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First Post on Matters: Historiographical Review of The Vietnam War (Ep.10)


The tenth episode of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s documentary The Vietnam War shows orthodox historians’ viewpoints, which reflect the lessons of the war. This chapter reveals that the American military started to withdraw from Vietnam after the Paris Peace Agreement became effective. Two years later, North Vietnam unified with South Vietnam in 1975.

In 1973, many American soldiers went back to their home country, but the withdrawal of the US forces did not mean that the situation would be remedied. Relations between South Vietnam and North Vietnam were openly hostile, and they had some very strong disagreements over the blueprint of post-war Vietnam. Accordingly, both countries showed no compromise. After short-term ceasefire, civil war broke out. As orthodox historians say, “the Paris agreement demonstrated the failure of Nixon’s policy to improve America’s bargaining position.”

From 1973 to 1975, South Vietnam had weakened incredibly. Orthodox historians suggest that “the policy of building a viable South Vietnamese government could not overcome the chronic problems of that government”. After the United States quit the Vietnam affair, South Vietnam emerged the following four problems: The economy was collapsing. South Vietnam was riddled with corruption. U.S government did not provide aid program anymore, and this policy was a great blow to South Vietnam. Post-war South Vietnam was not stable, and people staged a demonstration against corruption.

This episode also shows some poignant footage. Before Saigon fell, fear raged across the city. Many South Vietnamese grasped at the last chance to melt into exodus. the U.S. forces tried their best to help thousands of refugees evacuate to another place, but unfortunately, the staff of U.S. Embassy had left uncountable South Vietnamese behind because of limitations. Meanwhile, many Vietnamese refugees were drowned when they fled Vietnam by boat. Eventually, the unification of Vietnam ended by the Viet Cong occupying Saigon.

While the war had finished, long-term chaos and divisions left a permanent scar in Vietnam. This episode proves orthodox perspectives on the lessons of this war.


1. Geoffrey C. Ward, Ken Burns: The Vietnam War (Toronto: Penguin Random House Canada Limited, 2017)

2. Gary R.Hess, Vietnam: Explaining America’s Lost War (West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015)

3. Ken Burn, Lynn Novick, The Vietnam War, aired September, 2017 (Washington, D.C: PBS Documentary, 2017)


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