To say the Vietnam War had an impact on America is a gross understatement. With this being the longest war in the history of the United States and the fourth highest in American casualties, this war had Americans wonder if they could trust their government. America was number one, right? How could it be losing to communism? Why were American soldiers killing innocent civilians? As the questions all piled up, the people of this country wanted answers.
When the war first began, Americans had been promised a fast and easy war. As the war waged on, however, America soon realized that this was far from the true. After Kennedy’s assassination, Vice President Johnson immediately grabbed the reins a drove America head first into the conflict by starting a bombing campaign. “The American bombing campaign was the largest air war in world history, with American planes dropping nearly five million tons of bombs in eight years” (Keene, pg. 793). The idea was to pressure North Vietnam into surrendering but the Vietnamese just dug holes and tunnels underground and learned to live with heavy showers of bombs. Cloudy with a chance of napalm folks, stay indoors today.
Because the bombs weren’t doing the job, LBJ sent in the ground forces. No one expected them to have so much trouble but with the guerrilla warfare and the fact that the Americans couldn’t tell the innocent civilians from Vietnamese soldiers, America struggled to fight the enemy. Soon the war because unpopular in the states. The people saw no reason for American blood to be spilled over this war. Citizens also saw the rape and slaughter of innocent Vietnamese women and children. That got America’s attention. Protesting started up and some turned violent and some left people, students, dead. With all this chaos, Nixon was able to convince America he would be a great president. He said he would stop the war but he didn’t do it very fast. Eventually, Nixon’s scandals caught up to him and he had to step down. American’s didn’t know would to trust.
In the end, America pulled out of Vietnam and it fell to communism. That’s so sad that so many lives had to be wasted just so the thing that we wanted to stop happened anyway. But what we feared would happen never did. So was there a point to all that fighting? Did America do anything? Was this the right thing to do or the worst mistake in America’s history?
Keene, Jennifer, Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward Revel Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume 2, 3E.