Vietnam was a small Asian country, 9000 miles away from the United States. Yet America felt that its national interest was threatened strongly enough to fight a war there. The explanation for this lies in the fear caused by the spread of communism at that time. The role of communism was extremely important in this conflict. You see, the US had to enter the war to stop the spread of communism in Asia since North Vietnam was communist. If North Vietnam was to succeed in converting Vietnam into a communist country , it could become very powerful and go on to persuade other countries to become communist.
The US believed that Vietnam could become powerful, and it was willing to go through anything to stop that, including sending millions of US troops to Vietnam and watching them die live on TV, and this greatly effected the American culture and society. The Vietnam war. It changed the lives of many people, and in many unfortunate cases eliminated those of others. “By the end of 1965, 184,314 troops were in Vietnam” (Internet), sacrificing their future, their lives. “Within a year, the number had grown to 385,000″(Internet).
For those back in America, the hardship was felt as their sons died overseas. imagine waking up one morning and turning the local news of and seeing your son’s face on the TV screen as one of the few hundred who died just last night. It was horrifying . All this effected American society greatly. Moms were losing sons, sisters were losing brothers, and children were losing dads. The Vietnam war had a harsh outcome. “More than 47,000Americans were killed in action,11,000 died of other causes, and 303,000 were wounded”(Internet).
As more and more Americans continued to leave for Southeast Asia, the American people responded with disillusionment and it caused the American society to lose faith in the government ,as a series of powerful protests took place across the nation. Opposition to the Vietnam war in the United States developed immediately after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Early protests were organized around questions about the morality of Us Military involvement in Vietnam. As each key event of the war occurred, the antiwar sentiment steadily rose.
Students and professors began to organize “teach-ins” on the war in early 1965 at the university of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, and the University of California at Berkeley”(Encarta). eventually, virtually no college or university was without an organized student movement. During this time, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was formed. At its 1964 national convention, the SDS members voted to protest the war by organizing a march on Washington for the following April. No one expected more than a few thousand marchers.
In April1965, 20,000 people participated in the march”(Encarta). This really showed how the war had effected America society, causing protests, marches, and much more to come. When Johnston sent in the first combat troops, and ordered the bombing of North Vietnam in 1965, the antiwar movement in the US erupted. “Many Americans felt cheated and betrayed by Johnson because they had considered him as a peace candidate in 1964″(American Odyssey). SDS now led a long mission. A mission into ending the war in Vietnam.
The Washington,20,000 person march, was the first of greater, more militant protests. that took place. That spring, the SDS also organized “teach-ins” in major universities, where thousands of students and teachers got together and sang, talked, and debated on the war. Opposition to the war also caused students to resist the draft. They refused to be selected for military services because they thought the war was wrong. Too many 19 year old boys were dying. Too many. College students received deferments, or postponement of military services , because of their occupation.
So this drafting fell unfairly on the poor and working-class, and minorities. In fact, poor and working – class men were twice as likely to be drafted, and if drafted, twice as likely to fight as men from the middle class. “(American Odyssey). As a number of men being drafted rose form 5,000 per month in 1965 to 50,000 per month in 1967, more and more draft resistance groups formed and by fall of 1966, more than 3 dozen groups had begun in college campuses across the nation.
People had started to stand up for something that was wrong, and they weren’t about to lose their own lives for a war which they thought didn’t have a real meaning to it. As the US troops in Vietnam increased, the antiwar movement also grew, and the American society continued to fight, pray, and suffer as it got more and more involved and effected by this awful war. “In February 1967, over 2,500 members of the Women Strike For Peace, most of the middle class house wives, stormed the pentagon, demanding to see “The generals who sent our sons to Vietnam.
When refused entrance, the women began pounding on the doors with their shoes. “(American Odyssey) I think the middle class people in American society were effected the most, because it was usually them that had to mourn over the loss of their dad, or if the soldier was fortunately alive, they were the one’s who prayed to god to see their husband’s face once again. In the spring of 1967, huge antiwar protests occurred in major cities such as New York City and San Francisco. Every kind of person participated in this march, priests, business people, and mothers.
The protest showed the willingness and determination of the American Society as they risked getting arrested and even beat from the police, to try and stop the war. Hundreds of young men burned their draft cards in these protests, as supporters shouted “Burn cards, not people. ” As the US got deeper and deeper in the war, American Society was once again greatly affected, because it was divided over the war. Hawks were people who supported the war in America, and wanted to win a military victory.
Doves were people who opposed the war, and questioned the morality of the war. The rest of the American people were neither doves, or hawks. They didn’t support the war, but also were disturbed by the protests. So you see, American Society was divided into three groups of people, who had different beliefs, different morals, and different ideas. “In early January 1968, hawks outnumbered doves by 62 to 22 percent. By march the number of hawks had fallen to 41 percent, while the number of doves had climbed to 42 percent. ” (American Odyssey).
So as more protests were organized and carried out, people changed their beliefs and views. It was really a chaotic period in US History. It even got more chaotic when at a peaceful protest at Kent State campus on May 4, 1970, 11 students were wounded, and four students were dead. None of them were radical activists. This was truly a horrible action by the National Guardsmen, who were responsible for the wounded and the four dead students. Many more violent protests followed the Kent state incident. The students movement was not going to give up.
Although it failed to change US society, it did succeed in effecting change. The Vietnam war was one of the longest and most costly wars in the history of the United States. It changed the lives of many people, and it eliminated others. Every night, American civilians were faced with the harsh reality of a war we could not win on their television sets. The course of the American history was dramatically changed by the Vietnam war. The American policies on foreign affairs, domestic politics, and cultural and social history were greatly changed by this event.
Some say it was a “good war”, and some say it was a “bad war”. I say that “war is heck” and that “any war is a bad war”. It was a classic story of good guy versus bad, communism versus freedom, and a constant struggle for stability. The war effected everyone and everything around it. Was it worth all the lives and people that were lost? I don’t think there is a correct answer to that. But I do know that war brings suffering, fear, and violence, and the Vietnam war is a prime example of that.