|Two years later I finally have gotten around to writing a plot summary for IMDB and since I have already been accused by various Kossacks of writing this blog solely to sell DVD's, and since I like to reuse things, I thought I also publish it here to get some feedback and maybe sell a few more DVDs. Especially now that Ken Burns is copying after me by announcing his own plans for a documentary on the Vietnam War.|
A Plot Summary
Vietnam: American Holocaust opens in the present day at the Veterans for Peace Arlington West Memorial to the fallen US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in Santa Monica. Here the strong connection between our current wars and the war in Vietnam is first made. The question of what makes a holocaust is also raised. Then the scene shifts to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. and while the narration continues it is revealed that the youngest US soldier to die in Vietnam was a Black Marine age 15.
A clip of Vietnam era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in Hanoi in 1995 shows him saying that 3.4 million Vietnamese were killed during the war. Further news clips from the time reveal some of the horrors of that war and show that news commentators referred to it as a holocaust at the time.
This is followed by a brief history of the 19th century French conquest of Indochina and the Vietnamese liberation struggle from 1945 through the defeat of the French in 1954. This is done with archival footage, much of it very rare, and Martin Sheen's excellent narration and the voices of the principals on both sides of the conflict. Since the focus of the documentary is the American War in Vietnam the pace slows as more details are given about this part of the history.
The reasons for opposing the Vietnamese independence struggle are given by President Eisenhower in a clip from one of his speeches. Then the young Ho Chi Minh is introduced, with special attention to his time in Harlem, NY and his relationship with Marcus Garvey. Again very old and rare footage is used to illustrate these years while Mr. Sheen describes the crucial events.
The story of the lead up to the American war is presented with footage that also includes Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Diem, Gerald Ford, Joe McCarthy, Nixon, Senator Morse, and many others. We hear Bobby Kennedy question the NSC plans for a coup in South Vietnam only weeks before President Kennedy is assassinated. In another connection to the present conflicts, we learn of the role the Kennedy administration played in putting Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq.
Since the Tonkin Gulf incident played such a big role in promoting and justifying the war, the film goes into considerable detail about it. Through interviews with the captain of the US ship that was allegedly attacked, the chief gunner, a North Vietnamese general and the recollections of pilots that flew air cover on the fateful night, it shows that this attack never happened. Most significantly, using White House tapes released only a few years ago, it shows that McNamara and LBJ had foreknowledge of this phony attack that never took place. This material has never been used in a documentary before.
The next segment illustrates the incredible damage done to Vietnam by the massive US air war which included bombing, napalm and agent orange. With a particularly potent instrumental from the Mama's Boys blues band that provides the sound track for the film, we hear from LBJ, Curtis LeMay, a Hanoi doctor, Vietnamese victims, and American airmen among others in a way that really brings home the brutality of the air war. The agent orange section will send chills up your spine.
From there the film goes into the horrific ground war that was the real holocaust in Vietnam. This is done through the voices of American and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians that give you a real window into the tragedy of war on a human level. The Vietnam War was a My Lai every week and this point is driven home by recounting some of the many other massacres that took place. Extremely graphic images are used in this segment. You are witness to real deaths happening on the screen. You will understand why so many Vietnam vets came home with a great deal of mental anguish because of what they saw in this war.
Finally we return to Arlington West in the present and the Iraq War. Again the point is made that those that forget their history are doomed to repeat it and a plea is made both by Martin Sheen and the director, Clay Claiborne, to stop this madness.
You may purchase your very own copy on DVD from the movie website:
VietnamAmericanHolocaust.com or alternately, from Amazon. Today I also discovered that it is available for bittorrent download, which kinda makes me feel like I've arrived. [Anything worth stealing is worth something.] But you don't seriously expect me to tell you how to find that. In fact I am now seriously considering dropping my opposition to the Copyright Infringement Bill and reversing everything I have said on that subject. NOT!
It was a holocaust. Every American should see this film!
- Ron Kovic,Vietnam veteran author Born on the 4th of July
[Ron Kovic and Martin Sheen are Honorary Co-Chairs of my fundrasing committe for the sequel Vietnam: People's Victory
I do a lot of public speaking on the subject of Vietnam. As I was watching the documentary, I kept thinking, ‘Wow, I can't wait to get this into the high schools.’ Clay has done an excellent job of piecing together the historical record. He uses footage, some of which I've never seen before, and it is so good. In my talks, I will say Eisenhower said this or McNamara said that. This documentary shows them actually saying it.
-Scott Camil, 1st Marines (1965-1967), Winter Soldier (1971)
Good job with the film. Very powerful. I think [Clay] did a good job of connecting Vietnam and Iraq without beating it into the ground. White phosphorous moment isparticularly strong.
-David Zeiger, Director Sir! No Sir!
I love it .It's the best thing I've seen. I've seen Winter Solider, Hearts & Minds, you name it, I've seen it. This is the best thing I've seen.
-David Slaky, Veterans for Peace, St. Louis
This is the best political video on Vietnam and its historic relevance to our times I have ever seen. You really got to it, from the Garvey connection in Harlem of Ho Chi Min to our support of the French and the British release of the Japanese in Vietnam. It cuts deep enough to enrage me.
-Stuart M. Chandler, Rotten Tomatoes
The best documentary ever made on the Vietnam War.
- Blase Bonpane, Director of the Office of the Americas
Thank you so very much.Thank you.
- Vy Xuan Hong, Member, NA, Vietnam