tv Washington Journal Ken Burns and Lynn Novick Discuss their Documentary... CSPAN September 12, 2017 7:59am-8:38am EDT
heroes of flight 93. is personal. i speak on behalf of a grateful .ation thank you for giving me the privilege of speaking on behalf of my little family as when heroes fall, the nation mourns. has a loveter love that he should lay down his life for his friends. >> washington journal continues. host: joining us are ken burns and lynn novick from the vietnam war which airs sunday on a multiplatform format.
host: a lot of documentaries and other serial with the dock -- vietnam war, why was your version needed? constantlyill be discussing vietnam for as long as we are a country. unfortunately, we have spent most of the last 42 years since the fall of saigon not discussing it and so much new information and new access to vietnam with veterans coming forward with their stories and people involved, protests. what this film does, what we tried to do is aggregate all of the most recent scholarship and speak to veterans from the united states and people across a wide spectrum of american views, because we have no political agenda or asked to write. we are umpires. interviewing people in north vietnam and south vietnam, and civilians and soldiers to get a
,60 view and a space to finally after decades of rancor and to talk about it, find a way to do it. we had an underwriter in bank of ,merica who was willing to say we want you to take on complicated questions and let's have a national dialogue. we feel fortunate to come out of it ready to share with the country. host: the new scholarship and interviews, how did you find them? people infound vietnam and the united states, through word-of-mouth, through our advisors, one veteran went to another who had families who lost something and people who protested the war, went to canada, incredible american heroes, marines and army officers. we try to represent as many perspectives as we could. one of the things that has stuck with this, we have met 1000 people, each person opened their
soul to us and shared the darkest moments of their life and the most profound experiences they had. that helped us get into the human experience of this complicated experience. guest: we tend to and human beings do this naturally in war as we meet the other, they are monolithic, one thing, diminished, not human. our american veterans, marine, army, air force, are saying, the viet cong and the north vietnamese sounds like me. the people who populate my dreams and my enemies, now i understood where they are coming from and what they felt. -- thelize the spirit experience of war on the front lines, the moment of terror, their experiences are similar. i have done films on the second world war and the civil war and
passed through other wars in other films i have done. there is a uniqueness to each one of these calamities. and a strange and very human similarity. what we understood is that there is more than one truth in war. we tend to, particularly something that did not turn out so well for us, tend to say it is only one thing or else we get locked in our hardened silo of opinion or do not listen to the other. we tried to create a space where, not just the participants , with feel like their voices were heard, regardless of their opinion. i do not want to talk about a political spectrum. that our viewers could as well. that is an important thing for us. acause we did not have political agenda and wanted to greedy all americans could sit down. were allbout -- americans could sit down.
we talked about, grandma, why thatou talk -- go to protest, that is the conversations we wanted to have. host: if you want to ask them questions, 202-748-8000 for each role -- eastern and central time zones. veteran, 202-748-8002. we will sure you that show you a bit from the documentary, one soldier's perspective. >> soldiers adapt. you go with your own mindset and that to the atrocities of war. -- adapted to the atrocities of war. about killing, dying. after a while it does not bother you. it does not bother you as much, i should say.
there were interesting things that happened that i questioned. some of the marines, i was made to realize that this is a war and this is what we do. it stuck in my head. this is war, this is what we do. your a file, -- while, embrace that. host: tell us more about this person. guest: his name is roger harris from boston. he was very generous, he was in vietnam from 1967 to 1968 around the dmz. and one of the most dangerous and high casualty areas. he was very open about how difficult the experience was and what it was like to feel that you were not going to go home and how he tried to explain that to his mother in a phone call. one of the most devastating moments, the purpose was all of this, wrestling with these
questions, when he gets home, he comes out of the airplane in boston and cannot get a cab because he is an african-american and the drivers do not want to go to roxbury. racial strife is following them to vietnam and back again. he embodies the questions we ask in the film. host: how many chapters do you have and what do you do? guest: 10 episodes, 18 hours, pbs will run the first five sunday through thursday the 17th-20 first and pick it up sunday, september 24 two the following thursday and it is a weekly series. each episode will play twice. essentially, a chronology, the first episode is the table setting, introducing you to the characters and placing you within the geopolitical context of the french coming in in the mid-19th century through the kennedy's inauguration.
