The Vietnam War was a long, lasting war. America put in time, money, and, at some point, soldiers to help fight against the spread of communism in Vietnam for about thirty years. The war was the largest air war; America dropped nearly five billion tons of bomb (Keene 26.2). With Vietnam being close to China and the Soviet Union, the United States feared that Vietnam was going to become communist and create a domino effect with the surrounding countries. America and France supported anti-communist South Vietnam, while the Soviet Union, China, and other smaller communist-supporting countries supported the north. Both North and South Vietnam wanted something of the same: a unified Vietnam.
The Vietnam War affected America in many ways including economic changes and trust in the government. To begin with, the United States kept funneling money to finance France’s efforts in the war. This, in turn, damaged America’s economy greatly. According to Keene, the United States payed about 80% of all the war costs for France (Keene 26.1.2). Johnson wanted to increase the amount of taxes to support the war. Over time, Americans became less trusting of the government. As written by Keene, “They (the American people) noted violations of American democratic values: going to war without a formal declaration of war from Congress, presidential secrets and lies, FBI surveillance of peace protesters, and unjust draft deferments for middle- and upper-class men who could afford to go to college.” In addition to that piece of evidence, Americans became less trusting after the horrific story of My Lai spread. That being said, the Vietnam War had a huge impact on the United States in many different ways such as the economy, draft and trust in the government.
Over time, several different dilemmas become noticeable in America. The media became very troubling during this time. Television became more prominent as about 96% of Americans had TVs in 1966 (Evolution 1). About 60% of Americans relied on the television for their news (Keene 26.2). To begin, America supported the war and watched the news regularly. Over time, though, the war became less popular. The people of the United States were able to watch footage of the war in Vietnam and were disgusted. When Nixon came to power in 1969, he executed the Vietnamization. He put this into place in hopes that the footage of the war would be erased by videos of troops getting sent home (Keene 26.4).
Additionally, the president’s power kept expanding during the war. Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, the first two presidents involved, supported the Vietnam War and gave money to France. When JFK took power, he put more troops into Vietnam in hopes of ending the war. On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. After the presidential induction, Lyndon B. Johnson took office after JFK. Johnson didn’t want to take America out of Vietnam because he feared that it would make the United States look weak. LBJ used Gulf of Tonkin to win congressional approval of further action. Without a declaration of war, LBJ sent more troops into Vietnam. Johnson also asked for more taxes to support the war. When Nixon took power, he wanted to end the war and keep America’s reputation. American protesters also became a big problem during the Vietnam War. With everything being televised, Americans became disgusted with. Anti-war protests were common for college students. Many of these protests were non-violent, except for a few. At Kent State, guardsmen shot their guns, killed four people, and injured nine.
Along with that, there were several different domestic changes. The draft soon became obsolete as the United States moved from forced soldiers to volunteers. Americans fought for the right to vote at 18. They could fight for their country at that age, but still couldn’t vote. In 1971, Nixon – with pressure for younger people – created the 26th Amendment (Rohn 1).
With a war that wasn’t ours to begin with, America put in money, supplies, and troops to a fight that we ultimately lost. The Vietnam War drastically changed the way things were done at the time. Americans taxes became higher, the draft was diminished, and we became less trustful of our government.
Keene, Jennifer D. Visions of America: A History of the United States. 3rd ed., vol. 2, Pearson, 2017.
Rohn, Alan. “Media Role in The Vietnam War.” The Vietnam War, 2 Mar. 2014, thevietnamwar.info/media-role-vietnam-war/.