As Oscars near, criticism mounts against Last Days in Vietnam

An official selection at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and winner of the audience award for best feature film at the Nantucket Film Festival, Rory Kennedy’s Last Days in Vietnam documents the weeks leading up to the fall of Saigon, primarily focusing on the former U.S. servicemen who assisted in the evacuation of thousands of South Vietnamese civilians and military officials.

Written by Calvin Godfrey, this article was originally published in Thanh Nien News on February 20th, 2015.


Former war correspondents and academics have condemned the Oscar-nominated documentary Last Days in Vietnam for attempting to re-write American history.

The experts have charged Rory Kennedy, who directed and produced Last Days, with everything from fudging facts to offering a version of history constructed by the very men who decided to “pull the plug,” as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says in the film, on the Republic of Vietnam.

The 90-minute documentary begins on the streets of Saigon in April 1975 as the Republic’s government is losing control. A drum beats ominously as retired US Army Captain Stuart Herrington speaks: “As we began to contemplate evacuation [from Saigon], the question, the burning question was: who stays and who gets left behind?”

Herrington relates a misty-eyed story of sneaking a South Vietnamese Colonel and his family onto a flight out of the country.

The film weaves harrowing archival footage of the final weeks—and then hours—of Saigon through present-day interviews with CIA analysts, State Department officials, embassy guards and civilian contractors who recalled their struggles to get Vietnamese friends and allies onto helicopters and naval ships in defiance of orders to only remove Americans and their loved ones.

A Washington Post reviewer painted the film as “a wartime thriller, with heroes engaging in jaw-dropping feats of ingenuity and derring do.” Others hailed the film’s pacing and Kennedy’s use of never-before-seen footage of, among other things, overloaded ships pouring out toward the Philippines.

But many who closely studied the war found the historical exposition in Kennedy’s documentary highly-problematic during its limited theater release in 2014. Its Oscar nomination and subsequent screenings on PBS’ American Experience program have stirred that dialogue anew.

“The first 25 minutes of the documentary devoted to establishing background and context are dangerously simplistic, quickly abandon all pretense at historical accuracy or balance, and [are] extremely manipulative,” wrote Christoph Giebel, an Associate Professor of Southeast Asian History and International Studies at the University of Washington, last week on the Vietnam Scholars’ list serve.

Giebel’s recent critique was directed at film that the director had already revised based on criticism from a group of war-era journalists and diplomats.

Kennedy, who is President John F. Kennedy’s niece, did not respond to a list of written questions.

But that critical process began after an early screening, when Arnold R. Isaacs who reported in Vietnam from 1972-75 and authored the book Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia, challenged Kennedy on a number of key assertions.

“[Kennedy’s] answer was: ‘we couldn’t go into all the history,” he said in a telephone interview.

Afterward, Isaacs drafted a letter arguing that portions of the film had erroneously claimed the rapid collapse of the Republic of Vietnam came about because “the North” had solely violated the Paris Peace Accords and the American anti-war movement had moved Congress to cut off financial aid.

The letter has since been signed by 32 journalists and diplomats.

Jim Laurie, a former NBC correspondent in Vietnam and Cambodia who was featured in the film gave Kennedy an “A for filmmaking” and a “C for history.”

Laurie, who signed Arnolds’ letter, has pushed PBS to create a section on its American Experience website where experts could post criticism, but was told by an executive producer that his team was “completely consumed by the Oscar campaign.”

Laurie says he’s concerned about what the film tells its audience.

“Americans get very little education about Vietnam in school,” Laurie said via telephone. “I worry that many will walk away from the film saying, ‘Hey Americans may have made a big mistake being in Vietnam but aren’t they nice for helping a few thousand get out?”

Broadly speaking, many journalists and experts have taken issue with the way Kennedy chose to heighten the film’s drama by relying on what Arnolds called “a false narrative” about why the Republic of Vietnam collapsed.


In the film, a State Department official dramatically recalls President Gerald Ford uncharacteristically calling the Congress that refused to approve a final aid package “sons of bitches.” By that time, the Republic of Vietnam’s notoriously kleptocratic political and military leadership had lost control of massive swaths of territory and was plotting its escape.

