To my knowledge, I am one of only two people to survive bailing out of a burning A-26K (aka B-26K) at only 700 feet altitude at night. At my best count, about one-third of the A-26 aircrew members during the Vietnam War were KIA (killed-in action). I was fortunate to suffer only five months in Air Force hospitals doing physical therapy. I got some medals, but the one I most identify with is the simplest common denominator—the Vietnam Service Medal—that shows I belong to a special band of brothers and sisters whose sacrifice and patriotism is largely unheralded and sometimes misrepresented. I have an emotional identity with them and my own record and service, of course, but I also have a strong attachment to the truth. Therefore, I am doubly concerned when uninformed, misinformed, or Marxist agenda-driven media distorts the truth and thereby slander my former comrades in arms.
I wrote a book in 2009: Lessons from the Vietnam War; Truths the Media Never Told You, and have spoken on the Vietnam War to various patriotic, community service, and veterans organizations. Lately I have been hearing many complaints about the historical and political distortions of Ken Burns’ PBS television series on the Vietnam War. I am not going to watch it. I know what Ken Burns’ political worldview is and the left-liberal agenda he is driving. Some years ago I watched most of his series on the Civil War. I have since written a book, The Un-Civil War: Shattering the Historical Myths, 2011. Both of Burns’ series have a strong left-liberal bias, especially in the omission of important facts and history. If you want to know what Ken
Burns’ bias and related agendas are, just read a couple of his frantic anti-Trump speeches and interviews. One of them was the Commencement Address at Stanford University on June 12, 2016. I have a degree from Stanford, so I was disappointed but not surprised with their choice of commencement speakers. Fully ten minutes of Burns’ address was over the top insults to Presidential candidate Donald Trump. I am making a considerable understatement in saying that his bias and agenda are far to the left of most military veterans. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on October 16, 2016, he compared Trump to Hitler and blasted him for “dog whistles on race and immigration.”
It is primarily left-biased mainstream media that is pushing Burns’ series on the Vietnam War as truth and Burns himself as a credible historian. Only selected Vietnam veterans were allowed to have an opinion. Members of the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association, with about 320 active members, were invited to attend a preview of bits of all ten parts of Burns’ Vietnam War series. According to two separate accounts, about 100 attended, but 85 to 90 percent of those were disappointed with the usual liberal bias. They were given no genuine opportunity to comment. “Couldn’t they get it right one time,” said one.
Yesterday, I happened to watch an interview of Burns and his chief cinematic adviser, Lynn Novich by Fox Biz’s Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery. Burns stated that he had no agenda but truth, yet within half a minute was making easily refuted statements that showed his agenda and extreme bias. His message was that the war was unjust and unwinnable and that the anti-war protestors were the real heroes. All three of these controversial myths, actually leftist propaganda lies, can be easily refuted with solid facts, which is part of what I do in my book on Vietnam.
I also recommend Bill Laurie’s and R.J. Del Vecchhio’s short 60-page book, which concentrates on refuting the seventeen most common myths and propaganda about the Vietnam War. I was very disappointed that the interviewer, “Kennedy,’ seemed to buy into the Burns characterization of the war completely, probably because she was not well informed on the war and unwary of Burns’ leftist bias and agenda.
There are four minimal facts that Americans should know about the Vietnam War to give them a sufficient perspective to reject Marxist-born anti-war bias. First, is that the Vietnam War was a Proxy War primarily with the Soviet Union and secondarily with their chief ally, Communist China. In President Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address, he stated: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, and oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.” He did not make this statement in a rhetorical vacuum. Less than a week earlier, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had pledged the power of the Soviet Union to support “wars of national liberation,” specifically mentioning South Vietnam.
Secondly, North Vietnam’s aggression against South Vietnam was financed, orchestrated, and approved step by step in Moscow.
Thirdly, the United States was obligated by the 1955 Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) to protect South Vietnam, Laos, and if wanted, Cambodia against Communist aggression. This treaty was signed by the UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines, and Pakistan as well as the United States.
Fourthly and very important, the Vietnam War was a two-front war. The obvious front was Southeast Asia. The most important front turned out to be in the U.S. The decisive political battles were fought in American public, educational, media, and cultural institutions and ultimately in Congress. The anti-war movement was a creation of the far left and orchestrated mainly from Moscow, but they soon captured the ear and sympathy politicians with little sense of responsibility or obligation to the freedom of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, or the honor of their own country.
One of the great myths of the Vietnam War was that it was unwinnable. It was only the strategy of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and President Lyndon Johnson and an irresponsible Congress, however that made it unwinnable. Few People remember and apparently Ken Burns refuses to believe that President Nixon’s December 1972 strategic bombing of North Vietnam brought the Communists to their knees and had essentially won the war. It was Congress who gave away the victory and ignored their obligation to the people of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) had recommended the same strategic bombing plan in 1965 and could have won the war easily with little investment in manpower and comparatively few casualties. Interdiction of Communist supply lines in late 1967 and devastating Communist casualties during their 1968 Tet offensive presented opportunities to finish off North Vietnam with strategic bombing, but McNamara and Johnson would not listen to JCS advice. The JCS and Pacific Commander Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp had six major confrontations with McNamara from 1965 to 1968, each time recommending the same strategy that brought the North Vietnamese to their knees in 1972 but were denied approval. Eventually, their dispute spilled over into a U.S. Senate investigation that resulted in McNamara’s eventual departure. Don’t bet on Burns giving much coverage to these highly important facts in his Vietnam series. I strongly recommend reading Strategy for Defeat: Vietnam in Retrospect, by Admiral U .S. G. Sharp, Commander of the United States Pacific Command (CINCPAC) 1964-68 and On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War by Col. Harry G. Summers, Jr. (ret).
In the end, Congress refused to sustain the financial support they had promised South Vietnam in 1973. In 1975, with U.S. troops gone and the South Vietnamese left with inadequate material and supplies for their defense, North Vietnam launched a massive Soviet financed invasion of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese and Cambodian armies literally ran out of ammunition, supplies, and fuel, and were overrun by North Vietnamese infantry and armored divisions.
I cannot cover here the terrible brutality of the Communists from the beginning to the end of the Vietnam War, but it was one of the things that convinced me that our cause was right. The ultimate consequence of North Vietnamese victory was that 3.5 million non-Communist civilians were massacred, starved to death, or driven into the sea to drown. This was an indirect result of a massive Democrat victory in the 1974 Congressional elections. Will Ken Burns cover that?
Another thing that Ken Burns will probably not cover is the role of the political left in the Vietnam tragedy. I recommend reading Betrayal in Vietnam, by Louis A. Fanning, 1976.
If you watch or purchase Ken Burns’ Vietnam War series, I recommend also reading general background material produced by veterans rather than establishment academics, and then viewing Burns’ series with healthy skepticism.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Mike Scruggs, Author and Columnist
a.k.a. Leonard M. Scruggs
Mike Scruggs is the author of two books: The Un-Civil War: Shattering the Historical Myths; and Lessons from the Vietnam War: Truths the Media Never Told You, and over 600 articles on military history, national security, intelligent design, genealogical genetics, immigration, current political affairs, Islam, and the Middle East.
He holds a BS degree from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Stanford University. A former USAF intelligence officer and Air Commando, he is a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and holds the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and Air Medal. He is a retired First Vice President for a major national financial services firm and former Chairman of the Board of a classical Christian school.
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