PROLOGUE In August 1967, Guy Ulinskas, age 23, was drafted by the US Air Force. He became one of the nine-plus million who served in Vietnam between 1964-1975. Guy was one of the 648, 500 draftees during that war. The escalation of the war in 1967 was pivotal. From 1967 to 1975, the war, fought by people like Guy, in their twenties, ground on. 58, 307 (the 2015 number at the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC of all who died during and from injuries and illnesses attributed to the war) never made it back. 2017 is the 50th anniversary. A few generations have grown up since then. The details of the war are receding in public memory. For Guy and the millions who served, it’s fresh and immediate. All wars are fought by young men (and now women) and commanded by old men (and now women). We are supposed to learn from history but rarely do.
On the 50th anniversary of Vietnam in 1967, Ken Burns and Public Broadcasting Service is airing a 10-part documentary starting September 17th, 2017. It is yet another effort to acknowledge the history of a divided time and of people like Guy Ulinskas who, as Tim O’Brien wrote in his masterpiece, The Things They Carried “. . . carried themselves with poise, a kind of dignity. Now and then, however, there were times of panic, when they squealed or wanted to squeal but couldn’t, when they twitched and made moaning sounds and covered their heads and said Dear Jesus and flopped around on the earth and fired their weapons blindly and cringed and sobbed and begged for the noise to stop and went wild and made stupid promises to themselves and to God and to their mothers and fathers, hoping not to die.”