Middle-class college students and working-class whites lead the street demonstrations during the Vietnam war. Many other types of Americans, such as African Americans with low-wages and working-class women, opposed the war, however, they had no desire to protest with university students. Issues arose during these protests because there was not a clear-cut reason why everyone wanted to end the war. A common belief of the pacifist protesters was that the Vietnam war was destroying American democracy for many reasons. Our country went to war without approval from Congress, the FBI surveilled pacifist protesters, the president told lies and kept secrets, and our draft system was corrupt (The Antiwar Movement, 26.3.1).
Media played a key role during the Vietnam War. With televisions becoming increasingly popular during this time period, more and more footage of military action was aired on television. The New York Times reporter, David Halberstam, stated that “t is often impossible to separate the cruel and dedicated foe you want to kill from the simple and illiterate peasant you want to woo” (Fighting in Vietnam, 26.2). David was referring to the guerrilla warfare strategy the North Vietnamese used. Photographs were also commonly used media during this time. Ron Haeberle captured a famous image during the massacre in My Lai. In his photo, it shows a mother trying to protect her children moments before they were all shot to death. With images like this circulating in the media, it was difficult for Americans at home to support what our military was doing in Vietnam.
With the civil rights act passed during the middle of the Vietnam War, racial tensions were at an all-time high. There was a disproportionately high number of African American men serving and sacrificing for our country. Things such as anti-war posters displayed the injustice with captions such as “the only time we’re in the front is when it’s time to die” (The Antiwar Movement, 26.3.1). Martin Luther King Junior was very outspoken about his feelings of African Americans serving for a country that was not accepting of them. He continued voicing his opinion until he was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 (Wikipedia).
During the decline of the Vietnam War, American politics began to change. President Nixon negotiated with the Soviet Union to create SALT I. The Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty limited the amount of intercontinental submarine-launched and ballistic missiles that each country could stockpile (Withdraw, 26.4.3). By the summer of 1972, North Vietnam and the United States decided that fighting needed to halt. In 1973, a peace treaty required Americans to evacuate but allowed the North Vietnamese to stay. After American involvement in Vietnam ended, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, stating that Congress must approve any deployment of American troops that exceeds 60 days.
The Vietnam War lasted for twenty years and altered hundreds of thousands of American lives. Our citizens fought and died for a cause that, in the end, was inevitable because as soon as the American troops left, North Vietnam took over South Vietnam. Our fellow Americans spent twenty years fighting for a lost cause. Our military personnel are the bravest and most selfless people, who sacrificed everything for a cause our government deemed worthy. Our veterans came home to disrespect, and do not get the credit that they deserve.
Keene, Jennifer D., Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward T. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume2, 3rded. 2019.
“Martin Luther King Jr.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Mar. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King_Jr.