Do you agree with this interpretation of the problems faced by United States soldiers in Vietnam
During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the anti-war protest movement swiftly gathered momentum. Many groups protested for numerous reasonsm, yet all of the groups had the same ideal, an end to the Vietnamese war. Through evaluating the sources and using my own knowledge I hope to provide an answer to why there was an anti-war movement in the US. Source A is concerned with US soldiers in Vietnam. It tells the reader how many of the new recruits scored low on intelligence tests and they would have ‘never been let into a normal peace-time army’.
This source suggests the high death rate of soldiers led to a severe drop in standards of would be soldiers. The draft army of soldiers appeared to be performing incompetently. The soldiers were faced with harsh conditions on arrival and were forced to tackle experienced guerrillas when they themselves had little or no experience of a war environment. ‘Soldiers were most likely to die in the first month’ this quotation tells us the severe terrain and lack of basic knowledge of the terrain lead to many deaths.
Tour of duty in Vietnam was one year’ tells us even though the war was still going on there were many veterans in America who would have been psychologically and emotionally scarred from the horrendous conditions they faced at war. The fact the ‘rookie’ army only spent a year there also indicates the time was tough. The last sentence of the source sums up the war extremely accurately the army ‘threw inexperienced men against experienced guerrillas on their home ground’.
In ‘Goodnight Saigon’ one of the lyrics is, ‘we lived as inmates’ this would indicate the soldiers felt anxious and isolated from their country, this would also support the fact that life was wasted in Vietnam. I believe this source gave anti-war movements reason to protest as life was almost wasted on an unwinnable war. To also support this source C is useful, it is concerned with the difficulties of fighting guerrillas. Harner tells us it was extremely difficult to gain ground as ‘Vietnamese were in every paddy’.
It was almost impossible to compete with their extensive knowledge of the terrain, women and children also helped the cause forcing the American’s to believe ‘everybody is the enemy’ In the source we learn of the horrific images soldiers faced, a mortar shell landed ‘in the middle of a patrol’, he then casually talks of death ‘a couple of guys are dead’ not only would this have left the injured fighting for their lives ‘with a leg of an arm blown off’ but also intensive psychological damage.
He then begins to talk of the difficult decisions soldiers had to make every day ‘should we kill all of them or none? ‘. The unconventional warfare the US soldiers were forced to fight. One britallion had 600 of its soldiers injured yet had never met the enemy. One soldier said, ‘every time you took a step, you didn’t know if you were going to loose a leg, a limb or a life’ The second part of the source is concerned with the indoctrination and educational issues of combat needed to win the war and the difficulties in persuading ‘the rightness of ones cause’ to the civilians when using napalm bombs on them.
This source does not tell us of how frustrated US soldiers murdered civilians, an example of this would have been the My Lai massacre when US troops famously unmercifully searched and destroyed the village with no regard for life. This source does not show any effects of US involvement in Vietnam therefore it would not provide us with any evidence as to why there was an anti-war movement in the USA. Source B shows a photograph of napalm victims, yet to the US and the rest of the world the media war began to indicate the humanitarian crisis in Vietnam.
As the photograph exposes child victims, Americans were horrified and the humanitarian crisis became apparent. However, the US public couldn’t see the difficulties facing the soldiers in Vietnam. The source comments ‘should you kill all or none of them? ‘ this is referring to the guerrillas and civilians, as there was no clear way of distinguishing them. Source B also highlights the media-taking place in Vietnam, some of the worst war images the world had ever seen were being relayed.
The US government was telling its people they were winning the war. Walter Kronkite was seen as ‘the voice of middle America’ and when he famously said, ‘I thought we were winning this war? ‘ on national television, the American public fast lost faith in the cause and began to help anti-war campaigns. The gruesome burns in this photograph also forced US citizens to question whether or not chemical weapons should be used because of the nature of the injuries received also this method was hurting civilians.
This source only shows injuries of napalm victims even though the US military used both agents orange and blue and other methods of decimating villages therefore this source would sensationalise one issue without allowing a rounded view of all of the other chemical warfare issues. Overall, I believe this photograph and other video footage greatly contributed to the anti-war movement in America as they were forced to confront issues instead of blocking them out, it especially contributed to the hippies and students reasons for protesting as they were extremely humanitarian.
Source E talks of the media war in Vietnam, in much the same way as source B it forced America to register the awfulness of the war because of the ‘uninhibited television coverage in every home’ and the fact that ‘blood looks very red on TV’. The author of the source also suggests that America would ‘never be able to fight a war, however just’ as the citizens were blinded by the humanitarian crisis and would forgot the causes for war. As the source was written for an audience of the ‘British armed forces’ it could be argued that the author was more biased to the problems the US faced than the good the war had done.
In conclusion, I do realise these sources are limited in the information they give but they do give some reasons as to why there was an anti-war movement in the US. These sources show that the media was very influential in the Vietnam War however they do not show the audience it most effected which was ‘middle America’ – the voting public. The sources also do not indicate as to why black people protested against the draft or why Vietnam veterans threw their medals on Washington. Therefore I believe these sources provide us with some information but not enough to sufficiently prove why there was an anti-war movement in the US.