Stanley Karnow dies; his Vietnam: A History became 13-hour PBS series

By Dru Sefton

This article has been updated and reposted with additional information.

Stanley Karnow, whose book Vietnam: A History became the basis of the critically acclaimed 13-hour PBS documentary, Vietnam: A Television History, died Jan. 27 at his home in Potomac, Md., reports the New York Times. He was 87.

“Unlike many books and films on Vietnam in the 1960s and ’70s and the nightly newscasts that focused primarily on America’s role and its consequences at home and abroad,” the Times noted, “Mr. Karnow addressed all sides of the conflict and traced Vietnam’s culture and history.”

The WGBH series premiered on PBS in 1983, and was re-edited to 11 hours for rebroadcast on American Experience in 1997. It won seven Emmys, the George Foster Peabody Award, the duPont/Columbia Journalism Award, the George Polk Award, two Writer’s Guild Awards, and the Erik Barnouw Award of the Organization of American Historians.

“The American Experience owes much to the 13-hour series, Vietnam: A Television History … ,” wrote David Stewart, a former director of international affairs for CPB, in a 1998 commentary in Current. Stewart quoted Peter McGhee, a longtime WGBH vice president for national programs: “Television was the means by which a generation was educated about Vietnam. We decided there was a lot [more] American history that fell into that category.”

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