Another of the film’s major lightning rods was an aging Henry Kissinger’s claim that the citizens of Saigon were not viewed as “just pawns who once they lost their military power were abandoned.” In a lengthy criticism posted on his website, former Chief CIA Analyst Frank Snepp (who also appeared in the film) points out that Nixon recorded Kissinger plotting to blame the collapse of the Republic of Vietnam on its own incompetence.

Perhaps most significantly, several members of the Vietnamese community have condemned the way the Last Days in Vietnam fails to consider America’s culpability in a war that claimed three million lives in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Dao X. Tran, who fled Saigon on a boat with her family as a child, published a withering review of the documentary last October.

Despite her low opinion of the film, Tran says she wasn’t surprised by its Oscar nomination.

“The Academy is not known for making choices that laud films that center on more marginal voices and sadly, Vietnamese voices are marginal—even in depictions of the war that took place in their country,” she wrote in an email.

Professor Nguyen Thanh Viet, who teaches American Studies at the University of Southern California, echoed the same sentiment.

“It was exactly what I thought it was going to be,” said Nguyen. “American good intentions get reaffirmed. Although Vietnamese faces end the film, they are just victims who are grateful to Americans.”

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  1. I never waste my time to argue with the leftists on the subject of Vietnam war, but today I make an exception to debunk a few myths just for fun and maybe for a little educational entertainment.

    1- US soldiers rape Vietnamese women during the war: Imagine you carry some fifty pounds rucksack on your back, plus ton of ammunition rounds, magazines, hand grenades. M-16, steel helmet, etc..After you slog on the muddy rice fields of Mekong Delta, or through the dense jungle of Central Highland for a few hours, you finally reach a Vietnamese village. it’s so hot and muggy (typical temperature year round in Vietnam), you get so exhausted and totally wet and stinky. Mosquitos and flies swamp you because they mistake you a piece of $hit. Then you see a Vietnamese country woman clad in black rag, not attractive at all but unkempt. Suddenly for some reasons you feel so “nung cac” (horny), so you grab and rape her. Be real and give me a breaK! Hey, that is what you would say! Even with Viagra or Cialis, no ARVN slodiers or Yankees can make it.
    Hey, how about the US soldiers rape the attractive young women in the cities, man! OK, what city? In most cities in South Vietnam by 1975, there were many well known “red quarters” that served military service men. In Saigon we had “Tan Binh”, “Go Vap”, “Nga Ba Chu Ia” (near by Tan Son Nhut airbase) etc. Or if you have thick wallet, you could go to ChoLon, the Chinese district to enjoy “Nhut Da De Vuong” (One night King) at Dong Khanh hotel. In Dalat fabulous city we had “Nga Ba Thanh Bach”, “Xom Ba Thai’, “Khai Hoan” at Tang Bat Ho Street, “130 Phan Dinh Phung” (if i still remember the number right), etc., In Nha Trang city every RVN Naval Cadet must know the “paradise” at “#5 Nguyen Du street.” In Hue ancient city, I couldn’t provide you the address numbers because most “paradise” located on the junky boats along Song Huong river with romantic scene. The list could go on, but I stop here. What I want to say is during Vietnam war, there’s no need to rape any woman because you can buy sex “Anything-Anywhere-Anytime” (sorry Boeing for stealing C-17 motto), fair and square. Most girls were pretty, the bad girls were the ones at the cheap bars along the street near Phi Long gate of Tan Son Nhut Airbase where the …GIs used t hang out. :0) So, don’t fall into the rape myth. It’s all hearsay.

    2- But the arrogant and ugly Americans called the Vietnamese “gook,” man! You are wrong, they didn’t call just “gook but “f…gook.” Who cares! The same is here among us. We, the South Vietnammese,” from the government officials to the cyclo drivers, bar girls, journalists, shoeshine boys and everyone (during the war) whenever referring to Americans, used all kinds of negative terms like “thang My”, “tui My,” “the yankees” or in some cases “may thang My cho de” “D.M.may thang My” ect. I don’t know why and how that began. I think those words became slangs in daily conversations in Vietnamese society during war time to the point no one ever thought about its negative meaning. So don’t be fooled by slangs. Remember, “political correcness” didn’t exist during that time frame.

