This panel discussion on the Ken Burns Vietnam Documentary was hosted by the Joan Duffy Chapter of Veterans for Peace in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Although it was held back on October 15, 2017, we believe it’s an important take on the Burn’s series.
Toward an honest commemoration of the American War in Vietnam
The Full Disclosure campaign is a Veterans For Peace effort to speak truth to power and keep alive the antiwar perspective on the American war in Viet Nam — which is being commemorated during this decade with a series of 50th anniversary events. Full Disclosure represents a clear alternative to the Pentagon’s current efforts to sanitize and mythologize that war, and to thereby legitimize further unnecessary and destructive wars.
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1972: 50 Years Ago
March 30-July 1972 The PAVN (People’s Army of Viet Nam) and the NLF begin a major offensive. The goal of Easter Offensive, officially known as The 1972 Spring – Summer Offensive, (also called the Nguyen Hue (Nguyễn Huệ) offensive) was to win a decisive victory in 1972 or at least improve the revolutionary position for future peace talks. The 3-pronged attacks began in the north, center, and south of the country. Massed North Vietnamese Army artillery open a shattering barrage, targeting South Vietnamese positions across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Upwards of 20,000 PAVN troops cross the DMZ, forcing the South Vietnamese units into a retreat. The Southern defense is thrown into complete chaos. Intelligence reports had predicted a Northern attack, but no one had expected it to come across the DMZ. A week after the launch of the offensive, Nixon decides to respond with a massive air campaign against the North. The campaign was by far the largest and most comprehensive of the war, using a wide variety of aircraft as well as new ‘smart’ bombs. The US committed 74 tactical squadrons to the attack. In addition, six aircraft carriers were assigned to the bombing mission as well as over 100 B-52 bombers. For the first time, the US places mines in Haiphong Harbor to cut off the North Vietnamese from foreign support.
The South Vietnamese with heavy American air support are able to turn back the attack after a month and a half. The city of Loc Ninh (Lộc Ninh), located close to the Cambodian border subsequently became the capital of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam (PRGSVN), a distinction it held until it was disbanded after the war. While US bombing and a stiffened ARVN defense was able to turn back the PAVN and NLF offensive, it remains politically impossible to reintroduce sufficient U.S. combat troops to stem the PAVN drive. With his policy of Vietnamization at stake, Nixon implements a massive buildup of air power in Southeast Asia and a broadening of the eligible targets.
2016 National Book Award Finalist, Viet Thanh Nguyen:
“All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory . . . . Memory is haunted, not just by ghostly others but by the horrors we have done, seen, and condoned, or by the unspeakable things from which we have profited.”