Published on February 2nd, 2018 | by Ken Gargett


Por Larranaga Petit Corona | Ron Caney ‘Anejo Centuria’

Ken Burns’ latest doco – ‘The Vietnam War’. What a brilliant effort.

I just love this guy’s docos. He just does them so well. When I looked him up, I realised there were quite a few he has made that have not found their way out here, or perhaps I missed them. Other faves I have seen include ‘The Civil War’, which was the first I came across; ‘Prohibition’, ‘National Parks’ and ‘Baseball’. I see he has one in production on Ernest Hemingway. Looking forward to that.

Anyway, I was wondering if any other members have seen this latest one and what were the thoughts. I don’t know whether we have any Vietnam vets on the forum, but it would be really interesting to hear from them. Accurate? Biased in any way? Comprehensive?

I am assuming that, given we are talking half a century ago, we can see this as history and not current US politics (I think it transcends that, is far too international and both sides of American politics should hang their heads in shame – as indeed should plenty of others, not least some of our own politicians).

I really love the way he talks to people from all levels of involvement in the War and from all sides. He goes into such detail, but it is never boring. At least, I never found it other than fascinating. Naturally, given the era, many of the other issues of the times are woven through it – changing attitudes around the globe, JFK’s assassination and also that of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, Watergate, Kent State. Does it so well. Anyone interested in that period of history cannot miss this.

So many really interesting pieces of information that I did not know. Around 30,000 Americans went to Canada to avoid the draft. I knew that (well, not the number), but I had no idea that an almost identical number of Canadians moved to the States to join up and fight. I knew of William Calley and the massacre (yes, atrocities on both sides but his was really appalling – that said, I did not know that the Viet Cong killed 2,600 civilians in Hue after the Tet Offensive, I think, because they had seen the locals from the city who were members of the Viet Cong living there in secret and they felt they could not risk them being identified), but I had no idea that Calley’s sentence – life – was effectively commuted into three years house arrest. Mind you, one can argue that he should not have been the only, or the main focus, of any prosecutions. Does not excuse him.

I can remember first hearing of Vietnam – as a young kid in 1970, I think. Not because I was someone who followed the current affairs of the day but because my best mate’s dad was one of our first “advisors” to go over there. Back then, I had no real idea what that meant. But this show really does make one question what one would have done had I been of age then. I suspect that if I had been drafted, my family would never have forgiven me if I had not gone. Or if I had been involved in any protests. I honestly have no idea what I would have done. Probably gone, but I really think I would have made the absolute worst soldier ever.

If I had two small criticisms, although he does use the music of the day as the soundtrack, I would have given it more emphasis. It played a pivotal role in influencing thoughts for so many.

The other very small issue I had was that the involvement of the American allies is almost completely ignored. He mentions that there were five other nations who also fought with the Americans and names them, but that is the end of it (to be fair, I am only in the 10th, of 10, episodes so he may come back to the other nations but I’m not holding my breath). Vietnam was massive in Australia. Also, incredibly divisive here. Protests, political change, attitudes to the military. People talk of the importance of Nixon’s trip to China but it is forgotten that Whitlam had already been, the first western leader to do so. If the program was called, ‘America in Vietnam’ or something of that ilk, fair enough. He should have included more on the allies.

The other thing I had not realised was Nixon’s interference in getting the South Vietnamese to boycott peace talks, thereby torpedoing them, in the lead-up to the 1968 election, simply because he believed he had a far better chance of being elected than if the talks were successful. And after doing that, he rang Johnson to say he would never ever do anything like that and would oppose it if suggested, etc etc (the doco actually plays the tapes of Nixon doing so).

Johnson knew he was lying as had him on tape but could not say anything…. because he had him on tape and could not let him know that. As we used to say in torts law classes, I’m not sure that anyone came to this with clean hands. But you have a man running for President willing to sacrifice potentially thousands of American lives, just to help his cause. To me, that is treason. Far worse than Watergate. Or have I misunderstood? As mentioned, doing this from a historical perspective rather than a political discussion, as I think that no one on either side covered himself with glory.

That said, I know that the vast majority of Americans have no idea we were there. I remember when I worked in the States, I lived with a bunch of guys, one of whom was a dental student. He expressed great amazement one evening when he discovered that we were in the Second World War (he had other things to concern himself – every month, he’d proudly display the latest Playboy pointing out which of the women he slept with – having seen him in action, I have no doubt he was not exaggerating, and it was a rare month when he had nothing to show us).

I was in DC with a local law firm where there were some of the smartest people with whom I ever worked. And a few of the women were seriously hot (if one is still allowed to say that in this day and age). I was out with one and chatting and I mentioned to her how stunned I’d been that my mate did not know of our involvement. I said that I could understand it if Americans did not know that we were in the Vietnam War but was surprised he did not know about WWII.

She looked at me in amazement and said, “You guys were in the Vietnam War? Which side?”

Okay, she was a very smart lawyer and perhaps not a genius in other areas.

Anyway, this is a seriously interesting doco and a perfect one to settle down in front of with a cigar and a drink.

To wit…

I had not had a cigar for a few weeks, three weeks to be precise – a lingering, irritating summer flu/cold or whatever. Coughing up great chunks of who knows what is not really conducive to a good cigar. Finally, felt well enough and went small. One of the very few small smokes I like. The Por Larranaga Petit Corona. EKA SEP 08. I have seen some discussion on these on the forum of late. My view is that if you smoke them under five years, it is a total waste. I never get anything worthwhile until they have at least five years on them and a decade is even better. This one still had a hint of that exciting russet in the wrapper. It was mature and supple, small but perfectly formed, and very quickly moved into that lovely trademark caramel note. Some earthy characters.

The rum I tried was the Ron Caney ‘Anejo Centuria’, a bottle I had brought back from Cuba years ago. Very pleasant, with a citrus/lemony note and pecans. A hint of white chocolate, this is a subtler form of rum than many. Balanced and quite a lighter style.

I really knew nothing about it other than that I had enjoyed various Caney rums in Cuba. There is some Spanish on the back label, so that helped me not a jot. Looked up the Caney site on the net and they also talk about citrus but they go more orange. Apparently, a blend of rums, all aged at least seven years.

They worked okay together but the caramel of the PLPC would have worked far better with a richer rum. I have been trying some of the top Flor de Cana of late and they would have been a more suitable choice.

Still, better than going off to a senseless war.


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