get granular. we focus down, the next episode is the kennedy administration up six months, then it opens . the last episode texas from the peace treaty of 1973 to the present. understanding the ways in which the two countries have been together, the way in which both countries are conflicted about the poor and struggling with the meaning. a vietnamese lost so many people that they wonder was it worth it and if we could have done it a different way with negotiations. not willing to ignore the cost as their leaders suggest they do, and they suffered unbelievable losses as we continue to debate the issues in our country around vietnam that echoes today. mass demonstrations against the current administration, a white house obsessed with leaks, the press -- president sure the
press is lying, accusations that a political campaign reached out to a foreign power. we started this film 10 years ago and hundreds of things that resonate with the present. we finished this almost two years ago. we could not have anticipated what the current moment was. these are all part of the vietnam war stories. we began to realize how helpful history could be in helping us understand the present. because we are so divided and involved in such hyper partisanship today, we think that pulling out the fuel rods of the anon then we can have it -- vietnam, we can have a conversation and not let the conversation dissent in an argument and help was understand then and now. host: abilene, texas, marty. go ahead. >> my brother fought in vietnam. he came home.
go, henot volunteer to was drafted to go. because of the respect for our country, he went. he came home and was never the same. years, he let a little bit out here and there. meantless of what we were or why we were there, it affected him. the rest of his life. because he never experienced anything like that. , people made it sound like we were brutal. and we weren't near as brutal as the viet cong and the people in villages. and the children they sent out with candles that they had made. the soldiers would buy them and when it would like the, they would explode.
-- when they would like them -- .ight them, they would explode i do not agree 100% with war, but i know that this president does not want war and is not in it for war. asbetter have a good reason far as he is concerned to get involved in a war. not: thank you, lynn novick the first time you thought about those coming back from vietnam. because you for sharing i spoke to many veterans and many people have had similar experiences of coming home and not being able to explain what happened or what they saw and what they did in vietnam. anon, itular with the was complicated -- vietnam, it was complicated because of the asymmetrical network of the war and not knowing who the enemy was, you do not know if children are friends or enemies. to the vietnamese fighting
against us, they saw it as a total bore and everybody in the population would fight. that caused complicated moral questions for our country and our military. our soldiers were caught in the middle and did not ask for it, many drafted. soldiers were trying to do their duty and serve their duty and serve the country and thrown into a complicated situation. , we tried hard to represent this variety of experiences and let people stories speak for themselves. the question of -- whether we should go to war is profound and something we engage and this is why. host: a vietnam veteran, danny, in arizona. caller: good morning. 68,t things first, i am going on 69. a little overweight, type 2 diabetes.
i am a big fan of ken burns. guest: thank you. caller: and your civil war documentary come at the end, when happy to civil war -- happy two civil war veterans, one from the north and one from the south, one said it is also real. now i know what he meant. it is crazy. it is hard to believe we did something like that. and survive. guest: this is exactly what the last caller was talking about. i just think, we have one rain in the film who says we are not the dominant species on the planet because where nice. people like to blame the military or turning young men into killers. he said i consider that only finishing school.
the rest of the population, i think, particularly when we have a military now that suffers losses apart from us because we do not have a national draft or national service, we forget most of the population separates us from the experience of war, which is so unique. the question from the civil war, from the aging greeks are now, was it not real, did it really happen? the experience of, is vivifying and most of us do not spend any time taking our violent death is possible at any moment and that will transform you in the way it brother and will leave you with a sense of connection to those civil war soldiers and all the soldiers who have gone before you. we have an obligation to study war, not to make sure policymakers understand there is real cost and they should be very careful before they commit u.s. treasury, particularly u.s.
