Share Your Thoughts
Few events in American history have been as divisive as the war in Vietnam. Over three decades later, the nation is still haunted by the questions it raises.
When is it right to go to war? Did the U.S. government pursue the right policies in Vietnam? How does a nation assess its losses? Is it unpatriotic to question a war?
Two Days in October presents the thoughts of people who were involved in fighting the war, or in protesting it.
Whether or not you were involved at the time, what are your views?
Share your thoughts >>
I commanded Alpha Company in the battle and also helped train and deploy Charlie Packet from Ft Lewis to Viet Nam where it became the core of Delta Company under the command of Clark Welch.
The following are my opinions and initial impressions [of the program]:
- The "desired outcome" of the production was unclear, e.g., re-plow and salt old wounds of the nation, subtly question the war in Iraq, point out villains, justify riots, etc.
- I found no closure with the PBS production (I did with the Maraniss book) and felt used and dirty after watching it. I still toss and turn over my decisions and the loss of lives that were entrusted to my care. Signs of the enemy were spotted, I directed a hasty ambush, firing started, communications were lost, I moved to the firing, killed several of the enemy, was wounded and eventually turned the company over to ISGT Valdez.
- Very little attempt was made indicate the camaraderie and bonds we shared then and now in both companies.
- Not enough was said about individual acts of bravery that day that saved many of our lives, e.g., ISGT Valdez, Lee Price, Doc Hinger, Joe Costello, and Pinky Durham.
- Too much was made of Jean Ponder Allen and a broken marriage - save it for the Hollywood movie.
- A conscious effort was made to report the negative especially toward Westmoreland, Allen and the police and was skewed toward justifying student riots. Soldiers were made to look inept. They and their families deserve better.
- I felt sorry for the hardness that has not healed with time, i.e., the policeman who basically said that college students have no right to ask questions and ISGT Barrowıs comments that they should be lined up and shot. I no longer have the energy to carry that kind of poison in my heart and know that Bud Barrow is a better man than his comment.
I highly recommend David Maranissı book They Marched Into Sunlight for a more thorough and balanced account of the real two days in October; also Jim Sheltonıs book, The Beast Was Out There.
Life is complicated. It's not easy to understand when or why it's necessary to go to war. That is a decision for wise and thoughtful citizens to determine, it should involve the President, the Military leaders, and educated citizens who can give different perspectives on whether or not it is absolutely necessary. It should not be decided in the heat of the moment after a terrorist attack, a Pearl Harbor attack, or in the heat of anger or coldness of fear. In my opinion this has never been accomplished by the United States. We seem to be under the control of men with political agendas that do not appear capable of wisdom or careful consideration. Sometimes it's very hard to be proud to be an American.
It was interesting to see every demonstrator interviewed still strongly believed they did the right thing and were very passionate in expressing it while the views of the soldiers were very mixed and divided. And to hear that the Chancellor at 90 years of age cried when re-telling his story was indicative of the intensity of the events. Great documentary.
I found the film almost unbearable to watch, so well did it recall the terrible division that tore the nation apart during that criminally stupid war. By late 1966 (I was 19 at the time) I was convinced that the U.S. had made a grave mistake in committing itself to propping up the South Vietnamese regime. The intervening years have only reinforced my belief that this was the most self-destructive exercise of American power in the country's history, and one that we have paid and paid for, and continue to pay for, long after the war's end. It is clear from the film that the wounds sustained during the war have not healed, that they still divide well-meaning citizens from each other. What a hideous, mindless waste of lives and effort. But what a powerful piece of filmmaking. I could not sleep after watching it, but I'm glad that I watched.
E. Lansing, MI
I was an operating room technician at the 95th Evacuation Hospital in DaNang, Vietnam 1970-1971. I thought the presentation on PBS was insightful in bringing together two diverse reactions to the war. It was very hard to come home and have the war continue with escalating protest and resentment. It took me over seven years to get over the anger and frustration that resulted in having participated in the war. I was a draftee, so I was not a willing participant. It is hard for the American public to appreciate the "horrors" that war inflicts on the young. The loss of faith, trust, and solidarity that resulted has never been regained. Thank you for your time, insight and consideration in presenting this program to give the American people a true glimpse of reality for many Americans that gave their all on both sides of a terrible page in history.
