WXXI AM News

Vietnam War

Coming in September to WXXI-TV, The Vietnam War is an immersive, ten-part, 18-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that tells the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never-before been told on film.

These stories from WXXI News help to shape an understanding of the reasoning and impact from The Vietnam War ahead of the documentary in September. You can find more on the upcoming documentary including a 30-minute preview at WXXI.org/Vietnam.

Miguel Llano: 'Sometimes it was last night I was there'

Sep 11, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

As Miguel Llano puts it, for much of his young life, he was stuck between different worlds.

He was born in Puerto Rico but was raised in Ontario County.

“I grew up, you know between Canandaigua and Geneva, and so Geneva was where my father's friends were all Spanish. My friends were from Clifton Springs, New York — lily-white. Canandaigua — even whiter.”

Then he was drafted in 1969 and sent to Vietnam to serve as a U.S. Army radio operator.

“Now I'm stuck between three worlds. Stuck between blacks, because you may look at me and say he's black.”

Stirlin Harris: 'I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into'

Sep 8, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

In the 1960s, Stirlin Harris was living as a landed immigrant in Canada. And once his draft notice came through, he decided that he was going to stay there.

“So I went down to the American consul and said, ‘I want to renounce my U.S. citizenship,’ ” he said. “And they said, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ ”

He was told to think about it for three days.

“So three days later, I came back and I did the unthinkable: I renounced my U.S. citizenship,” Harris said.

Tai Le: 'We have a great life here'

Sep 8, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

Tai Le was 6 years old when he almost died.

It was 1968, and he and his family could hear the sounds of war outside their home in Saigon, Vietnam.  Soldiers. Gunfights. Helicopters flying over their house.

“So my mom told us to put all the pillows and blankets on the bed, and we hiding underneath there,” Le recalled. “I still remember. I'll never, ever forget that. And so my mom said she heard the helicopters around the house, she said, ‘We have to get out.’ ”

His father wasn’t home. His mother managed to get herself and her four children out of the house.

Pat Mannix: 'I was becoming more aware'

Sep 7, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

“I was not what you would call an activist during Vietnam. I was what you would call a Republican fundamentalist.”

During the Vietnam War, Pat Mannix started a chapter of Operation Morale in Brighton to support the soldiers. Every six to eight weeks, the members would get together to package cookies, candy, personal hygiene items and other items, which were then sent to the soldiers.

“I was all very pro-war, pro-country, pro-everything,” Mannix said.

So how did a Republican fundamentalist become an activist taking stands on everything from cruise missiles to racism?

Henrietta and Max Levine: 'We've seen some big problems in the world'

Sep 7, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

Max and Henrietta Levine met more than 70 years ago on a blind date — but it wasn’t with each other.

“Some other guy was my date,” Henrietta Levine said. “By the end of the evening, he took the young lady that he had a date with back to wherever she was staying and we joined forces at somebody's house.”

He invited her to Thanksgiving dinner the day after they met. Henrietta Levine said while she came from a “rather conservative Jewish family,” she quickly learned his was quite different.

George McVey: 'We were all active locally'

Sep 7, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

When you think of an anti-war protester, what comes to mind?

Students, carrying signs? The word “hippie?”  So-called leftists?

In the 1960s, George McVey was very much against the Vietnam War, but as a practicing dentist in his 30s, he didn’t exactly fit that stereotype.

“I was downtown in the Temple Building at that point,” he said of his dental practice.

His anti-war stance cost him some patients, as some conservative Rochesterians were less likely to seek his services, he said.

Doug Escher: 'It just didn't seem right'

Sep 7, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

Doug Escher’s 8-year-old grandson, Rafael, calls him “Pow.”

He also calls him his hero.

“We went to one of his plays in the morning,” Escher said, and afterward, the families had a chance to view the students’ pictures on the “hero wall.”

Escher spotted Rafael’s creation.

“He says, ‘Pow’s my hero because he fought in the war,’ ” said Escher. “Tears came.”

That moment wiped away decades of inner conflict, said Escher, who fought in the Vietnam War.

“I always had this thing,” he said, “I really had a problem with Vietnam because it was wrong.”

Barry Culhane: 'I wanted to do something for them'

Sep 7, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

After completing U.S. Army basic and medical training in 1969, Barry Culhane had orders to be sent to Vietnam.

He was ready.

“I'd already written my parents a note and said I’ve upped my life insurance, and I'll be back when I get back,” Culhane said.

He had seen some of the grim consequences of the war at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where he had trained as a combat medic and an eye, ear, nose and throat corpsman.

Alan Levin: 'I have many dead brothers'

Sep 7, 2017
Denise Young/WXXI

Many years before he became known as Brother Wease to local radio fans, Alan Levin made a big decision.

It was 1966. He was 19. One of his best friends was fighting in the Vietnam War.

So he decided to enlist in the U.S. Army.

“It's just stupid kid crap. I was 19, so I go, ‘Joe's there, I gotta go.’ ”

And because that friend was a paratrooper, Levin went through that training, too.

He said when he started the first of his three tours in Vietnam, he didn’t even know why the U.S. was involved in the war.

Bob Good: 'It tore society in half'

Sep 7, 2017
Emily Hunt/WXXI

Paul Good was 19 when he was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War. Less than two months after he arrived in country, he was killed.

“In many ways,” said his brother Bob Good of Rochester, “it had the effect on our family similarly to how it had an effect on society. It tore society in half. It ran it right down the middle. And it did much the same to our family.”

Bob Good says his brother’s death and his own subsequent education about U.S. history led him to take a strong stand against the war.

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