go in, the artillery units shelled steadily for about two days so that the enemy would not be able to hear the rumbling noise of the tanks.

NARRATOR

Dung also staged several diversionary attacks around Pleiku, another highland city.

The South Vietnamese were lured into defending Pleiku, weakening Banmethuot's defenses. As they left, Dung's troops moved.

NGUYEN CONG THANH (Army of North Vietnam)

Our unit reached the outskirts of Banmethuot at four o'clock on the afternoon of March 9, 1975. We made camp, rested, ate, and prepared for the next days' attack against the city. We were ordered to fight the enemy at close range -- to "cling to their belts," as we put it.

NARRATOR

Within two days, Dung's superior forces had overwhelmed Banmethuot.

GEN. PHAN PHUNG TIEN

My own air force unit transported two regiments of special forces to Pleiku in order to retake Banmethuot. But to our complete surprise, on the 14th there was an order to withdraw from Pleiku. Nobody could believe it.

NARRATOR

President Thieu made a crucial decision. He ordered his forces to abandon the northern and central provinces and form a new line of defense further south.

But, hoping to avoid panic, he did not announce the withdrawal or reveal his plans. As the rumors flew, fear spread. Nobody knew what to believe and nobody wanted to be left behind.

KENNETY MOOREFIELD (U.S. Embassy Aide)

During the withdrawal, the air force, obviously, was using their airplanes to get out any way they could. Mixed in with all of this, as if it wasn't complicated enough, was the panic-stricken flight of tens of thousands of civilians and dependents. In many instances the military forces up there had their own families living with them in the Kontum-Pleiku area, and that meant they had to be extremely concerned about the protection and survival of their own families at a time when they were attempting to retreat whatever their forces were remaining back to the coast.

GEN. PHAN PHUNG TIEN (South Vietnamese Air Force)

Banmethuot fell, but the government said nothing. We only learned about the withdrawal from Pleiku from rumors. The administration issued no official announcements at all. Because of that silence, people stopped believing in the government.

NARRATOR

The official silence panicked the population. Within days, thousands of civilians were streaming toward the coastal city of Danang, desperately seeking safety.

The Communist leaders, surprised by the Saigon army's disintegration, now moved swiftly. They set a deadline: victory before the rainy season bogged down their troops.

Dung's forces closed in on Danang.

SERGEANT THO HANG (Army of South Vietnam)

The BBC and VOA broadcasts said that Danang was about to fall, and that news further spread panic among us soldiers. Our officers had fled. We talked things over among ourselves, and then decided: Let's go home.

NARRATOR

By March 21, 100,000 refugees, many of them troops and their families, had crowded into Danang. Some soldiers put their wives and children aboard ships headed for safer areas in the South. Many failed to get out.

AMERICAN WOMAN, March 1975

The soldiers here are confused, as you walk down the street, you see soldiers with no shoes, just staring into space. There's a -- I thin panic is a word that describes very well what's happening in Danang. We've heard that a plane ticket now to Saigon is over 100,000 piastres if you can afford it, and of course that means that the rich leave and they take all their belongings.

SERGEANT THO HANG

None of the civilian and military planes could land at the Danang airport because every time they approach, crowds chase them in jeeps or motorscooters trying to get on the planes to go to Saigon.

NARRATOR

A World Airways jet with company president Ed Daley aboard made a perilous landing at Danang.

Daley was flying one last rescue mission, against official American advice. He wanted to save women and children first, but desperate soldiers jammed into the airplane. They scrambled into the baggage compartment and clung to the stairway as the plane took off.

It was the last American flight out of Danang.

NARRATOR

On the 30th of March, General Dung's forces captured Danang, sweeping across the vast air base where the first U.S. ground forces had landed in 1965. For one of his military camera team, Danang was home.

THU VAN

I arrived there on the 31st, the day after liberation. Along the road I saw many corpses of Saigon troops. Their weapons and uniforms, which they had stripped off, were strewn all over the place. As we entered the city of Danang, we encountered a group of disbanded Saigon soldiers. They had been hiding in a graveyard, and they stood up to surrender to us.