Broken Arrow, OK
I was drafted in October 1967 and sent to Vietnam in April 1968. I wasn't from a wealthy or influential family so I couldn't get in the reserves. I have never gotten over the unfairness of the situation. I was a rifleman but hurt my leg in a fall and spent the remainder of my tour as a clerk. When I got back I attended a protest about the war. Things seem to never change. Now we have another American government sending people to fight in another foreign war that most of us would be unwilling to die for. Shame on America.
I am the daughter of private Joe Costello. I am so proud of my father for his role in the American Army, and risking his life for this country. Without these brave soldiers like my father and his fellow Delta Company we would not be the FREE COUNTRY we are today. My heart goes out to all the Americans that fought in that battle, and thank you, all you men deserve the highest honor. Dad thank you for all you have done for this country and especially for being the greatest Dad. I couldn't be more proud to be your daughter. God bless America.
Holland Patent, NY
I enjoyed your film... I am also looking forward to reading the book. Your program put me in touch with emotions that had been dormant for some time. I was a Freshman at the UW Madison in 1965....I was present for all the protests, riots, etc. My experience was perhaps somewhat unique due to the fact that I was also in the Wisconsin National Guard. My unit was called up for the "riots." Our mission was to guard the Capital building. One day I was a student, the next a soldier. I was exposed to many unique situations, both good and bad on both sides of the issues. Students throwing glass bottles at police cars, and police beating students and looking forward to clubbing a "hippie."
The right to free speech affords every American the right to protest the Vietnam war or any other war for that matter, But it does not give them the right to abuse the soldiers who fought that or any other war. Vietnam Veteran
Terry J. Johnson
As a high school freshman in 1963 I drew "Should the U.S. send troops to Viet Nam?" as a topic in an extemporaneous speech contest. As I approached the podium to deliver the speech, I was confused in regards to coming down in favor of, or opposed to it. The speech was a flop, primarily because I could not formulate a strong opinion. My confusion showed.
As fate would have it, five years later, I was to serve with the Armed Forces in Da Nang, Viet Nam. Even after losing some friends and colleagues, I still couldn't formulate a yes/no opinion.
Now, nearly forty years have passed. I have strong opinions regarding a number of topics, but am still confused in regards to this one. It is indeed haunting.
In Memory of Earl "Flugy" Goodwater an African-American Medic in Vietnam....
... my cousin became known as "the town drunk"... after watching this series based on the footage I saw...imagine a Medic seeing this every day at 18 years old...Earl "Flugy" Goodwater, now I understand...Rest in Peace
When I see the juxtaposition of the soldiers and the students, I can feel no empathy for the students. There is no comparison between the sorrow and suffering borne by our soldiers and the protesting done by privileged students. All of these self-aggrandizing, self-righteous teachers and students make me sick. How I wish that they had spent just one day in Vietnam to know what real fear, courage, and honor is. Had they shown any bit of gratitude or respect to the returning soldiers then I could forgive them, but they were so cruel. May our dead soldiers rest in peace and may the hearts of our returned soldiers be healed.
New York, NY
Well done documentary! While I lived through that era and viewed the Vietnam War as a tragedy and waste of lives, I somehow question PBS's motives now in presenting this documentary at this time. I also do not support our efforts in Iraq, but I feel that PBS is trying to create an anti-war movement now with such documentaries? Interesting you showed the Bob Dylan film and now this one also. Hmmm.... Sorry I question your motives: timing is everything and somehow this feels like the wrong time to run such a documentary.
American Experience replies: executive producer Mark Samels and filmmaker Robby Kenner discuss viewer mail about Two Days in October and comments about Iraq in this week's podcast episode. Subscribe to the American Experience podcast at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/podcasts.html and listen to their conversation.
