I completed viewing the Burns-Novick documentary, The Vietnam War, yesterday—I bought the complete set on DVD so I could watch at my convenience. I’m enormously impressed with the quality. And I’m delighted that Burns and Novick so often saw the war the same way I did.
About the ninth installment, “A Disrespectful Loyalty,” that was telecast last night: It hurt to watch the way the American public greeted returning GIs. Mobs met soldiers and screamed “baby killer” and “butcher” at them and spat on them. I was among the returning troops and was yelled at and spat upon. As I’ve said before, it sickened my already damaged soul. Seeing it portrayed in all its ugly glory on the screen brought back my pain.
I was in Vietnam almost constantly during the 1970s. I didn’t realize until I saw the documentary how widespread and brutal the opposition to the war was in the U.S. I know that American public opinion finally caused our withdrawal and the cutoff of funds for the South Vietnamese government, but I wasn’t here when it was happening. It took my breath away.
Nor was I aware until I watched the video how dishonest American political leaders were with the American people. I was particularly shocked at Nixon’s outright lying.
I’ll have more to say on the subject. I want to offer my observations on the aptly-titled last episode, “The Weight of Memory,” after it has been telecast. One sentence from the final installment will stay with me because it is intrinsic to my own experience: “Everyone came home from Vietnam alone.”