Small Wars Journal

Ken Burns Talks About the Vietnam War, the Wall and His New Documentary

Ken Burns Talks About the Vietnam War, the Wall and His New Documentary by Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post

Hal Kushner, an Army doctor, had been a starving prisoner of war in Vietnam for weeks when he and his desperate comrades decided to catch and eat the prison commandant’s cat.

They tried to conceal their deed but were caught before the meal. Kushner was beaten and tied up, and the cat’s carcass was draped from his neck. Tragically, he recalled, he and his buddies never got to eat the cat.

The scene, as related by Kushner, is one of the most poignant in a 10-part documentary by filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, “The Vietnam War,” that is set to air on PBS in September.

The film is the most ambitious for Burns, who is renowned for his documentaries on the Civil War, jazz, baseball and World War II, among others. It covers the war from its gen­esis, starting after World War I, and examines the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which was completed in 1982, and the years beyond…

The documentary covers the war from all sides, folds in the antiwar protests it sparked, and includes the assassinations, racial unrest and social divisions that tortured the country in those days.

It covers the American massacre of civilians at My Lai, and the enemy’s massacre of civilians at Hue; the killing of American students at Kent State and Jackson State; and the veterans who threw away their war medals at a demonstration against the war outside the U.S. Capitol.

The film discusses the controversial Agent Orange defoliant, the visit to Hanoi by the actress and antiwar activist Jane Fonda, and the release of the Pentagon Papers.

It features, among others, soldiers, Marines, nurses, pilots, POWs, protesters, “deserters,” anarchists, veterans of the South Vietnamese Army, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army…

Read on.