The war in Vietnam was wrong. I still don't know the reason we were there. It seems now in the 21st century that we have not learned much from our mistakes. Time of war is one of the most important times to question our government's motives. We should also however support our troops when they have no choice in what they are called to do.
Little Rock, AR
Well done...capturing that moment in time.
I was a combat medic in 69/70 and by that time we all knew the whole thing was a lost cause.
As for the comment by one former grunt that he hasn't given up on the sacrifice made...I stand with him.
In October 1967 I was a freshman in college. As a daughter of a U.S. Navy serviceman, I was torn between the military life of my father as one of obeying orders and seeing what was happening in the world and wondering for the first time if my country was wrong. So I definitely identified with the woman in the program who was also a college freshman -- she was wondering if she should protest or if she should go take an exam. I completely understood her dilemma. How were we prepared to make such decisions?
This time in American history is, I am afraid, being replayed today. How can a nation bear to relive such times within one lifetime? Why must history repeat itself? Have we learned nothing?
Regardless of my despair, I wish to thank you for a wonderful program. The message from both sides needed to be said so that others can remember while others just might learn. Thank you, thank you PBS!
Just finished watching Two Days in October. I was in the Army from 1965-67. When I got out I was involved in some protests to end the war in New Jersey, and of course, lived thru those times when the country was divided over Viet Nam. You had the super patriots who believed "my country right or wrong" and simply hated those who protested against the war. You really have to wonder how many more names would be on the Viet Nam Memorial if those protests hadn't swayed public opinion against the war that led eventually to a settlement in Viet Nam. I had no real choice but to go in the Army. I was proud I served, but not proud of my country and how they lied about what was really happening in Viet Nam. I watched what the cops did to those students at the University of Wisconsin and how they defended their actions. It's not really much different today. If you oppose the war in Iraq you still have to be careful and worry about being "unpatriotic" and the police today would be no different than the police in 1968 if they had to remove protesters they consider unpatriotic. We didn't learn much from Viet Nam, and if Iraq isn't proof, I don't know what is. The most dangerous people in America are the flag wavers that call people who truly stand up for a democratic society, by encouraging debate and demanding action, disloyal and traitors. The cops of Madison in 1968 are a good example of those kinds of people.
I will never forget the abuse I took from Protesters, while in uniform for my country in 1967. I was called a Pig and a Baby Killer.
William F. O'Malley
It was an unbelievable time. I know it took courage to put on a uniform and fly halfway around the world to fight a war; a war we were being told was honorable and necessary. It also took courage to say "no" to the power that was the United States Government, to go to Canada, to Sweden, or even jail, honoring a conviction that the war we were being told was honorable and necessary was neither.
No matter which way your conscience took you, the moment that decision was made your life would be forever changed.
Your program certainly brought back many of the emotions I felt during the Vietnam War.
I am a veteran and until I was almost half way through my one year tour I was very pro-war for many of the same reasons that the current US Government administration is using to tell the American people we should be in Iraq.
When the military and political leaders have to begin lying to the American people about the reasons we are at war and our successes, then it is time for the American people to make a stand.
The one thing about your program that amazed me was the Madison police officers' attitude toward the protestors. What amazed me was that they had not mellowed at all. After beating defenseless kids one would think that they would have at least some remorse for their behavior.
A comment by the sister of an American killed in Vietnam struck me as being at the crux of the situation. Were those of us who were in Vietnam doing our duty -- right or were the people protesting the war -- right?
I felt that the American people were victimized by the politicians and the military leadership.
I too was drafted into the army in 1967. I went, as my father did, because it was my duty, my obligation to those who gave their lives for my country. Not going was not a choice. After spending 1968 in country, I came back disillusioned, angry, against the war 100%, but hating the protesters and dodgers. I also spent the next 20 years an active alcoholic and drug addict in response to my stupidity, ignorance and inaction when faced with my participation in the war and my part in killing innocents and watching my countrymen being killed. Something in me and in my generation died during that time. I thought my generation would not get us involved in anything similar, but I feel in my heart I was wrong. I will dream of my actions in 1968 until I die.
