A comprehensive history of the American stage of the Vietnam War.




1981   1980  


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Series cast summary:
Joseph B. Anderson ...  Himself 4 episodes, 1980-1981
Anthony Astuccio ...  Himself 2 episodes, 1981
Peter Braestrup ...  Himself 2 episodes, 1981
George R. Christmas ...  Himself 2 episodes, 1981


Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War, a 26-part Canadian television documentary on the Vietnam War, was produced in 1980 by Michael Maclear. The series aired in Canada on CBC Television, in the United States and in the United Kingdom on Channel 4. Maclear visited Vietnam during the production of the series and had access to film material there. He was the first Western journalist allowed to visit that area since the war. The documentary series was consolidated into 13 hour-long episodes for American television syndication. The series was released on videocassette format by Embassy and won a National Education Association award for best world documentary. Series writer Peter Arnett was an Associated Press reporter in Vietnam from 1962 to 1975. CBC aired only 18 of the episodes during the 1980-81 season because the series production was incomplete. The remaining episodes were broadcast during CBC's 1981-82 season. British audiences saw the series during Channel 4's 1984-85 season. Written by Elmer Gilman

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1980 (Canada)  »

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Vietnam 1945-1975 - The Ten Thousand Day War  »

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(Episode 1) | (25 episodes)
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User Reviews

An Excellent Documentary About the War in Viet Nam
27 August 2016 | by See all my reviews

The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975 is a 26-part documentary about the war in Vietnam, produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It was conceived by Michael Maclear, a Canadian broadcast journalist and film maker, who had spent some time in North Vietnam during the war. Maclear's wife, Mariko Koide, a Japanese news researcher, had contacts which helped Maclear gain access to archival film from North Vietnamese military and civilian organizations (unfortunately, this film, in black and white, is of poor quality). This series also employs film from Canadian, French, Australian, and Japanese news organizations, from the U.S. National Archives, and the Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, and Ford Presidential Libraries. The script was written by Peter Arnett (who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for his reporting on Vietnam), and narrated by actor Richard Basehart. Interviews with a wide range of U.S. and Vietnamese officials (especially Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Van Thieu), and American military officers and soldiers provide important perspectives on the war. There is less input from the other side, mainly from Australian reporter Wilfred Burchett, and Ha Van Lau.

The series opens with "America in Vietnam," a 51-minute overview of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1975. Most of the 25 subsequent 25-minute programs are devoted to a general history of the war (with some overlapping between programs), beginning with a brief account of Vietnamese anti-colonialist activities before WWII, and a description of how the Viet Minh and the OSS fought together against the Japanese during World War II. During that war, the U.S. opposed restoration of French rule in Viet Nam; but after the war, and especially after the Communist victory in China and the outbreak of the Korean War, the U.S. began assisting the French in Vietnam. The Ten Thousand Day War devotes an entire program to the battle of Dien Bien Phu, then discusses the Geneva Conference, the Diem regime, and the assassination of Diem, Viet Cong guerrilla warfare against South Viet Nam, the Tonkin Gulf incident, growing U.S. involvement through advisers, bombing, and ground troops, the siege of Khe Sanh, the TET offensive, Nixon's Vietnamization policy, peace negotiations, the final military campaign, and U.S. withdrawal from Viet Nam. Along the way, we learn about Viet Cong tunnel systems, American air and naval firepower, body counts, the limitations of the Army of South Viet Nam, and the impact of the U.S. presence on Vietnamese officials and people,

In addition to this general history of the conflict, The Ten Thousand Day War includes special programs focused on each of the following specific aspects of the war: (1) North Vietnamese society, (2) the Ho Chi Minh Trail, (3) the weapons of the U.S., the North Vietnamese, and the Viet Cong, (4) each side's efforts to gain the support of the villages, (5) the air war, (5) the anti-war movement in America, (6) the lives of American troops in the field, and (7) the experiences of American prisoners of war.

Many Americans who lived through it are likely to be highly critical about things that were done or not done during the war. They may be dissatisfied with this Canadian-produced series, which, to a great extent, avoids taking sides, between South and North Vietnam, between military and civilian officials, or between hawks and doves. Reviewers have expressed vastly different views, one characterized this series as "government propaganda," another commented that it "demonstrates Washington's systematic blundering and inefficiency," and another, who identified himself as a Vietnam veteran, described it as "the finest and most complete history of the Vietnam War I have ever seen."

In the final program, "Vietnam Recalled," a wide cross section of diplomats, military officers, politicians, and soldiers provide a wide range of assessments of America's Vietnam policies. Among them are Ellsworth Bunker, Clark Clifford, William Colby, William Fulbright, Robert Komer, Melvin Laird, Henry Cabot Lodge, Eugene McCarthy, Dean Rusk, Arthur Schlesinger, Maxwell Taylor, and William Westmoreland. There is no equivalent commentary from the other side. In any case, throughout the war, there seems to have been little divergence of policy views among North Vietnamese leaders. With regard to Vietnamese memories of the war, it is perhaps sufficient to note that roughly 5 per cent of Vietnam's people died during the conflict.

The Ten Thousand Day War cannot be considered a definitive history of the conflict. The Vietnamese were involved in fighting for even more than ten thousand days. Guerrilla action against the French actually began before 1940, and was followed by operations against the Japanese during World War II. After 1975, Vietnam was engaged in combat against Cambodia and China. The series neglects much of the diplomacy behind the war, the backgrounds of South Vietnamese leaders, and the course of South Vietnamese political developments. Moreover, like many documentary films, it is largely guided by the availability of motion picture images. Thus, combat operations—of which there is much film footage—tend to receive more attention than diplomatic and military policy decisions (e.g., McNamara's change of heart, government misperceptions and misrepresentations, peace negotiations, etc.), which took place away from the cameras.

Maclear also wrote a companion volume, The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975 (1981), which provides much additional information.

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