    But wait a minute, someone did call American “Ong My” (Mr. American), a nice word or “Thua Ngai” (your excellency, your hornor). Guess who? My friends and I happened to watch a utube video clip, in which a Hanoi commie official addressed an American official by using the word “Thua Ngai” (Commie Officials need interpreter when speaking to Americans). We laughed our a$$ out loud because that kind of address used to be written in Vietnamese fairy tale literature.

    3- American flame throwers destroying Vietnamese village: Vecchio has explained enough. I wish ARVN armor units could be equipped with the flame throwers so that they could have burned out the Viet Cong bunkers and tunnels effectively.

    I can go further in any topic, but let’s stop here and wrap it up. Rape, massacre (MyLai), orange agent, flame thrower, napalm bomb, drug, corruption, incompetence, gook etc. are the keywords that US lamestream media have been using so far to play on American guilt and public’s emotion and to distort the truth of Vietnam war. We have been there, done that we speak Vietnamese language and we still alive.

  2. The issue in question is not about the good deeds that were accomplished or about the Vietnamese immigrants. No doubt the Vietnamese immigrants are grateful. Nevertheless, films like “Last Days in Vietnam” present a narrow perspective of our involvement in Vietnam. Rarely are there documentaries that report on the “three million killed and five million displaced.”* Why is this aspect not shown in mainstream America? Understandably, we do not want to tarnish our good image by exposing our wrongdoings.

    Naturally, we do not want to take responsibility for the large-scaled killings committed in Southeast Asia. Mainly, because it was not our fault, right? But. Who spent billions of dollars on the war?Who burnt homes in villages? Who displaced people from their homes? Who used flamethrowers on other human beings? Who used agent orange and fléchette on the population? Who killed the “gooks” even when they were friendly? Who went into another country and caused “three million killed and five million displaced”? We Americans did. Furthermore, to think that American troops did not commit rapes and murders is to believe that we Americans, in a war situation, were morally superior and better self-disciplined than other human beings. Americans are no different. American troops did commit rapes and murders.

    If we don’t get balanced documentaries, we continue deceiving ourselves and avoid taking responsibility for our crimes against humanity in Vietnam. Denial is a useful tool, but it does not erase our culpability in what we did to the people there. If we deny our wrongdoings long enough, we can blame the Vietnamese for the “three million killed and five million displaced”* If we lie to ourselves long enough, we can believe we were not responsible for what happened in Vietnam.

    * “But the war took an enormous toll. Not only were there some three million killed and five million displaced, and the 10-20 years of deprivation following, but residual chemical warfare and unexploded bombs that bedevil the country four decades after the war’s abrupt end.”


    • Well Rob, you just don’t stop, do you? The biggest use in the war of flamethrowers was when the NVA burnt up several hundred Montagnard men, women, and children in Dak To. We didn’t have any flamethrowers other than on some tanks, which were seldom used, not that such minor facts would bother you. We weren’t burning up villages the way the media seemed to show, mostly they were the abandoned or evacuated villages burned to deny their use to the VC/NVA. We weren’t doing any of the massive atrocities you keep referring to, but the other guys sure were. Don’t believe me, read the book by the German correspondent Sieman-Netto, or the Dutch doctor who witnessed the massacre in Hue (who was actually procommunist). Ready the books by the former nationalists and communists who ended up fleeing to become expats living in Paris or the US. Look at the ratings of human rights abuses in Viet Nam by various international agencies to the present day.
      But you won’t do any of that, or listen to mere actual participants who lived the history like me and the others who have written in. You wll just continue to revel in a false history that feeds your righteousness and how you despise this nation and those who have served in its military. How very sad.