This documentary and others about the interval remind me how intense my feelings about the Viet Nam War remain. The pain never quite ends. How thin the line between how I lived and how I might have lived continues to amaze me. Excellent work. Thank you.
Ted Michael Morgan
Baton Rouge, LA
Vietnam vet here (sort of - USS Hornet CVS12, Sept '68 to May '69, Gulf of Tonkin).
What could I possibly say about the Vietnam War that hasn't already been said? That it was divisive?; you bet your [expletive] it was. That it wasn't worth it? Too costly? Not done correctly? Civilly disruptive?
For every question being asked, or been asked, about Vietnam, you can do a coin toss -- many, many coin tosses, and you'll get many answers, all of them different, each of them right.
What stands out about TWO DAYS IN OCTOBER is the gaping asymmetry between the domestic and the Vietnam story lines. Student protesters' whines about being thumped by Wisconsin police ring pretty hollow in contrast to the silence of the dutiful 19 year old soldiers whose faces had been effectively erased by 7.62mm rounds.
Fort Worth, TX
Terry Allen, Jr. was shafted. It is easy to criticize him, and he'd probably be the first to take responsibility for his command, but none of us were in his shoes. His superiors put him in a horrible position. It's not an exact analogy, but I've seen it happen in companies -- in large organizations it is difficult for people at the top (i.e. generals) to see the big picture and think out of the box. The people in the middle (like Col. Allen), and in the lower ranks (the grunts) wind up holding the bag and take the hits -- this happens even if the top people are self-serving and devious, but also happens when the top people are well-intentioned and competent.
B. E. Long
Two Days in October was not unbiased, but concentrated on a very narrow and limited story. It was not unbiased. I am a Viet Nam veteran and this piece of "journalism" does not tell how it really was in Viet Nam. It only tells how this limited story shaped certain people's attitudes AFTER they had years to slowly change. In other words, hindsight. And hindsight after so much time does not accurately portray the actual way it was in Viet Nam. You have again done a disservice to the veterans of this war. We served nobly and had those who were not there supported those who were, I believe we would not have not have the self doubt we have in America today.
I was a student and an anti-war, social justice activist in the 60s and 70s. I then went on to be a teacher and then a police officer for the last 26 years. The war in Vietnam was wrong, as is the war in Iraq now, and police officers have no right to attack peaceful protesters now nor did they have the right to do so in Madison, or Chicago during the Vietnam era. Professional police officers should be protecting civil rights not violating them by their actions even if they don't agree with the protestors.
It is easy to protest. It is easy to write about what is right or wrong. It is easy to sit back, away from danger, and believe that your voice should be heard as the only marker on morality.
But who provides the voice for those in danger? What is the value of the moral judgement for those of us within the citizenry that decide to fight for our country?
Ever since wars began being widely televised with Vietnam, non-combatants never have the stomach to understand just what it takes to win a war, insomuch as delineating justifications for a war itself. How would this 'televised' society handle the 6800 Marines and 22,000 Japanese that died during the fighting for Iwo Jima in WWII? Did they die in vain? Was the cost 'too' much to bear in light of the war?
This convenient televised-enabled thinking would have had the US never enter the European theater during WWII. The same back-seat thinking that occurred in Vietnam 40 years ago, is again pervasive today with the Iraq war.
Supporting our troops means supporting the war. Undermining their efforts, undermines their ability to execute combat plans to full effectiveness. People die in war. There is no 'nice' way to kill someone. Go out there and fight in combat one day, then maybe you can understand how important it is to have the support of your country.
Just who has a better perspective about what's right or wrong, the one being shot at or the one watching the shooting on t.v.?
In October, 1967, I was a student in high school in Wisconsin. I watched the Dow protests on TV and discovered that I was the only person in my high school civics class that supported the students and was against the war in Vietnam. I was also on the staff of my high school paper and, when I wrote an editorial against the war after a classmate was killed in Vietnam, was told I could withdraw the editorial or not graduate.
So, at a fairly young age, I learned that power corrupts.
