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tv   Asia Insight  PBS  May 27, 2015 6:30pm-7:01pm PDT

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♪ ♪ >> april 30th, 1975. saigon, the capital city of south vietnam, falls. 15 years of war comes to an end.
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it's exactly 40 years later. the government that's holding a grand celebration to commemorate the unification of vietnam. joining the parade are veterans who fought in that war. we dug up an old film reel. ♪ it shows the farming village in north vietnam during the height of the war. it opens to the scene of quiet paddy fields. then images of a village. a village moving head long into
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socialism. in the village square, a performance is under way. the lion dance. but this is not a festival. there's a banner. it's a slogan calling for fighting spirit. the villagers have come out to cheer on a group of young men, they're going off to war. ♪ ♪ the people who shot that film worked from an office in this hanoi hotel. a japanese tv news agency opened its office in hanoi in 1964. indian staff reported on the situation in north vietnam until the war ended more than a decade
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later. here's one example. an indian report from 1966. it shows american military planes bombing hanoi. at the time, u.s. officials said their planes were targeting military facilities only. these images showed the world a different story. many civilians were suffering. in vietnam escalated steadily throughout the 1960s. north vietnam responded by calling up more and more young men to fight. as a result, this scene captured by an indian crew, became a daily event. the village is bidding farewell to its sons. they were among the estimated two million young north
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vietnamese men sent into battle. many headed to the battlefield after only three months of basic training. another scene filmed by the japanese agency. but there is no record of where the footage was taken. the documentation was lost. who are these village youths? what were they thinking as they headed off to battle? did they ever return home? 40 years after the guns fell silent, we went looking for these young men. >> april 2015, our crew begins in vietnam's capital of hanoi. our first interview is with
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doan, who is 66. during the war, north vietnamese authorities assigned him to act as an interpreter. two interpreters were assigned full time to the office. we asked him to view the film. it seems he hasn't seen it before. and he can't recall going on the shoot. but he thinks he knows who did. >> translator: it might have been qui who went on the shoot. qui was older. for that reason, people in the military listened to him. we younger guys didn't have his level of access to get permission for this kind of
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coverage. >> he's referring to interpreter qui. he had been assigned to indien since the office first opened as the most senior interpreter, it's likely he worked on the village shoot, but he died in 1999. >> translator: cameramen faced tight restrictions during the war. the military had secrets to keep. that meant no filming of place names or clues to locations. no sounds could be recorded either. >> but as he watched the film, he spotted something. >> translator: that's hi hong province. >> hanging on the wall of a home is a commendation. officials presented it to
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families who had sent two or more sons to the army. on it, there's a place name. hi hong province is all that's legible. the names of the district and village written to the left are unreadable. hai hung province is east of hanoi, or rather, it used to be. in 1996, the province was split in two. a response to soaring population growth. hai hung became hung yen and haiduong. we had a new lead to follow. the province is a one-hour drive from hanoi. our point of contact is the local retired veterans association. it lists some 60,000 members in the province, with branches in
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every village. some high-ranking members are there to greet us. we've asked them to view the film. we're hoping they can give us a clue as to where the footage was shot. [ speaking foreign language ] >> translator: how nostalgic, old-style, straw-thatched houses. >> they're intrigued, but they don't know the name of the village or the name of the young men. then comes the footage of military training. >> translator: i see mountains. our province doesn't have
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mountains. that's hai duong. >> the training site was supposed to be a secret. but the mountainous terrain has revealed the likely location. >> translator: this is basic training in hai duong. chi linh. it's located in northern haiduong province. soon we're on our way to chi linh, we've contacted the veterans group there and they've told us about a large gathering of former soldiers. we head to the venue. [ applause ] 150 retired veterans have turned
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up. they're here to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the war. they fought in some of the biggest battles and are proud of their legacy. [ speaking foreign language ] >> a break in the ceremonies give us our chance. we start showing the film. these men joined the army around 1971, about the time the film was made. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> several of the veterans blurt out the same name. [ speaking foreign language ] >> there was more. [ speaking foreign language ] >> the young man headed off to war is vuu, the son of a prominent chi linh citizen, they
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said he still lives there. retired army veteran vuu leads us to minh's home. >> these people wanted to meet me. >> my brother, his house is over there. >> translator: the japanese have a video, your mother and father are in it. so are you, when you were little. can you take us there? >> translator: sure. thank you very much. >> vu is minh's younger sister. her brother minh lives five minutes away. >> translator: minh, you have some very special guests. please come in.
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[ speaking foreign language ] >> translator: comrade, are you ever going to be surprised. this is minh. >> translator: good morning. are you minh? >> translator: yes, i'm vu vuu minh. >> he's 61, enlisted in 1971. he's paralyzed on one side. the result of a traffic accident more than 20 years ago. we asked them to confirm the film footage.
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>> translator: that's you, minh. you handsome son of a gun! >> the young man in the film was indeed minh. he was 17 at the time. >> translator: you're in it too, tinh. >> translator: i'm sitting right behind you. incredible. [ speaking foreign language ] >> translator: we were so naive. >> translator: we were just teenagers, going off to war. >> in the film, minh is seen shortly before he leaves his house. he vividly remembers what he
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talked about with his parents that day. >> translator: my father told me, you're joining the army. be resolute and fulfill your duty. i promised my father, no matter what the hardships ahead, i would fulfill my duty and return home. he handed me a note pad and pen to write letters. he told me to make sure i wrote to them. my mother brought me rice so i wouldn't go hungry. she tried to give me money. i didn't accept it. i cried that day. i felt so bad. i worried about my parents. i think they were prepared for the worst, that i would leave that day for war and never
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return. >> translator: i knew my mother was crying. i felt so sorry for my brother, that i began to cry too. >> the army gave minh three months of basic training. his superiors saw potential. they made him a non-commissioned officer and trained him for seven more months in military tactics. in april 1972, minh was assigned command of his own company. he set out with his men, heading south toward the mekong river delta. their mission, to carry out hit and run guerrilla attacks fourth kilometers south of saigon. they arrived in the rainy season. the delta was a swamp. the south vietnamese army was equipped with u.s.-supplied tanks and armored vehicles.
