When asked about the Vietnam War President Nixon once said “no event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now.” The Vietnam war took place from November 1, 1955, to April 30, 1975, and it is estimated that more than 58,000 American soldiers lost their lives. The Vietnam War can be a sensitive topic and when it is brought up many people have different reactions to it. Forty-Five years ago is not a long time in history and to this day people have strong thoughts of what should and should not have happened. The Vietnam War was not just a war, this affects how Americans live their lives to this day.
The topic of why the United States joined the Vietnam war is widely disputed. One of the most common misconceptions that people have today is that the United States only got involved in Vietnam in order to stop the spread of Communism. By becoming involved in the war the United States hoped that they would be able to stop or at least stall Vietnam’s fall to Communism. It is believed that because the United States “lost” China to Communism, and in order to avoid the domino effect, they did not want to also “lose” Vietnam. The domino effect was the fear that if one country fell to communism, it would be a chain reaction and soon other nearby countries would become under Communist rule.
The Vietnam War is often referred to as the first televised war. During the course of the war the United States sent over journalists and reporters with every intention to show those at home what was going on. Families sitting in their living rooms began watching the Vietnam War as it quickly became the new normal. Many people believed that they were seeing unfiltered shots from the Vietnam War, but in reality, the film was filtered. People could be skimming through the television channels and suddenly you see thousands of Americans facing casualties. The media did their best to censor things and only showed the damage done by Vietnam to the United States, but not the other way around. Many had no idea of what awful things the United States soldiers were doing to the Vietnamese. Too much was unknown to the public eye which created more tension. In more than one cases United States soldiers shot Vietnam citizens, cut off their heads and limbs and in some instances, they raped Vietnamese women.
The Vietnam War had several effects on the economy. The economic cost as a result of the Vietnam war crippled the American economy. It is estimated that the Vietnam War cost the United States about 111 billion dollars. The United States also lost over 10,000 aircraft and 46 warships. To make matters worse inflation was on the rise which drove up food and gas prices. Many Americans could not afford the higher prices and therefore fell into poverty. Factories that normally would be used to make consumer goods were converted into manufacturing military items. In addition to this, the government’s military spending brought with it more problems for the economy. Many people had near close calls to losing their gold reserves. Despite the success of Johnson’s and Kennedy’s economic policies the Vietnam War played an important role in ruining America’s economic reputation.
The controversy from the Vietnam war did not only affect those on the home front. “Controversy over the war also seeped into the military. Morale plummeted as soldiers became unwilling to risk their lives for a cause that the nation seemed poised to abandon.” (Keene,809) A wave of “Vietnam Syndrome” quickly swept through America. The “Vietnam Syndrome” refers to the United States reluctance to send armed forces overseas unless there is strong public support or it is deemed absolutely necessary and there is a high chance of an inexpensive victory. After seeing the public’s disapproval of war the White House moved to abolish the draft and instead instituted an all-volunteer force. Once the truth of what was actually happening over in Vietnam circulated many people began to show disapproval of the armed forces and their actions. When the soldiers returned home after fighting in Vietnam they were not given a hero’s welcome, but instead were met with booing. Even today many people see the war as being a big mistake.
Many people may say that the Vietnam War was a crime. Others might say it was a tragic story, something that we can learn from as a nation so that circumstances like these never repeat themselves. No matter what side someone is on, one thing that most people can agree on is that almost every person was impacted one way or another. No matter the view someone has about the Vietnam War it is important to remember those who lost their lives.
Keene, Jennifer D., Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward T. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume2, 3rded. 2019.