Preview of new US PBS Vietnam War documentary TV series being screened in the US from this week.

Submitted by Barry Dreyer, for interest and forewarning.

The preview is by Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Sang, a Vietnamese doctor who served with the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces.


Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Sang

I was fortunate to be part of a joint PBS and local library panel to
preview the Vietnam War Documentary by filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn
Novick who had spent ten years to complete the eighteen-episode
series, which the PBS will air on September 17, 2017.
Although being anxious before an audience of more than 200
participants (mostly American-born except for my young assistant, Dr.
Gwen Huynh) I decide to continue with the discussion thinking it is an
opportunity to express a Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces soldier’s
view about the war inspire of my limited language skill.

After the presentation, each of the panelists was asked one question.
The Film features a North Vietnamese veteran named Bao Ninh who says
that there was no winner during the Vietnam War. The moderator asked
me to comment on the interviewee’s statement.
To me, in order to determine who won and who lost the war, one needs
to answer three fundamental questions: (1) what was the goals of the
involved parties. (2) What price did they have to pay? (3) The overall
assessment of the war.

A- Goals of Involved Parties
1. According to the Pentagon Papers (Pentagon Papers is a nearly
4,000-page top-secret Pentagon study of US government decision-making
in relation to the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1967. An American activist
and former United States military analyst, Mr. Daniel Ellsberg,
released it through the New York Times in 1971. The document was
declassified on May 5, 2011, and has been on display at the Library of
President Nixon in California. ), the US got involved in the Vietnam War was to encompass the
Communist China, not to help defend South Viet Nam's independence,
which was the ruse for the US containment strategy at the time.

2. The North Vietnam’s goal was to "liberate" South Viet Nam by force
and to use it as a springboard to spread International Communism
throughout Southeast Asia, which was also Ho Chi Minh’s goal since
1932 when he was the leader of the Indochinese Communist Party. Le
Duan, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), who
was believed to have said, "We fight the Americans for the USSR and
China", must have followed this goal to the letter. If so, the
statement represented the true mission of the Communist leaders.

3. On the contrary, the goal of the South Vietnamese leaders was to
defend the country’s independence and sovereignty. Since the North
Vietnamese Communists enjoyed maximum supports from the USSR, China,
the Eastern European Communist Block, and even Cuba, South Viet Nam
had no other choice but accepted assistances from the United States
and other capitalist countries to fight against the Communist

B. Casualties
1. US casualties included 58,307 KIAs, 1948 MIAs, 303,604 WIAs, and
$168 billion spent ($1,020 billion according to some other estimate)
for the war. At the peak of the war, the number of the US forces in
Vietnam reached 543,000. The other sad thing about the outcome of the
war was that the very people who had welcomed the US soldiers who had
taken part in other foreign wars would turn around and showed their
disdains for the ones returning from Vietnam. Lately, efforts have
been made to rectify the wrongs of the past, but the wounds that the
Vietnam vets have endured are never going to completely heal.

2. The NVA casualties included 950,765 killed in action, nearly
600,000 wounded, and an estimated 300,000 missing in action. During
the war, North Vietnam was one of the five poorest countries in the
world. The war also killed two million civilians in North and South

3. The Republic of Vietnam’s casualties included 275,000 soldiers
killed in action and about 1,170,000 wounded. The number of missing
persons could not be tallied because the RVN had surrendered on April
30, 1975.

1. From these observations, I concluded that the United States was the
winner because she had achieved the strategic goal of containing
Communist China, even by bargaining away the lives of others,
including her own servicemen and women.

2. From the same observations, I told the audience that North Vietnam
was definitely the loser. After having spent a tremendous amount of
human resources including the death of nearly one million soldiers,
two million civilians, and almost six-hundred thousand soldiers
wounded in action and three-hundred thousand missing North Vietnam
ended up dragging the whole country down the poverty pit after the war
had ended. Moreover, they lost because their attempt to help China
subvert the whole Southeast Asia had failed.

3. The Republic of Vietnam was the loser because it had surrendered
unconditionally on April 30, 1975. According to an interview with
General Frederick C. Weyand on June 12, 2006, however, the war had
been lost not because of the incompetence of the ARVN, but because of
the political leaders in Washington D.C. In other words, the RVN had
won the battles but lost the war because of the Allies’ betrayal.

