The Vietnam War: Ken Burns TV documentary brings back stark memories for local vets

CINCINNATI - It's safe to say many Americans don't know the history of the Vietnam War. But a 10-night, 18-hour, in-depth TV series by Ken Burns aims to change that.

It’s bringing back vivid memories for local Vietnam vets like Earl Corell and Kenneth Manges.

Corell was so traumatized he still doesn't talk about it.

Manges' experience led him to be a forensic psychologist.

Both say Burns’ retrospective should give Americans better context about the war.

WATCH: Former WCPO General Manager Bill Fee talks about being wounded in Vietnam below:

 

The Vietnam War (1955-75) claimed more than  58,000 America lives and impacted the politics of the nation and a generation of young men.

“I lost several friends and I really don't talk about it,” said Corell, whose Army job was transporting jet fuel.

Corell watched the first segment Sunday and it triggered a flashback.

“I had one last night when I saw General Westmoreland on television.  Nothing's changed,” Correll said.

Gen. William Westmoreland commanded U.S. forces in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968. In 1967 Westmoreland declared that the U.S. would defeat North Vietnam, but that didn't happen.

The U.S. ultimately pulled out and veterans weren't treated well when they came home.

“I got spit upon,” Corell said. “I didn't last six weeks in college.  I became closeted and I didn't talk about it.”

Magnes experienced the same things when he came home from the war.

“When I first returned from Vietnam, I was seen as a pariah. I was seen as someone who was killing babies,” Magnes said.

“I was in infantry — signal corps. I was in the back lines as opposed to the front lines, but we were mortared on a routine basis,” he said.

Magnes knows some scenes in the series will be hard to watch because they could trigger Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and flashbacks.

“Some difficulties that they might have immediately after or even disturbing dreams would be challenging for them,” Magnes said.

Corell used his experience to help create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Eden Park. It's a place of reflection — a monument to history — just like the Burns’ historical narrative.

“Hopefully out of this series people will understand what the Vietnam veteran went through,” Corell said, “and the homecoming — and what's taking place today.”

The VA and veterans groups  are expecting an uptick in counseling requests because of possible PTSD and they're prepared to handle it.

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