So, wow, what an episode last night. There’s just so much jam-packed into these two hours. It makes me question, somewhat, the structure of the series, which is to go forward in time. So covering a lot of 1969 means covering a really broad range of things. The anti-war movement and Nixon got quite a bit of screen time last night. I’m surprised though that unlike LBJ, they haven’t playing any Nixon tapes yet. There was another battle over another numbered hill near Cambodia with lots of dead on each side. I forgot the number already, because they called it Hamburger Hill. Also Nixon invaded Cambodia, kind of.
There was the shocking story of the My Lai Massacre. I’d heard that name tossed around before, but seeing what happened was just truly shocking, and I had tears flowing on seeing the images. Like they said in the documentary, civilians die all the time in wars due to bombings or collateral damage. But to hunt down the elderly and children, to rape the women and execute them, deliberately. It’s just a whole other level of evil. And to discover it in the documentary 2 years after it happened? To find out that the Army knew and had covered it up? That Nixon’s reaction was to be angry not at the soldiers who did the killing but at the “jews” who finally leaked it to the press? Man, that Nixon was a real dick wasn’t he?
Another really memorable sequence was this long recounting by this blonde North Vietnamese guy. We’ve been seeing him throughout the series so far, but he has a really long commentary in this episode about how the NVA lived and survived. How they dealt with the same kind of depression and anger as the Americans, but also had to constantly deal with hunger and near starvation, always trying to salvage for food. How NVA soldiers would often “desert” their army and go home to their mothers, and then come back to the Army and start fighting again. it was really detailed and affecting.
And then, of course, on the anti-war movement, there were lots of powerful stories in this episode, but one that really caught me off guard was the Kent State Four, where the National Guard Reserve soldiers had loaded live ammunition in their weapons and fired at and killed four people and injured 17 others. Again I couldn’t stop the tears from coming at this story. I’d never heard of this before, and I just couldn’t believe that 68% of Americans responded in polls that the Reserve were justified and those people deserved to be shot. It kind of brought me back to the present day, and I was thinking, man, a lot of Americans were assholes even back then too.