The documentaries are extensively researched, often taking years to complete. Some programs now considered part of the American Experience collection were produced prior to the creation of the series. Vietnam: A Television History was one of them, airing in 1983 after taking six years to assemble.
Vietnam: A Television History carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of a controversial but intriguing war. From the first hour through the last, the series provides a detailed visual and oral account of the war that changed a generation and continues to color American thinking on many military and foreign policy issues.
A seminal television event when it premiered as a 13-part series on PBS in 1983, Vietnam: A Television History was edited to 11 hours and rebroadcast in 1997. The series won television's top awards, including seven Emmys, the George Foster Peabody Award, the duPont/Columbia Journalism Award, the George Polk Award, two Writer's Guild Awards, and the Erik Barnouw Award of the Organization of American Historians. The duPont/Columbia jurors noted, "These 13 hours of spellbinding, journalistically exemplary television have deservedly been called a landmark in American broadcast journalism and the most important and most compelling documentary series ever made. The power and importance of this series will endure."
Roots of a War (1945-1953)
The end of World War II opened the way for the return of French rule to Indochina. Despite the ties he had forged within the American intelligence community, and his professed respect for democratic ideals, Ho Chi Minh was unable to convince Washington to recognize the legitimacy of his independence movement against the French. French generals and their American advisors expected Ho's rag-tag Viet Minh guerrillas to be defeated easily. But after eight years of fighting and .5 billion in U.S. aid, the French lost a crucial battle at Dienbienphu -- and with it, their Asian empire.
America's Mandarin (1954-1963)
With a goal of stopping the spread of communism in Southeast Asia, America replaced France in South Vietnam -- supporting autocratic President Ngo Dinh Diem until his own generals turned against him in a coup that brought political chaos to Saigon.
LBJ Goes to War (1964-1965)
With Ho Chi Minh determined to reunite Vietnam, President Lyndon Baines Johnson determined to prevent it, and South Vietnam on the verge of collapse, the stage was set for massive escalation of the undeclared Vietnam War.
America Takes Charge (1965-1967)
In two years, the Johnson administration's troop build-up dispatched 1.5 million Americans to Vietnam to fight a war they found baffling, tedious, exciting, deadly and unforgettable.
America's Enemy (1954-1967)
The Vietnam War as seen from different perspectives by Vietcong guerrillas and sympathizers, by North Vietnamese leaders and rank and file, and by Americans held prisoner in Hanoi.
The massive enemy offensive at the lunar New Year decimated the Vietcong and failed to topple the Saigon government -- but led to the beginning of America's military withdrawal from Vietnam.
Vietnamizing the War (1969-1973)
President Richard Nixon's program of troop pull-outs, stepped-up bombing and huge arms shipments to Saigon changed the war and left GIs wondering which of them would be the last to die in Vietnam.
Cambodia and Laos
Despite technical neutrality, both of Vietnam's smaller neighbors were drawn into the war, suffered massive bombings, and, in the case of Cambodia, endured a post-war holocaust of nightmarish proportions.
Peace Is at Hand (1968-1973)
While American and Vietnamese soldiers continued to clash in battle, diplomats in Paris argued about making peace. After more than four years, they reached an accord that proved to be a preface to further bloodshed.
Through troubled years of controversy and violence, U.S .casualties mounted, victory remained elusive, and American opinion moved from general approval to general dissatisfaction with the Vietnam War.
The End of the Tunnel (1973-1975)
rebroadcast as The Fall of Saigon
South Vietnamese leaders believed that America would never let them go down to defeat -- a belief that died as North Vietnamese tanks smashed into Saigon on April 30, 1975, and the long war ended with South Vietnam's surrender.