When I found my family, I saw my mother for the first time in 20 years. Before we could say a single word we embraced each other and wept. During the conver-sations with my family I learned that all my nephews had become Saigon soldiers.

NARRATOR

Many Vietnamese families had members fighting on both sides. Now, some were reunited for the first time in decades.

Offshore, refugees from Danang were packed aboard rescue ships. Thousands drowned trying to flee, or were suffocated in the crush. As Thieu's army crumbled, the hysteria spread south.

GEN. TRAN VAN NHUT

Confusion spread even further in the army when rumors multiplied that Vietnam would be again partitioned. Soldiers couldn't -- they couldn't understand why shs were being sent to central Vietnam to evacuate their families. If there was going to be another partition, why should they continue to fight? And why should they leave their families stranded out there?

NARRATOR

President Thieu, still believing that America would not abandon him, again pleaded for help. On April 2, he met with Ambassador Martin and President Ford's special envoy, General Frederick Weyand. Weyand promised to recommend more aid. But by now, the Americans were losing faith in Thieu.

Weyand reported to Kissinger and Ford at Palm Springs. They concluded that a military deadlock was their best hope. Even if only part of South Vietnam could be defended, the Communists might agree to a political deal -- with or without Thieu.

GERALD FORD

General Weyand came back and recommended 722 million dollars in additional military aid and assistance to make sure that the South Vietnamese would have adequate military hardware to create the stalemate. I was always hopeful that there could be a negotiated settlement, even at that late date in March and April of 1975.

NARRATOR

Ford again asked Congress for aid. But members of Congress suspected a maneuver to blame them for the impending disaster. They rejected his request.

REP. MILLICENT FENWICK, April 1975

We've sent, so to speak, battleship after battleship, and bomber after bomber, and 500,000 or more men, and billions and billions of dollars. If billions and billions didn't do at a time when we had all our men there, how can $722 million save the day?

APRIL 11, 1975

Interviewer: Can the South Vietnamese government, under President Thieu, or

under any other leader -- whatever the South Vietnamese decide

among themselves -- handle this situation?

Ambassador Martin: Well, I think the test is that they have handled it. And I

think the government can handle it in the future, can

become self-sufficient, can keep their freedom, and allow

us, when we end our involvement here, to withdraw, as I

think we should, leaving South Vietnam economically viable,

militarily capable of defending itself with its own man-

power, and free to choose its own government, its own

leaders, as its people themselves may freely determine.

This is a goal which is easily within our reach.

FRANK SNEPP (CIA Analyst)

It seemed to me that there was no question that the South -- what was left of the South -- was in imminent jeopardy, and that there was no way of regaining the northern half of the country. Well, Martin wouldn't believe it, and Martin held to this optimistic view of the military situation almost to the end. And this was one of the problems in his approach to the evacuation question.

NARRATOR

Thieu imposed a curfew in Saigon. American civilians began to pack up. Out-going commercial flights were jammed, but the U.S. mission refused to disclose its evacuation plans -- either for Americans or for Vietnamese who might be special targets for the Communists.

HENRY KISSINGER (Secretary of State)

We had the fear that if we evacuated too rapidly, the South Vietnamese govern-ment in its frustration might turn on us and there might be a massacre of Americans. Secondly, we wanted to withdraw at a measured pace, so that the North Vietnamese would be concerned that if they moved too fast, we might intervene in order to save the remaining Americans.

HENRY KISSINGER

We assembled a large fleet off South Vietnam for evacuation purposes. And I attempted, a rather forlorn attempt, a rather forlorn negotiation, to ease the transition by creating a coalition government in Saigon and implying that that fleet might be there for purposes other than simply evacuation. And proposed some sort of coalition effort which was not refused initially.

NARRATOR

Le Duc Tho, Kissinger's former negotiating partner, joined General Dung in the field. They weighed their options as they braced for battle. If they could crush the Saigon regime, negotiations with the Americans would be unnecessary.

Thieu's forces prepared to confront them in Long Khanh province at Xuan Loc, on the main road to Saigon. They moved into position on April 12.

General Le Minh Dao defied the Communists.

