The Culture of the Vietnam War By Ayla C. McQuillan

Values and Beliefs:

The Vietnam War began in 1954, after the rise to power of Ho Chi Minh and his communist Viet Minh party in North Vietnam, one of the main reasons for the Vietnam war to start up was the spread of communism through the country's. This war continued on from the end of the Cold War, between the United States and the Soviet Union. Religious clashes begun in Vietnam leading to a Buddhist priest burning himself alive, this event shocked the U.S. government and drove it deeper into the confusion of the Vietnam War. Confluence of religion and politics remains relevant today.

Societal protests (one of many)


The Vietcong's tactics:

They fought a guerrilla war, ambushing US patrols, setting booby traps and landmines, and planting bombs in towns. They merged in with the peasants, wearing ordinary clothes. The Americans couldn't identify who the enemy was. They were supplied with rockets and weapons by China and Russia. They used the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a jungle route through Laos and Cambodia, to supply their armies. The Americans couldn't attack their supply routes without escalating the war. Their tactic was "hanging onto the belts" of the Americans, staying so close to the Americans so they could not use air or artillery backup without killing their own men.

The Americans' tactics:

They fought a hi-tech war, using B 52 bombers, artillery, helicopters, napalm and defoliants (Agent Orange). This killed many innocent civilians, and failed to stop the Vietcong guerrillas. They forced the peasants to leave Viet Cong, controlled areas and made them live in defended strategic hamlets in loyal areas. This created immense opposition, and allowed Viet Cong infiltrators into loyal areas. American troops were sent on patrols, then supported by air and artillery when attacked. This demoralized the soldiers, who realized they were being used just as bait. Search and destroy patrols went out looking for "Charlie", as they called the Vietcong. But the patrols were very visible, and easy to ambush. This led to atrocities such as "zippo raids" to burn villages, and the unprovoked massacre of peaceful villagers at My Lai in 1968.

economic inovations

Home front:

A large majority of American citizens believed that the conflict in Vietnam was a war that did not need to be fought and that America did not need to be apart of. the Vietnam War was the first war to be portrayed on televisions all over the United States and citizens were unaccustomed to the brutalities of war, such as children dying, mass murders, and the immense loss of soldiers and family members. United States intervention of Vietnam was seen as unnecessary and unjustifiable. Many believed that it was a civil war meant to be fought within the country, and America had no rights to intervene.

Family life at home and family protesting


The domino theory controlled a lot of United States. Foreign policy beginning in the 1950’s, held a communist victory in one nation that quickly led to a chain reaction of communist takeovers in other states. In Southeast Asia, the United States government used the domino theory to justify its support of a non-communist regime in South Vietnam against the communist government of North Vietnam, and ultimately its increasing involvement in the long-running Vietnam War. The American failure to prevent a communist victory in Vietnam had much less of a global impact than assumed by the domino theory. Though communist leadership did arise in Laos and Cambodia after 1975, communism failed to spread throughout the rest of Southeast Asia.

Propaganda posters


The war took place at the same time as the ‘baby boom’ was starting to arise. A record number of U.S women gave birth in this time. The “baby boomers” were the youth culture at this time and were based largely on music culture. This was the influence for music during this time. Beginning on May 26, John Lennon and Yoko stayed in bed for eight days in an effort to promote world peace at the time of the war. They got a great deal of media attention, which is exactly what they wanted to promote their cause, this is when they created the song ‘Give peace a chance’, this was Lennon's first hit away from The Beatles.

John Lennon and Yoko


The anti-war movement began mostly on college campuses to express their opposition to the way in which it was being conducted, although the vast majority of the American population supported the administration policy in Vietnam. It was the small peace activists whom were the influential subjects to the protests against the war. The first protests came in October 1965 when the draft was increased. On November 15, 1969, the Vietnam Moratorium Committee staged one of the largest antiwar protest in United States history, as many as half a million people attended the mostly peaceful demonstration in Washington. Smaller demonstrations were held in a number of cities and towns across the country. The rally featured speeches by antiwar politicians, including Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Charles Goodell, the only Republican to take part. It also included musical performances by Peter, Paul and Mary, Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger, who led the crowd in the singing of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” (in which you can listen to in the previous slide).

Peace protests


Since the beginning of the World War II, television gradually became familiar to society. At the end of the war, it began to be manufactured in a much larger scale. In 1950s, only 9% of American homes owned a television, but this figure rose dramatically to 93% in 1961. In a survey regulated in 1964, 58% US respondents said that they “got most of their news” from television2. Television became the most important source of news for American people during the Vietnam war. The Vietnam conflict is often referred to as the “first television war.The war was the most publicized wars in all of American history. Hundreds of thousands watched on their television as Walter Cronkite and other news anchors showed film and photographs of American and South Vietnamese soldiers fighting the Vietcong in the 1950's. For many Americans, these images remained with them long after the conclusion of the war because of how graphic and disturbing these images were.

Life magazines capturing the graphic horror of the war for the people at home


The Vietnam War had significant effects on the U.S. economy. The requirements of the war effort inflicted pressure apon the nation's production capacities, leading to an imbalance in the industry. 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 many problems for the American economy. The funds were going overseas, which contributed to an imbalance in the balance of payments, since no corresponding funds were returning to the United States. In addition, military out lay, combined with domestic social spending, created budget shortage, which fueled inflation. Anti-war sentiments and dissatisfaction with government further wore down consumer confidence. Interest rates rose, restricting the amount of capital available for businesses and consumers.