When I reached the University of Wisconsin a year later, I joined the anti-war and women's rights movements, which I am proud of to this day.
I am still, however, dumbfounded by the remarks of the Madison police, who, to this day, defend their actions. They thought that we university students were a bunch of "dumb" spoiled brats who deserved to be clubbed into the ground, tear-gassed and maced. Perhaps they felt powerless in the rest of their lives and the only power they got was by beating students who were, by and large, peaceful.
I am proud that my son is following the examples of his father and me by being a leader in the movement against another illegal, immoral, and costly war: the war in Iraq.
Santa Cruz, CA
I viewed Two Days in October on KCET recently. Although polished in its ability to bring history alive through first-hand accounts and fluid editing, I believe the program was one-sided and dishonored the valiant soldiers who fought in this battle. For example, the average viewer might come away perceiving the soldiers from Alpha & Delta Companies, 2 Reg, 28th Battalion of the U.S. Army were inept, fearful and unable to engage the enemy. By purposely omitting stories such as that of 2d Lt Harold Durham, who won the Medal of Honor during that battle, brings discredit upon the show's producers, writers and editors. Although I enjoy many endeavors by PBS and KCET, they would do well to provide balanced views and all information accurately, particularly information and facts that do not strengthen their viewpoints. Clearly, this was a show based upon a book that does its best to build a case against the U.S. Army, University Administrators, Police Officers and those in authority as incompetent, conspiratorial and ill-willed.
Redondo Beach, CA
Your [poll] question regarding the responsibility to protest government is worded very poorly. To accept the government's answer to anything without using your own senses is simply not wise. To protest and risk the lives of our soldiers with the same old rhetoric "I support our soldiers and not the war" is hog wash. You can dissent without calling for anarchy, without destroying private property, without risking the actual success of the military operation at hand. The protests of the 1960s were for a large part selfish displays. Today many protests are equally self serving with little or no regard to the soldier in the field. Some things never change. However, I wish one thing would. Would people please stop saying they are supportive of the soldiers but not the war. This is cowardice 90% of time.
Having spent two years in Vietnam-Sept 69-Jul 71 your program brought back many memories. Also since I went straight back to grad school at San Diego State Sept 71-May 73 I experienced firsthand some of the opposition to the war.
In quick summary my feelings are still that some of the best people I ever worked with in my life I met there (and many of them died there). I also remember the feeling I had towards the anti war protesters and I quote -"Drag the bastards out in the street and shoot them." I've mellowed a lot since then but still have no respect for their form of protest. There was a lot that was wrong with the war and I was against it but more for the politicization and corruption it brought to the military.
The students were idealistic immature fools (IMHO). You don't get to personally choose the wars you fight for your country. That is why we have a government. I also feel that the 'domino theory' was valid and while there might have been a better way to halt the spread of communism I don't know what it would have been at that time. Life is imperfect and so are governments. Students without any real responsibility (or experience) in life have always liked to raise the bar. SDSU was full of people hiding from life in academia and on their way to PhDs. A self fulfilling prophecy in creating universities with lots of 'high ideal' professors.
Punta Gorda , FL
Two Days In October revived intense feelings, elucidated foggy events and showed compassion for people on both sides of the Vietnam fence. I became politicized during this period owing to my draft status, and although I wasn't called to serve this experience changed my outlook on life forever. I feel privileged to live in the United States, however, I feel it is the duty of every citizen to question relentlessly the policies of our government at every turn in the name of truth. So many lies and fears were and continue to this day to be perpetrated by our government in the name of democracy, claiming to defend it in order to justify war. Patriotism is a form of idealism, but when it blinds people to the reality of things as they are, then it is a painful form of delusion.
I am a late era Viet Nam Vet. I lost many friends in the war. More after the war was conceded.
We were right to engage communism in Viet Nam. We were wrong to attempt limited and politicized war.
America has not completed a conflict since Eisenhower stopped Patton from removing the Russians from Berlin at the end of WWII.
