Culture of the Vietnam War By Caitlin vaughn

Beliefs and Values

The Vietnamese value system is based on four basic tenets:

allegiance to the family
Yearning for a good name
Love of learning
Respect for other people

Vietnam had many differences with the United states. The reason behind this conflict of the Vietnam war is that north and south Vietnam were entirely divided politically. The leader of north Vietnam was Viet Minh, who believed in a total power system of communism. South Vietnam, allies of the United States, didn't agree with this idea of communism.

The American value system:


Guerrilla Warfare

In December 1965, Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnamese leadership ordered a change in a way the war in the South was to be fought. From now on, the Vietcong would avoid pitched battles with the Americans unless the odds were clearly in their favor. There would be more hit and run attacks and ambushes. To counter the American build-up, Vietcong recruitment would be stepped up and more North Vietnamese Army troops would be infiltrated into South Vietnam.

Hiding the base areas had always been a high priority for the Vietcong. Now, with American spotter planes everywhere, it was more vital than ever to protect them. In remote swamps or forests, there were few problems, but nearer the capital, it was much more difficult. The answer was to build enormous systems of underground tunnels.

Home Front

The movement against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War began small. Peace activists and leftist intellectuals on college campuses started it, but gained national attention in 1965, after the United States began bombing North Vietnam in earnest. Anti-war marches and other protests, such as the ones organized by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), attracted a widening base of support over the next three years, peaking in early 1968 after the successful Tet Offensive by North Vietnamese troops proved that war’s end was nowhere in sight.


The 1960's were a time of upheaval in society, fashion, attitudes and especially music. Before 1963, the music of the sixties still reflected the sound, style and beliefs of the previous decade and many of the hit records were by artists who had found mainstream success in the 1950s, like Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Dion, and The Everly Brothers. In 1963 and the years to follow, a number of social influences changed what popular music was and gave birth to the diversity that we experience with music today. The assassination of President Kennedy, the escalation of the war in Vietnam and the forward-progress of the Civil Rights Movement all greatly impacted the mood of American culture and the music began to reflect that change. The "British Invasion" also began around 1963 with the arrival of The Beatles on the music scene and the type of rabid fandom that followed them would change the way people would view and interact with music and musicians forever. In this section we will cover the history of the "British Invasion", Motown and R&B, Folk and Protest music, and the large amount of variation that emerged in Rock music throughout the sixties.

Elvis Presley


As the war went on, the U.S. media began to change its main source of information. Journalists began to focus more on research, interviews and analytical essays to obtain information instead of press conferences, official news releases and reports of official proceedings. With an increase in American households that obtained a television set, more and more citizens were able to keep up with the war. Although it was useful to have all information acquired during the war, the media played a huge role in what the American people saw and believed. Journalists that visited Vietnam during the war were not interested in the culture of Vietnam or any aspect of the way of life practiced in that area. Instead, they only focused on the negative and reinforced the American people with the worst of Vietnam. The media played the information to look like Vietnam was in the wrong and the only one at fault.

Propaganda in both countries was very important in the progression of the war. Society's members who wished to remain in neutral or involved suddenly became interested in the conflict at hand. Advertisements for and against the war against Vietnam blew up and made way for a new era of media and news.

Publicity of this war was very strongly based on the use of TV and radio. This fact led us to call the Vietnam war "the living room war" due to the fact that Americans and Vietnamese people alike, sat around watching the war from their TV's in the home front.


When the war in Vietnam started, many Americans believed that defending South Vietnam from communist aggression was in the national interest. Communism was threatening free governments across the globe. Any sign of non-intervention from the United States might encourage revolutions elsewhere. Peace movement leaders opposed the war on moral and economic points. The North Vietnamese, they argued, were fighting a patriotic war to rid themselves of foreign aggressors. Innocent Vietnamese people were being killed in the crossfire. American planes brought environmental damage by dropping their dangerous chemicals.

A small, core peace movement had long existed in the United States, largely based in Quaker and Unitarian beliefs, but failed to gain popular currency until the Cold War era. The intense nuclear arms race of the late 1950s led the editor of the Saturday Review, Norman Cousins, along with Clarence Pickett of the American Society of Friends, to found the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) in 1957. Their most well known member was Dr. Benjamin Spock, who joined in 1962 after becoming disillusioned with President Kennedy's failure to halt nuclear proliferation. A normally middle-class organization, SANE, represented the latest reboot of traditional liberal peace activism. Their goal was a reduction in nuclear weapons.