Effects of the war on the United States

Government / foreign policy:

The Vietnam War affected the United States in many ways. Most immediately, it spurred policy changes. The United States ended the military draft and switched to an all-volunteer army. Congress passed the War Powers Resolution over Nixon's veto in November 1973. The resolution limited the president's ability to send troops into combat without congressional consent. Its passage reflected legislators desire to restrain presidential power and to prevent U.S. involvement in a war like that in Vietnam. Beyond policy changes, the war in Vietnam changed the attitudes of a generation. First, the war increased caution about involvement in foreign affairs. After Vietnam, Americans more carefully weighed the risks of intruding in another nation's problems. Second, defeat in the war diminished American confidence in U.S. superiority, both moral and military. Defeat in Vietnam was a humiliating national experience. Finally, the war increased mistrust of government and its officials. A chain of events beginning in the 1960s such as the way Johnson obtained the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, revelations of secret bombings of Cambodia under Nixon, and the Kent State tragedy shattered a faith in the state that had prevailed since World War II. These events left citizens with a sense of cynicism: Government leaders were no longer credible. The abrupt end of Nixon's presidency only confirmed this sentiment.

protests against the government (even children were involved)

The draft:

The people of America were extremely unsupportive of the Vietnam War. The nation had just begun to calm down from the aftermath of the Second World War and life was just beginning to return to its normal state. Citizens did not support the draft, and they believed that it was morally and politically wrong for the United States to be involved in Vietnamese affairs. This opposition caused an outbreak of protests, anti-war organizations, and tension between the citizens themselves. If you were a male over the age of 18 years old, by law you were drafted into war; with the exception of going to school or having a disability, there was a high chance of you being drafted. Whether they volunteered or were drafted, 1 out of 10 soldiers were injured or killed during the Vietnam war. In February 1965, it had only been 3,000 drafted a month, but by October it was increased to 33,000 a month. The draft was a new concept for the American military. Prior to the draft, serving as a soldier was a volunteer opportunity. However, the draft provided a way for the government to require citizens to serve.

The men 18+ in the draft

Family Roles:

Family Life at Home It was the 1960's and early 70's in the US, most women didn't work outside the home. They were housewives, and cooked dinner every night. Vietnam was really the first televised war, and reporters were allowed to participate to an even greater extent than they do now, accompanying soldiers on any mission they wanted to. Many families ate dinner in front of the TV every night while the news played horrific footage of the war. the family life is like any other family life despite there is a shortage of food and houses and most adults are unemployed.

Families would spend 80% of their time watching this horrific war on television everyday till the war had ended

Reintegration into society:

The Vietnam conflict impacted veterans in a variety of ways. Most combat soldiers witnessed violence and lost friends to the horrors of war. The dedication of eight new names to the Vietnam War Memorial on 28 May 2001 brought the American death toll to 58,226, a number that will continue to rise as the classified casualties of the covert war in Laos and Cambodia continue to surface. Some American veterans bore emotional and physical injuries that they would carry for the rest of their lives. Most remained proud of their service and of the role of the United States in the conflict. During the war around twenty-seven million American men dealt with the draft. 11 percent of them served in some fashion in Vietnam. As a consequence of college deferments, most U.S. soldiers in Vietnam came from minority and working-class backgrounds. The average age of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, nineteen, was three years lower than for American men during World War II and Korea.

A tribute to the vets whom lost their lives


The Vietnam War was stemmed from a decade long conflict that started with 19th-century French imperialism. Vietnam was under French administrative control when Japan invaded during World War II, spurring revolutionary forces under Ho Chi Minh’s leadership to launch a resistance movement against both opponents. Emperor Bao Dai gained control after Japan extracted, causing the League for the Independence of Vietnam, or Viet Minh, to assemble against the French-educated leader. Ho Chi Minh idealized the Communist principles of China and the Soviet Union, and he seized Hanoi as the center of his new regime. With French support, Bao established Saigon as the capital of South Vietnam. However, France was never able to regain the northern territories of Vietnam, and Bao was eventually deposed by Ngo Dinh Diem. Despite the Viet Minh’s revolutionary goals, Ngo Dinh Diem’s corrupt rule and lack of popular support, the United States offered military and financial resources to South Vietnam to prevent the rise of another strong Communist regime.

Support was one of the most important acts in the war

Race equality:

The Vietnam War saw the highest proportion of blacks ever to serve in an American war. During the height of the U.S. involvement, blacks formed 11 percent of the American population, made up 12.6 percent of the soldiers in Vietnam. In the 1960's and 1970's, the United States’s long history of racial inequality and segregation culminated in the civil rights movement. The social and political turmoil swept through American society, including the U.S. military. At the same time, the military organization struggled with its own forms of institutional discrimination. As the war progressed and the nature of the unrest in U.S. society evolved, the military experienced changes in its mission, organization, and personnel. Within this context, African American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines faced a unique and difficult challenge. They bravely served their country while simultaneously bearing the burden of second-class citizenship.

Race equality between black and white

work cited:

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