Rhyfel Fietnam - documentary about the Vietnam War

There’s a fantastic documentary on S4C clic at the moment called Rhyfel Fietnam. It’s a series by the American documentarian Ken Burns but with a Welsh narrator and Welsh subtitles on the Vietnamese interviewees. The English version is also available on Netflix at the moment.

If you are at all interested in the political and cultural upheaval of the 1950s-1970s then this documentary series is for you. The English episodes are 1 hour 50 long and they are fascinating. The Welsh episodes are abridged.

It covers the war itself, the military history, the political history but also the social and cultural history. They interview American veterans and policy makers but also, and this is the most fascinating part, Vietnamese people who lived through it on both sides of the conflict. Viet Minh, Viet Cong, North Vietnamese Army, South Vietnamese Army, and civilians.

It’s fascinating, I really emplore you to give it a look.


I had seen it being promoted on Clic but not had a look at it. I’ve been to Vietnam twice and I love the country and people and I’ve seen other programmes in the past that have been rather one-sided, but if it’s as you say and shows a balanced view I’ll have a look. Thanks for mentioning it Anthony.

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I’ve seen the Netflix version. It’s not an easy watch (war should not be easy,) nor is it complimentary of the United States. Just the opposite, in fact. One take away is the United States committed almost every conceivable error politically and domestically in its involvement in Vietnam, mostly by backing the wrong side (French and then corrupt South Vietnamese leaders). For those interested in the Vietnam War and it’s impact on the Vietnamese people and the United States, it’s worth watching. I’ll watch the first episode again in Cymraeg.

It’s interesting S4C would pick this up and offer a translated version. Is there a lot of interest in the Vietnam War in Wales?


I was very surprised to see it. Not much was on telly in English about the War this year so it’s not as if there has been an open commitment to remember 1968 50 years on.

I’ve only watched the first half of the first episode in Welsh. I’m just finishing the Ken Burns series now.

Ken Burns also produced an excellent series on the American Civil War. Almost seminal in my opinion. He has also produced one on the Second World War but I’ve not watched that.

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Maybe it was scheduled as a belated follow on to the rebroadcast S4C documentary about Philip Jones Griffiths, the Welsh photographer who did a lot of work in Vietnam during the war? :


I’ve not seen his Civil War series, but have watched nearly all the others. Anyone interested in American history, any of Ken Burn’s series is worth watching. He makes history “personal.” Rather than report about events from a distance, he takes the viewer into the events that shaped history and shows the lives of the people who were involved. For example, in the Vietnam series, he focuses on the Soldiers, for both sides, who carried out the orders, who they were, what their experiences were like. History becomes very personal. Ken Burns tries to show history without bias.

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I’m going to have to look for this. As a photographer (hobby), I enjoy watching documentaries about photographers and their work.

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Apparently 37 million people tuned in to watch the final episode of his Civil War Series when it aired on PBS. I don’t know much about broadcasting but from what I understand about PBS that’s unheard of!

Wow! 37 million viewers. For PBS that’s huge. For some reason the Civil War enjoys more popularity, if a war can be popular, than any other conflict the US has fought.

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Barbara Tuchman’s ‘The March Of Folly’ gives a good account of that period, a great read.


And the Welsh Iron workers played a major role in the American Civil War. Half of the munitions, canons etc for the confederacy were made in Tredegar, but not Tredegar Wales, but the US town named after it and founded on the recruitment of Rhys Davies and others from Tredegar who were hired to bring their skills with them.

On the other - winning side - the person who has been called the Father of the the US iron industry was David Thomas, who founded the US metallurgy association. He came from Cadoxton, educated in Alltwen and managed the iron works in Ystradgynlais and then set up the Iron industry in Pennsylvannia that supplied the North with all their canons and other weapons.

Later on David Hughes from Merthyr was commisioned by the Russian Tsar to set up something similar in Russia.

The skills here were taken all over the world - we were the silicon Valley of that age.


That documentary was shown here in Finland a while ago. Luckily I had the tv as a background noise while I was reading. I had this moment of “wtf?! Is that Welsh?” and yes it was. Had to stop reading and watch.

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