A stunning 1974 Peter Davis documentary about the Vietnam War that won the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award, event though the film’s distributor blocked U.S. distribution, forcing the producers to rent a Los Angeles theater for the one-week showing to make the film eligible for award consideration.
The film’s title derives from President Lyndon Johnson’s oft-repeated declaration that that victory in Vietnam depended on winning hearts and minds, something neither he nor Richard Nixon could do either in Asia or the U.S.
The most stunning single sequence features an interview with Gen. William Westmoreland, who led the war effort from 1968 to 1972. He told Davis “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.”
The film is a powerful reminder of American imperial hubris, and especially timely given this bit of recent of news from the Associated Press that hints of a war to come,
The Army Times headlined it “Va. Army mortuary unit deploys to Middle East”:
More than 40 soldiers from Fort Lee are deploying to Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Officials at the Army base near Petersburg say the soldiers from the 111th Quartermaster Company left Wednesday for an at least six-month deployment.
The soldiers are part of one of the Army’s only two active duty mortuary affairs units.
Looks like Uncle Sam is getting ready to win more hearts and minds, an operation that inevitably requires morticians and body bags.