Once committed to the fact that war is required, we must get Washington politicians removed from the process, and allow the military to complete the mission. We should have won Viet Nam, and we were right to fight. We were wrong in allowing political fat cats to play games with lives, both our own, and the Viet Namese. A simple look at North Vietnam, and North Korea today confirms both the correctness of the original intent, and the complete lunacy of not fighting to win.
Unfortunately, we are committing the same sin today in the war on terror.
You cannot fight a sterile war. You cannot call any war moral, some are simply more moral than the alternative. Turn the military and covert operations loose to do what they are in place to do. Kill and destroy the enemy. There is no peace, and no peaceful coexistence, until the enemy is completely and thoroughly defeated. Harsh but fact. It's time the news media began to get their nose out of commentary and opinion, report the facts, especially the truth of them good being done, and recognize that the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a complete blessing and the salvation of millions of lives, and years of war, for both sides. Get your heads out of your elitist, and frankly communist [expletive].
Harry J Titshaw Jr
It took me a long time to decide what I thought about the war in Vietnam. Once I realized the war was wrong it was an easier decision to decide to protest. I was 17 in 1967. I went to college in Washington, DC. There was a big demonstration being organized and I got involved in the planning meetings. There were endless arguments at these meetings. On October 21, 1967 I walked from my dorm room to the Mall. The crowd was young and it filled up the Mall. I found my friends under the banner from Antioch College. We marched over a bridge to the Pentagon. On the mall of the Pentagon there were lines of troops with M-14s. Someone went down the line putting flowers in the rifle barrels. The kids in uniform looked nervous. Someone must have given the order for the troops to advance. The crowd sat down. The first soldier in line reached down to push a demonstrator out of the way. Of course, he couldn't and the soldiers bunched up. It was very tense. There was a smell of tear gas. I had taken many photographs. I was scared. I felt it was time for me to leave. The next day it felt like nothing had changed. Then in March 1968 President Johnson decided not to run again. Maybe we had something to do with that.
New Orleans, LA
I was a small-town UW junior majoring in Business and in the Commerce building when the events of that day of the Dow Demonstrations unfolded. It was a well-known fact that Dow Chemical would be on campus for interviews, and one of my classmates was muttering that he probably dressed in his suit for nothing, since he was scheduled for an afternoon interview with their interview team. I had read and heard that Dow made napalm and knew that there was going to be a campus protest, but no one I knew heard anything about it was going to be a violent one. Before my Marketing class, we were outside the east entrance, watching a mime troupe perform as part of the protest. I'm in the photo of the female mime being arrested, my face partially obscured. Things broke up just in time for us to move to class. We had heard that the city police were on campus, gathering across the street by the carrilon tower.
We were about 3/4 of the way through our class exercise when we heard a lot of commotion in the corridor outside. Our professor decided to end class early and told us it was a good idea to get out of the building, and soon. I sat near the door, so I opened it and found the corridor full of students, some urging the others to sit down in protest. People surged against the door and me, but I was able to slip out, stepping over some seated in the corridor. I could see police moving toward the front entrance, so I turned the opposite way and took the turn for the east door. The crowds were moving away from the north entrance in the front of Commerce, as you could see the police were at that entrance. I was moving toward the street, and could see the police swinging their batons. By this time, the crowd was chanting amidst the screaming of those being struck. I had moved back, closer to Bascom Hall, when the violence spilled out onto Observatory Drive, followed by the tear gas. I retreated with others nearby, heading for the Union.
I remember being shocked at what happened on my campus, the terror in people's eyes, the anger and shock in other's faces. The rest of my afternoon was spent in the Union, watching Flash Gordon serials, of all things, noting others coming into the Play Circle, bleeding and smelling of tear gas.
After watching your program tonight; which was very painful indeed, the only thing that comes to mind is: God have mercy on my soul. Viet Nam Vet 1963-1968 United States Marines. Peace be still.