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minh and his men had to fight them with small arms and mortars. >> translator: we dug fox holes deep enough to stand in and fight from. at first, we didn't mind when we accidentally dropped our bullets on the ground, but when we ran out of rounds, we picked up the bullets with our toes, loaded our rifles and fired. we were short of both guns and ammunition. >> minh lost many of his men. >> translator: the enemy set up positions every 500 meters. we'd lurk between them, hiding in the rice paddies. they used to fire into the paddies indiscriminately. i lost a soldier who was shot in the chest when he stood up
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during a meal. i didn't have the luxury of thinking too deeply about it. there was always another battle. we had to scout the enemy and plan our strategy. when i lost young soldiers, the most i could do was offer a silent prayer. they were vietnamese like me, but i despised them. they were enemies, siding with the americans. it was kill or be killed. they were being supplied with weapons and equipment by the americans, so that they could kill us. >> april 30th, 1975. communist forces pour into sig saigon. war is finally over. minh is ready to go home. four years have passed since he enlisted. all that time, he had made no
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contact with his family. there were rumors in the village he had died. >> translator: i went back north to my family. i didn't tell them i was coming back. i suddenly turned up with my rucksack. they were overwhelmed. they couldn't believe it was me. i was so happy. my parents, siblings, relatives and fellow villagers all celebrated my return. >> minh was married the following year. he has three children and five grandchildren. he stayed in the army after the war. he was promoted to major before retiring in 1992. >> translator: war is cruel. it brings suffering. the country was destroyed, ask
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people lost their lives. i don't wish for war. i wish for peace. >> the day minh went to war, ten other young men from his village enlisted with him. one never returned. nguyen van khoai died fighting in the highlands of central vietnam. khoai was sent to a strategic province, the site of intense clashes between forces. khoai was killed by a mortar shell, a direct hit. he was 20 years old. we visited the home of khoai's
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family. nguyen ngoc minh is khoai's the photo of khoai is on the family alter, taken three months after his enlistment. it's the only photo minh has of his brother. >> translator: we had minh and his younger brother who lives nearby view our film. >> translator: no, no, it's not who lives nearby vi our film. >> translator: no, no, it's not him. at first the two men don't recognize the young man in the film, but they play it back again and again. memories of 44 years earlier slowly return. >> translator: i don't think
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it's him, but there is a resemblance. my brother had this man's full face and dark complexion. >> the two brothers continue to look at the footage. after about 30 minutes -- >> translator: that's definitely our brother. i'm positive, that's our brother. >> the two brothers are convinced. they talk about the day they sent their older brother off to war. >> translator: i was in tears as we sent him off. everyone in the family was crying. we were all resigned to losing
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him. his school friends, who were all his age, were there at the send-off. they told my brother to give the enemy hell. but my family wasn't happy. they didn't want to see him go. >> two years later, his family received word that he'd been killed in action. >> translator: mother took it really hard. she fainted. >> translator: the americans had left, so i couldn't take revenge. there was nothing i could do. >> translator: taking revenge now won't help. >> translator: i can't feel that way.
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>> translator: my anger is gone. >> translator: no, it hasn't. >> 42 years after the devastating news, the brothers still struggle to accept their loss. >> minh returned home alive from the battlefield of southern vietnam, but he too lost an older brother in the war. vu van sung was five years older than minh. in march 1968, he was killed in southern vietnam. minh only learned of his brother's death four years later while fighting in the mekong delta. >> translator: i was saddened, but i had my duty to fulfill. i come from a family of patriots, so i didn't have the
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luxury of grieving. >> in 2008, minh learned where sung was buried, information passed on by his brother's old friend from the war. three years later, minh's sister went to find the grave, joined by sung's friend. >> translator: we spent three days looking for my brother's grave. my brother's friend cried out sung's name in tears, asking for divine help. maybe that helped. we found sung's remains at a cemetery. it was like a dream come true. i was so happy i cried out, my brother, he's here, as a clutched his remains. ♪ ♪ >> april 2011, sung's remains
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return home. the village holds a grand funeral. but not everyone is here to receive the ashes. his parents have passed away. now, three years later, it's the 40th anniversary of the end of the war. minh is visiting the village cemetery, the final resting place of his elder brother. he has something he wants to tell sung. >> translator: today is a proud day for vietnam. people are commemorating the liberation of the homeland. for soldiers who returned safely, and their families, it
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is a day of joy. but for families like us, who lost loved ones, it's a day of sadness. they don't send young men off to war anymore. but we'll be telling stories to our children about you and the others who died. your story will last forever. ♪ >> we found the young man in our film, a much older man now, with stories to tell. stories of duty, victory, and death. and the sorrows of war that never heal. ♪ ♪
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hello there and welcome to "newsline." it is thursday, may 28th. i'm catherine kobayashi in tokyo. islamic state militants have been locked in a bloody battle with government forces and executed several people in a syrian city of palmyra in an effort to control the region. iraqi troops launched an offensive on tuesday. they are pushing toward ramadi in an effort to retake the western province of


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