By Jeff Pfeiffer
As America slogs on into its second decade of war in Afghanistan, and is finally starting to bring its troops in Iraq home after nearly a decade, we have heard descriptions of these conflicts as “quagmires” and heard them compared with the Vietnam War. Whether that comparison is accurate or not, it’s hard for those who were not alive during the Vietnam War to understand just how controversial and devastating — in so many ways — it was. Even some who lived during the time might not fully realize its nature and impact unless they were actually “in country” or knew and loved someone who was.
To present a new look at this conflict, History follows in the footsteps of its outstanding, Emmy-winning series WWII in HD and applies the techniques that made that such compelling storytelling to a war of a different generation. While World War II was seen as a “good” war, Vietnam became viewed as almost the exact opposite, by the end. As the conflict wore on and its death toll rose, it eventually inspired a weariness and division in the country, with citizens sometimes unfortunately taking out their frustration on returning soldiers.
For the three-part follow-up series Vietnam in HD — premiering tonight at 9pm and continuing Nov. 9 and 10 — thousands of hours of uncensored footage detailing every chapter of the war have similarly been collected from around the world, restored and transferred to stunning high definition. Even though Vietnam was the first war to regularly show up in people’s living rooms during evening newscasts, and much of its footage has been seen in color, it has never been seen like this, at least not by us. (Even the still photos from the series pop vividly and look like they were taken recently, bringing you right into the often horrific action.)
As with WWII in HD, this six-hour series uses actors to provide voiceovers chronicling the experiences of 13 people whose lives were changed, and in some cases haunted, by their wartime experiences. The stories include those of Arthur Wiknik, a young draftee who led his squad to safety during the infamous 10-day assault on “Hamburger Hill”; Elizabeth Allen, an Army nurse who insisted on frontline duty and saved lives during the Tet Offensive; Barry Romo, an Army infantryman who transformed from gung-ho patriot and war hero to staunch anti-war activist; and others. The veterans themselves also appear in the series, which features narration by Michael C. Hall.
If those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, then we may need to keep looking back more closely at the Vietnam War before we continue to get wrapped up in similarly controversial situations. Vietnam in HD provides an excellent reminder of what the war was like, while giving it a fresh perspective, both technically and emotionally.
Photos courtesy of Lou Reda Productions