GEN. LE MINH DAO, April 1975

I will hold Long Khanh, I will knock them down here, even if they bring here two divisions or three divisions.

NARRATOR

At Saigon's Tan Son Nhut airport, the embassy began to evacuate Vietnamese who might be in danger.

KENNETH MOOREFIELD (U.S. Embassy Aide)

I arrived out at the air base, walked into the theater, there were hundreds, maybe several thousands of Vietnamese there, and at that point, of course, we'd been charged with the evacuation of American dependents, that was the only mandate that I had at the time. And there was a palpable sense of hysteria in the air.

NARRATOR

At Xuan Loc, South Vietnamese troops held their ground under relentless shell fire, finally yielding as General Dung threw three divisions against them.

On April 21, the remnants of Thieu's troops were rescued, as women and children and the wounded struggled for space on the flights out.

That same day, pressed to make way for a leader who might reach a deal with the Communists, President Thieu resigned.

His successor was the aged, half-blind vice president, Tran Van Huong.

The Communists promptly rejected Huong.

At daybreak on April 28, South Vietnamese troops faced North Vietnamese commandos at the Newport Bridge. They were at the gates of Saigon.

In Saigon and Washington, faint hopes for a political settlement persisted. Huong was replaced by Duong Van Minh, regarded as a figure the Communists might accept.

As Minh spoke, a thunderstorm erupted. The Communists had beat the rainy season to the capital. General Dung had met his deadline.

The morning of April 29, 1975.

Tan Son Nhut airport was under fire, preventing passenger planes from taking off. But Ambassador Martin was still reluctant to begin a full-scale heli-copter evacuation.

COL. WM. LEGRO (Defense Attache Office)

North Vietnamese artillery was falling intermittently on the airfield. We no longer had any capability to use fixed-wing airplanes, that is, for the evacuation because of the artillery fire on the airstrip. I told the ambas-sador that we didn't have a great deal of time left; that we would probably have to leave that night. He went into my other office where I still had one secure telephone operating, and at that time he got authority to begin the evacuation from the embassy.

NARRATOR

The word went out: all Americans and Vietnamese at risk would be taken out by helicopter to U.S. aircraft carriers. Officials quickly designated departure points at the airport, the U.S. embassy, and elsewhere in the capital.

KENNETH MOOREFIELD (U.S. Embassy Aide)

I got together with the Marine captain that was responsible at that point for organizing the convoys of buses that were to go into the city.

MAY 1975

Q: How are we getting to the helicopters?

A: Oh well, they're going to come in and pick us up from points around Tan Son Nhut.

Q: Around Tan Son Nhut...How much baggage, Captain?

A: Will you please,...one small handbag.

KENNETH MOOREFIELD

I discovered that he did not have a very good knowledge of where some of the pickup points around the city where everyone had been told to form up. So I assisted him in getting some of the buses together...

MARINE CAPTAIN

Would the women over here please part? Come on, let's move it. Please stop pushing! One at a time!

KENNETH MOOREFIELD

We spent the better part of the morning and the early afternoon running convoys back and forth from Saigon back out to Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base.

The people that I described as high-risk Vietnamese were not high risk merely because they'd had a close association with us in the past, but because we believed that if they stayed behind and were captured that their lives would be in jeopardy once the North Vietnamese took over. As a consequence, these people were mortally scared.

SAIGON EVACUATION, April 1975

Wally Henderson: While here I met my friend's widow who I've known about for some ten years.

Q: Vietnamese friend?

Wally Henderson: Yes, yes -- we went to school together at Washington State

University. I was very concerned...(starts to cry)...about

reprisals to the family and so I returned to help them if I

could but I couldn't get anyone out, the widow was gotten out

earlier through embassy help, but not the others.

KENNETH MOOREFIELD

The embassy was completely surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of Vietnamese at the three entrances. It was impossible if you were Oriental, virtually, to get into the grounds of the embassy at that point in time.

NARRATOR

By late afternoon, most Americans and thousands of Vietnamese had reached the U.S. carriers offshore. Thousands more Vietnamese were waiting in Saigon.

