Through October and November, “The Vietnam War” repeats on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m., following “Finding Your Roots.”
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 10-part, 18-hour documentary series tells the epic story of the Vietnam War. The series features testimony from nearly 80 witnesses, including Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both sides.
“The Vietnam War was a decade of agony that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans,” Burns said. “Not since the Civil War have we as a country been so torn apart. There wasn’t an American alive then who wasn’t affected in some way — from those who fought and sacrificed in the war, to families of service members and POWs, to those who protested the war in open conflict with their government and fellow citizens. More than 40 years after it ended, we can’t forget Vietnam, and we are still arguing about why it went wrong, who was to blame and whether it was all worth it.”
“Ken and I have tried to shed new light on the human dimensions of the war by looking at it from the bottom up, the top down and from all sides,” Novick said. She said that when they spoke to Vietnamese soldiers and noncombatants about the war, they were surprised to learn that it remains as painful and unresolved for them as it is for many Americans.
Reviewers praised the series for being clear, compelling and even-handed. “What Burns and Novick prove yet again is the catharsis that can be found in telling our stories to one another — and the absolute value in getting these stories right,” said Washington Post TV critic Hank Steuver.
Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 8 p.m.
“Deja Vu” – After a long and brutal war, revolutionaries led by Ho Chi Minh end nearly a century of French colonial rule. With the Cold War intensifying, Vietnam is divided: communists hold the North, while America supports an untested regime in the South. Watch via Passport.
Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 9:30 p.m.
“Riding the Tiger” – President Kennedy and his advisors wrestle with how deeply to get involved in South Vietnam. As the increasingly autocratic Diem regime faces a growing communist insurgency and widespread Buddhist protests, a grave political crisis unfolds. Watch via Passport.
Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 8 p.m.
“The River Styx” – With South Vietnam in chaos, Hanoi accelerates the insurgency, sending combat troops to the South. Fearing Saigon’s collapse, President Johnson escalates, authorizing sustained bombing of the North and deploying ground troops in the South. Watch via Passport.
Tuesday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m.
“Resolve” – Defying American airpower, North Vietnamese troops and materiel stream down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, while Saigon struggles to pacify the countryside. As an antiwar movement builds at home, GIs discover that this war is nothing like their fathers’ war. Watch via Passport.
Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m.
“This Is What We Do” – Enemy body counts and American casualties mount as GIs chase an elusive foe and face deadly ambushes and artillery. While Hanoi lays plans for a massive surprise offensive, the Johnson Administration reassures the public that victory is in sight. Watch via Passport.
Tuesday, Oct. 31, at 8 p.m.
“Things Fall Apart” – Seeing the violence and brutality of the Tet Offensive unfold on television, Americans begin to doubt Johnson’s promise of “light at the end of the tunnel.” LBJ decides not to run again. The country is staggered by assassinations and unrest. Watch online.
Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m.
“The Veneer of Civilization” – With the country at odds over the war, draft-age Americans face wrenching choices. After chaos roils the Democratic Convention, Nixon narrowly wins the presidency. In Vietnam, soldiers on all sides witness terrible savagery and unflinching courage. Watch online.
Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m.
“The History of the World” – When troop withdrawals begin, soldiers left in Vietnam ask what they are fighting for. News breaks of a shocking massacre at My Lai, and questions grow about the war’s rectitude. The Cambodia invasion sparks large protests, with tragic consequences.
Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 8 p.m.
“A Disrespectful Loyalty” – South Vietnamese forces fighting on their own suffer a terrible defeat in Laos. After being re-elected in a landslide, Nixon strikes a peace deal with Hanoi that allows American prisoners of war finally to come home to a bitterly divided country.
Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 8 p.m.
“The Weight of Memory” – Nixon resigns amidst Watergate, while a brutal civil war continues in Vietnam. North Vietnamese troops overtake Saigon with overwhelming force. For the next 40 years, Americans and Vietnamese from all sides search for healing and reconciliation.
All ten episodes are also available at PBS.org and via Arizona PBS Passport, where you can stream the series on your schedule.