blood to something. and we understand how tough it is, not only to survive that, but to come home and they would that. you gratefulthat -- live with that. grateful you shared your story and there will be similarities back to the civil war and to your experiences in this new film. guest: one of the things at the end of the civil war, when the northern and southern soldiers come together. we have seen that in this film. these ordinary soldiers are able to see the humanity in each other, aside from what their leaders put them through. we found that in this film. interesting watching vietnamese veterans watching it in the amount and americans better in watching it here, they have a lot more in common than they do differences. host: tacoma park, maryland,
daniel. caller: my article served in vietnam and i saw him house away , suffered through ptsd throughout his life and did not share anything, i do not remember anything he shared either positive or negative. he introduced my father to drugs and he died when i was 10, i was angry. when i saw him pass away, and to ,ee how sick he was mentally when i stay with him, i understood what he went through. he was so damaged. there were some things in my family we do not talk about, that is one of them. he did say that he hated the government so much because of what he went through and what happened to him. he did not collect social security at the end. i just feel that there is always two sides to the story and i feel sad that there is so much
patriotism today with older americans, that the americans can do no wrong. there is so much propaganda with current news about vietnam, even today, it is so hard to get the information out. i am looking forward to seeing the film. guest: can't wait for you to see it. you hit the nail on the head. the question is, what do you do personally as your own experience with these horrible memories? some people can adjust and some people hide it. some people, if esters, as it seems with your relative, toxic. the larger question -- the vietnam war is the first time we question the government. we assume, before the war, our presidents would not lie to us, after that, sure they are all lying.
the illustration after administration, truman, eisenhower, kennedy, ford, not completely open to what was going on. there is a change in the american collective consciousness about the government. unfortunately, that is a pendulum that can swing too far to the other side with paranoia and distrust that gets out of control because the united states government has done a pretty good job on the whole of things in the history of the world. in the case of vietnam, you see the way in which the information and free flow of information, and transparency we would expect in a democracy failed. part of the reason this is still an open wound, not just in the intimate and painful wait you described and our heart goes out to you and your family for all you suffered, but also in a general sense of americas losing
faith with the essential idea of us together. we have come out of vietnam more independent and lonely, independent free agents than we have been collectively engaged in the work of democracy, compromise, working together to get things done. the film details that and i would love to know your thoughts after you have seen the entire film. host: i will get your thoughts on this after we play richard nixon talking about the current status of the war and what comes next. we will show it and get your response. that we havert succeeded. because of the increased strength of the south meet the needs -- south vietnamese and the success of the cambodia i am announcing an increase in the rate of american withdrawal. we have it in our power to leave vietnam in a way that offers a brave people a realistic hope of freedom.
we have it in our power to prove to our friends in the world that america's sense of responsibility remains the world's greatest single hope of peace. futureerations in the will look back at this difficult, trying time in american history and they will demonstrated,we that we had the courage, the character of greatness. >> this was the best feed you have delivered since you have been in office -- speech you have delivered since you have been in office. >> this speech was a work of art, i know something about speechwriting. because no actor in hollywood could have done it that well. host: you put him in front of the camera and then backstage.
guest: throughout the film, we try to show private conversations available because of these incredible audiotapes, especially of the johnson and richard nixon administration and you can juxtapose what they're saying publicly and privately and you know them on a human level in a way that we have neither understood. nixon isnt, richard doing a brilliant thing with that speech, telling the american people his plan is working and we will turn the war to the vietnamese and they will win. and everything is fine. the opposite is what is happening. kissinger compliments him on the speech. they understand the showmanship and the need to sell their story. they are good at it and he is about to get reelected in a landslide because of his way of modulating their message. i think we both understood in a
deeper way, the political gift of richard nixon. host: mark in the bronx, new york. go ahead. , you areood morning terrific and i look forward to seeing this. i served in the navy. reich by the dmz. -- right by the dmz on the uss boston. we were shelling in support of everyone who was south of the dmz. how much -- i always joke around, i was in the navy, i did not serve in the military. [laughter] we had hot food, air conditioning, tile floors. -- we did not see outside of the shelling, we weren't really fired upon, except occasionally.
