The Culture of the Vietnam War Kasha wright

The Values & Beliefs

The first half of the decade seemed like an extension of the 1960's: the fight for equal rights for all Americans continued; the first moves toward environmental protection were initiated along with Earth Day and an oil embargo from the Middle East brought long lines at gas stations and soaring prices. However, after the war, American public sharply divided and our leaders were uncertain of what lay ahead in foreign policy. The nation’s longest and most debilitating war – the only war the U.S. ever lost, had far-reaching consequences and impact on most aspects of American life from the economy, culture to domestic politics and foreign policy – some of which continue to do so today. During the war, between the drafts and harsh war conditions, the American citizens were upset because it was guerrilla warfare and the harsh reality of what war looks like was finally shown through media at home.

Before this war, citizens trusted their government to put them into the right situations but as the war began and continued to become worse, the trust in the Untied States government and army declined. Because of this war, the immense loss of troops, loss of the right way, and decline and good values, America was in a horrid place.
The majority of Americans were against the Vietnam war because no good could come from this type of warfare. During this time world peace was a common mantra due to a fear of a second world war.


The Americans fought a hi-tech war, using B52 bombers, artillery, helicopters, napalm and defoliants. Killing many innocent citizens and failing to stop the Vietnamese. American troops were sent on patrols, then supported by air and artillery when attacked. This demoralised the soldiers, who realised 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. Before this war, we were never introduced or utilized guerrilla warfare making this war a whole new ball game. Basically, this was a "go big or go home" standpoint where we had to put everything into action to try to win this war.


The Vietnam War caused much controversy and protesting at home in the United States. The Kent State Shootings in Ohio took place at a protest against the war. Citizens in an act of anger set fire to the ROTC building and the president dispatched 900 national guard soldiers and 28 shot at the protesters creating an upraise of anger nationwide. The anti-war movement began in colleges and with the Students for a Democratic Society. Before the war things were calm and the citizens were not super concerned about wars oversea but due to the fact that we did not need to be involved in the Vietnam war, protests broke out and emotions flared.

Not many Americans approved of American involvement in the war because it wasn't our war to fight.


During this time period a lot of the propaganda included attempts to recruit men for the war or having citizens support those overseas -- especially after protests started breaking out. The propaganda was colored with red, white and blue to show patriotism for our country and bring meaning into why the states were involved with the war.

Some advertisements were against the war, asking for world peace.


Although during wars, music is often sang to lift spirits, during this era lots of songs were very patriotic but at the same time were anti-war instead of pro-war. Rock and roll (which was officially made in the 50's) was popular among Americans because of the anger behind it illuminating the anger from this war. Even today the most popular songs from that era are about peace and love, or hardships of war.


Before the war, protests were focused around equal rights and brutality but due to the circumstances of the war, many Americans were upset and disappointed with the guerrilla war style and the amount of lives lost. World peace was a big idea during this time because of the fear of another World War and the large number of lives lost.


By 1968, at the height of the war, there were about 600 accredited journalists of all nationalities in Vietnam, reporting for U.S. wire services, radio and television networks, and the major newspaper chains and news magazines. The U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam made military transportation readily available to news people, and some took advantage of this frequently to venture into the field and get their stories first-hand. That proximity to the battlefield carried obvious risks, and more than 60 journalists were killed during the war. Many reporters, however, spent most of their time in the South Vietnamese capital. The broadcasting of the war live over television played a huge role in the lives of Americans because the war was played during dinner and the violence, deaths and harsh conditions were shown live to families across the states.

The Draft

The amount of troops involved in the Vietnam War increased dramatically because of the draft.

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. 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. The draft was abolished shortly after the war ended but even today, you have to register when you turn 18 just in case the draft needs to resume.

Foreign Policies

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. Because of the loss of confidence, the states were now more cautious about who we get involved with and the situations we are in.

Family Roles

Children were often abandoned by their families because both the Vietnamese and Americans refused to have their kids known as Amerasians. Also, approximately 11,000 military women were stationed in Vietnam during the conflict. Nearly all of them were volunteers, and 90 percent served as military nurses, though women also worked as physicians, air traffic controllers, intelligence officers, clerks and other positions in the U.S. Women’s Army Corps, U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marines and the Army Medical Specialist Corps. Men were obviously drafted for war, except if they found a way to avoid it like education.

We mourn the loss of all because we are all one, united nation.

Re-integration into Society

After the war, there was not proper help to integrate the soldiers back into society. There was no counseling for PTSD, there was no counseling for night terrors, no medication for depression or anxiety. These men were just thrown back into society without any help. The soldiers were treated poorly and basically disposed of after the war.


The Vietnam War was fought between the North and South Regions of Vietnam, and America was a close ally of the South and was called upon for help. The war began after the rise to power of Ho Chi Minh and his communist Viet Minh party in North Vietnam, and continued against the backdrop of an intense Cold War between two global superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union. America has clearly always been against communist societies and therefore wanted to help their ally be freed.

Race Equality

Vietnam coincided with the protests of the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of Black Power during 1960s America. Whilst African-Americans were discriminated at home but also within the U.S. armed forces, the effects of black power, the impact of the Civil Rights struggle and “the resurgence of black sub-cultural style, expressed through dress, language and gesture, had been transferred to the war zone. Black soldiers had fought in all of America’s previous military encounters, but in segregated units. However, a small number of segregated units still existed


Created By
Student Kasha Wright

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