After World War II ended America was more united than ever before. They had won the war and the country was in agreement that life was safe and stable. The Vietnam war changed these attitudes and Americans found themselves in conflict with each other at home as well as across the world.
This war was one of the first wars that people could see. Journalists traveled and took footage and pictures and they were very disturbing. The media covered the war extensively and so people were able to form their own opinions about the war. The government was telling the people victory was “imminent” but the news and the extreme loss of life with no end in sight was giving a different view to Americans.
This war was unlike wars of the past. Guerrilla warfare was not something they had dealt with before. In addition to being in unfamiliar jungle territory they had never experienced these tactics. They could not always tell the enemy from civilians. They believed they were going to fight communism and help the Vietnamese people but they did not know what they would end up going through.
This was the beginning of a distrust of the government for some Americans. With each new president during the more than 20 years the conflict raged the people were promised troops would be pulled out but that didn’t happen. The presidents did have the power to end American involvement but they always chose to keep going. This coupled with many questions about why America was actually involved at all made some people decide to protest.
Vietnam was the first time people in America took such a political stand. They held demonstrations and rallies to protest the war. They shared a message that said the war was immoral and that America could never win so why continue the killing? Even celebrities began to speak out and protest the war. This change in people speaking up occurred at a time when race tensions were high and the civil rights movement was beginning. The message of peace and love was not appreciated by many Americans even if they opposed the war. It could be that some of the movement was too extreme and that people associated it with drugs and free love. In any case it paved the way for people to be more open about their political views.
America lost its idealism after Vietnam. We were no longer the country that could win any war and right any wrong. We no longer had complete faith in our leaders and we realized that we did not have all the answers after all.