On Nov. 15, 1969, the Vietnam Moratorium Committee executed the largest anti-war protest in United States history. As many as half a million people attended a mostly peaceful demonstration in Washington. Smaller demonstrations were held in a number of cities and towns across the country.


Media in the 1960's during the Vietnam War was insanely important. Media helped sway people from one side of the war to the other in a matter of minutes. Although, the media often lacked the truth.

Many famous programs in the 1960's are here:


The requirements of the war effort hurt the nation's production, leading to imbalances in the industrial areas. Factories that would have been producing consumer goods were being used to make items from the military, causing controversy over the government's handling of economic policy. In addition, the government's military spending caused several problems for the American economy. The funds were going overseas, which contributed to an imbalance in the balance of payments and a weak dollar, since no corresponding funds were returning to the country.

Government/Foreign Policy 

The White House, USA

During the Cold War, the United States and its allies competed with the Soviet Union and its allies through military power and economically. Both sides created massive military forces and huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons. This kept tension high even to modern day and through the Vietnam War.

The president and the executive branch have the most important role in making foreign policy and are all responsible for carrying it out.

During the Vietnam War, many Americans disagreed with the government's power over the country's military actions and refused to follow any political figures who agreed with the government's use of this power. 

The Draft 

Draft dodgers were very common around the time of the Vietnam war. This group of men would injure themselves, fake their age, or force themselves into higher education in order to avoid being drafted into the American military. At the age of 18, if you were an American male who was of good health and low education, you were required to register as a member of the American military draft.

"Then, in November 1969, after I'd been in college for a year, the rules changed. A lottery began phasing out student deferments. My roommates and I started thinking and talking more about the draft. It occurred to me that the people on the draft board were human beings who deserved a friendly hello as much as anyone did, so I wrote them a letter." - Eric Schechter

During the Vietnam War, about two-third of American troops were volunteered, the rest were selected for military service through the drafts. In the beginning of the war, names of all American men in draft-age were collected by the Selective Service System. When someone’s name was called, he had to report to his local draft board, which was made up of various community members, so that they could begin to evaluate his draft status. By this manner, local draft boards had an enormous power to decide who had to go and who would stay. Consequently, draft board members were often under pressure from their family, relatives and friends to exempt potential draftees.

Family Roles

In the 1960's, the average family consisted of a husband, wife, and two to four children. Normally, a family home would be highly suburban and have three bedrooms with often small shared space. A 1960's family usually held a place in the middle class. After the publishing of "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan in 1963, many women began to leave the role of housewife and start careers of their own. Women began to enter the work force, and, as a result, demanded their husbands assist them more with housework and child care.

Re-Integration into Society

After the Vietnam war, many military members that managed to survive the several brutal attacks struggled to transition back into society. Research has shown that females returning from combat tend to experience more anxiety than their male counterparts, who tend to show more signs of anger (Demers 5). Many veterans have problems with loud noises or surprises during the first few weeks since they are reminders of the noises of combat. There are also problems with driving, as a soldier returning from battle grounds may still be looking for suicide bombers or IED's.


The U.S. government viewed its involvement in the war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam. This was part of a domino theory, a possibly wider containment policy, with the aim of stopping the spread of communism worldwide. American government saw communism as a political virus that could easily be spread globally until it had completely taken over. It was very likely that the US stayed involved to avoid a negative name being put on our country's ability to support our allies. Although, the Vietnam war was the mots expensive war in US history, damaging us not only financially, but it caused national confusion and dropped our body count drastically.

Race Equality

Racial inequality was a huge issue in 1960s America. We as a society discriminated against the black community, as well as several races stemming from Asia. “Jim Crow” laws at the local and state levels barred them from classrooms and bathrooms, from theaters and train cars, from juries and legislatures.

Acts that passed in order to end this segregation finally came in the late 1960's; the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1960s. At this point, it had been about one-hundred years since the emancipation proclamation was released. Much of our memory of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s is embodied in dramatic photographs, newsreels, and recorded speeches, which America encountered in daily papers and the nightly news. As the movement rolled across the nation, Americans absorbed images of hopeful, disciplined, and dedicated young people shaping their destinies.

Created By
Student Caitlin Vaughn


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