Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's landmark Vietnam War documentary debuts Sunday; more local tie-ins planned

Posted by Chip Chandler on
A soldier of the 25th Infantry Division is seen circa 1969.
Courtesy Charles O. Haughey

"The Vietnam War" extended look

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick tell the epic story of an agonizing, decade-long conflict in their newest documentary event.

The 10-part The Vietnam War debuts at 7 p.m. Sunday on Panhandle PBS.

The first five episodes will air nightly from Sunday through Thursday, and the final five episodes will air nightly from Sept. 24 through Sept. 28. Each episode will premiere at 7 p.m. with a repeat broadcast immediately following the premiere.

Beginning Oct. 3, the series will re-air at 8 p.m. on a weekly basis through Nov. 28.

Viewer discretion is advised. The documentary contains mature content, strong language and graphic violence.

In an immersive narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film, beginning long before America got involved in the war itself but focusing strongly on the national strife that erupted once it did.

“Not since the Civil War have we as a country been so torn apart,” Burns said. “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.”

Panhandle PBS's Karen Welch has spoken with Amarillo-area residents whose lives were impacted by the war, including veterans, peace activists and refugees. Their stories can be seen at as well as on episodes of our newsmagazine, Live Here.

The first of a three-part series with area vets, "Crossing the Divide," debuted Thursday and will rebroadcast at midnight Friday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Parts 2 and 3 will debut at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 and 12, following the Burns & Novick film's initial broadcast. The first part can be viewed here.

In addition, the Amarillo College Common Reader is tied to the broadcast. The Things They Carried is a collection of linked short stories by author Tim O'Brien about a platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam.

From Oct. 20 to Dec. 30, Amarillo Museum of Art will feature three exhibitions tied to the war and its aftermath: 

  • A Shared Experience, which will feature work by Vietnamese immigrants Du Chau and Anh-Thuy Nguyen. The former, who had work featured in 2015's AMoA Biennial: Sculpture, came to America with his family as boat people following the war. The latter grew up in Vietnam and immigrated to the States as an adult.
  • Paintings and Photography of Larry R. Collins, featuring work by an American veteran who was assigned to be a combat artist at the front. "His photographs are not the typical war photographs," Gregory said. "He primarily thought about individuals and the soldiers' camps."
  • and The Soul of Vietnam: A Portrait of the North by Lawrence D'Attilio, a current artist who "is infatuated with Vietnam," Gregory said. "It's a fast-growing economy, and (the country is) undergoing a lot of changes, so this is a contemporary look at Vietnam and what's going on right now."

A collection of photos shot by Amarillo philanthropist Mary Emeny offers insight into the lives of everyday Vietnamese people living in a war-torn country. View from the Edge of the War Zone: Vietnam 1967-1968 will hang through Sept. 28 in the Southern Light Gallery on the first floor of the Ware Student Commons on the Washington Street campus of Amarillo College. The exhibition also includes excerpts from a journal she kept during that time. Emeny will be featured in a Nov. 16 episode of Live Here.

Refugees who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigo and now make their home in Amarillo will be profiled on a Nov. 30 episode of Live Here.

And finally, The Wall That Heals, a traveling half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., will be installed Dec. 6 to 10 at John Stiff Park, 4800 S. Bell St.

​On Sunday, concurrent with the broadcast premiere, the first five episodes of The Vietnam War will be available for streaming on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and PBS apps for iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast, and the final five episodes will be available beginning Sept. 24. All episodes will remain accessible until Oct. 3, when the series begins its weekly rebroadcast. During the rebroadcast period, each episode will be available to stream for two weeks.

PBS station members with Passport can view the entire series (all 10 episodes) beginning Sunday.


Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.

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