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DVD Review: Virtual JFK – Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived

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There has long been a sub-genre in science fiction called alternate history. The premise is pretty simple. For example, what kind of world would we live in today, had the Axis Powers been victorious in World War II?

The Virtual JFK – Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived DVD presents a “what if” scenario with Kennedy not being shot in Dallas. Narrator Professor James G. Blight prefers the term virtual history, which is pretty much a synonym to alternate history, minus the dreaded science fiction associations.

To prove his thesis, the Professor presents six events that occurred during Kennedy’s three years in office. Each could have escalated to war pretty easily, considering the heat of the Cold War at the time. In each instance, stock black and white footage is shown, most of it pretty grainy. Kennedy was able maneuver out of each confrontation without them becoming any more belligerent.

The six crises Blight cites as evidence are The Bay of Pigs, The Laos Crises, The Berlin Wall, The Showdown over Vietnam, The Cuban Missile Crises, and finally his attempts to quietly withdraw from Vietnam just 80 days prior to his assassination.

A huge amount of footage comes from press conferences, and are almost all grainy black and white, like the newsreels. The press conferences are interesting in themselves however, as we are able to see Kennedy charming the press with his humor, while deflecting most of the serious questions.

Professor Blight sums up his conclusions with this quote “It is almost inevitable that he (JFK) would not have had that war in Vietnam.”

The raw numbers themselves are pretty sobering. When Kennedy assumed office in 1961, there were approximately 3,000 US troops in Vietnam. Under LBJ in 1967, 8,000 soldiers had been killed in Vietnam. The figure jumped to 19,000 dead in 1968, the year Johnson bowed out of the Presidency.

The bonus features are interesting in that they all feature Johnson, rather than Kennedy. There is an eight minute statement concerning the resumption of bombing in Vietnam, for 1966. There is a 15 minute excerpt from Johnson’s 1967 State Of The Union address, which concerns Vietnam. And from 1968, there is a 15 minute statement to the country about the differences between North and South Vietnam. All of these segments are in black and white.

If Kennedy had lived, Vietnam may not have gone the way it did. In fact I am pretty certain Kennedy would have handled things differently than Johnson did. But really, so what? No amount of speculation can change what actually occurred.

The Virtual JFK – Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived DVD presents an intriguing hypothesis. If nothing else, it is always good for a little banter alongside the many other Kennedy conspiracies, allegations, and legends we have come to know over the years.

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About Greg Barbrick

  • Uttam


    I think you miss the point. You write: “But really, so what? No amount of speculation can change what actually occurred.” One could make the same point about non-virtual, or real history. The past has already occurred. So then why study history? We study history to better our understanding of the world, of ourselves, of our ideas and how changes happen. As one of my old professors, Will McNeil once said: “Clearly we need careful reflection about, and search for, enduring patterns and critical turning points in the past, for these are the historical facts that everyone needs to know.”

    Virtual history or counterfactuals, as Niall Ferguson terms it, can be very helpful to understand these turning points as long as they are solidly grounded in evidence.

  • Greg Barbrick

    I actually could not agree with you more. But whether “facts are facts,” or the Warren Commission was incorrect does not change things.

    People died in Viet Nam, and a lot of others’ lives were ruined by the war. And my (sad as it is) point, is that the reality of those deaths and pain never changes.

    I personally do not think JFK would have persued tha war as heavily as LBJ and RMN did. My “who cares” comment was made as a sad, and ultimately unprovable theory reflecting the theme of the film.

    While stopping short of any conspiracy theories, this film pretty much said that JFK would not have pushed the war as far as it went.

    My “who cares” comment” may have sounded crass, but it was meant honestly.

    If JFK had lived, I honestly believe the war would not have taken as many lives.