There’s an increased resurgence of history’s facts, and increased
respect for the bravery, decency and sacrifices of our far better young men in service, that is less suppressed by and relegated
to slogans of the aging ‘60’s and ‘70’s radicals and hangers-on. This show is part of that recovery
Tonight, National Geographic’s cable TV channel broadcast its 3-hour
“Inside the Vietnam War.” It will be rebroadcast Sunday, February 24. Check your local listings for time, and
don’t miss it.
Over 50 Vietnam veterans appear in the show, along with many never before
seen photos and video footage. As the show’s announcement says, the show “features the harrowing firsthand accounts
of the brave men and women who lived through the war.”
My friend R.J. Delvecchio (Del) was a Marine combat photographer in Vietnam.
Some of his work is included in the program, and he briefly appears. Del wrote me about his experience with the show’s
production and a special preview for veterans held in Washington, D.C.
The partial version I saw was very well done, reviewed some of
the history of the war very objectively, then went into peoples' individual experiences, recollections, and reflections. Views
ranged from those who were proud of their service, were fully supportive of helping S. Vietnam, and would go again, to one
really negative reflection (from Philip Caputo) about it all being a waste.
The images and footage were very good, it actually was a real documentary
with no major political slant.
If anything, the antiwar people will find it less than to their liking.
to DC for this shindig, at really substantial cost, and it was worth every penny six times over. About 40 of the people interviewed
for the film showed up, plus a whole bunch of distinguished guests, like Mark Moyars and Dr. Bob Sorley. National Geographic
put out one hell of a spread of food and drinks, and we got to stand around and talk and meet people that it was an honor
to meet. Carlton Sherwood of Stolen Honor fame, Paul Galanti, a longtime POW, and assorted other distinguished veterans and
others. It was just super.
After a couple of hours of schmoozing and munching, we filed into the theater
We were led in the Pledge of Allegiance by the head of the Blue Star Mothers
organization, and it's hard to express the feeling of standing there reciting the pledge with so great a group of people,
a pledge that came out loud, strong, clear, with pride and devotion in every tone from every person. Then one of the vets
and his wife did a version of America The Beautiful that had an added new stanza, in which it was said that black, white,
brown, red or yellow, we belong to America and to each other. A basic description of the best ideals of the America we know
They then showed a half-sized version of the documentary, since 3 hours
is too long for an audience of old guys! But it was extremely well done and everyone there was very happy with what they saw.
(I only saw one of my pictures in the reduced version, but was assured the full version has more and even some of me talking.)
I hope you find it as worthwhile as I have.
The middle-aged, protypically bearded advance reviewer at the New York Daily News says the show “lacks vision” in failing to stress the final futility of our efforts.
Lipscomb watched the full show tonight, and offers his review.
The NY Daily News guy just didn’t understand the show. He wanted his opinions punched and it
wasn’t about that.
It was really from the POV of the subjects… it was truly INSIDE … not an overview
by people with no experience and a lot of political attitude.
And despite the disproportionate coverage of Marines…[Lipscomb
served in the Army] it was pretty damned good.
It didn’t start with the advisers and the build up… it started
with the first arrival of combat forces in 65 and left with the departure of the US troops with a quick cut to the evacuation
Lovely choice of interviews, very different than Stanley Karnow’s.
A Chief Petty Officer, a lot
of enlisted personnel from private to mid level sgts… almost all officers were company grade at the time, though like
Bob Scales or MacCaffrey they may have retired as generals…
So it was a grunts eyeview with some good stuff from
mainly Tac air… copters and just a few f4 drivers.
I liked it a LOT.
I would add, it is one of the few times I have ever seen a news program that actually let its subjects talk
and followed with pictures and maps to illustrate what they said. The producers did keep things in a chronological order so
that people actually were on camera at the time they were in action, but otherwise the description of the war, when the participants
were optimistic, when there were breakdowns in discipline, the tragedy of My Lai described by those on the copter that stopped
It was sort of a throwback to the old Ed Murrow SEE IT NOW which tried for the same effect without the omniscient
network news point of view.
P.S.: Another Vietnam veteran, actually a civilian AID worker captured and suffering for
years as a POW, Mike Benge, was also at the National Geographic preview, and writes me with this added observation:
[T]hey put in the napalmed, naked little girl and Gen. Loan offing the VC who had just cut off the
legs of the dependents in the police barracks, with no comment as to their context or any other explanation; the Americans
had nothing to do with either, but by having them in there, it puts the blame on US troops.
For those who know little or nothing about the VN War, and for the antiwar crowd, just having these pictures
in the film implies that the US troops had something to do with these incidents. The napalmed naked girl was hit by bombs
from ARVN aircraft and was iconic and used as propaganda against the US troops by the antiwar crowd, as was the one by Gen.
Loan. History has proven that the top news agencies in Vietnam were infiltrated by the NVA and I can only assume that they
were responsible for the mislabeled caption accompanying the of the napalmed girl; picture for World-Wide publication and
blaming the incident on US aircraft/troops. National Geographic should have known better.