The most telling comments in Two Days in October were made by a Vietnamese soldier and a Madison cop. The soldier said he never understood why the Americans came there, maybe they thought Vietnam was a rich country. The cop said that he would never let protesters have his country. Both were reacting to what they saw as violent people trying to take over their place. It is the role of political and societal leaders to explain policies to the ordinary people. In the case of the US, the government chose to encourage narrow vision based on spin and lies. Later it was shown that body counts were inflated, defeats were sold as victories and there was never light at the end of the tunnel. The Vietnam war was a colossal waste of lives, money and idealism. Thirty years from now we'll look at Iraq in the same way. The difference is that Iraq has oil. Losing the war in Vietnam didn't have long-term economic consequences, but Iraq very well could.
I was a 17 year old Chicago Catholic school girl attempting to finish my HS senior year after a summer in San Francisco; my older brother was serving his second tour in Vietnam in Saigon and went through TET there. I politically matured as the first troops of Chicago police came marching up Madison Ave., at least 30 cops deep and the breadth of the street across, toward Michigan Ave swinging their batons at us. Marching toward the Democratic Convention, 100,000 strong, I just happened to be on the west edge of the crowd as it reached the very middle of the intersection where those first cops attacked and my girlfriend and I were one of the first ones beaten. I rolled in a ball protecting my head; they broke her fingers and left her with stitches and a concussion and we were both dragged off and crammed into a paddy wagon and spent the night in jail. One guy was crushed out of breath in the wagon, they packed us in so hard. I marched because I wanted my brother home, the war was an atrocity accomplishing nothing but death for the boys and lots of money for the military industrial complex burgeoning the US economy. We were young and we knew this in our guts; it was plain to see. My brother lost a wife and child in Vietnam and came home a walking dead man; actually dying 6 months after his closest friend, our cousin Bill, who fought at Khe Sanh, died of agent orange brain tumors. I have been with a Vietnam veteran since 1990 when we met over a common interest in counseling veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; I the war protestor (gassed again in Berkeley CA during the People's Park protests,) and he the wounded veteran counselor with his bronze stars trying to help the MORE wounded in attempts to make sense of it all for himself. War will never make sense and we will drive the human race into oblivion trying to justify it to ourselves. After 15 years of that work, we both got out of the counseling field. We both cry every time we see another one of these documentaries but we can't not watch them either. I still find myself with the urge to lie down in front of the White House and not move, eat or drink until all war stops. Who will be there to take my place when I'm too old to protest anymore?
It is not unpatriotic to question a war nor the government. This is what makes us Americans. I support the military men and women and feel they should always be treated with respect, honor and gratitude. I also feel that as Americans people should speak out and protest.
My dad fought in Korea, was there shortly after turning 17, served two tours there and has a Purple Heart double oak-leaf cluster. He too did not receive a welcome home, band or parade. I only hope that we have learned from those previous soldiers and give them at this late date a handshake or hug and let them know how much they are appreciated and loved.
Ft. Worth, TX
I find it totally absurd that not one interview in this movie was given to an African American or Hispanic. It is direct reflection of American society to make minorities invisible and at the same time put the load of your war policies on our shoulders. And totally disregard us in American history.
American Experience replies: producer Robby Kenner sought his interviewees from the ranks of the surviving Black Lions and from people who were on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus for the protests in October 1967. Please visit the firsthand accounts section of this Web site to see the comments of one of Kenner's Latino interviewees, Mike Arias.
I was serving in Vietnam during this time and I will always feel that these college kids extended the war by openly protesting it rather than showing support for the troops that were there. Many a young man died because the protestors gave the North hope. They couldn't win on the battlefield, but they could win if they held out long enough for the protestors to convince the american people that the war was not winnable.
I found the presentation of Two Days in October by PBS very compelling.
One may object to a war, but, as a beneficiary of freedoms guaranteed by the sacrifices made by others, does not have the right to protest it. My heart goes out to the veterans.
On the other hand, I must refrain from giving my opinion of the student activists of that era except to note that I believe many were acting out of self interest, which was, and is, abhorrent.
Whatever position one holds on the so-called Vietnam "conflict", the bottom line is that each of us must ultimately live with our own conscience.
