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Sworn to Secrecy: Secrets of War 

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Based on information derived from formerly classified documents and messages, coupled with interviews with experts, authors and eyewitnesses from all over the world, SECRET OF WAR is the ... See full summary »




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Series cast summary:
Charlton Heston ...  Himself - Narrator 64 episodes, 1998-2002


Based on information derived from formerly classified documents and messages, coupled with interviews with experts, authors and eyewitnesses from all over the world, SECRET OF WAR is the most comprehensive documentary series ever produced on "secrets of war" throughout the last century. Narrated by Charlton Heston, this acclaimed series features declassified and rare footage, 3D graphics, on-location shooting, historical retracing shots and extensive reenactments. In all, 65 episodes were produced from 1997 to 2001. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | War




Official Sites:

The Documedia Group





Release Date:

13 July 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

History Exposed See more »

Filming Locations:

Austria See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Documedia Group See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(65 episodes)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The 65 hour series Sworn to Secrecy: Secrets of War is the largest single body of work in Charlton Heston's esteemed career. See more »

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User Reviews

Charlton Heston's narrative is rooted in 20th Century reactionary "domino" theories
13 April 2017 | by ronkovic-99512See all my reviews

This series relies on an unknown British academic (what role did they have in the war?) and a selective narrative that posits it was all the north, and soviet Russia, and China's fault. There was no support for the vietmihn in the south, and the usual "we would have won if hippie politicians would just let us win" nonsense.

To this day, people still cant understand the ideology of their enemy, who fought for nationalism far more than for communism. They eventually went to war with all of their communist neighbors to preserve a Vietnam free of foreign domination, long after the US left Vietnam.

First some basic facts.

During World War II, the U.S. collaborated with the resistance group the Vietminh and their leader, Ho Chi Minh, in their fight against Japan. In the postwar period, however, the U.S. feared Communist expansion into Southeast Asia. In 1954, as France withdrew its forces in defeat, the Geneva Accords established the countries of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Vietnam was partitioned into north and south sectors until elections to be held by 1956. Fearing a victory by Ho Chi Minh, the Eisenhower administration collaborated with the South Vietnam leadership to prevent elections and subsequently sent military aid and advisors. Under President John F. Kennedy, the number of "advisers" increased to more than 16,000, some of whom engaged in counterinsurgency efforts and actual combat. Although Kennedy opposed large scale U.S. involvement, his successor, Lyndon Johnson, began regular bombings and escalated troops to more than 500,000 by 1967. Johnson's successor, Richard Nixon, scaled back to 39,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam by September 1972, but initiated bombing raids into Cambodia in 1969 and sent ground troops there in 1970. The U.S. and North Vietnam reached a cease-fire agreement in January 1973, and the South Vietnamese regime fell in April 1975. More than one million people died during the war, including an estimated 925,000 North Vietnamese, 184,000 South Vietnamese, and 57,000 American soldiers.

This series holds that anti-communism was the central and all-pervasive fact of U.S. foreign policy from at least 1947 until the end of the sixties. After World War II, an ideology whose very existence seemed to threaten basic American values had combined with the national force of first Russia and then China. This combination of ideology and power brought our leaders to see the world in "we-they" terms and to insist that peace was indivisible. Going well beyond balance of power considerations, every piece of territory became critical, and every besieged nation, a potential domino. Communism came to be seen as an infection to be quarantined rather than a force to be judiciously and appropriately balanced. Vietnam, in particular, became the cockpit of confrontation between the "Free World" and Totalitarianism; it was where the action was for 20 years.

U.S. involvement in Vietnam is not mainly or mostly a story of step by step, inadvertent descent into unforeseen quicksand. It is primarily a story of why U.S. leaders considered that it was vital not to lose Vietnam by force to Communism. Our leaders believed Vietnam to be vital not for itself, but for what they thought its "loss" would mean internationally and domestically. Previous involvement made further involvement more unavoidable, and, to this extent, commitments were inherited. But judgements of Vietnam's "vitalness"—beginning with the Korean War— were sufficient in themselves to set the course for escalation.

Our Presidents were never actually seeking a military victory in Vietnam. They were doing only what they thought was minimally necessary at each stage to keep Indochina, and later South Vietnam, out of Communist hands. This forced our Presidents to be brakemen, to do less than those who were urging military victory and to reject proposals for disengagement. It also meant that our Presidents wanted a negotiated settlement without fully realizing (though realizing more than their critics) that a civil war cannot be ended by political compromise.

Presidents and most of their lieutenants were not deluded by optimistic reports of progress and did not proceed on the basis of wishful thinking about winning a military victory in South Vietnam. They recognized that the steps they were taking were not adequate to win the war and that unless Hanoi relented, they would have to do more and more. Their strategy was to persevere in hope that their will to continue—if not the practical effects of their actions—would cause the Communists to relent.

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