4. In conclusion, I told the audience that both North and South
Vietnamese people were the losers. The Vietnam War was actually a
Communist proxy war initiated by Ho Chi Minh, an internationalist, who
had played the role of an enforcer of the Communist ambition of world
domination. The war caused unspeakable suffering to the Vietnamese
People and deep wounds to the country that have not healed 42 years
after the war had ended.
To a participant’s question about the current psychological
consequences of the war, I simply answered, "Forty-two years after the
war has ended the winning side still considers the conquered their

Despite the purported time spent on researching and collecting
materials, the film still comes across as a worn-out Communist
propaganda. It still shows the picture of Major General Nguyen Ngoc
Loan shooting the Viet Cong (VC) Bay Lop on the street of Saigon, the
incident in which Lieutenant William Key ordered the massacre of 128
civilians, and the villagers burnt by Napalm bombs. My question is why
didn’t the filmmakers show the scene of the VC shelling on March 9,
1974, that had killed 200 pupils of Cai Lay Elementary School and the
massacre of almost six thousand innocent people of Hue during the VC
‘Tet’ Offensive in 1968? To the film’s claim that Napalm bombs
produced by Dow Chemical Company were used to kill innocent villagers,
my answer is that that was the unfortunate but unavoidable casualties
of the war, any war. The Kim Phucincident is not unlike the accidental
bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Kosovo in 1999 or the "friendly
fire" that killed the US and Allied forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and
Syria etc. In other words, mistakes in wars, though regrettable, are
inescapable. The US mainstream media has chosen to ignore that fact
and shamelessly piled on one lie after another. No wonder President
Trump disdains them so much.

After the seminar, historian Bill Laurie talked with me about the fact
that Bay Lop had been a terrorist who had killed six relatives of
General Loan’s subordinate just before the "execution" incident. To
him, General Loan action did not violate the Geneva Convention.
It would have been possible for the US to withdraw her troops from the
Vietnam Theater before 1969 if the then Commander in chief of the US
forces, General Westmoreland, had not applied the "search and destroy"
tactics. Military commentators criticized General Westmoreland ("the
General Who Lost Vietnam by the media) for his use of massive forces,
tactics that are only effective when the enemy accepts the
confrontation, to fight an elusive enemy who avoided large operations
by moving deeper into the jungles or across the borders of Laos and

Had skillful commanders such as General Harold K. Johnson and General
Frederick C. Weyand been in charge, perhaps the American troops could
have been repatriated sooner without more casualties and the US would
still have succeeded in the attempt to contain Red China. If that had
happened, the casualties that both Vietnams suffered would have been
less and the hatreds would not have lasted as long.

Military aid for South Vietnam also reflects the US "washing off the
hand" policy. The aid package that had been at $2.8 billion in 1973
was wound down to $1 billion in 1974 and $300 million in 1975, a time
when SVN more than ever needed all the helps it could get to fight
against the NVA invasion. The story did not end there. In December
1974, the US Congress decided to cut off all aids and the Republic of
Vietnam, without means to continue the fight, succumbed to the enemy
on April 30, 1975. Except for the Communist "Liberation Army" myth
bragging about its soldiers "catching" the US airplanes with bare
hands, no army in the world that I know of could win a war without
necessary weapons and resupplies.

No one can change the history. Those who waged wars on behalf of the
international Communists must accept their responsibility for the
destruction of the country. History will judge their actions and our
descendants will know the truth despite the Communists’ efforts to
skew the historical facts.

In order to fight against China’s aggression, the Vietnamese
Communists must harness the national strength by reconciling with the
people as a whole, and their victims, in particular. Otherwise, they
will be a party to the demise of the country.
In conclusion, this is a one-sided, half-truth documentary unworthy of
watching. My observation had been posted on Yahoo but was removed 15
minutes later. Let us hope that Mr. Burns and Ms. Novick would have a
change of heart and be more factual in their next project about the
Vietnam War."


The comment on the preview below is from John Domina, ex 2/35th US Arty (Husky Alfa), the 155mm how’s with 1 ATF 1966/71.

"Having read this I agree with Dr. Sang, this seems like SOSDD. All the 'terrible' things that we 'The Americans' did during the war, vs how peaceful and loving the NVA were toward their enemies. Perhaps it’s better to say how hidden the NVA’s actions were and how quick to blame the US for any perceived offences."