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Vietnam - A Television History: Episode 12 - The End of the Tunnel 1973–1975 (1983) 🪖✈️
Vietnam: A Television History (1983) is a 13-part documentary and television mini-series about the Vietnam War (1955–1975) from the perspective of the United States. It was produced for public television by WGBH-TV in Boston, Central Independent Television of the UK and Antenne-2 of France. It was originally broadcast on PBS between October 4 and December 20, 1983. Later, it was rebroadcast as part of the PBS series American Experience from May 26 to July 28, 1997. However, only 11 of the 13 original episodes were rebroadcast. Episodes 2 and 13 were dropped. This is the complete original version.
Vietnam: A Television History was the most successful documentary produced by PBS up to the time of initial broadcast. The origins of the series reach back to 1977 when filmmaker Richard Ellison and foreign correspondent Stanley Karnow discussed the project. The latter had been a journalist in Paris during the 1950s and a reporter in French Indochina since 1959. Karnow was Chief Correspondent in the series and his tie-in book, Vietnam: A History (1983), became a best-seller.
Episode 12: On January 23, 1973 Nixon announced a cease fire, the return of all POWs, the complete withdrawal of forces from the country, all within 60 days. Many South Vietnamese were furious, seeing this as a death sentence. Most Americans now believed that the cost of the war, particularly in lives, was too great. The public cheered the return of POWs, a month-long celebration that played out on TV. Nixon had pledged support should the North launch a full-scale invasion, but he was now distracted by the Watergate scandal. He ended the draft and brought the troops home, but opposition to his policies continued, now centered in Congress which wanted to limit his authority and imposed a halt to the bombing of Cambodia in August 1973.
Forced from office, Nixon was replaced by Gerald R. Ford who committed to continue his predecessor's policies, but by August the military balance had shifted against Thieu. The South lacked US air support, had problems with the ammunition supply and spare parts for aircraft. South Vietnamese corruption was a major, though little discussed, problem. In 1972, 31,000 South Vietnamese soldiers had died and leaders in the North concluded there was nothing the US could do to stem the tide. The invasion of the South in 1975 was at least in part a test of US resolve. Congress refused to approve additional funds. A North Vietnamese feint lured the South Vietnamese to defend Pleiku in the highlands but, unsuccessful, they were forced to go further south and set a new line of defense. Da Nang fell on March 30, 1975 and the hysteria there filtered south. Curfews were imposed in Saigon and Americans prepared to leave, but the evacuation created chaos. On April 21, 1975, Thieu resigned and on the 28th Northern troops entered the city, which fell on the 30th. The North, which had given itself two years to gain control of the South, had done so in only 55 days.