“America,” I told him, and he broke into a wide grin. Was I here during the war? he asked. I was, I said, in the Army. Then he raised his arms like he was firing a rifle. “I fought for Ho Chi Minh!” he exclaimed. I chuckled, struggling for an appropriate response. “Well,” I finally said, “I fought to stay alive.”
Nearly 50 after the war’s end, Americans, including Vietnam veterans, are still struggling to explain how we got involved in that disastrous, and ultimately futile, war. And that goes for Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, directors of The Vietnam War, a much-heralded 10-part, 18-hour epic series that debuts Sunday night on PBS.