how much effort or how much fell you gave to the navy? guest: thank you. i realized when i was listing the branches, i did not say maybe and hope i would hear from a navy man to apologize and say it is included and we do a lot of that, the shelling in support of that. we were with you try to veil out some of our marines -- bailout some of our marines. we focus on the fall of 1967. who was the pilot first to be shot down over north vietnam in response to the gulf of taunton incident that takes us forward into the vietnam experience. very much a part of our show and i cannot wait for you to see the whole thing and do not think you will -- the navy played a
crucial role in the war effort. host: west virginia, here is lynn. caller: glad to talk to the babe ruth's of filmmaking. guest: like to think more of it as ted williams. caller: my father was a world war ii veteran and he helped harry truman and highest aim, he fought at okinawa. was 17 when the war ended and i started college next year at penn state. a lot of the guys in vietnam have become college students and having difficulties, academic, social, trouble with the law. when i talked to my dad, he said we went to college on the g.i. anybody we did not know in trouble, what was the difference between that were in this one, because they were both
brutal, open our was as ugly as it gets. guest: we have done okinawa and it is as ugly as it gets. a big feature, in our 2007 documentary about world war ii. lynn can address this question. hand, onethe one could say that there is many veterans coming home from world war ii with problems resulting from their experiences in the war. we did not talk about it at that time. one of the veterans said he went to see someone, a doctor who said to act normal and you will feel normal. that is what he tried to do. the older generation may have suffered as much or more but there was no way to acknowledge that publicly while the vietnam veterans who came home were more willing and able to talk about what they were going through. and they came home to a fractured country, which is why
it was so dramatic to come home. a veteran said being on a college campus after the war was extremely difficult because of the animosity between college students and soldiers. perceived and real. it was something we never figured out how to talk about or deal with, partly why we made the film. host: you show quite a bit is the protests in the united states. certain perceptions of the protest but what new do we learn? is there any wants? guest: yes, and we have reduced things in our conventional wisdom to this binary thing, i am for or against the war. we want from episode one through the end, and evolution of an antiwar movement that sometimes makes horrific mistakes and is so morally and ethically fewer that they represent -- pure that it morphs into self-interest rather than disagreements with
the war. sometimes it gets to violence when americans are supporting the essential idea of the war coul. when you study war, you are dealing with conflicts between nations and armies and tribes. another aspect that most of the callers are bringing up, there is a psychological aspect and a war going on inside people. so many of it our veterans -- and protesters go through many changes during the war. having their own battles within themselves, factions within themselves. we do not spend enough attention traditionally. one of the things this film does is make room for, not only a within a but particular individual across dozens of individuals in the film, those positions may migrate, grow, develop, the ball
, -- devolve and become something else. wars going on between the countries, wars going on in the jungles that happen a intimacy different than policy things we continue. , wars andividuals conflicts we felt incumbent upon to report. guest: we are trying to understand these complicated dynamics. this was a time when our democracy showed itself in its finest hours in some way, people felt they have a stake because of the draft and the war had gone on for a long time and thousands of americans were dying and millions of vietnamese. people questioned it. over time, they spoke out and our government responded. that is the strength of our democracy, whether you agree with the war or not, that is the way democracy is supposed to work. guest: we quoted a respected scholar from the phenom who fought in the north vietnamese
army as a grunt and he offered unbelievable viewpoints for us. we interviewed him and he is a wonderful man, like david mcculloch and walter isaacson wrapped into one. he is very wonderful throughout the film. he saw the film and said, i thought, as the war was progressing and they would show was propaganda of the american protests, that the protests in america represented our weakness but after seeing the film, the protests were your strength and the vietnamese had a rigid society that control information and nobody was told about the feeds or casualties. -- the feeds or casualties. --defeats or casualties. retrospect,e, in and respect we had a democracy. when people disagree with the government, they could march down a mall and say, i disagree.