  3. On morning of the April 30, 1975, I was on a barge floating in the ocean off the coast of Vung Tau city. At that time, the US Navy ships were busy in picking up people from the other escaping boats, but none bothered coming to rescue us. Folks on the barge started crying and said “Tui My no bo minh roi!” (The bastard American abandoned us!). It was likely so because our barge was packed like sardines with some thousands of frantic escapees, most were Phuoc Tinh village’s fishermen who swamped our barge after abandoning their small fishing boats.

    Finally near the end of the day, an old merchant vessel (Pioneer Contender) approached our barge. I still remember a vivid image that seemed to etch into my mind: When the rusty vessel came close enough, I saw a small US flag wavering on the top of its high staff and a long row of armed US Marines standing along the hand rails. How could I describe the joyful feeling at that moment, but tears wetting my eyes. We all were picked up onto the vessel by a huge roped basket, one basket at a time.

    It’s so easy for people to sit in a comfort sofa, watching the movie “Last Day in Vietnam” while sipping Cokes and munching popcorn then getting on internet forum talking bull$hit or leaving some comments just to show how thoughtful and savvy they are, Perhaps one day, when they are in a dangerous, hopeless moment at war time like mine, in which they can smell and touch the desperation then no matter what political view points they hold, I am damn sure they will truly understand what FREEDOM means and what the Stars-and-Stripes flag stands for.

  4. Rob, you state that both sides had good and bad people, but then you go on to condemn the US once again. It’s as if no one else was even involved in the war. You’re probably not aware that the communists murdered about 5000 people in cold blood in Hue during the Tet offensive. You’re probably not aware that they murdered 750 Montagnard villagers by burning them to death with flamethrowers at Dak Son. You’re probably unaware of the thousands and thousands of South Vietnamese who were assassinated during the war for the crime of being opposed to communism. You’re probably unaware of the 1.3 million who were placed in “re-education” camps after the war, where approximately 25% of them died.

    You complain the US used excessive force in Vietnam. You’re probably unaware that every artillery mission except for when American troops were under fire by enemy troops was approved by the South Vietnamese Army before it took place.

    You state “that American troops raped women and children; that American troops mutilated civilians as spoils of war; that American troops stole from villagers and shot them when they tried to get their property back; that Americans troops shot children in their backs as they ran away”

    I challenge you to provide the evidence of that. Not individual cases, but wide spread common practice events. You can’t. It didn’t happen. It’s a communist propaganda lie that many gullible people swallow hook, line and sinker, including you.

    You state “that the U.S. military used agent orange and unexploded ordnances which continues to destroy innocent people; that the U.S indiscriminately dropped incendiary devices on civilians; that Americans systematically committed genocide in Southeast Asia.”

    Yes, we used Agent Orange. In fact the guys who sprayed it drank it to prove it was safe. Try to fit that into your biased brain.

    UXOs? I suppose you think that the North Vietnamese never had a single bomb or artillery shell land without exploding. UXOs are a problem in every war, and they exist because two sides were fighting against each other, not because one side is evil.

    Please post a single solitary proof that Americans deliberately napalmed innocent civilians. Just one will do. Can’t do it? Then shut up. Oh, and BTW, if you’re thinking of the famous photograph of the naked girl running away, she was napalmed by a South Vietnamese Air Force pilot accidentally. The US wasn’t even there.

    As for committing genocide, we sure did a lousy job. Over two million South Vietnamese escaped the communists on boats. Many of them died. Some were raped and robbed by pirates. Quite a few decided to settle in the country that you claim was committing genocide against them. That’s pretty odd behavior. Most humans would try to escape. For example, after the Nazi death camps were liberated, the prisoners didn’t want to return to their native countries. They wanted to go to Britain or the US or Israel, which is what they did. I’m not aware of any Jews from the death camps that thought it would be a good idea to go to Germany after the war. Are you?

    If you’re going to make claims about what the US did in Vietnam, I’d suggest you back them up with proof. Or shut up. Either would please me.

