Listening to anti-war protest songs first sparked my curiosity about the Vietnam War. As a 12 year old eighth grader, I thought I could learn the world’s wisdom from the words of a song. Songs like The Unknown Soldier by the Doors with its realistic gunshot sounds and tragic imagry; Saigon Bride by Joan Baez, Pete Seeger’s Bring Em Home,and I ain’ Marching Anymore by Phil Ochs. Songs about the injustice, insanity and cruelty of the Vietnam War.
I heard adults talking about protecting Democracy by fighting Communism. More and more the strange place word 'Vietnam' was spoken. Then my Uncle Paul was drafted. He went to fight at that place I could hardly find on the map.
When my Uncle came back he was silent and enclosed as if he’d been to visit the moon. Once he told me he’d seen some pretty bad things there but didn’t tell me what they were. I didn’t have to use my imagination much- it was all on the CBS news now- real soldiers, real Vietnamese people, real pain, real death.
When the war ended on April 30, 1975, I was working at the Central Library downtown. Church bells rang and we jumped up and down and cheered. Later though, we were quiet , remembering... still wondering- was Vietnam a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ war?
Like myself, Ken Burns grew up wondering about the Vietnam war. He labored ten long years to make a documentary that might help to make sense of the Vietnam War by bringing us “something extrordinarily powerful..” -the stories, music and experiences of the soldiers and civilians- on both sides of the war.
THE VIETNAM WAR is a ten-part, 18-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Part one airs Sunday September 17 at 9:00 on PBS.
After watching, Ken Burn’s The Vietnam War, come to the Multnomah County Library to learn more about it through special programs, written material, music and more.