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Riding the Tiger (1961-1963) 

President John F. Kennedy and his advisors consider how deeply the U.S. should get involved in South Vietnam as a communist insurgency and Buddhist protests intensify.


Ken Burns, Lynn Novick




Episode credited cast:
Peter Coyote ... Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ly Tong Ba Ly Tong Ba ... Himself / Captain ARVN (archive footage)
Philip Brady Philip Brady ... Himself - Marine Advisor
Malcolm Brown Malcolm Brown ... Himself / Journalist Associated Press (archive footage)
Malcolm W. Browne Malcolm W. Browne ... Himself / Journalist Associated Press (archive footage) (as Malcolm Browne)
McGeorge Bundy ... Himself / National Safety Advisor (archive footage)
Tran Ngoc Chau Tran Ngoc Chau ... Himself - Province Chief Kien Hoa
Nikita Sergejevitsj Chroesjtsjov Nikita Sergejevitsj Chroesjtsjov ... Himself / Sovjet Prime Misnister (archive footage) (as Nikita Chroesjtsjov)
Le Quan Cong Le Quan Cong ... Himself - Viet Cong
Walter Cronkite ... Himself / CBS News intervewer (archive footage)
Cao Xuan Dai Cao Xuan Dai ... Himself - N. Vietnamese Army
Bui Diem Bui Diem ... Himself - S. Vietnamese Diplomat
Le Duan Le Duan ... Himself / Politburo Secretary (archive footage)
Huy Duc Huy Duc ... Himself - North Vietnam
Duong Van Mai Elliott Duong Van Mai Elliott ... Herself - Saigon


While the Chinese-supported communist regime firmly controls its 'liberated' population, Us president JFK and his staff consider how far they should engage, in the Cold War logic and fearing a domino effect, to support the corrupt, oppressive cheaters republic in the south, which plays them greedily. Its cleptocratic inner circle turns its own population -even the Buddhist monks- against them, hence against the US troops, who can't distinguish the communist insurgents from local farmers, hence each kill makes a dozen new enemies. Furthermore the Vietnamese are prepared to sacrifice far more. After Kennedy's Dallas murder, Lyndon B. Johnson inherits bleak prospects. Written by KGF Vissers

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English | Vietnamese

Release Date:

18 September 2017 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Florentine Films See more »
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Technical Specs


Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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Did You Know?


So What
Written and Performed by Miles Davis
Published by Miles Davis Properties LLC (BMI)
Administered by Kobalt Music Publishing America, Inc.
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
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User Reviews

The U.S. Gets Its Hands Dirty
18 September 2017 | by HitchcocSee all my reviews

This episode gives us a view of a couple things. First of all, it shows us the paranoia that comes when the word Communist is introduced. Young men were willing to die because they saw the heroism that took place in the Second World War. What they didn't know was how volatile things were in Southeast Asia. As Ho came down with his troops, Dien and his compadres took over the South, aided and abetted by U.S. Dollars. This guy was an operator and he soon became a dictator as bad as any invading force could have come up with. In Saigon, there were demonstrations, including a series of self-immolation by Buddhist monks. Dien and Nhu soon were rounding up citizens, virtually anyone who opposed them and imprisoning and executing them. John Kennedy was helpless in this situation and made some very bad decisions. Of course, this ended in 1963, so JFK never saw the real results of his choices. We know that Lyndon Johnson is going to get the bulk of the decision making from then on. A second outstanding offering. At this point the Americans were seen as just another invading force and could not trust the people they were trying to defend.

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