    • Let me just remind everyone that this thread started because of Last Days in Vietnam, whose presentation of history can hardly be said to be balanced. Its vision of a literal red tide sweeping over Vietnam reinforces the comments that argue about how communists committed atrocities of various kinds. But it has no memory of the issues that Rob raised. Rob’s arguments that the USA was responsible for various atrocities and horrendous policies of its own can’t be debunked by pointing at communist atrocities or South Vietnamese agreement with American policies. It’s not as if all parties weren’t responsible for policies and actions that killed and damaged hundreds of thousands. But Last Days in Vietnam is, in fact, part of a fairly successful effort on the part of many Americans to actively remember history in a way that obscures American actions. This is why President Carter can argue that the war was one of mutual destruction, and President Obama can commemorate the war as one of noble American military sacrifice. The Vietnamese (not to mention Cambodians and Laotians) don’t really matter in this American imagination except as victims of communism who are grateful to be rescued by Americans. And that is, in essence, the same viewpoint that got Americans into Vietnam in the first place, and it is the same viewpoint that led Americans to think they would be viewed as liberators in Iraq. So yes, communist atrocities and authoritarian policies should be recalled; so should South Vietnamese corruption and flawed leadership; and so should American policies that led to a situation in which mass bombing, indiscriminate fire, and chemical defoliation killed or damaged many. The intentions of individual American troops is something to be debated; but they wouldn’t have been in the position to intentionally or unintentionally kill innocent people if it wasn’t for US strategic decisions (and yes, communist, Vietnamese, Chinese, Soviet and French decisions too–none of that gets Americans off the hook for their own actions).

      • Of course not, but from the perspective of the Robs in the world, only the US is evil and its troops malevolent. That was his point, and i object to it strenuously.

        Getting back to the documentary, like all documentaries it presents a point of view and the viewer will provide their own biases when watching it.

      • Viet, There are many books that have been written about the war, with different perspectives and on different aspects There are less films about the war, but this one discusses one aspect, the evacuation of Vietnamese who for the most part would have faced reprisal if they stayed. If the documentary was instead about the re-education camps set up after 1975 or the flight of the boat people would that also be objectionable in your view because it was not about American atrocities? I think Frank Snepp raised some good points in his critique, but cannot agree with much of the other critiques.

        • My issue with the film is not only about content but about perspective. The film repeats a basic and fundamental flaw in the way that many Americans see the war and the world. That is, American interviewees provide both detailed perspectives and strategic perspectives (Kissinger, Martin). Vietnamese are only allowed to speak of what happened to them individually, and their stories are, again, stories of gratitude. The flaw in this view is that Americans know the big picture, they make mistakes, but they rescue the little guy, who does not know the big picture. Although this is “only” one story, one movie, it expresses a widespread cultural mindset among Americans that affects how they remember this war and how they look at their role on the global stage.

          • Yes, your feelings that the film is more about Americans than Vietnamese are a reasonable response, but it is about an event when Americans were trying to help Vietnamese, made by Americans, so why would anyone expect anything else? If you want something about Vietnamese by Vietnamese, there’s a great movie “Journey From the Fall” to examine.

          • “Why would anyone expect anything else?” If you saw a Vietnamese movie that depicted Americans in a problematic way, you wouldn’t ask this question. You would most likely condemn that movie for whatever its ethnocentric or nationalist problems happen to be. Likewise with American movies. The point is that repeating an American point of view–or a Vietnamese one–that fails to account or account well for the others that Americans or Vietnamese encounter is a significant problem that is linked to why Americans (and Vietnamese) feel that it is okay to venture into other people’s countries.

          • Clearly nothing anyone can say will get past your bias about this film, and about Americans and Viet Nam and “interfering” in other countries. (Perhaps you can lecture us next about our “interfering” in Korea.) The bottom line is that this is a free country, and you and anyone else who wants to tell the story the Vietnamese way (as you see it) can raise the money, put in the time and effort, and do exactly what pleases you. If you don’t like the movie, you don’t have to go see it, and you can tell people, as you have, that you don’t like it and why, as you have, repeatedly. Enough, already.

          • viet, would you seriously want Americans to tell the Vietnamese story? I would rather that Vietnamese do that. Think about it, even the most enlightened among us knows much less than a Vietnamese person who lived through it.

            Let the Vietnamese tell their own story, in all its rich detail.

