Kens Burns Documentary and IdahoPTV Specials Revisit Vietnam War

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 10-part, 18-hour documentary series The Vietnam War tells the epic story of one of the most consequential, divisive and controversial events in American history as it has never before been told on film.

The series airs over two weeks, Sundays-Thursdays, September 17-28, at 8 PM on Idaho Public Television.

Visceral and immersive, the series explores the human dimensions of the war through revelatory testimony of nearly 80 witnesses from all sides — Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as combatants and civilians from North and South Vietnam.

“The Vietnam War was a decade of agony that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans,” says co-director Ken Burns. “Not since the Civil War have we as a country been so torn apart. There wasn’t an American alive then who wasn’t affected in some way — from those who fought and sacrificed in the war, to families of service members and POWs, to those who protested the war in open conflict with their government and fellow citizens. More than 40 years after it ended, we can’t forget Vietnam, and we are still arguing about why it went wrong, who was to blame and whether it was all worth it.”

“We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy. Ken and I have tried to shed new light on the war by looking at it from the bottom up, the top down and from all sides,” says co-director Lynn Novick. “In addition to dozens of Americans who shared their stories, we interviewed many Vietnamese on both the winning and losing sides, and were surprised to learn that the war remains as painful and unresolved for them as it is for us. Within this almost incomprehensibly destructive event, we discovered profound, universal human truths, as well as uncanny resonances with recent events.”

Ten years in the making, the series includes rarely seen and digitally remastered 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 secret audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.

The Vietnam War features more than 100 iconic musical recordings from artists of the era and haunting original music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as well as the Silk Road Ensemble featuring Yo-Yo Ma.

IdahoPTV Passport members can stream the entire series (all 10 episodes) beginning September 17. The series will also be available in Spanish and Vietnamese on streaming. To learn more about becoming a Passport member, visit the IdahoPTV Passport page.

‘The Vietnam War’ is locally sponsored by Idaho Humanities Council and Intermountain Gas Company.


During the two-week airing of The Vietnam War, Idaho Public Television presents additional programs that explore the experiences and legacies of those who were affected by the war.

Dialogue encores an interview with author Tim O’Brien (Sunday, September 17, at 7:30 PM), whose novel about a soldier gone AWOL in Vietnam, Going After Cacciato, won the 1979 National Book Award for Fiction.

Into Harm’s Way (Monday, September 18, at 9:30 PM) takes an unflinching look at the shadow the Vietnam War continues to cast on surviving members of the West Point Class of 1967. The soldiers share stories about the carnage of war, the war’s impact on their lives and beliefs, and their enduring bonds of brotherhood.

Nothing Left to Lose (Tuesday, September 19, at 10 PM) tells the story of approximately 100 Vietnamese refugees who lived in hiding in Thailand for 25 years and who are still searching for a place to call home.

An encore of Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor (Thursday, September 21, at 9:30 PM) explores the 77-day siege of Khe Sanh and introduces the soldiers of Bravo Company, who were trapped in one of the worst sieges in the history of American warfare. On Tuesday, September 26, at 10 and 10:30 PM, Dialogue encores two interviews with Idaho filmmakers Ken and Betty Rodgers, the producers of Bravo!

Dialogue encores an interview with historian Fredrik Logevall (Sunday, September 24, at 7:30 PM), who discusses how decisions made by American leaders before and during the Vietnam War still affect our country’s foreign policy.

Long Road Home (Thursday, September 28, at 10 PM) explores the impact of wartime post-traumatic stress disorder and examines the promising research underway at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where doctors study the sleep and brain patterns of PTSD sufferers and examine the reasons why women are twice as likely as men to develop the disorder.

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