Vietnam Myths

Last Sunday’s Washington Post included an article in the “Outlook” section by Lan Cao addressing myths about Vietnam. I was delighted. Dr. Cao opens the article by saying: “Ken Burns and Lynn Novick say their multi-part PBS documentary about the Vietnam, which concluded this past week, was intended to unpack a complex conflict and embark upon the process of healing and reconciliation. The series has catapulted the Vietnam War back into the national consciousness. But despite thousands of books, articles and films about this moment in our history, there remain many deeply entrenched myths.”

He then debunks five myths. The important facts that I drew from his text are that: (1) the Viet Cong were totally under the control of Hanoi; they were in no sense independent. (2) Refugees who escaped to the U.S. at the conclusion of the war and later were of all classes, not just the elite. (3) U.S. soldiers who fought during the war were not majority draftees—four out of five were volunteers. (4) The Tet Offensive was a military disaster for the North Vietnamese that turned into a psychological success. And (5) South Vietnamese soldiers were, on the whole, devoted and effective fighters. They lost to the North Vietnamese for a variety of reasons, but the most important was that the U.S. cut off air support and monetary aid, while the North Vietnamese went on receiving substantial financing and weaponry from the USSR and China.

I am vindicated to see that the facts about the Vietnam War are surfacing, thanks in large measure to the work of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

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