          • Paul, of course Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans need to, and should, tell their own stories, and they have. But since we’re discussing this film, this film is telling Vietnamese and Vietnamese American stories, and so it is appropriate to ask how those stories are being told. I refer you to my novel The Sympathizer, which also begins with the Fall of Saigon, and uses many of the same sources that presumably inform Last Days in Vietnam, but from a Vietnamese point of view that is a challenge to the American-centric view I find problematic in the film.

  5. I also served in Viet Nam, spent 1968 all over I Corps with Marine units. The myth of everyday rapes, tortures, and murders just can’t be stopped by mere testimony of those who were there, or the actual absence of solid facts to back up such accusations. And before anyone quotes Turse, check on the detailed dissection of his misstatements made in recent reviews. If you want facts and figures on real atrocities, check on the VC assassinations, the massacre at Hue, and the shellings of civilian columns by the NVA. Or the deaths in “Land Reform” up north, even acknowledged by Ho himself. If you want to tally up what forces killed the most people, you could perhaps consider the Hanoi trained and supported Khmer Rouge. Of course, if you just revel in hating this country, continue with all the false antiwar propaganda.

  6. Stephen, thank you for your comment. I agree that both sides had good and bad people. But the matter concerning the U.S.’ excessive use of force and disregard for human lives should remain a relevant subject. Millions of Americans in the U.S. were not killed or raped or had their homeland destroyed; millions of innocent civilians were needlessly killed and raped by Americans due to the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.

    A documentary like Rory Kennedy’s “Last Days in Vietnam” seem to glorify only one side of America and Americans. No doubt, America is a great country and its people are good. Nevertheless, documentary films that get attentions are mostly the ones about American magnanimity. Those films tend to deny or hide the fact that American troops raped women and children; that American troops mutilated civilians as spoils of war; that American troops stole from villagers and shot them when they tried to get their property back; that Americans troops shot children in their backs as they ran away; that the U.S. military used agent orange and unexploded ordnances which continues to destroy innocent people; that the U.S indiscriminately dropped incendiary devices on civilians; that Americans systematically committed genocide in Southeast Asia. Alternatively, documentaries that dare highlight American atrocities can better serve to balance the “truth.”

    • Rob, I served in Vietnam for 32 months during the height of American involvement (1967-1970), all in combat jobs with the US Marine Corps, and I have written two books about my experiences during the war. Since I was with Marine combat units or advisory units to the South Vietnamese during those 32 months, I think an academic would consider me a “primary source” and not some latter day historian or “journalist” who seldom went to the field but filed his/her reports from the comfort of Saigon’s Continental Hotel. I can state categorically and without reservation that during my entire time in Vietnam I never saw a single “atrocity” committed by an American or South Vietnamese, such as a rape or murder – Not one. I did see several “atrocities” committed by the Lao Dong (communist workers party) cadres in both Quang Nam Province and Tay Ninh Province, including some truly gruesome murders of entire families, including the children. I am not saying that all Americans behaved in a knighted fashion, but I firmly reject the inference that Americans committed genocide or it was a general rule to commit atrocities or mistreat Vietnamese civilians. On the contrary, I saw many instances of compassion and kindness by Americans towards the hapless rural peasants who often got caught in the middle. I know there is nothing I can say to convince someone like you who has a gleeful, anti-America attitude; but take it from someone who was actually there that we did not commit atrocities or genocide against the Vietnamese people.

      • I too worked the Quan Nam, or the southern part of it anyway with the Americal Division in 1970. I have seen the Que Son Valley. I support your message and I’m damn tired of these people that think we had a license to murder and rape. They get this crap from B-grade movies and the propaganda of such phony liars as John Kerry.

  7. Rob, your view of the war seems one-sided to me. Bad deeds were done by both sides during the war, and there were good and bad people on both sides, but in end, the communist side won and then established a one party police state over the south. The people who were evacuated in 1975 would most likely have faced some form of reprisal if they had stayed. Unless you think they were all war criminals deserving punishment, why would it not be a good thing that they managed to get out? This is, as I said, one aspect, and one perspective of the war. I could watch Hearts and Minds for another perspective, but a perspective at least equally one-sided, if not more so. And when that documentary received an Academy Award in 1975 the producer read a letter from the Viet Cong ambassador thanking thre American anti-war movement for their support.