nothing happened to them, they were not put in jail for the rest of their life were killed. -- were killed. -- for the rest of their life or killed. host: let's go to baltimore, maryland, a vietnam veteran, fleetwood. caller: good morning. it is an honor to talk to you, mr. burns, i respect your impartiality. looking forward to your documentary. i try not to miss them. vietnam during the 1968 tet offensive. i am still conflicted at 69 years old and still dealing with the conflicts in my mind. -- sometimes i am not proud of not feeling the way some vietnam veterans feel, but i do have a personal problem
with it. i dealt with two wars. one going on here in the united states with martin luther king. i am conflicted there and in vietnam. because i saw it in a different light. then some other people saw it. at 69, i am still conflicted. you can hear it in my voice. guest: you have asked the cadillac of all questions, that is what our film is dealing with. it is ok to be conflicted. vietnam is a conflicted thing and the enemy of good history or good understanding is certainty. with something as upside down and crazy and inside out and backwards as the anon, you're not knowing -- as vietnam, you're not knowing is a position of strength. the story of the anon does --
vietnam is not exist in a vacuum, it is intertwined with the civil rights and women's movement, environmental movement , all of the strains of the activities, cultural and otherwise in the 1960's. for me as a filmmaker, race is a central aspect of the american narrative. you cannot have a country founded on the words of thomas jefferson, all men are created equal and ignore the fact that he owned human beings as he wrote that sentence and did not see the contradiction. a good deal of american history is once you scratch the service and get rid of the certainty of positions, which we always try to do. sir, please watch the film, and rest assured that your uncertainty is probably the very best position to be in. because once you say this is how it was, you have alienated half the people and you are probably
wrong most of the time. in our editing room, the only mantra we could adopt was, it is obligated. thing and the opposite of a thing are true at the same time. our own poster says, there is more than one truth in war. when you are faced with that as a veteran, it can be super tough to go there and come back to a country that does not respect you and judge you on the content of your character. and the extent of your sacrifice. but on the color of your skin. shows us we have a lot of work to do still. i thank you for your question. host: richard from wisconsin. a vietnam veteran. go ahead. real quick. richard from wisconsin? let's try home or entry for, louisiana. from shreveport,
louisiana. caller: i was in high school one day and in the service the next. i volunteered for the air force because i refused to go to the army. i was not as strong as muhammad ali. [laughter] i was a poor boy, i came from the sticks. scholarships. i went in. thate always agreed that meit was confusing time for at the utmost. i am 75 years old. theill have a co-pay at v.a. guest: i believe it.
host: we talk about a lot of stories that come into play, what do you get for that and how does it relate to those you talk to? guest: thank you for sharing, a confusing time, that is what we were just discussing. when you are in the middle of something as chaotic as any war, it will be confusing. i hope our film, i hope it will help anyone, people who were there, people who were not, people who do not know about it, to put the pieces together and many veterans have said, just because i was there, it does not mean i knew what was happening, in the white house, richard nixon speaking to kissinger, you do not know what is happening on the home front. see this fromto every point of you and let the story unfold chronologically. hope it will make more sense when you see the film. there is profound questions the
story asks and looking forward to seeing what you think. host: one thing you did not know that you like? , i went in as in someone who grew up in and have a high draft number and lived on a college campus and saw the country torn apart over vietnam. i went in with arrogant, i bring some knowledge, day one was how much i did not know, the world completely turned upside down. basing things, ho chi minh, centrality, the leadership in vietnam, he remains a figurehead to the world and to his people. he was jogging with power and other people in the politburo. an insideprovide us look at what is going on in the johnson and next and administrations --nixon administrations that are unsettling.
who was running things in hanoi is utterly estimating -- fascinating. you have a few political chess master -- chess match -- geopolitical chess match. conflict between it -- guest: we can go on and on about this because every day was a revolution. -- revelation. for me, the idea that from the beginning of the war, from the end of world war ii, up until 1975 when the war ended, never a time when the people in charge of our government in the capital, the white house, the pentagon, had confidence in what we were doing and believed we could succeed. and understood the nature of the conflict. we did not know our enemy or the limits of our power.
it was a painful lesson we learned as a country. i am not sure we fully absorbed those lessons. so important to take another look. host: it premieres this sunday on pbs and we have been talking to the filmmakers. lynn novick and ken burns. coming up, a feature of the daca program with pete aguilar. and later we talk with the republican congressman of louisiana who led restoration after hurricane katrina, he will talk about what faces the coastal communities. all this as "washington journal" continues. ♪