Friday, July 16, 2010

Vietnam: An Independent Study (July 15)

Vietnam: A Television History - Part 5 (1954-67)
This part was called "America's Enemy" so there isn't an increase in the chronological coverage but a greater examination of who the US was fighting.
There is a decent description of the NLF and its resistance to the US supported Saigon government; how material flowed along the "Ho Chi Minh trail" (not one single route); it describes how many NLF returned to the North and waited for the elections; that the North expanded economically and was doing better before it was bombed again. The doc mentioned how NLF landmines would take out ambulances and such fears lead to no teachers or doctors visiting villages... even though it seemed that only the village/hamlet leaders/politicians were the ones being killed. A rough description was the that VC would kill the heads of a village and the US would destroy an entire village.
The NLF would make bombs from the undetonated ones the US dropped. There are also some terrible scenes of some really old people crying while their village was being burned.
The 1965 bombing of the North, called operation Rolling Thunder, was to "last a couple weeks, a few months at most... it went on for 3 years."
The documentary also presents an interview with a US military man who was tortured by having his shoulders out of joint and other things done to his legs. During the horror, he said that he heard a man crying and screaming in the distance and he thought that person must be being tortured too... he then realized it was him. He said that his "will gave out before his heart stopped beating" and because of this percieved failure of personal integrity, he was in "abject misery" for the next 7 years of his imprisonment.
Purposeful or inadvertent, we then get a contrast with an VC informant woman who was tortured by putting sticks under her finger nails and when she would not yield information, they electrified her nipples with each shock slamming her to the ground (with two American advisors always there). The doc implied she didn't give in; that her nationalist passion was unbroken by the torture.
Many of the smaller islands around Vietnam were subject to heavy bombing so the people built tunnels. One particular set of tunnels took 2 years to build and there would be 200-1000 people in it. A woman even gave birth to her child in there (they would go out to get food and water at times). What strikes me is the longevity. Two years to build some tunnels (I'm sure it was gradual expansion). What a terrible existence it would have been.


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