Some South Vietnamese pilots ditched their aircraft in the South China Sea.

KENNETH MOOREFIELD

The feeling in the city was one of almost total chaos at this point. Anarchy, virtual anarchy was beginning to break out and in various streets that we'd attempted to go down, there were armed soldiers in half uniforms -- combined Air Force/Marine/Army types that had obviously begun the task of looting and taking advantage of the disorder and confusion that prevailed at that point in time.

GEN. PHAN PHUNG TIEN

After escaping from Vietnam and landing on the American carriers, I must admit that those of us who had been in responsible positions felt kind of ashamed, and dishonored. To me it seemed that everything that happened during the last days of South Vietnam had been arranged in advance, and there was nothing that the Vietnamese officers at the lower echelons could do to prevent the situation from coming apart.

COL. LEGRO

I felt that the United States, particularly the Congress because they were making the policy, had betrayed a trust that the United States had given South Vietnam. And since I represented the United States, I also felt that I was personally betrayed; I had also made, implied promises, that the United States would honor the agreements we had made at the time of the cease-fire and then when things got really tough we really just cut and run.

COL. BUI TIN (Army of North Vietnam)

After reaching the other side of the bridge, we went straight to the Independence Palace.

NARRATOR

Communist forces entered the city from six different directions. They had planned a two-year campaign to capture the capital. It took 55 days.

NGUYEN CONG THANH (Army of North Vietnam)

None of us knew how to get to the Independence Palace. So many streets led to downtown Saigon, and I myself had no idea where it was. So I turned to an old woman and asked: "Mother, where is Saigon?" And she replied, "You're in Saigon."

NARRATOR

Inside the palace, Duong Van Minh, president for 44 hours, was waiting. Colonel Bui Tin took the surrender.

COL. BUI TIN

When I saw fear on the faces of Minh and the others present, I said: "The war has ended today, and all Vietnamese are victors. Only the American imperialists are the vanquished. If you still have any feelings for the nation and the people, consider today a happy day."

That night, when I sprawled on the lawn of the Independence Palace with members of a communication unit, we all agreed it was the happiest day of our lives because it was a day of complete victory for the nation, because the war ended.

NARRATOR

The Communists had attained their goal: they had toppled the Saigon regime. But the cost of victory was high. In the past decade alone, one Vietnamese in every ten had been a casualty of war. Nearly a million and a half killed, three million wounded. Vietnam had been a tormented land, and its ordeal was not over.

Though American equipment still stocked Saigon's markets, the Americans were gone. They counted nearly 60,000 dead and more than 300,000 wounded. It was their first defeat. The promised end of the tunnel had brought not light but a new uncertainty, new questions: what was America's role in the world? What were the lessons of Vietnam?


CREDITS

Written and Produced by ELIZABETH DEAN

Associate Producer JUDITH VECCHIONE

Film Editors
CAROL HAYWARD
DANIEL EISENBERG

Narrator
WILL LYMAN

Film Research
KAY MATSCHULLAT
PETER BREGMAN
CAROL HAYWARD
DANIEL EISENBERG
BRADLEY BORUM

Production Assistant KARAN SHELDON

Assistant Editor CAROL TOWSON

Camera
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JERRY HOGREWE
PETER HOVING
JUDY IROLA
HIRO NARITA
GERRY PINCHES

Sound Recordists
ALLAN BYER
JOHN FITZPATRICK
STAN LEVEN
JACK OSWALD
DAVID PARKER
STEVE PHILLIPS
NELSON STOLL

Assistant Camera
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GREG KELLY
PETER RENIERS
BILL SMOCK
JULIAN WHITE

Assistant Sound Editor JOY MANESIOTIS

Sound Mixer FRANK CUNNINGHAM

 

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Music Composed by
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A co-production of WGBH Boston with Central Independent Television, UK, Antenne-2, France in association with LRE Productions


For The American Experience

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Major funding for the series was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, public television stations, and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Additional funding was provided by the George D. Smith Fund, The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This program was originally broadcast on PBS on October 4, 1983.

THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
is a production of WGBH/Boston.

© 1983, 1997 WGBH Educational Foundation