Culture of the Vietnam War by jacob greiving

Vietcong's Tactics

  • They fought a guerrilla war, ambushing US patrols, setting booby traps and landmines, and planting bombs in towns. They mingled 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.

America's Tactics

  • They fought a hi-tech war, using B52 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 Vietcong-controlled areas and made them live in defended strategic hamlets in loyal areas. This created immense opposition, and allowed Vietcong infiltrators into loyal areas.
  • 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.

Vietnamese Values/Beliefs

  • Vietnam is a distinct Asian culture over 2,000 years old
  • Culture based on rice cultivation and local commerce
  • Educated Vietnamese conversed and wrote in Chinese
  • Much of the poetry, painting, and architecture, however, remained distinctly Southeast Asian.

Americans Values/Beliefs

  • individualism
  • equality
  • materialism
  • science and technology
  • progress and change
  • work and leisure
  • competition
  • mobility
  • volunteerism
  • action and achievement oriented


  • Civil Rights Movement was in full force
  • African Americans were discriminated against
  • The desire for equality among races heightened
  • Martin Luther King Jr. would speak against the war in his speeches
  • Young people protested because a lot of them were being drafted
  • Groups involved hippies, students, military veterans, educators, academics, lawyers, and ordinary people
  • Opposition to war turned to street protests
  • After the war, veterans had a hard time readjusting to American society
  • Most developed mental illnesses such as PTSD
  • Many became homeless because of the inability to hold onto a job
  • The anti-war movement forced the US to sign a peace treaty to end the draft and withdraw forces.


  • In the 1960's, several now-influential artists appealed to the disaffected counterculture’s emphasis on peace and love, especially with the sliding approval rates of the Vietnam War
  • As public approval of the Vietnam War dwindled in the latter half of the 1960's, popular music artists began to record songs that reflected this disapproval and ultimately became a new method of protest.


  • The war had to be perceived as a threat to national security, which was relatively difficult due to the distance between the United States and Vietnam
  • Public support had to be sustained
  • Which was difficult not only because of the distance but also because the American way of life was virtually uninterrupted by the conflict
  • Our objectives had to be clearly outlined, because the South Vietnamese regime America was defending was contradictory to some of our own basic ideals
  • Also, some people were misinterpreting our actions as imperialistic
  • Promotion of trust in the government. Trust in the government was low because of the amount of secrecy that shrouded the intervention from the beginning. Vietnam had begun as an undeclared, remote war that the American public was never briefed on


  • 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 anti-war movement began mostly on college campuses, as members of the leftist organization Students for a Democratic Society began organizing “teach-ins” to express their opposition to the way in which it was being conducted
  • Though the vast majority of the American population still supported the administration policy in Vietnam, a small but outspoken liberal minority was making its voice heard by the end of 1965
  • This minority included many students as well as prominent artists and intellectuals and members of the hippie movement, a growing number of young people who rejected authority and embraced the drug culture.


Since the beginning of the World War II, television gradually became familiar to the public. At the end of the war, it began to be manufactured in large-scale. In 1950's, there were only 9% of American home owned a television, but this figure rose dramatically to 93% in 1961. In a survey conducted in 1964, 58% US respondents said that they “got most of their news” from television. Television, therefore, became the most important source of news for American people during the Vietnam era. Along with the rise of television, new record technologies such as video camera and audio recorder also arose. Journalists and reporters were now able to take much more photographs and record video materials. As a consequence, the government had to face a big challenge in censoring all the new media for the first time – the job they had done properly in the World War I and World War II by using strict policy. With inadequate government controls, the media was now able to publish uncensored pictures and videos showing the brutality of the war in Vietnam


  • The requirements of the war effort strained the nation's production capacities, leading to imbalances in the industrial sector
  • 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
  • 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. In addition, military expenditures, combined with domestic social spending, created budget deficits which fueled inflation
  • Anti-war sentiments and dissatisfaction with government further eroded consumer confidence
  • 'Interest rates rose, restricting the amount of capital available for businesses and consumers
  • Despite the success of many Kennedy and Johnson economic policies, the Vietnam War was a important factor in bringing down the American economy from the growth and affluence of the early 1960s to the economic crises of the 1970's.

Government/Foreign Policy

Throughout the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, the goal of modernizing South Vietnamese society and containing communism became increasingly implemented by military means. Further, it seems clear that, regardless of how much effort the United States geared towards Vietnam, American defeat was inevitable. By Richard Nixon’s presidency, the initial modernization goals in Vietnam mattered only in so far as they could preserve American credibility. Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon all failed to realize that while U.S. time was limited in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese had all the time they needed to fight for the independence of their country. The South Vietnamese forces could not defend themselves and the United States had to withdraw eventually.


  • 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

Racial Equality

  • U.S. involvement in Vietnam unfolded against the domestic backdrop of the civil rights movement
  • From the outset, the use, or alleged misuse, of African American troops brought charges of racism
  • Civil rights leaders and other critics, including the formidable Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., described the Vietnam conflict as racist—"a white man's war, a black man's fight." King maintained that black youths represented a disproportionate share of early draftees and that African Americans faced a much greater chance of seeing combat
  • The draft did pose a major concern. Selective Service regulations offered deferments for college attendance and a variety of essential civilian occupations that favored middle- and upper- class whites
  • The vast majority of draftees were poor, undereducated, and urban—blue-collar workers or unemployed. This reality struck hard in the African American community
  • Furthermore, African Americans were woefully underrepresented on local draft boards; in 1966 blacks accounted for slightly more than 1 percent of all draft board members, and seven state boards had no black representation at all.

Family Roles

Men going to the Vietnam War not only left behind their parents, but their girlfriend or wife as well. Some of these women supported soldiers by publicly supporting the war, unlike most Americans who opposed the war. Also, many of these women unknowingly served as coping mechanisms for the soldiers while they were in Vietnam. Girlfriends and wives often wrote letters to their significant other in the Vietnam War. But not all of them supported the war female protesters were not during this time. Many of these protesters were college students who didn't know any soldiers in Vietnam. One organization who protested the war was the Women Strike For Peace (WSP) which was made up of middle aged women, many of whom were mothers, that typically presented themselves very well and proper.

Re-Integration 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. 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 approximately 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.

In contrast to World War II, American soldiers in Vietnam served individualized tours of duty rather than remaining attached to their units throughout the war. This sometimes produced difficulties in adjusting to life back at home. A minority of soldiers in Vietnam also became drug addicts who continued their self-medication because of the difficulties of transitioning to a peacetime existence, the availability of drugs in the United States, and the lack of federal programs to help veterans cope with postwar life at home.


The Vietnam War was the longest and most expensive war in American History. The toll we paid wasn't just financial, it cost the people involved greatly, physically and mentally. The Truman doctrine was to stop the spread of communism and it was used to stop the south part of Vietnam becoming communists like the north So America sent in money and all the help they could to stop Vietnam becoming a communist country. Vietnam was part of the French empire. However, during World War 2 the Japanese took over .The Vietnamese communist movement Vietminh was formed to resist the Japanese. France tried to repossess Vietnam at the end of the war but the Vietminh fought back. With the United States lending its financial support to France, when the Japanese defeated France, the United States sent money and military consultants to the non-communist government of South Vietnam. ~ Other advisors however doubted that such an action could reverse the disastrous course of the war and warned the president that it could lead inevitably to deeper involvement in an Asian land war the United States couldn't win.

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