    • Stephen; I wish Rob had rode on my ACAV. Then he might have known something about what he speaks of. As you know, I have expressed my dismay and disgust that my country left those poor people to the communist. It was a terrible act of betrayal and I’ll always feel a sense of guilt that I was part of it. It didn’t have to end that way.
      My Kit Carson Scout used to pester me to get him a pistol. Now I wish I had. He was a little guy even by Vietnamese standards but had a big heart and a lot of courage. I’ve often wondered if the communist killed him.

  8. Yes, the documentary could be viewed as “uplifting” if the viewer wants to deny other facts, like the genocidal actions and barbaric acts committed by Americans during the Vietnam War. No doubt there were good Americans, but unfortunately there were also evil Americans. More “relevant” would be a film that gets nominated which documents the American troops’ rapes of innocent women and children, the Americans’ indiscriminate killings of children and the elderly, the Americans’ use of inhumane weapons such as the Flechette bombs and Napalm, the Americans’ bombings of hospitals, the Americans’ use of Agent Orange and other toxins to commit ecocide and genocide in Vietnam, and the denial by Americans that they were responsible for the genocidal killings of over two million innocent civilians. Rory Kennedy’s focusing on American magnanimity is just one more example of the continued lies that Americans have perpetuated to convince themselves they did only good deeds in Vietnam. Unfortunately, “Last Days in Vietnam” and other one-sided propaganda that focus on the good deeds of the Americans in Vietnam will become the only “truth” about Vietnam.

    • I’m assuming that you were never in Vietnam during the period of American engagement. I was. I went to Vietnam in August 1966 as a US Army draftee, I was discharged in country during the Tet Offensive of 1968 and I remained there until August 1971 working as a civilian contractor and as a civilian employee of the US government.

      During my 5 years in Vietnam I neither raped, committed genocide, indiscriminately killed, or engaged in any of the terrible things that you allege the United States did over there. Furthermore, I do not know anyone who did.

      I’m not naive enough to believe that of the approximately 2 million American who served in Vietnam a small percentage did not commit criminal acts. Probably the most egregious example of criminality was the mass murder of innocent Vietnamese civilians during early 1968 at a place called MyLai. I doubt that you will find one veteran of Vietnam who is not appalled by the attempted cover up by the American Division, and by the laughable sentences given to those who were convicted in the court martial. Whether you wish to believe it or not, the US military had a full law enforcement presence in Vietnam from early in the build up to the end. The main investigative unit was the US Armys’ 8th Military Police Group (Criminal Investigation) who were tasked with investigating violations of the UCMJ by service members, both the Air Force and Navy/Marines had like units.

      Were the United States actions in Vietnam as terrible and horrific as you appear to believe you should ask yourself why roughly 130,00 Vietnamese chose to flee during fall of Saigon, and another couple of million in the years following.

  9. Viet, I know something about this time period as I have many friends who fled Vietnam by boat. Also, some who were in this evacuation. There are many experiences and perspectives about this time in Vietnam. Rory Kennedy brought out one aspect of the war and its ending which many Americans, as you suggest, may not have known about.

  10. Stephen, I can see how the film can be read as uplifting and sad. For those who don’t know anything about this time period, or who have not seen their stories told, or who agree with the movie’s point of view, the movie can be affecting. But the movie is a simplification of history, at the very least.

  11. Academic experts in the social sciences often disagree and sometimes have their own strong biases. I saw this film and found it to be an uplifting and sad portrayal of the evacuation of Vietnamese who in most cases would have been imprisoned in re-education camps, sent to New Economic Zones or subject to various forms of discrimination based on their family background. As for the Paris Agreements, both sides violated the treaty from the start, but the spring 1975 military offensive marked the final destruction of the treaty. No surprise, I guess. I believe this documentary is relevant in many ways to current events.


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