I'd like to congratulate the producers of this show on their achievement. They brought into rare, sharp focus the breadth of American experience and opinion on the Vietnam War. Some of the opinions we agree with, some are difficult to hear -- it all depends on our individual perspectives, and you captured that truth. Kudos.
I found the events unfolding simultaneously on the opposite sides of the world were a microcosm of the conflicts shared by all of those affected. Even though there were different sides and viewpoints, most people seemed to not have any more answers than they did then. From the man who thought the US shouldn't have been there but didn't want to think his soldier friends died for no good reason to the Vietnamese farmer who still didn't understand why the US came there. It put it into perspective; what are we supposed to think when we look back on Vietnam?
Spring Grove, IL
Your presentation was very realistic and moving. I was a student at San Francisco State during the War. I was very involved with the peace movement and the Third World Strike for Ethnic Studies. We had very similar experiences on campus and at the draft centers (stop the draft week, etc.). I am still an activist and always will be. One of the students said that we lost our optimism, but the movement has always fueled my optimism. The movement is the only thing that channels my anger in a positive way. Although I do believe that we are very cynical about government spin and outright lies. That is a good thing. We must always question leaders.
Seeing the hurt and pain of the soldiers who remember that ambush reminds me of friends who went and were changed and those who never really came back. That's why we must prevent any more escalation of this insane war our government has started in Iraq. We can only hurt ourselves, the Iraqis, and damage our hope for real democracy around the world.
I hope many people will watch this show and learn lessons that we need to act on right now! In a democracy, even a corrupt one, we are ultimately responsible.
It's unfortunate that our tax dollars are being spent to produce such lies and distortions! It was the cowardly protesters and the media and the lame politicians who lost the war, not the brave and honorable men who fought and died for their country. If you want to know what really happened in Vietnam, read, "A Better War", by Lewis Sorley. Vietnam was a battle fought as part of the cold war, a war which we ultimately won thanks to Ronald Reagan.
I was a college student during the war in 1968, the time of the film, I saw tonight on public television. I was not a protestor, nor was I anti-protest. I was a confused and non-active bystander who could not understand what was REALLY happening. I wasn't even shocked that badly by the murder of four students at Kent State later on. I was ignorant. I think I wanted to stay numb and uninformed so that I would not have to take a stand one way or the other. Now, I so much regret that I did not protest the war in Viet Nam. I only wish today's high school and college age kids were more informed about the war in Viet Nam as well as the current war in Iraq.
I demonstrated against the war in Iraq for the first time about 3 weeks ago. I expected and got a lot of harsh remarks from passers by, but not violent reactions. I plan to demonstrate and to talk to young people who are planning to volunteer for military service in an effort to dissuade them from giving their youth, and perhaps their lives, in an immoral and irrational war in Iraq.
It took me 60 years of living to understand how things work -- the system -- in this country. Now that I think I understand it, I am bitterly disappointed by what America has done, and is doing, since WW II. I fear that we as a people have moved dangerously close to the "authoritarian personality" of fascism. I only hope and pray that our youth will awaken and lead us away from the abyss at whose edge it seems we stand.
Thank you for airing programs such as American Experience which examine our most serious moments of self doubt, for often, they are our finest moments.
This time in history is a very good example of democracy at its best and at its worst.
Student protests displayed were very patriotic because they stood up for what they believed was right, in a peaceful manner. They questioned what they believed was wrong and they exercised their constitutional right of free speech.
Police officers took their power too far and violently dispersing the students threatens the constitutional right to free speech.
Lake Arrowhead, CA
As a former Black Lion, June68-June69 and drafted college student the book and TV program are important to filling in some missing parts of my past. None of the protests of the era were allowed to filter down to us while we were under the Army's control. I had heard of Gen. Hay and Clark Welch while in-country. I was lucky enough to meet Clark Welch at a 2/28th reunion in Las Vegas in the mid 90's. He is the true image of a leader of men. John Wayne and the rest of the right's heros and "leaders" could not carry his lunch pail. Hopefully some of today's future leaders, now in college, can learn from the book and TV program so as to keep us away from the Viet Nam's and Iraq's yet to come. Black Lions