Wednesday, October 6, 2004



In 1955, with the help of massive American military, political, and economic aid, the Government of the Republic of South Vietnam was born with Ngo Dinh Diem as president. Shortly thereafter he claimed that the Democratic Republic of North Vietnam (NLF) wanted to take South Vietnam by force so in late 1957, with more American military aid, Diem began to counterattack.

In 1960 President Kennedy sent a team to Vietnam to report on conditions in the South and to assess future American aid requirements. The report argued for an increase in military, technical, and economic aid, and the introduction of large-scale American "advisers" to help stabilise the Diem regime and crush the NLF. Following the death of Kennedy the new president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, said that more aggressive action was needed and following a dubious NLF raid on two U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin a Congressional resolution gave the new president broad war powers.

In March 1965 Johnson sent the first combat troops to Vietnam and the NLF moved to a protracted war strategy to get the United States bogged down in a war that it could not win militarily and create unfavourable conditions for political victory. They believed that they would prevail in this type of war because the United States had no clearly defined objectives, and therefore, the country would eventually tire of the war and demand a negotiated settlement.

As the deaths mounted and American soldiers continued to be shipped off to Southeast Asia, the Johnson administration was met with the full weight of American anti-war sentiments. Protests erupted on college campuses and in major cities. One of the most famous incidents in the anti-war movement was the riot in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Things went from bad to worse for the Johnson administration with the NLF launching massive co-ordinated attacks against major southern cities. These attacks, known in the West as the Tet Offensive, were designed to force the Johnson administration to the bargaining table. In late March 1968, a disgraced Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not seek the Democratic Party's re-nomination for president and hinted that he would go to the bargaining table with the Communists to end the war.

Secret negotiations began in the spring of 1968 and soon it was made public that Americans and Vietnamese were meeting to discuss an end to the long and costly war. Under Nixon, American troops were being brought home while increasing the air war against the NFL. The intense bombing campaigns and intervention in Cambodia in late April 1970 sparked further violent campus protests all across America. At Kent State in Ohio, four students were killed by National Guardsmen who were called out to maintain order on campus after days of anti-Nixon protest.

The film covers just six years in the life of the former presidential candidate, John Kerry, from the time he joined the Navy until his 1971 testimony before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee as leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

While in Vietnam he commanded one of the Navy Swift boats that went up river from the Mekong Delta to draw enemy fire and destroy the opposition. He was awarded the Victory Cross for valour and a Purple Heart for being wounded.

for violent and gory war images.

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