Culture of War - Vietnam By: Maddy Dunkle

What was the Vietnam War?

The Vietnam War was a conflict between South Vietnam and the Vietcong and North Vietnam. Much of the war was due to an underlying conflict lingering between the US and Soviet Union because neither could afford a full-fledged war against each other, they used the issues in Vietnam as a way to fight. Southern Vietnam was aided by the US, South Korea, Australia, Philippines, Thailand, and New Zealand. A major reason the US backed up South Vietnam was because North Vietnam was communist and they wanted to stop the spread of communism throughout Asia.

Values and Beliefs in America

During the 60's a lot of change was being made across the US. People believed more in seeking equality and freedom. During this era African Americans spoke out in Civil Rights Movement, female activists tried to gain more rights, and millions protested against the War in Vietnam. This was a time of freedom and trying new things as many people began to call themselves hippies. On the contrary some people still believed in traditional family values and hard work.


The main tactic used by both sides during the war was guerrilla warfare. The US was at a disadvantage due to the tough terrain they found themselves in. The humid jungles of Vietnam proved to be a challenge to both sides, but it allowed for better guerrilla warfare. A tactic used primarily by the Vietcong was to attack in groups but if there was too much pressure by the enemies, they would begin to scatter to throw off the opposing forces.


Although there was some very patriotic music during the Vietnam War, most songs fell under the category of anti-war. Major artists still recognized today such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Marvin Gaye. Both of these artists began to write songs in a different way due to the effects of the war. Marvin Gaye stated, “I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say. I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world.” Some people believed the protest music could start revolutions; however, the music only raised spirits.

The Homefront

Citizens back in America were not in support of the war because they felt that the US did not need to been involved in Vietnamese affairs also they thought that it was very unfair and not moral to have a draft. Many riots broke out and anti-war organizations were formed which caused tensions across America. People expressed there discontent through protests and demonstrations.


The US government thought that the way to win the war was through controlling media and propaganda, but it was very difficult to control the opinions of the general population. The main form of propaganda during the Vietnam War was posters or leaflets. During the course of the war, over 400 million leaflets were dropped. The US hoped that propaganda would encourage more people to volunteer to fight.


Protests originally began as people who were drafted would tear up or burn their draft papers. One of the most famous incidents of this occurrence was the heavy-weight boxer, Muhammad Ali. He protested and as a result his boxing title was taken away and he was unable to box for 3 years. Although this was not a success for Ali, it brought attention to the issue of the draft. Countless other forms of protests took place such as riots and demonstrations.


The main source of media during this era was television and even though at the beginning of the war only 9% of citizens had televisions, by the end over 93% had them in their homes. People used television a major source of news and because it was so hard for the government to censor, television and the news it brought greatly influenced what people thought of the war. Often times very graphic images of soldiers fighting would be broadcasted and as it got worse over time, less and less people were in favor of the war.


The Vietnam War had a huge effect on the US economy. In order to help the war efforts much of the production was switched from consumer goods to artillery and supplies needed for the war over seas. Without the sales of consumer goods the economy dropped and because the military was spending so much on supplies, the dollar became very weak. Also, interest rates were rising very quickly which did not allow for business growth.


The Vietnam War started primarily due to the fact that the Vietcong was communist while South Vietnam was in favor of democracy. The US came to Southern Vietnam's rescue to help stop the spread of communism throughout China. Also, an underlying factor had to do with allies from the Cold War and how neither the US nor Russia could afford a war against each other so they used the Vietnam War as a front.

The Draft

The draft was a method in which the military would select males of certain ages to serve in the army. This was necessary because there was not enough people volunteering. Although the draft was used to encourage and get more people into the army, it created more discontent and tension across the country. Many people that soon became known as "draft dodgers" would try to find ways out of being drafted. Typically coming from great wealth or being a political leader allowed a person to get out of being drafted. The draft was the cause of many riots and protests.

Family Roles

Many families were structured the same as the families in the fifties with the father bringing in income and the mothers staying at home with the children. However, as the youth saw the world changing around them, they also began making changes. People were much more open about their sexuality and quickly birth control was developed. The creation of birth control changed family roles as women could not put off having children and get jobs to help provide.

Re-integration into Society

Not until the 1980's was PTSD categorized so before that returning soldiers were said to have had shell shock or combat fatigue. Often times the disorders that soldiers were diagnosed with were blamed on the soldier and their own flaws rather than the true trauma they faced as they returned from the war. The soldiers faced a lot of scrutiny and judgement because of the hostility they displayed when they returned. Coming back was no easy feat as these boys were brought back into a new society with very different values and had to cope by themselves with the pains and atrocities they had experienced.


The purpose of the Vietnam War was to stop the potential take over of communism across Asia. The US was worried about the domino theory in which people believe that if one country fell to communism, the others around them would follow until the whole world was communist. Also, the US fought due to their recent involvement in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The US and the Soviet Union were unable to fight each other directly so they fought in support of other countries they were allied with. The United States fought in order to stop the progression of communism.

Race Equality

During the time of the Vietnam War the US was undergoing a major Civil War movement in which African Americans were searching for equality and desegregation. Thousands of African Americans fought in the Vietnam War in hope that fighting would gain them more rights back at home. They believed that because the government sent troops to Vietnam to gain democracy, that in America they would promote the same democracy that people were dying for overseas.




Created with images by JustinJensen - "On the Water" • manhhai - "Vietnam War 1967 - KHE SANH - Soldiers carrying hand missiles" • aljonushka - "vw camper vintage car" • Wystan - "SDS protest: University of Michigan students sit-in at Administration Building, November 5, 1968." • DVIDSHUB - "Vietnam Veteran on Active duty Service" • manhhai - "Khe Sanh 1967 - Hill 881" • ky_olsen - "Bob Dylan (Bring it All Back Home Sessions)" • archivesfoundation - "Bob Dylan and Joan Baez perform at March on Washington" • Stoned59 - "Bob Dylan" • manhhai - "1951 Vietnam War Propaganda Poster - Trường Huấn-Luyện KHÔNG QUÂN VIỆT-NAM" • Francisco Anzola - "Happy people" • Wystan - "Oct. 16, 1965, news photo: antiwar and anti-protest demonstrations, together on the University of Michigan Diag." • Cyntygisel - "tv vintage old" • skeeze - "president john kennedy 35th president assassinated" • ivanacoi - "domino hand stop" • Ron Cogswell - "'The Three Soldiers' -- Vietnam War Memorial The Mall Washington (DC) October 2012"

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