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History | NW Life | World | The Vietnam War

'The Vietnam War,' A PBS Documentary


“The Vietnam War” — a new 10-part, 18-hour documentary film series — directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, will premiere Sept. 17, 2017, on OPB.

In an immersive narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film.

“The Vietnam War” features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.

“The Vietnam War was a decade of agony that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans,” Burns said. “Not since the Civil War have we as a country been so torn apart. There wasn’t an American alive then who wasn’t affected in some way — from those who fought and sacrificed in the war, to families of service members and POWs, to those who protested the war in open conflict with their government and fellow citizens. More than 40 years after it ended, we can’t forget Vietnam, and we are still arguing about why it went wrong, who was to blame and whether it was all worth it.”

“We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy,” Novick said. “Ken and I have tried to shed new light on the war by looking at it from the bottom up, the top down and from all sides.”

North Vietnamese Army officer leads an attack on South Vietnamese forces. Laos 1971.

North Vietnamese Army officer leads an attack on South Vietnamese forces. Laos 1971.

Doug Niven Collection

Ten years in the making, the series brings the war and the chaotic epoch it encompassed to life.

It includes rarely seen, digitally remastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies, and revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.

“The Vietnam War” rounds out a trilogy of Florentine Films’ exploration of American wars that began with Burns’ landmark series, “The Civil War” (1990), followed by Burns and Novick’s acclaimed seven-part series about the World War II, “The War” (2007).

The first five episodes of “The Vietnam War” will air nightly from Sunday, Sept. 17, through Thursday, Sept. 21, and the final five episodes will air nightly from Sunday, Sept. 24, through Thursday, Sept. 28.

Released POW, Air Force Maj. Jay C. Hess reunites with his daughter. March AFB, California. Feb. 18, 1973.

Released POW, Air Force Maj. Jay C. Hess reunites with his daughter. March AFB, California. Feb. 18, 1973.

Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

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Photos: 'The Vietnam War'

A collection of photos from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's new documentary, "The Vietnam War."