Ken Burns: The Vietnam War

September 17-21 & September 24-28 at 8 p.m.

"The Vietnam War" is a 10 part, 18-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. An immersive 360-degree narrative, the series tells the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film. THE VIETNAM WAR features testimony from nearly 80 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.

Ten years in the making, the series brings the war and the chaotic epoch it encompassed viscerally to life. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward, produced by Sarah Botstein, Novick and Burns, it includes rarely seen, digitally re-mastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies, and revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. The series features more than 100 iconic musical recordings from many of the greatest artists of the era, and original music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross as well as the Silk Road Ensemble featuring Yo-Yo Ma.

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After a long and brutal war, Vietnamese revolutionaries led by Ho Chi Minh end nearly a century of French colonial occupation. With the Cold War intensifying, Vietnam is divided in two at Geneva. Communists in the north aim to reunify the country, while America supports Ngo Dinh Diem's untested regime in the south.
President Kennedy inspires idealistic young Americans to serve their country and wrestles with how deeply to get involved in South Vietnam. As the increasingly autocratic Diem regime faces a growing communist insurgency and widespread Buddhist protests, a grave political crisis unfolds.
With South Vietnam in chaos, hardliners in Hanoi seize the initiative and send combat troops to the south, accelerating the insurgency. Fearing Saigon's collapse, President Johnson escalates America's military commitment, authorizing sustained bombing of the north and deploying ground troops in the south.
Defying American airpower, North Vietnamese troops and materiel stream down the Ho Chi Minh Trail into the south, while Saigon struggles to "pacify the countryside." As an antiwar movement builds back home, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and Marines discover that the war they are being asked to fight in Vietnam is nothing like their fathers' war.
American casualties and enemy body counts mount as Marines face deadly North Vietnamese ambushes and artillery south of the DMZ and Army units chase an elusive enemy in the central highlands. Hanoi lays plans for a massive surprise offensive, and the Johnson Administration reassures the American public that victory is in sight.
On the eve of the Tet holiday, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launch surprise attacks on cities and military bases throughout the south, suffering devastating losses but casting grave doubt on Johnson's promise that there is "light at the end of the tunnel." The president decides not to run again and the country is staggered by assassinations and unrest.
Public support for the war declines, and American men of draft age face difficult decisions and wrenching moral choices. After police battle with demonstrators in the streets of Chicago, Richard Nixon wins the presidency, promising law and order at home and peace overseas. In Vietnam, the war goes on and soldiers on all sides witness terrible savagery and unflinching courage.
With morale plummeting in Vietnam, President Nixon begins withdrawing American troops. As news breaks of an unthinkable massacre committed by American soldiers, the public debates the rectitude of the war, while an incursion into Cambodia reignites antiwar protests with tragic consequences.
South Vietnamese forces fighting on their own in Laos suffer a terrible defeat. Massive U.S. airpower makes the difference in halting an unprecedented North Vietnamese offensive. After being re-elected in a landslide, Nixon announces Hanoi has agreed to a peace deal. American prisoners of war will finally come home – to a bitterly divided country.
While the Watergate scandal rivets Americans' attention and forces President Nixon to resign, the Vietnamese continue to savage one another in a brutal civil war. When hundreds of thousands of North Vietnamese troops pour into the south, Saigon descends rapidly into chaos and collapses. For the next 40 years, Americans and Vietnamese from all sides search for healing and reconciliation.


AETN and community partners will host multiple preview screenings of "The Vietnam War" throughout the state in August and September. An opportunity for discussion will follow each screening.


  • Thursday, Aug. 17, Hot Springs Village, Coronado Center, 5:30-8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 19, Jonesboro Public Library, 2-4 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 22, MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, Little Rock, 6 p.m.


  • Sunday, Sept. 2, Collins Theater, Paragould, 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 3, Arkansas Travelers Operation: Military Appreciation Sunday, Dickey-Stephens Park, North Little Rock, 5:30-10 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 10, Jacksonville Museum of Military History, 2-4 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 12, Fort Smith Public Library, 6-8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sept. 16, Fayetteville Public Library, 2-4 p.m.


PBS is creating an interactive website and an educational initiative to engage teachers and students through multiple platforms. AETN PBS LearningMedia features a collection of classroom resources to encourage students to explore the many dimensions of this history including key military, political and cultural events, as well as the diverse human experiences featured in the series. Lesson plans, videos and activities will be available for K-12 students, teachers and parents.



How did you experience the events of the Vietnam era? Share your videos, photographs, or just write a short story about your experience through social media with #VietnamStoriesPBS, or by using the upload tool at

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portraits of soldiers

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is committed to finding a photo to go with each of the more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. AETN is encouraging the public to help collect the more than 150 missing Arkansas photos for The Wall of Faces.

Arkansas's Missing Photos


AETN and the Arkansas chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation have partnered to provide quilts of comfort and healing for Arkansas Vietnam veterans. The public is invited to nominate a veteran to receive a quilt. Anyone interested in contributing to the quilters' efforts may consider donating fabric and other quilting items at local screening events.

Visit Quilts of
THE VIETNAM WAR is a production of Florentine Films and
Funding is provided by:
and Members of the
Jonathan & Jeannie Lavine • Diane & Hal Brierley • Amy & David Abrams • John & Catherine Debs • Fullerton Family Charitable Fund • The Montrone Family • Lynda & Stewart Resnick
The Golkin Family Foundation • The Lynch Foundation • The Roger & Rosemary Enrico Foundation
Richard S. & Donna L. Strong Foundation • Bonnie & Tom McCloskey • Barbara K. & Cyrus B. Sweet III • The Lavender Butterfly Fund