I finished up the second hour of Episode 10 this morning. I’m really glad I watched this in the original broadcast date. When Ken Burns’ The War was airing, I fell behind, and over a month or two watched five episodes. But I have never gone back and finished watching those last two episodes. It becomes hard to sustain momentum when you’re watching difficult material. When you sit down on a random evening and ask yourself, what do I want to watch, even if you’re in the mood for a documentary, it’s easier to go for an episode of Nova or documentary about how our food habits are shit, than it is to dive back into a difficult documentary about war.
In the last episode, it’s a real shame about how it all went down in the end. As I was thinking about how it was all going to end after Episode 9, my best guess was that after the American troops left completely, the North would come down in force, and the South would surrender to prevent further bloodshed. That is what happened eventually, but in between the South fought enough to get a lot more people killed, and for civilians to flee in terror towards Saigon, for them to fill barges in panic and drown, etc. It was all very depressing. And then they fought the Chinese off who invaded from the North. And then after the war, Vietnam had it’s own Vietnam in Combodia where they fought the Chinese. Crazy. All that was glossed over, but I’m sure that could make it’s own interesting documentary. The aftermath of the War was only touched upon in broad strokes. It was sad to hear that it took so long for the country to finally heal.
The section on the Vietnam War memorial was really nice. It was nice to see that even though opinions on the Wall memorial chosen were just as divided as the country was, that eventually all the interviewees who went to the memorial came around, and it seems the Wall Memorial is the one piece that came out of this that was unifying and healing.
I visited the Wall memorial in 1993 and 1994, and I have to admit, it’s really powerful. It’s a simple design, but very elegant, and even to someone like me who didn’t know the history of the war, seeing all those names on the Wall, it really makes you imagine and feel something strong when you’re there.